Easter 2016 – SW Victoria

After being stuck at home for months we finally managed to head off for a few days over the Easter break. We left on Thursday night and headed over to Smythesdale for the night. The local community have done a fantastic job of turning the run down area that used to be the botanic gardens into a popular camping site. The gardens are next to the Ballarat-Skipton rail trail with lots of room and the luxury of flushing toilets and even hot showers. The pub and township are walking distance so one can enjoy what is reportedly a great meal and a drink or two and stagger back to the campsite. Camp fees are by donation and these are used to maintain the grounds to a high standard. The fireplace burned down and has now been replaced with a new under cover area and the Cyprus tree nearby that needed to be removed is being turned into a great sculpture by a local artist known as 'Dancing Bear'.
 
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On Good Friday we took the three hour drive from Smythesdale to the small town of Dartmoor in the South Western corner of Victoria. We had come across some great reviews of the local campground which again is a community project.

This part of Victoria is lovely, with undulating ground and miles and miles of pine and bluegum plantations. The houses are modest (some are known as 'fishermen's shacks') and there is a pub, small store, post office and not much else. 

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The town used to have an Avenue of Honour, but the large Cyprus trees reached their use by date and needed to be cut down. Another local chain saw artist turned the avenue into military themed statues. There are lots of other carvings around the town, as you can see from the photos they contain incredible detail and would have taken quite some time to transform. One oversight was the army nurse in front of the town map, when viewed from behind this statue looks extremely rude, I will spare you the photographic evidence!
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The campsite at Dartmoor is called Fort O'Hare and was named by Major Mitchell in 1836 when he camped at this junction of the Glenelg and Crawford rivers. The site is easy walking distance from the town centre and the pub which reportedly serves fantastic and cheap meals.

We nearly died when we got there as there would have been 60 to 80 rigs parked there for the Easter Break. Luckily there was plenty of room and lots of well behaved happy campers, probably because there is not much there to attract the hoon element! Camping is free, but the community request a donation for the upkeep of the carvings.

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The campground is next to the river and once again the community has done a great job with the facilities - there is a swimming hole with canoe access and the rope in the tree provided onlookers with lots of amusement because there was no easy way to retrieve it once someone had used it to jump in the water!
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Day 2 saw us heading across the South Australian border to Mount Gambier. We stayed there for a few days on a previous trip in 2011 and it was tempting to keep going to the Limestone Coast! Mount Gambier is a reasonably big town with lots of old Limestone buildings and lovely natural attractions including caves, sinkholes and of course the blue lake. The lake is about 70 m deep and is located in an old volcanic crater. It is a boring grey over winter but turns a bright blue colour during the summer months. The weather did not cooperate so only a few photos this time. 

While the buildings and natural attractions are great, we again noted the town having couple of downsides, notably the creosote stench from the timber mill on the East side and a population that does not seem overly friendly to tourists.

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Easter Sunday saw us heading further South to another long time favourite place - Nelson. This small seaside town is located at the mouth of the river and has remained relatively unspoilt although we did notice the increased tourist facilities. The river banks are lined with boat sheds and you can take a cruise on a couple of touring boats. The river estuary is home to loads of birds and the fishing is great! We got chatting to a family from Hamilton who were fishing off the jetty and the kids pulled out numerous Bream just with hand lines. They were all way under size but the kids had a ball!
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The ocean beach is a few km from town and totally unsuitable for swimming due to bad rip currents. The warning signs and obvious brown currents were not enough to stop some people from letting kids into the water who nearly got swept away - no accounting for stupidity!
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The estuary beach is much safer but obviously has not waves. Fishing seems to be good although we could not quite work out the attire this bloke had on, seemed a bit of overkill for wading in the water to catch a fish!
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On Monday we regretfully packed up and headed back home.  Stopped for lunch at Lake Bolac, virtually deserted due to lack of water, glad we drove a bit further!
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All the gear including the solar and battery worked well so we are ready to head off for a longer trip in a couple of weeks, stay tuned for an update!
This entry was posted in Tales of a Blonde Nomad, VIC - South West.

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2 Comments

  1. Bruno June 3, 2018 at 11:24 am #

    Great tale and I will need to look into some of those camping spots as they look great! And now you have me curious about the army nurse I will need to go and take a look for myself

  2. Alison June 3, 2018 at 3:41 pm #

    Just think of the trips you can do when you quit work 🙂

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