Agnes Hellwig reports on a pet friendly experience
My husband Nick and I were ready for a well-earned break, when listening to local Melbourne radio station JOY FMs Detours program we heard about the Tarra Valley Fernholme Caravan Park, located in the rainforest near the Tarra Bulga National Park in Gippsland.
We had never explored this part of Victoria before, so on finding its only 2.5 hours travel by car from Melbourne, decided it would be a great place to go for a three night escape. The parks website told us dogs are allowed inside the rustic wooden cabins, so after making a booking we packed our bedding (can be hired from the park) a few clothes, food and our two dogs, Bindi and Ika and set off.
Having planned our trip on this website as well as armed with instructions from Margaret at the park, we drove along the Princes Freeway to Traralgon, were we turned off along the Hyland Highway, and passing the awesome Loy Yang Power Station drove through some magnificent scenery to arrive in Yarram. While the there was a sign at the turnoff for Tarra Bulga Park and then a smaller one to Tarra Valley Road, there were few signs along the approximately 20 kilometres to the Caravan Park. On our arrival we were absolutely awed by the majesty of the huge ferns surrounding the entrance to Fernholme (there was not question of how the park got its name) and the beauty of the rainforest.
Owners Margaret and David Pellew greeted us offering lots of maps and general advice on what to see and do during our visit. The reception area doubles as a tea room offering light meals and yummy Devonshire teas, general grocery items, Australiana gifts and postcards along with a book exchange, and variety of games. (There is no TV or mobile phone reception, but DVDs are planned for the near future.)
We had booked the largest and newest of the six rustic wooden cabins and were very pleasantly surprised at the comfort and ambience we found, as the photos on the parks website just dont do it justice. There were two bedrooms, a lounge with two comfortable sofas, large dining table and well equipped if tiny kitchen. The reverse cycle heating had been thought fully turned on for us, there were tasteful pictures on the walls, and a number of magazines on the coffee table. The kitchen had a full size stove and microwave, coffee percolator as well as plunger, electric fry pan, in short all the comforts of home. There was a wooden bench on the wide verandah, and an outdoor table setting to the side of the cabin, where open fires are permitted.
Having settled Bindi and Ika on their own bedding which we brought with us, we sat and savored the view, the quiet and serenity and fresh air, and the song of the birds all around us. The next morning we set off to explore Tarra Bulga National Park which is one of four major areas of cool temperate rainforest in Victoria. It is only a few minutes drive from the park along a narrow windy road, and we pulled off the road to walk to the Tarra Falls, down some impressive stone steps and along paths lined with giant Mountain Ash trees and spectacular fern gullies. The falls are a fantastic sight, and would be even more impressive after heavy rain. Nearby there are picnic tables and public conveniences for those who want to linger awhile. We continued on to Balook to see the renowned suspension bridge and stopped by the Visitors Center on Grand Ridge Road before heading back to the park. Dogs are not permitted in the National Park and we did not want to leave ours in the car too long for fear of dehydration. The Tarra Valley Guest House is just across the road from the Visitors Centre, with a caf offering snacks and meals to visitors.
The Tarra Valley Caravan Park is surrounded by the Tarra River, which also runs through the park itself and there are powered as well as unpowered camp sites along its banks. Fire drums are provided, with wood available to purchase, and there is lots of seating and picnic tables dotted around as well. Taking the dogs for a walk around we snuck a peek at a couple of the other unoccupied cabins, finding them to be equally well equipped and comfortable, some with wood heaters, then explored the spotless amenities block, and the larger of the two camp kitchens, which boasts a huge open fireplace, all sorts of cooking facilities, a sink, fridge and radio, with lots of tables and chairs and wooden benches around the fire. What a fantastic place for a party! I was told many of the bird watching and bush walking groups that frequent the park actually have some great turns there! There is a small playground for kids as well.
The following day we drove down to through Yarram to the start of the 90 mile beach where Bindi and Ika had the time of their lives frolicking in the sand and water. The sand is clean and white, and the view just goes on and on. When the dogs were all tired out we made our way to the historic Port Albert pier to enjoy a delicious fish and chip meal reputed to be the best in Australia.
Nick and I chose to cook our own evening meals because we had the dogs with us, but we were told the Swiss Chef at the Retreat next to the park serves wonderful meals, with mains starting from just $19. Bookings are essential. The time came all too soon to say goodbye to this idyllic location, so bidding farewell to David and Margaret we sadly made our way back to Melbourne.
For anyone that loves the bush environment we heartily recommend Tarra Valley Fernholme Caravan Park, Tarra Valley Road, Tarra Valley. Cabins start from $65 to$85 per night, campsites from $20 to $25 per couple. Check out their website for more info: www.tarra-valley.com