Living among Wildlife in Australia’s Croajingolong National Park

“Take the next turn!” my husband Paul cried.

“Why?” I asked, as we barrelled along Australia’s Princes Highway between Melbourne and Sydney, hellbent on making it to the town of Eden–our randomly chosen stopping point–by nightfall. I eased off the gas.

He waved the guidebook he’d been thumbing through. “It says we might see kangaroos if we follow that road.”

As a travel writer, I’ve written my fair share of sentences like “You might spot a bear on this route.” Sure, you might; after all, bears do live in many remote parts of North America. But in most places, the odds of seeing one from the road are only slightly better than your chances of winning the Powerball lottery.

Will Drive for Kangaroos

I was about to expound on all of this when I saw Paul’s face. I didn’t have the heart to rain on his kangaroo parade, so I swallowed my cynical reply and swung sharply right. It would only take us about six miles out of our way, after all. What neither of us realized was that we were inside Croajingolong National Park, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.

In Your Bucket Because…

  • Gipsy Point feels a million miles from civilization, even though there are houses just up the road.
  • You can hike, paddle a canoe or just relax with a book.
  • Did I mention the kangaroos?
  • Good for: wildlife lovers and romantics.

After four-and-a-half miles on quiet Mallacoota Road, we turned left onto even narrower Gipsy Point Road. According to the guidebook, we would come to a dead end in just over a mile. So far, we’d seen nothing more exotic than a few nondescript birds.

Then we came around a bend in the road, and I slammed on the brakes.

Up close and personal with a kangaroo at Gipsy Point, Victoria, Australia. Photo by Laura Byrne Paquet.

About a dozen kangaroos of all shapes and sizes were milling about on the road and an adjoining meadow. One loped up a driveway and disappeared behind a bungalow. Another hung out of its mother’s pouch. Several of them gazed doe-eyed at us, completely unafraid.

Eyes glued to the spectacle, I groped in my bag for my camera. Scared even to close the car doors for fear the noise would cause them to scatter, we left the vehicle wide open and started snapping pictures.

I have no idea how long we stood there. Probably half an hour, at least, until the kangaroos started meandering away. Then we saw the sign, just up the road. “Gipsy Point Lakeside. Luxury Accommodation.”

You can’t live much closer to wild kangaroos than at Gipsy Point in Australia’s Croajingolong National Park. Photo by Laura Byrne Paquet.

Our budget didn’t really run to luxury. But it was getting late.

Paul went up the road to inquire about rooms while I kept taking pictures. He returned with good news and bad news. We could get a one-bedroom apartment for the night. It had an indoor hot tub and a river view. The inn’s restaurant was closed, but we could buy supplies at the front desk to make dinner in our suite. And, yes, the price was almost twice our usual budget.

We looked at the kangaroos. We looked at each other. We got back in the car, drove to the inn and plunked down our MasterCard.

Wine, Dinner and Birdsong

At the front desk, we picked up fresh pasta, a tub of sauce made in the inn’s kitchens and an ice-cold bottle of Australian chardonnay. Then we followed the hotel keeper to our apartment.

“Apartment” seemed too dull a word. Roughly the size of our first house, it had a full kitchen, huge windows overlooking the gardens and the water, a combined living-dining room and, wonder of wonders, laundry facilities.

Our Gipsy Point apartment: all the comforts of home and a river view. Photo by Laura Byrne Paquet.

Within minutes, I was cooking, sipping wine and enjoying a glass of wine to the accompaniment of the hotel’s CD player. (Bring your own tunes; the selection in our suite was a bit meagre.) Soon, we were admiring the sunset over dinner on our patio. The kangaroos were gone but the lawns were peppered with rabbits. A chorus of birdsong like something out of a Tarzan movie kept us company until darkness settled.

The next morning, I was enjoying a pot of tea on the patio and leafing lazily through the hotel’s guest information binder when I learned the staff feed the birds near the pool each morning at 8am. It was 8:10. Grabbing my camera, I sprinted across the hotel grounds.

More Lorikeets than Your Local Zoo

I heard the parrots, galahs and lorikeets before I saw them clustered on the feeders and the ground. The cacophony was almost as astonishing as the riot of scarlet, emerald, pink and gold feathers. I snapped a few shots and then bolted back to the apartment, where I shook my morning-loathing husband awake.

“Birds,” I gasped. “Feeder. Zillions. Come now!”

After hastily yanking on a pair of jeans, Paul raced barefoot after me, back to the feeder. We spent another half-hour hypnotized by wildlife, much to the amusement of the blasé hotel keeper.

Gorgeous birds like lorikeets abound in Croajingolong National Park, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. Photo by Laura Byrne Paquet.

Gipsy Point certainly wasn’t on our bucket list when we took that turn off the Princes Highway, but now it is, because we want to go back for longer than one night. We might have been aiming for Eden originally, but we ended up discovering somewhere close to paradise by accident. And the fact that my good husband never once said “I told you so” pretty much made it perfect.

Practicalities

  • Gipsy Point is in the far southeastern corner of the state of Victoria, about 310 miles from Melbourne and 340 miles from Sydney. Bank on at least a six-hour drive from either city.
  • Children under 8 are not permitted to stay at the inn for safety reasons (lots of unfenced waterways and wandering wildlife).

 

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About 

Laura Byrne Paquet has been bitten by leeches in Thailand, biked across Prince Edward Island in a hailstorm and taken a bus across the Andes with a vocal team of teenage Argentine water polo players. The author or co-author of 13 books, she blogs about ways to travel like a local at FacingTheStreet.com and writes about short getaways from Canada's capital at OttawaRoadTrips.com.

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