Mallacoota Magic

1 September 2010

This hidden gem on Victoria’s far-eastern coast is a mecca for walkers and anglers

I reckon it would be fair to say that the area around the NSW/VIC border from Eden to Lakes Entrance is largely overlooked by most RV tourers. For coastwatchers, the drawing power of the northern NSW and Queensland coastlines with their beaches, estuaries, lakes and, more importantly, warm sunny days is almost irresistible.

However, it is perhaps a case of ‘the grass is greener (or warmer)’. Like every region in Australia, there’s always a little gem or two to be found no matter what the latitude.

I first heard about Mallacoota years back when I wore a fishing hat rather than an RV one. A bloke called Freddy Bayes (Flathead Fred, as he was known) always sang the praises of Mallacoota as a fishing location. Some of the crocodiles Freddy pulled out of the lake system there really marked the place as flathead heaven.

I’d promised myself a visit there, but despite travelling the Princes Highway a number of times, I’d never actually taken the turn at Genoa to check it out. That changed last March, when I was visiting the crew at ARV in Eden to check out some of their vans. I had a few days to spare, some fishing gear in the Troopy, and Mallacoota was just 80-odd kilometres south.

Mallacoota is a small village tucked in behind a headland at the entrance to the Mallacoota lake system. It’s a holiday area, pure and simple, with activities centred on the lake and surrounding coastline.

Croajingolong National Park encloses Mallacoota in a World Biosphere Reserve with spectacular coastlines, rainforests, lakes, sandy estuaries, coastal forests and heathlands. Over 300 bird species have been spotted here, along with koalas, possums and echidnas.

There are some fascinating rock formations along the coastline with small, secluded beaches in between. There are loads of walks around the lake, along the coast and throughout the national park.


The Mallacoota lake system forms the estuary of the Genoa and Wallagaraugh Rivers. It’s really two lakes – named by some creative genius the Top Lake and the Bottom Lake – joined by ‘the Narrows’.

The Narrows is a waist of a waterway hemmed in between two ragged rocky points. There’s a neat walk from Buckland’s Jetty that follows the Narrows upstream: follow Lakeside Road around the shoreline past Karbeethong Jetty to the end of the road. There’s not a lot of parking here.

The lakes are a maze of channels, small islands and extensive sandbars that provide a habitat for fish, and the sea birds that feed on them. A nice way to enjoy the lakes is by kayak or canoe.

There are miles of shoreline to explore, with something different to be seen around every point.

But Mallacoota is primarily a fishing village. Just as the lakes dominate the town, so too does the fishing occupy the waking thoughts of most locals and visitors. Mulloway, whiting, bream, gar, luderick and of course flathead are the main species, along with mullet, snapper, salmon and many others.

Being such an extensive waterway, Mallacoota Lake is best fished by a boat. If you need proof of this, take a look at the number of boats in the place – trailer boats and car toppers are everywhere. There are a couple of main boat ramps. The town ramp at the bottom of Allan Drive is handy to the biggest van park – the Mallacoota Foreshore – and there is also a good wharf for casual dangling and a fish cleaning facility for the successful fishos.

Even if you’re not a fisho, this is a neat area to visit just to enjoy the lakeside, the activities, and the host of birds that gather by the ramp and cleaning table. There’s another popular ramp at Karbeethong, upstream from the town along Lakeside Road. On a good day you’ll see dozens of boats using the Karbeethong ramp – it gets pretty busy.

A boat is not essential, however. You can still catch a fish dinner from the shore. There are a host of jetties, accessible shorelines and headlands from which casting a line can prove successful.

When you get tired of catching fish, there are plenty of drives and lookouts to check out. The lookout at Captain Stephenson’s Point is more or less in the heart of town, virtually in the midst of the Foreshore van park. From here you’ll gain some great views of the Bottom Lake, as well as the lower estuary and Gabo Island and its lighthouse.

Another nice lookout is at Bastion Point at the end of Bastion Point Road. The first lookout provides a nice view of the beach leading out to the entrance, while a bit further on you can walk down onto the rocky shore and explore the rock pools.

Back in town, follow the Betka Road out to the Betka River – a small estuary with a very nice little beach at its entrance. There’s a shallow area at the entrance that’s good for little kids to have a splash. And fi shos shouldn’t overlook the Betka. On my visit I managed to find a couple of bream near the bridge – not biggies, but tasty nonetheless.

Along Betka Road there are a number of turn-offs to secluded beaches within Croajingolong National Park – Quarry Beach, Secret Beach, Pebbly Beach and Shipwreck Creek. Note that past the airfield Betka Road is gravel.


Just past the airfield is a turn-off to Quarry Beach, yet another peaceful and pretty little spot. Just along the shoreline here you’ll see a rocky cove with some seriously twisted rock formations. You can imagine the forces and temperatures involved to twist rock into these shapes.


Heading back to town, turn off towards the airfield and you’ll see an old World War II bunker. This was a RAAF operations centre for coastal intelligence and is currently being restored by the local RSL.

The village itself is quite attractive, with a wide, shady parking area running down the middle of the mainy – Maurice Ave. There are a number of cafes and eateries along the shopping strip, with a butcher, supermarkets and a small and pleasant pub. Around the corner in Allan Drive there is a newsagent and pie shop.

If you’re into walks and water activities, particularly fishing, Mallacoota is a real little gem. It’s quiet, peaceful and there are plenty of sites for your RV. I suggest that in the warmer months booking ahead would be a good move. Even in March, when the weather was blowy and sometimes damp, there were RVs everywhere.

What about Freddy’s famous flathead? Well, I found one, more or less right in town. One leg of the Foreshore van park extends from Capt Stevenson’s Point around the shore of Devlin’s Inlet. There are steps down to the water’s edge from the van park, and along this section of shore I spent an hour casting lures from the bank. Sure enough, one of Freddy’s Flatties liked the look of the lure and ended up in the bag. Flathead for tea. Yummo!

I really hope Mallacoota stays like it is – small and laid back. If the white-shoe brigade of developers ever got into the place they’d probably wreck the joint.




From Melbourne, follow the Princes Highway to Genoa, and turn right. From Sydney, follow the highway south and at Genoa turn left. It’s about 25km from the turn-off to Mallacoota.


There are a number of van parks, notably Mallacoota's Shady Gully Caravan Park back on the Genoa Road. (03) 5158 0362 or, the Mallacoota Beachcomber Caravan Park & Log Cabin – a small park right on the edge of town (03) 5158 0233 – and the Mallacoota Foreshore, which is one of the most spectacular parks you’ll find (03) 5158 0300 or The Foreshore follows the shoreline more or less right along the edge of town, and is a big park with loads of sites, including waterfront sites.



Café 54
Great coffee and burgers. Open breakfast, lunch and dinner. (03) 5158 0646.

Lucy’s Homemade Rice Noodle House
Get traditional-style rice noodles and homegrown vegetables. 64 Maurice Avenue.

Mallacoota Bakery
A traditional country-style bakery with tables that offer great views across the lake. 16 Allan Drive.

Recreational fishing
Licences are available from the Mallacoota Ampol service station, with prices starting at $5.50 for a 48-hour licence.



Croajingolong National Park
A World Biosphere Reserve with over 1000 species of plants. Ideal for birdwatching and bushwalking. Call Mallacoota Parks Victoria office (03 5161 9500) for track details.

Betka Beach

A popular spot with a lagoon and BBQ facilities. Access via Betka Rd.


Quarry Beach and Secret Beach
Access is via dirt roads only, and Secret Beach you have to walk to. However, these spots will be blissfully peaceful.


Karbeethong Lodge
This beautifully renovated guest house regularly hosts performances, ranging from jazz, opera, and poetry readings.

By Gil Schott