Europe has a famous Italian Mediterranean holiday destination called San Remo. It was founded by the ancient Romans and over time it has steadily developed into one of Europe’s playgrounds for the rich and famous. Gippsland has its own San Remo, with a similar climate and perhaps an even better ocean setting than its famous Italian namesake. Luckily for us, it is one of Gippsland’s jewels and we can only surmise what the ancient Romans would have thought of its setting. We like to think they would be envious.
Gippsland’s San Remo sits on the eastern entrance to Western Port Bay, which, despite its name, lies to the east of it larger sister harbour, Port Philip. One of Australia’s most famous explorers, George Bass, set out from Sydney in a whaleboat in 1797, discovering and spending two weeks at what is now San Remo. Back then it was the western-most harbour yet discovered in New Holland, hence its name. While there, Bass surmised that Tasmania was separated from mainland Australia and a year later proved it to be so. Today, South Gippsland’s Bass Shire and Bass Strait are named after that intrepid adventurer.
Today one doesn’t need to be quite as intrepid as George Bass to venture forth and discover what this delightful little town on the edge of Bass Strait has on offer, both man-made and natural, with its vista past Cape Woolamai and out into Bass Strait. Unlike Italy’s more famous version, Gippsland’s San Remo is visited by Australian fur seals, whales and dolphins and some fascinating migratory sea birds as well. One of the highlights is going down to the San Remo beach and watching the pelicans turn up each morning at 11 am for a free feed of fish, courtesy of the San Remo Fisherman’s Cooperative. Kids find this spectacle fascinating. Of course, if you are a kid, a pelican looks absolutely huge, and perhaps almost prehistoric; little wonder, as the bird supposedly appeared 65 million years ago. Make sure you can recite that poem about the Pelican’s belly for your kids and be their all-wise hero. On the subject of bellies, if the kids are feeling peckish, try the Coop’s Fish and Chips – they are just divine.
If you are there in February, have a crack at the San Remo Channel Challenge. All it takes is a short 450 metre swim across to Newhaven on Phillip Island and a 2km jog back across the bridge to San Remo. Do it faster than anyone else and you stand to win a handsome prize.
An intriguing attraction in San Remo is the Gold Smiths Gallery. Showcased here is the work of some of Australia’s best jewellers and their work, done in gold, silver, pearls and semi-precious stones, is testament to their patience and creative genius. The resident jeweller is Bronwyn Pratt, a member and former President of Australia’s Gold and Silversmiths Guild. Bronwyn holds classes at the San Remo studio over the summer holiday period. Bronwyn has exhibited at Australia’s National Gallery and overseas. She does repairs and adjustments and sells bespoke items of exquisite design, fit for a Roman Emperor. Yes, the Romans should be envious.
San Remo and surrounds probably has too much to offer the casual day tripper to take in all at once, but for families or couples wanting a holiday at a beachside resort it is a wonderland of exciting things to do and places to go. Try your hand at fishing and diving charters if you are the adventurous type. Fishermen and divers find the waters around San Remo very attractive. A short trip over the bridge to Phillip Island and you have easy access to the famous Cape Woolamai and its surf beach. Phillip Island also offers the Koala Sanctuary, penguin watching at the Nobbies and the famous Churchill Island Heritage Farm. Otherwise, take the glorious coastal roads and go explore the coast line – Cape Woolamai, then south east to Cape Patterson and Venus Bay with its five surf beaches, or even all the way to Wilson’s Promontory, the Australian mainland’s most southerly point and only 90 minutes from San Remo. Such an abundance of natural deliciousness to delight the eye; deep green rain forests, white beaches glistening in the sun and intriguing granite mountain outcrops and small towns steeped in Victoria’s and Gippsland’s history. The Romans would be green with envy. San Remo is well serviced by motels, hotels, caravan parks and bed and breakfast establishments. Less reliant on farming and fishing than in past years, San Remo has leaned to cater for the multitudes of tourists who have been discovering the delights of this small town and its gorgeous surrounds. A simple method for finding suitable accommodation is to visit the Bass Coast Shire web site and doing a search for accommodation. The Shire site gives access to a nifty tool that allows you to book online.
Go to http:// www.basscoast.vic.gov.au/ Home and book your time in this gem of Gippsland.