Paynesville is a paradise for boating in East Gippsland. It has a man made canal system for boating as well as a natural harbour area, central to the hundreds of kilometres of lakes and rivers that form part of the Gippsland Lakes system.
Paynesville is around 15 minutes drive from Bairnsdale. A small bus runs several times daily between the towns. The road between Paynesville and Bairndale has a consistently wide hard shoulder, and it is a nearly dead flat 14km ride from Bairnsdale alongside the Mitchell River. There is even a short diversion along a cycle path by the side of the river - although travelling this way involves a climb at the end of the path.
Trains service Bairnsdale from Melbourne three times daily, and carry bikes.
You can also travel to Paynesville by boat. You can moor at the jetty in front of the town centre for 4 hours free of charge - for longer stays there are plenty of marina and mooring options.
It pays to pick up a local map. Some of the online maps services have errors, and don't show the canals or newer roads.
A bicycle is perfectly suited to Paynesville. The area is flat, the roads are quiet, and the Raymond Island ferry carries bicycles free of charge.
The town centre is easy to walk around.
Parking is available everywhere.
To see many of the areas surrounding the lakes a boat is required. There are several options for dingy, cruiser, or kayak hire in town.
Raymond Island. The island ferry is just a short trip from the town centre. $8 return for cars, or free for bicycles and pedestrians. There is a waterfront walk/cycle, and paths and roads which meander through the trees. There is a large population of Koala's on the island, and this would have to be one of the easiest places in Australia to spot Koalas. There is also a large variety of sea birds and wallabies.
Silt Jetties. The silt jetties near Eagle Point are the second longest in the world, after those on the Mississippi. They are caused by deposits of silt made by the Mitchell river as it flooded, and results in a thin strip of land between 50m and 10m wide stretching right out into the lake. You can drive along them, just take the Eagle Point Road, and keep on going. There is a lookout at The Bluff, but the best experience is to drive or cycle right out along them.
Swimming. The foreshore area is reserved for swimmers. The water is calm, the beach is sandy, and it is a good place to cool off. It isn't really the destination for those looking for a spectacular beach or for a beach scene. There are a few small jellyfish around, but they probably won't bother you.
Boating. This is what Paynesville is all about. If you have your own boat, you will be right at home here. Otherwise you can hire a cruiser for around $200 a day, or a kayak for around $50. You can cross the lake directly to 90-mile beach - which is an ocean beach around 45 minutes away by boat at 8 knots. You can circle Raymond Island, or you can spend several days or a week exploring the lake and river system.
Cycling. There is no challenging mountain biking here - Paynesville and Raymond Island are almost completely flat. There are numerous bush tracks and a waterfront track on Raymond Island. You can spot koalas and other wildlife as you cycle around. For the best koala viewing, just cross on the ferry and continue up Seventh Avenue. You can cycle all the way to the other side of the island, with numerous diversions along the way.
Supplies are easily available - supermarkets stock a wide variety of goods, and are open until 8pm daily.
Paynesville Dairy, is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 11am until 5pm, stocking local dairy products, including milk and cheese.
There are four cafe/restaurant style places to choose from along the main strip opposite the foreshore. The coffee market is competitive - with the boaties demanding a good coffee on deck in the morning.
Fishermans Wharf Cafe, . Opens 8am for coffee and breakfast, and remains open for lunch and dinner. The only one of the cafes on the waterfront side of the Esplanade. Great views over the water for brunch, and has an alfresco eating area. Cappuccino made like a big hot and frothy coffee and chocolate milkshake.
The pub serves meals for lunch and dinner every day, and there are a couple of clubs serving similar style pub fare.
Paynesville Motor Cruiser Club, (On Barrabogie Island, past Bulls Cruisers), . Large open room right on the water. CasualMains around $20-$25.
There is a pizza place to eat in or take away, two bakeries selling a large variety of pies and cakes, and a fish and chip shop.
After a day on the lakes or seeing the sights, you will have no problem getting a quiet beer with a view. Don't expect too much in the way of nightlife.
The Old Pub, (On the Esplanade in the centre of town, right opposite the ferry). Fairly standard Victorian country pub, on the esplanade, but it isn't constructed to maximise the view or the location. Has accommodation too
Captains Cove. Villas along a an inlet off the canal that forms Barrabogie Island. Each villa has its own pier and boat parking space on the water right in front of it.
There is mobile reception in town, but the signal is weak and limited in many parts away from the city centre. Telstra has 3G mobile Internet, but Optus and Vodafone struggle with even GPRS.