Wingan River, East Gippsland, Victoria
The Wingan River and Estuary is relatively undisturbed, mostly due to the isolation, being in far East Gippsland and 50 minutes by dirt road off the Princes Hwy. If you plan to visit and camp, you'll need to pre-book in advance one of only 23 camping sites through Parks Victoria (https://www.parks.vic.gov.au/places-to-see/parks/croajingolong-national-park/where-to-stay/wingan-inlet-campground).
You can access the river from the very end of the West Wingan Road. The road runs straight into the sandy beach launching area as shown in the image below. If the tide is high or you don't want to turn on the sand, stop and unload in the parking area just 50 metres from the beach.
We chose to paddle from the launch area upstream to the The Rapids and back, a distance of approximately 9 km. The Rapids are a rock bar within the bed of the river that is an effective barrage from the tidal influence of the estuary (at least for now).
You can paddle downstream within the estuary to the mouth if you chose, a distance of about 2 km each way (see the map below).
The day was mild and rainy but we decided to head out regardless and hoped for some clear weather. We decided to troll a few shallow lures while heading upstream and both boats hooked up on Tailor as we approached Sea Eagle Bay. In fact we caught Tailor all the way up river, catching and releasing about half a dozen fish each. Fortunately the rain mostly held off and after a fish interrupted 1.25 hours we reached The Rapids rock bar.
The return journey was tracking pretty well until I decided to take a detour through what I named 'Muddy Passage'. The water/tide level was low but I thought we could drag the boats through the shallow sections. Bad call! The mud was deep and near impossible to walk through as we sank deep and repeatedly had reef shoes stuck in the mud. My recommendation is to only tackle this passage on high tide. We eventually emerged back into the main estuary and got totally drenched from torrential rain on our way back to the launch area.
- The entry and exit point is from a sandy beach at the end of the West Wingan Road, adjacent to the Wingan Inlet Camping Ground. Unless the tide is high, you can drive slowly down to the beach and turn on the sand to unload. There is an area to park cars and trailers about 50 m from the water if the tide is high or if you are in a 2WD.
- Most people are willing to leave their boats on the beach over night if camping. It is recommended that you tie your boat to a post, log or vegetation as, when we were there, a high tide had floated a few kayaks to other parts of the estuary!
- Date - Wednesday 18 January 2023
- Distance ~ 9 km, from Wingan Inlet Campground (Chainage 2.0 km) to The Rapids (Chainage 6.5 km) and return (Chainage is the distance upstream from the mouth of the river/estuary)
- Time taken 4:00 hrs (with fishing, lunch at The Rapids, and playing in the mud at Muddy Passage), 2:30 hrs paddling (paddling speed approx. 3.6 km/hr)
- Tidal movement was not really discernible and was low on completion.
- 2 boats, 4 paddlers: Jane & Jamie (Toy Boy Scout), Virginia & Peter (Rapid Rider)