In Central Gippsland on the west flank of the Gippsland Lakes, Sale is a town that grew up in the second half of the 19th century.
By 1890, Sale was a busy port after a canal had been constructed to join the town to the Gippsland Lakes and then the open ocean.
The La Trobe Swing Bridge is a beautiful artefact from this time just outside of town, while the historic port is now a focal point for visitors, home to the regional gallery, recreational moorings and a waterfront promenade.
Daily cruises run from the port to the bridge, for an insight into Sale’s nature, waterborne trade and Aboriginal heritage.
Water is a common thread in Sale, at the calm Lakes Guthridge and Guyatt, and in the wetlands of the Sale Common Nature Conservation Reserve, all flush with birdlife.
1. Port of Sale Precinct
Blending culture with the peace of the canal, the Port of Sale was redeveloped in the 2000s as a leisure and entertainment district for the city.
This is an inviting place to while away a few hours.
You can take in an exhibition at the Gippsland Art Gallery, go on a cruise, wander past the moorings along the 200-metre boardwalk, have a barbecue or grab a bite at one of several snazzy eateries close by.
In the evening you can catch a live show at the Wedge, a performing arts venue for the Wellington Shire.
The Port of Sale was developed in the 1880s, along with the connecting canal, opening up the city to a network of waterways and effectively linking it with Lakes Entrance 100 kilometres to the north-east.
2. Gippsland Art Gallery
Overlooking the water and greenery of the Port of Sale Precinct is a sensational regional gallery.
As an institution the Gippsland Art Gallery dates back to 1965, but relocated to this picturesque spot in 1995 and was redeveloped between 2015 and 2017. In a vibrant program, the gallery puts on more than 30 shows a year at six different exhibition spaces.
One of these is permanently devoted to the work of Sale-based textile artist Annemieke Mein.
The permanent collection extends to around 1,750 pieces, and includes art by names as diverse as Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Polixeni Papapetrou, Peter Booth and Jan Hendrik Scheltema.
Along with touring exhibitions and shows for established and emerging artists from the region there’s a rotating display pulling from that extensive collection.
3. Sale Botanic Gardens
Dating from the second half of the 19th century, Sale Botanic Gardens take up a five-hectare patch on the east bank of Lake Guthridge, which took shape a little later.
The plot for the gardens was first set aside in 1860, and a park now encompasses both the gardens and the lake, which we’ll talk about below.
The state botanist Ferdinand von Mueller (1825-1896) and the architect of Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens, William Guilfoyle (1840-1912) were both involved in the design.
For youngsters there’s a playground with a flying fox, but also a fauna enclosure keeping pademelons and red-necked and Parma wallabies.
Ambling around the park, check out the sensory garden, elm forest, pergola and the many peacocks showing off.
4. La Trobe Swing Bridge
The first movable bridge to be constructed in Victoria lies five kilometres out of Sale to the south.
Still in working order and dating back to 1883, the La Trobe Swing Bridge is 45 metres long, with a wrought iron structure that pivots on circular rails supported by steel columns.
In its first few decades the bridge would open 20 or more times a day for steamers shuttling between Sale and Melbourne.
The bridge came through a restoration in 2000s and appeared in the 2008 Hugo Weaving and Rose Byrne movie The Tender Hook.
You can get there on foot or by bike from Sale via the River Heritage & Wetlands Trail.
5. Port of Sale Heritage Cruises
You hark back to the time when Gippsland’s waterways were a vital method of transport on a lazy trip between the Port of Sale and the Swing Bridge.
Departing twice daily, Port of Sale Heritage Cruises take place aboard the beautiful Rubeena, a wooden craft launched at Lakes Entrance, Victoria in 1912. You’ll drift along the Sale Canal and Thomson River, admiring the birdlife and tall red gums on the banks.
Aboard the Rubeena you’ll hear accounts of historic waterborne transport, local wildlife and Gippsland history, beginning with the Aboriginal Gunaikurnai, Gippsland’s traditional owners.
6. Gippsland Vehicle Collection
Maffra, just up the road from Sale, has a special motoring history reaching back more than a century.
A historic hill climb continues to be maintained by the Maffra and District Car Club, and there’s a motocross track run by the local motorcycle club.
Also in Maffra, a massive WWII-era building constructed for vegetable dehydration has been repurposed as an exhibition space for the Gippsland Vehicle Collection.
This fleet of carriages, motorbikes, trucks, cars, engines and motoring memorabilia is equally enormous, and is rotated every few weeks to stay fresh.
You’ll see everything from 19th-century horsedrawn carriages to state-of-the-art race cars.
Also here is one of Australia’s largest displays of model cars, counting more than 3,500 pieces.
7. Lake Guthridge
There’s a beautiful spread of freshwater in Sale, right on the edge of the CBD and continuing south into a nature conservation reserve that we’ll describe in more detail.
At the head of this line of water bodies is the reservoir Lake Guthridge, once a bog that was impounded to create a water supply for the city.
The reservoir is ringed by greenery, with lawns, shrubs, mature red gums and the botanic gardens, set on the east bank.
A footpath curls around the lake, and on the south side you can cross a wooden footbridge or take a detour around the adjoining Lake Guyatt.
There’s a profusion of black swans, ducks, pelicans and other waterbirds here, while the trail is sprinkled with Aboriginal art.
Kids will love the pieces of play equipment at intervals around the shore.
8. Sale Common Nature Conservation Reserve
You hardly have to leave the city to get to this 300-hectare expanse of open water, marshes, grassland and red gum woodland.
This is the prime place in Sale to do some birdwatching, and on the River Heritage and Wetlands Trail you can keep an eye out for white faced herons, Australasian darters, pelicans, of course, whistling kites, royal spoonbills and white-bellied sea eagles, to name a small handful.
There are boards with clear pictures to help you identify each species.
Cyclists also love the reserve as an option for an extended, but light ride from the centre of Sale, with bitumen paths and boardwalks.
9. Ninety Mile Beach
In half an hour you can be at one of Earth’s great unspoiled beaches.
Ninety Mile Beach is even longer than its name, at 94 miles (151km), between Port Albert in the south-west and Lakes Entrance in the north-east.
For all that length the beach is unbroken, devoid of headlands or outcrops save for a few ribbons of reef offshore.
The beach is a natural barrier for the Gippsland Lakes, a chain of water bodies beginning just outside Sale, where the La Trobe River flows into Lake Wellington.
The closest settlement on Ninety Mile Beach is Paradise Beach, on the far western side of the Gippsland Lakes Coastal Park, where you can behold the Bass Strait, ride the waves, go surf fishing, dip your toes in the ocean and camp by the beach.
10. Loch Sport
Easy to get to from Sale is the adorable coastal town of Loch Sport, sitting between Lake Victoria, and with easy access to Ninety Mile Beach.
As far as locations go, Loch Sport is blessed, set right beside the Gippsland Lakes Coastal Park, with its endless activities on land and in the water.
But on the town’s north flank you’ve also got the 2,390-hectare Lakes National Park, loved for its profuse wildflowers, and supporting populations of echidnas, emus, koalas and kangaroos.
Loch Sport has a golf club and a tranquil waterfront on Lake Victoria, where there’s a boat ramp/jetty, a marina, a children’s playground and skate park.
11. Lake Guyatt
A southern extension for Lake Guthridge, the bird-rich Lake Guyatt serves as an overflow for its big sister and is a worthwhile place for a peaceful walk.
The water is enclosed by a reserve, and you can follow a broad gravel path around the banks, connecting with the trail around Lake Guthridge.
The Lake Guyatt Cultural trail here has enlightening signs going into Aboriginal culture, also detailing the plant and animal species in the reserve.
On the lake’s east side is Stephenson Park, Sale’s main space for outdoor sports and going through a 1.65-million-dollar redevelopment at the time of writing.
South-west of Lake Guyatt stands the Sale Powder Magazine, built in the mid-1860s to store gunpowder for mine blasting.
12. Gippsland Armed Forces Museum
In a hangar at West Sale Airport is a museum charting more than 135 years of Australian military history, all from a Gippsland perspective.
There’s some impressive military hardware in the collection, including a jet greeting you on arrival and an engine and propeller inside.
Spanning all branches of the armed forces, the collection runs to over 1,500 pieces and features diaries, maps, uniforms, photographs medals and preserved vintage posters.
Among these are artefacts from Gallipoli, Belgium and France, all helping to document the role of Gippslanders in defending the country in war and peace.
13. Former Railway Signal Box
In the centre of Sale is the Gippsland Centre, the location for most of the city’s shops and many of its dining choices.
There’s a pedestrian mall passing along the south side, where you’ll also find Sale Cinemas.
Curiously this was a previous setting for Sale Railway Station, which was relocated outside the city in 1983. But on the west side, along Reeve Street, you can still spot some railway heritage, long stranded since the relocation.
Most prominent is the charming weatherboard signal box, sitting next to a pair of semaphore signals and the fine old level crossing gates.
14. The Wedge
Backing onto the port and Opposite the council and court buildings on Foster Street, The Wedge is a live entertainment hub for all of Wellington Shire.
This venue is operated by Wellington Shire Council and hosts a popular brew of theatre, musicals, dance performances, live comedy, touring bands, classical music and tribute acts.
This all goes down at the 400-seat John Leslie Theatre, also rented out for conventions, events, exhibitions and more.
For pre-show drinks and bites, the newly updated Portside Cafe has waterfront seating and is open seven days a week.
15. Sale Visitor Information Centre
Sharing a building with the Gippsland Art Gallery, this tourism resource will help you get more out of your trip to Central Gippsland and the Wellington Shire.
When you consider the sheer variety of a region that spans Victoria’s snowfields and the vast sands of Ninety Mile Beach, it’s well worth getting some one-to-one advice to make sure you don’t miss anything.
The visitor information centre is open seven days and has free, high-speed Wi-Fi.
You can chat with the staff and browse a huge range of maps and brochures, but there’s also a great gift shop selling arts and crafts and food and wine from the area.