Wild, rugged, remote, and mostly bypassed by tourism, Far East Gippsland is one of the last unbroken wildernesses left in Australia.

Story + Photos Don Fuchs

From the air, Mealing Hill sticks out like a sore thumb. A modest knoll on the edge of Coopracambra National Park in Victoria’s far west, Mealing Hill, accessible via the rutted, overgrown WB Line, is an island in an ocean of trees. 

From its top, cleared to accommodate a helicopter pad, the 360-degree view is of an endless expanse of forest stretching in wave after wave from the hazy-blue Alps all the way to the untamed coast.

The journey through this remote forest world begins in the seaside town of Mallacoota. The small town is bordered by the picturesque Mallacoota Inlet at its east, with the restless Tasman Sea to its south. The densely packed trees of Croajingolong National Park surround its north and west sides. 

Adventurer and filmmaker Larry Gray calls this friendly town home. “It’s a pretty tight, happy little community,” Larry says. But underneath this relaxed attitude is a trauma that is still raw. In January 2020, a monstrous fire rolled out of the west and devastated the isolated community. Larry was in town that day. Like many others, he went to the beach, “ready to swim if we had to”. He remembers vividly what came after the apocalyptic red glow that engulfed the town. “Then it went black, black like you’ve never seen before.” The catastrophe left its mark. “A lot of people haven’t got over it, not fully,” he says. “I know people who are even too scared to light a campfire.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #150

Outback Magazine: Aug/Sep 2023