Aims: This is the first of two papers that explore influences on doctors' decision-making about the location of their practice. Part one focuses on the positive experiences of rural medical practice as expressed by a cohort of rural general practitioners. Part two focuses on the concerns that the doctors have about rural medical practice. Methods: We have purposefully selected and interviewed 12 rural doctors in rural/regional Gippsland, Victoria, Australia, exploring their general childhood experiences, why they chose medicine as their career and what they like and dislike about rural practice and life in general. Results: The doctors said that their rural upbringing and exposure to rural experiences during their postgraduate training led them into rural practice. However, the influence of partners, and unexpected opportunities and life experience also impacted on the location of their practice. Many said that they eagerly embraced the excitement, challenge and anxiety of rural practice and complex medical tasks, for example, dealing with emergencies. Conclusions: Recruiting and retaining rural doctors is a health policy priority. Understanding why and how people practice in rural communities makes a vital contribution to health policy. These doctors form a key group of experienced Australian trained general practitioners. It is this cohort who will be relied upon to supervise and train medical students, registrars and overseas trained doctors.