Paddlesteamer at Port of Echuca
The Murray River is Australia’s longest river and marks the northern edge of Victoria. Home to expansive landscapes and untouched nature, it is dotted with must-visit towns such as Albury-Wodonga, Echuca-Moama, Swan Hill and Mildura. Whether it’s food and wine, family time, on water activities or feeling at one with nature that’s in order, there are many reasons to visit the Murray River region:
The Murray River region is a veritable food bowl, with a plethora of produce grown in the fertile area. The region’s restaurants and cafes harness this local produce to create fresh dishes that often change with the seasons. A brand new plant-based health bar, The Sweet Meadow, is a prime example. Based in Echuca, it uses local produce to create a healthy dose of vegan mains, sugar-free treats and fresh juices. Nearby, Junction Moama brings together the best of the region’s produce in a sophisticated setting and Ceres Restaurant is the place to go for hearty Italian.
Two hours northwest, in Swan Hill, Java Spice and Spoons Riverside are top spots for a feed of fresh produce, while in the heart of Albury, the Border Wine Room has earned itself a chef’s hat for its attention to detail and ever-evolving menu. Also in Albury, The River Deck serves seasonal fare right on the river, and for Asian fusion food, the town’s newest eateries, DinDins and HAPI Dumpling and Bao bar are top choices.
In the state’s north west, Mildura is home to several new cafes and eateries, including Blk Mlk a specialty coffee house, the family-friendly Café de Caravan and Nash Lane Coffee Co with top notch coffee and mouthwatering cakes. Ms Lucy is famous for its cocktails served in lightbulbs (as well as its Asian cuisine) while Brass Monkey‘s menu of modern street food mixes it up with Korean, Mexican and Thai influences. The town’s hatted restaurant, Stefano’s continues to draw a crowd, with its authentic Italian cuisine and intimate setting.
BOUNTIFUL LOCAL PRODUCE
Local produce is also available to take home. The Strawberry Pick, about 10 minutes from the centre of Echuca, offers the opportunity to pick fresh strawberries from the field in spring, summer and autumn. IG’s Figs products; fresh and dried figs and fig products are available farmers’ markets across the region, including the Echuca Farmers Market and Ebden and Olive, in South Albury, is a food store with chef-prepared take home meals and delicatessen. Meat lovers can stop in at Camboer Goats, Bundarra Berkshires Free Range Pork or Butts Smoke House and The Yabby Men produce farm fresh yabbies available live or cooked and ready to eat.
Families can learn the history of the region at Swan Hill’s Pioneer Settlement, a living museum that recreates life as it was in days gone by. At dusk each day, the Heartbeat of the Murray tells the story of the Murray region from prehistoric times until today with laser lights projected onto the river. Kids and adults alike will love Echuca’s OZ Maze, where the the challenge is to find the way from one capital city to another in a maze the shape of Australia. The challenge continues at twistED Science! An award winning attraction in Echuca designed for the curious of all ages, here kids are invited to bring out their inner scientist. The new Augmented Reality gaming wall provides even more reason to visit. A photographer’s paradise, Cactus Country is Australia’s largest collection of cacti and succulent plants, 30 minutes north of Shepparton. A visit here is like exploring another country with a vast contrast in setting to the native Australian backdrop.
WINERIES TO EXPLORE
The year-round sun and fertile soil means the Murray River region is a prime location for grape growing. There are plenty of destination cellar-doors in the area to try out a drop of the latest local varietal. Nestled into the hillside, Splitters Creek Vineyard, 10 minutes from Albury, is known for its award-winning wines and its passionate producers. Half way between Echuca and Barmah, Cape Horn Vineyard offers a selection of wines, along with wood fired pizza, cheese platters and a five-bedroom Vineyard Villa. Forty minutes from Echuca, Restdown Wines features an underground carbon neutral winery, environmentally sustainable vineyard, a wetland walking trail with indigenous culture, and an Organic Grass Fed Hereford Beef herd. In the pristine Woomargama National Park, Flyfaire Wines’ cellar door serves high quality wines that are produced using sustainable, low chemical and low acreage methods.
FOODIE EVENTS FOR ALL
March is the perfect time to enjoy the region’s food at a selection of food and wine focused events. The Swan Hill Region Food and Wine Festival (10-12 March 2017) includes river cruises, signature dinners at local restaurants and a farmers market. Comprised of more than 14 events, the Sun Country Food and Wine Festival (March 31 – 9 April 2017) kicks off with Lunch in the Olive Grove (part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival) and continues with the Awesome Autumn Chocolate Breakfast, Wine and Dine Cruise on the Murray and more. North East Food & Wine Festival (3 – 5 March 2017) showcases the region’s finest food, wines, ciders and brews through cooking masterclasses and food workshops. Later, the Flavours of Echuca Festival (21 May 2017) invites visitors to catch a Paddle Steamer shuttle service along the Murray River to experience the region’s best food in one day.
MIGHTY MURRAY RIVER ADVENTURES
A trip to the Murray wouldn’t be complete without enjoying all the river has to offer. And what better way to do so than splashing around with an on-water activity? Aquazone at Lake Mulwala is an inflatable obstacle course on the foreshore of Yarrawonga’s Frank Keenan Reserve. It opened for the first time in 2016 and plans to run annually from November to Easter, adding new inflatable pieces each year. I-Waterski SUP in Echuca-Moama has this summer added Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP) to its water sports repertoire. Visitors can test their SUP skills in the quiet waters of the marina, then venture out and meander along the Murray River.
Those not keen to get wet can enjoy the views from the comfort of a boat. The ultimate dining experience, the recently refurbished M.V. Mary Ann offers lunch and dinner cruises from Echuca. For something a little more olde world, the iconic PS Emmylou offers short cruises, lunch and dinner cruises as well as scheduled one, two and three night cruises. The only wood-fired paddlesteamer in the world offering regular overnight cruising, it features an on-board restaurant, Redgums, and nine cabins accommodating up to 18 guests. Visitors to Albury can choose a sightseeing cruise, historical tour, nature tour and water based photography workshops with Simon Dallinger’s Mighty Murray Discovery Tours. In Mildura, All Seasons Houseboats acts as accommodation and transport in one.
GOLF TO GET EXCITED ABOUT
The Murray River is a popular destination for golfers, and with good reason. The region is home to some of the country’s most outstanding golf courses, including: Yarrawonga’s Black Bull Golf Club which wraps around the waters of Lake Mulwala; Commercial Golf Resort Albury with tree lined fairways and well placed bunkers; Corowa Golf Club, a super 27 hole championship course; Yarrawonga Mulwala Golf Club Resort a mammoth three-course, 45 hole club; Cobram Barooga Golf Club with its famous Old Course and modern links style West Course; Rich River Golf Club in Echuca with 36 holes; Swan Hill’s Murray Downs Resort and Golf Club, regarded as one of the best resort courses on the Murray; ClubBarham an 18 hole, par 73, well established championship course; and Tocumwal Golf Club a 36 hole championship course with challenges for novice and experienced golfers.
ART AND CULTURE
Over the past few decades, Mildura Arts Centre has expanded from its base at the Rio Vista Historic House to include dedicated art galleries, a performing arts venue, gardens and a sculpture park. Also in Mildura, the privately funded Art Vault is a contemporary arts facility with three gallery spaces and an exhibition program featuring local, national, international and Indigenous artists. Just out of Mildura, in Red Cliffs, Carringbush Glass Gallery and Studio showcases the work of local artist, Eunice Wake. In Wentworth, Artback Australia Gallery & Café, owned and operated by two local artists, features regularly changing displays by a number of resident artists.
Home to one of Australia’s most comprehensive collections of naïve art, the Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery presents a range of touring exhibitions and events throughout the year alongside its growing collection. The Murray River-side town also hosts Fairfax Festival – an annual festival and workshop event for young people aged 12-17. Shepparton Art Museum focuses on contemporary and Indigenous Australian art and is home to one of Australia’s most extensive collections of ceramics. Shepparton is also home to the annual ShepARTon Festival (3-19 March 2017) and to Gallery Kaiela, an exhibition and workshop space for local Indigenous artists.
Arts Space Wodonga is a contemporary art gallery and nearby, The Cube Wodonga is a state-of-the-art performing arts venue with a year round program. Opened in October 2015, the Murray Art Museum Albury showcases local, regional, national and international art in six gallery spaces.
EMBRACE INDIGENOUS CULTURE
The Murray River forms a special place in the lives of its traditional landowners and remains a place of importance for Indigenous people. Nowhere is this more apparent than at Mungo National Park. Once a large lake where Indigenous tribes camped and fished, Mungo is the site of one of earth’s longest continuous human habitations. The park’s red, sandy country is now home to an array of animals, birds and plant life, including wedge-tailed eagles and red kangaroos. All are there to be seen when you wander the carefully plotted pathways within the park, or take a guided tour.
At the other end of the Murray, in Albury, the five kilometre-long Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk features 11 sculptures, created by local Indigenous artists. The works are scattered along the Wagirra Trail which follows the path of the Murray River. Interpretative panels and videos (accessible via smartphone) tell the story of Indigenous history and the cultural significance of the Murray River.
A NIGHT IN NATURE
Camping is a popular option on the Murray and campsites surrounded by nothing but nature are abundant. Some of the best options include: Barmah Lakes Camp Ground at the heritage listed Barmah National Park, Edward River Bridge Campground set on the picturesque Edward River in Murray Valley Regional Park, and Gunbower Island. Those looking for a little more luxury can glamp among the grapevines at Cofield Wines with Grapevine Glamping. Launched in 2016, the bell tents come fully equipped with a comfortable bed, board games, fishing gear, stargazing kit and more. Travellers will also find a relaxing place for a more luxurious repose at Talo Retreats. Here, Yurts are set against the peaceful surrounds of the Murray River, and come complete with domed skylights for stargazing, private outdoor spas and balcony hammocks. Each is far enough from its neighbours for total seclusion, yet within walking distance from resort facilities including two pools, tennis courts, shop and more.