By Rachel Wagner
November 27, 2020 | 6 minute read
There’s something to be said for a river beach. It may not have the silky white sands or the crashing waves of the ocean but what it does have is gorgeous river red gum lined banks, fast running currents and bountiful bushland that shades the sand so you park yourself waterside all day long.
The majestic Murray is not only Australia’s longest river but also one of our finest. Beginning high in the alps of the Great Dividing Range, she slices through the country to create a natural border between New South Wales and Victoria.
Now that the border has reopened and we can flit across the river enjoying the best of Victoria and New South Wales’ little river towns, here is a glimpse into four of our favourites. Each town is within three and a half hours of Melbourne, so you can make a road trip out of it and hit all the spots on this list or just settle down in one town for a weekend of riverside relaxation.
* At the time of writing, activities and places mentioned in this guide are at varying stages of recovery from COVID-19. Please check government and business websites for specific details on opening times and any restrictions before you travel.
Echuca is home to one of the prettiest stretches of river. The thick native bushland along the banks gives way to what was once one of the country’s busiest inland ports. Parts of the old redgum wharf have been preserved and beautifully restored at the Port of Echuca where you can learn about the rich history of the town and explore the ancient paddlesteamers.
COVID may have killed cruising (or put it on hiatus, at least) but the same can’t be said for river cruising. Taking a ride on a paddlesteamer should be right at the top of your Murray River to do list. The PS Emmy Lou is one of the heritage town’s most iconic riverboats and she will instantly transport you to another era with her romance and luxury. Take a one hour sightseeing cruise to Morrisons Winery for lunch, or jump aboard for a 1-6 night adventure powered by a 1906 steam engine.
If you’re continuing on upstream, make a pitstop at the Tocumwal Foreshore Markets (the township is literally right next to the river, so it’s a lovely spot to spend a Saturday morning) or hit up the renowned Barooga Golf Course for a quick round of golf.
More sunny days than the Gold Coast. What a claim to fame! Yarrawonga and Mulwala are in the heart of Sun Country, where the river meets the giant playground of Lake Mulwala. What, you thought this article was only about fun on the river?
Lake Mulwala looks eerily beautiful with its semi-submerged red gums stripped bare. Hit the lake for some water skiing or, for the best view in town, parasailing. Then grab a fishing rod and try your luck at catching the iconic Murray cod.
This area around the Murray River is also known as the Food Bowl of Australia. The river is the lifeforce for the thousands of farms, vineyards and producers it flows past and if you follow the Farm Gate Trail, you can taste fresh Murray produce straight from the source.
We’re eagerly awaiting the Rich Glen farm gate to reopen but in the meantime you can visit their Provedore on the main street of Yarrawonga to try their divine range of olive oils, dukkahs and all natural skin care. Sip boutique beers and Devonshire Tea inside the historic Byramine Homestead and Brewery or for something truly unique, pop into the prickly Cactus Country gardens to sample the quirky flavour of cactus ice-cream.
Corowa Whisky and Chocolate
Sydney may have a nice harbour, but Rutherglen has a great port. This is the cheeky sign that greets you on your way into town and it’s dead right. This town has a bit of a sweet tooth, so follow the Muscat Mile and sip Rutherglen’s world famous wine-spirit-hybrid or try the ever-popular moscato made from the same grape.
The best way to visit the rural wineries is to drop into Rutherglen Wine Experience, rent a bike for the day and pedal around the country roads. Jump onto the Murray to the Mountains Rail Trail as it winds around seven wineries between Rutherglen and Wahgunyah. An easy and flat 9 km ride, when you’ve had your fill of wine and cheese you can collapse on the banks of the Murray in Wahgunyah for a well earned rest and a dip in the refreshing waters.
On your ride you can gorge yourself on Stanton and Killeen’s regional grazing platters then take a magical trip to All Saints’ cellar door where you’ll find a heritage listed castle. Meanwhile, Campbells of Rutherglen just make some damn good wine, whether you’re a crisp white drinker, a rich red lover or want to try the famed fortifieds. If you need a break from wine, check out the Corowa Whisky and Chocolate Factory just over the river. Housed in a grand 1920s flour mill, the distillery and restaurant does exactly what it says on the tin.
I would like to make a radical claim that Rutherglen’s best asset isn’t its wines - it’s the town pie shop with its gourmet Aussie flavours. Parker Pies has won the title of Australia’s best pie numerous times and when you try the Jolly Jumbuck - a lamb, mint and rosemary flaky parcel of goodness - you’ll understand why.
The River Deck
Albury is one of those truly livable regional cities that doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves (although that can be a good thing!) The NSW city is bursting with exceptional restaurants, beautiful green spaces and a burgeoning arts scene to explore. Albury is also perennially popular with hikers and mountain bikers who favour the hills and bushland that hug the city.
Enjoy the most scenic breakfast overlooking the water at the River Deck. After breakfast you can take a stroll along the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk and admire a series of Aboriginal sculptures. For a little tranquility, follow the trail all the way to the Wonga Wetlands. You’ll be treated with a symphony of bird songs at this chain of lagoons and billabongs spilling out of the Murray. Later, tuck into some exceptional Asian fusion at Din Dins.
If you hear the locals raving about MAMA, they’re talking about the Murray Art Museum Albury and this contemporary art museum a must visit. Right in the heart of Albury on Dean St, it puts a spotlight on artists from the Murray region and across Australia.
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