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11 places to explore the history and heritage of the Murray River region

Mungo National Park. Image credit: Murray Regional Tourism

30 Sep. 2021 by Rochelle Vaisanen

11 places to explore the history and heritage of the Murray River region

Name a region that’s home to significant archaeological sites, museums showcasing early German settler artefacts and played a key role in Australia's federation? We’ll wait.

Just as The Murray is vast in its size – spanning over 2,500km from east to west – so are the history and heritage experiences on offer.

From a paddlesteamer cruise to learn about river trade in the late 1800s to a homestead recognised by the National Trust as holding significant importance to Australian history, make sure you put one (or more) of these historical sites on your itinerary when next visiting the Murray River region.

1. Port of Echuca Discovery Centre, Echuca

Did you know Port of Echuca was one of the largest inland ports in Australia in the late 1870s outside of Sydney and Melbourne?

While it’s no longer a bustling place of river trade, the Port of Echuca Discovery Centre offers daily guided tours and steam-powered exhibits to give you an insight into these vessels which hold a strong historical connection to our region.

Choose from a guided tour exploring the historical wharf, a family-friendly twilight tour discovering historical figures or an after dark lantern tour paired with stories of ghosts.

Walk through the exhibits on the port to learn how paddlesteamers operate or board the PS Adelaide for a one-hour cruise along the Murray River to see the steam engine in action.

2. Jindera Pioneer Museum, Jindera

Visit one of the oldest remaining cottages in the Greater Hume while learning about early German settlers from the late 1800s with a visit to the Jindera Pioneer Museum.

Spread over two acres of grounds, the museum consists of several historic buildings surrounding the main store, which is filled with local relics and goods dating back to the 19th century.

Plan your visit for a Sunday and sit down to Devonshire Tea in the tea room built over 220 years ago.

3. Pioneer Settlement, Swan Hill

Have you ever wondered what life was like back in the late 1800s?

Head to Pioneer Settlement in Swan Hill to step back in time at this replica Mallee township – from vintage cars to horse-drawn carriages and old fashioned lollies from the General Store, this is one experience perfect for the whole family.

Add a water experience to your pioneering adventure and board the PS Pyap for a one-hour cruise on what was once a floating General Store.

For an experience with a difference, book ‘Heartbeat of the Murray’ to experience the Murray River’s history through a water, light, laser, sound and special effects show in the evening (bookings essential).

4. Corowa Federation Museum, Corowa

Turn the pages of Australia’s Federation history one page at a time with a visit to the Corowa Federation Museum.

Known as the birthplace of federation, learn about Corowa’s historical connection with artefacts and photographs in the former Border Brass Band Hall along Corowa’s main street. Learn about one of Australia’s nationally recognised paintings by Tom Robert’s ‘Shearing The Rams’ which was painted at Brocklesby Station near Corowa.

5. Book a paddlesteamer cruise

Known as Australia’s paddlesteamer capital, explore The Murray’s waterways at steam-powered speed to see the vessels in action and enjoy the historical commentary of river trade from the region dating back to the late 1800s.

Choose from a day cruise, overnight or multi-night cruises departing Mildura, Swan Hill, Echuca or Yarrawonga.

6. Byramine Homestead, Burramine

When the National Trust classifies a place as ‘to be preserved at all costs’ you know you’re in for a historical treat.

Dating back to 1842, Byramine Homestead and Brewery was built by explorer Hamilton Hume, who designed the house not only to suit the climate of the region, but to protect against attacks by bushrangers.

It’s not only the homestead that holds historical significance. The Elm trees in the gardens are known to be some of the oldest in Victoria.

Stop by and sample boutique beers made onsite and dine on produce grown on the surrounding vegetable farm.

7. Koondrook Wharf, Koondrook

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Koondrook was a port of call for riverboats to connect with river communities further north.

While the old Koondrook Wharf may have been the centre for bustling trade in its heyday, it’s now a place for visitors to enjoy time outdoors in nature.

Follow the Red Gum Statue Walk along the banks of the Murray River between Koondrook and Barham to learn about the pioneering history of the region through statues and interpretive signs – make sure you collect a guided map from a local business or the Visitor Information Centre before you set off on foot.

8. The Chaffey Trail, Mildura

Learn how Mildura became Australia’s first irrigation colony thanks to two brothers in 1847.

Grab a brochure from the Visitor Information Centre and follow the self-guided Chaffey Trail to tick off 12 key heritage sites and buildings throughout the region.

From Chateau Mildura – a local museum dedicated to the local and Australian wine industry – to Psyche Pumps and Lock 11, see how the vision of early settlers transformed Mildura into the irrigated oasis it is today.

9. Mungo National Park, Mungo

While Mungo National Park offers an awe-inspiring landscape with towering quartz and clay dunes that look more space-age than planet earth, its historical connection dates back over 40,000 years.

In fact, this National Park was identified as one of Australia’s most significant archaeological sites following the discovery of the remains of Mungo Lady and Mungo Man – some of the oldest remains of modern humans on the planet - as well as artefacts dating back over 40,000 years and footprints 20,000 years old.

To learn more about the history hidden in the layers of this National Park, book a tour with an experienced an Indigenous guide from Discovery Tours.

10. Bonegilla Migrant Experience, Bonegilla

Did you know that one in 20 Australians have links to Bonegilla, 11 kilometres east of Wodonga?

The Bonegilla Migrant Experience was established in 2007 as a public memorial for Australians to reflect on the journey of those who arrived on our shores to seek a new post-war life.

Learn about the 300,000-plus migrants who passed through the army camp turned migrant reception between 1947 and 1971 as you explore the oral, written and pictorial records.

Book a guided tour or explore the buildings and site at your own pace with a self-guided map.

11. Barkindji Wimpatya Murra Centre, Dareton

Explore Aboriginal culture through art and artefacts at Barkindji Wimpatya Murra Centre in Dareton.

Located 30km north of Mildura, this Aboriginal art gallery is filled with locally made pieces of art – from painted kangaroo skins to boomerangs and didgeridoos as well as Australia’s largest playable didgeridoo.

You’ll often find artists working from the in-house workshop, allow time to speak with them and get insights into the cultural significance of the artwork and craft.