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5 day journey through The Murray with Luke Lambley

Huon Hill, Wodonga. Image credit: Zac Freuden

3 Mar 2023 by Luke Lambley (@lukelambley)

5 day journey through The Murray with Luke Lambley

Having done plenty of trips along the east coast of Australia in my van, I was pretty sceptical at the thought of venturing inland to explore the Murray River region. But boy did it not disappoint. Travelling with Zac Freuden, we spent 5 days exploring the region and by the end I wish we had more. Covering over 250kms of the river we began our trip in the Greater Hume region and stretched west out to the towns of Corowa, Rutherglen, Strathmerton and just shy of Echuca. It was a pretty epic trip and we hope this little recap of our adventures inspire you to get on the road exploring the Murray River.

Follow the itinerary

Day 1: Greater Hume Region – Albury/Woodonga

We began our trip in the small country town of Holbrook. With a big day of adventures ahead we headed into Ten Mile Café and fueled up with some amazing coffee and their well-known big breaky which definitely hit the spot. Charged and ready to go, we checked out the decommissioned HMAS Otway submarine the town is known for – a fun little attraction well worth a stop.

We drove 20 minutes south, to the town of Woomargama, gateway to Woomargama National Park. The drive into the park was exceptional and we spent a decent amount of time capturing amazing content of the road in. For those with a 4WD there are a number of tracks through the park that take you to some beautiful lookouts and camping spots but we continued on to our first winery, Flyfaire Wines. On arrival, we met owners Julianne and Leslie who were so welcoming. The winery is a sustainable, low chemical and low carbon single block vineyard producing a number of high-quality wines. We had a really special experience and were given history of the property, a full tasting paired with an amazing cheese board full of locally grown produce.

Our next destination was Albury, and to get here you could back track to the highway or continue on to a more undiscovered road that tracks along the Murray River – obviously you know which one we took. The road was called River Road (note the road is unsealed) and it did not disappoint. Winding along the embankments you get endless vistas of the Murray between the green rolling hills, and to make the journey even more unique, once you get to the little town of Wymah, you jump on the very cute heritage listed cable ferry built in 1946 to cross the Murray to the other side – with only room for 2-3 cars its quite the experience and its free! With the sun setting we beetled along towards Albury and headed straight for our dinner spot, La Maison. We started with their roasted pumpkin & feta risotto balls, had the confit duck maryland and prawn linguini and finished with the yoghurt vanilla bean panna cotta – couldn’t fault any of them. Filled up we jumped back in our van and headed for camp at Ludlow’s Reserve. Set right on the embankments of Lake Hume, we were pretty excited to wake up and see where we were!

Day 2: Albury/Woodonga

Sure enough we woke up to waterfront views. With the water so close, we couldn’t resist not jumping in the lake for a cold but refreshing dip to kickstart the morning. We cooked up breaky and packed up camp before heading into Albury to get cracking on our first activity, the High-Country Rail Trail which stretches for over 80kms from Wodonga to Shelley taking in beautiful scenes of the Upper Murray. We rented some mountain bikes from the Cycle Station for half a day ($25) and drove to Bonegilla to ride a section of the trail that goes along the embankments of Lake Hume and out to Sandy Creek Bridge (which for us was the highlight of the ride). The scenes along the trail are amazing and jumping on the bike we found was a great way to see it all.

After finishing the ride and returning our bikes, we headed out to the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk for sunset. The 5km trail features 15 contemporary aboriginal sculptures which are set amongst riverside parks, wetlands and is rich in birdlife. Being a shared path, you have the option of riding, walking or running along it! A great afternoon activity which we enjoyed.

We finished the day with a whisky at Two Fingers, a funky gentleman’s bar and barbershop with live music, good vibes & super friendly staff. We broke up sleeping in the van having a night at the Astor Hotel, just on the outskirt of Albury. With comfortable motel like rooms at a reasonable cost and with a great pub adjoined we found it served as a good spot for an easy feed and rest.

Day 3: Albury/Woodonga – Corowa

We got up nice and early to drive to the top of Huon Hill for sunrise and gosh was it special. We were greeted with panoramic views of Lake Hume, Albury, Wodonga and even glimpses of snow-capped peaks. The valley was filled with clouds & the colours of the sunrise were amazing – we felt like we were on top of the world. The drive up is steep but paved so most should be able to conquer it. Definitely put Huon Hill on the list and if you can get up for sunrise, DO IT!

Rather hungry from our early start we headed to the Bean Station in Woodonga which is set in the towns old train station built in 1873. We enjoyed some really good coffee and had their Bean Station Breakfast which was about as good as a big breaky can get! Filled to the brim, we popped back in to Albury to have a quick explore of the Botanic Gardens and also check out the Murray Art Museum Albury.

We said goodbye to Albury and began the 60km journey west along the Murray River towards Corowa. On our way out we stopped in at the town of Howlong to grab some lunch at the Country Bakery which we enjoyed down at the Memorial Park on the embankments of the Murray. We continued on and just before arriving at camp, we caught sight of a beautiful driveway with an archway of yellow poplars which was the entrance into the All Saints Estate winery – we parked the van up and got some pretty incredible shots in the sea of gold. It was absolutely stunning and we were pretty stoked to have been there at the right time of the season to see it the way it was.
We finally made it to Grantham’s Bend campground. This spot was rather nice, as we could park the van literally right on the Murray and being set within a large reserve on a wide bend there were countless spots to set up and make you feel in the middle of nowhere. We lit a fire and cracked open a few colds ones to end another good day of exploring The Murray.

Day 4: Rutherglen/Corowa – Yarrawonga

We woke to some magical scenes of the Murray River filled with misty fog and took the morning nice and slow to enjoy camp before commencing our day of exploring the regions renowned produce, wineries and distilleries.

First on the list was Pfeiffer’s Winery, a family-owned winery set in a pretty idyllic location. We met Ann who gave us such a warm welcome and even took us on a quick tour around the vineyard in her 4WD, giving us insight into how they produce their wines and showing us the wetlands and parks surrounding. What makes the winery really unique is that you can take a seat on Sunday Creek Bridge while you enjoy your wine – a beautiful historic timber bridge built over a lake. We really enjoyed this experience and recommend visiting Pfeiffer’s Winery for a glass or two.

From here we checked out a local coffee joint called Caffeine N Machine that Ann recommended us to visit. Located on the main street of Rutherglen, they not only dished up amazing coffee, but have a vintage car and motorcycle display we really enjoyed browsing. Caffeinated, we paid a quick visit to the towns centre masterpiece – the Big Wine Bottle. The water tower, now affectionally called the Wine Bottle was completed in the 1900 and once held 72,000 gallons. You get some pretty good views and the winding road up to it makes from some pretty epic content.

Our next spot was Corowa Distilling Co. We met co-owner Dean who gave us the most unreal experience. Set on the banks of the Murray River, the once thriving Flour Mill exported grains worldwide and built the town of Corowa, however when it closed its doors in 1970 it was left to decay and the town took a big hit. 40 years on, and some big dreams, they bought it for a dollar (yes a dollar – they’ve even got the original check inside) from the council with the one promise ‘to bring it back to life & put Corowa back on the map.’ And sure enough they did, renovating the mill into a bustling venue and have created some impeccable whiskies that have won numerous awards. Oh, and did I mention they also have a chocolate factory too. Dean took us behind the scenes showing us first-hand how they make their whisky, taking us to areas where they store the barrels & sure enough ended the tour with a full tasting. We left on such a high & are so grateful to have had the experience we did.

Now late afternoon, we boosted it 50kms west to our camp spot for the night just outside of Yarrawonga. We pulled up at Forges Beach No. 1, which once again is free with toilets & is located on a wide bend of the Murray River with even a sandy beach.

Day 5: Yarrawonga – Strathmerton – Ulupna Island

We woke to a pretty incredible sunrise to kickstart our last day. To soak in the scenes of camp, we parked the van on the beach and cooked up some pancakes. Our first destination for the morning was a farm gate experience at the family run organic and regenerative farm, Zanker’s Farm, just north of Shepparton. We got a full tour of their property, getting up close with the pigs, cows, ducks and chickens they manage and were given insight into their focus on healing the land through their regenerative practices and careful management of animals. The farm also grows certified biodynamic garlic which tastes absolutely amazing – we no doubt left the farm stocked up with some yummy goods including eggs, bacon & their garlic paste!!

From here, we jumped back in the van and drove to Cactus Country in the town of Strathmerton – boy was this place unique. With 12 acres of gardens to explore and probably the most cacti you’ve ever seen, you no doubt understand why it’s got the name as Australia’s largest cactus garden. Every corner of the place was filled with cacti of different shape, size & variety. We spent hours exploring and it’ll make you feel like you’ve been transported from the Murray into a Mexican desert. They also have a café and bar that serves up some tasty Mexican feasts. We also couldn’t resist leaving without taking a few bottles of their famous Prickly Apple Cider.

For our final night, we stayed in some beautiful self-contained cabins at The Paddock at Ulupna. The retreat is set on 180 acres of bushland and located in the Barmah National Park which forms part of the largest River Red Gum Forest in the world. We felt like we were deep in nature and the place was crawling with wildlife, with kangaroos and koalas a common sight. We spent the night kicking back at their campfire and enjoyed a bottle of the Prickly Apple cider from Cactus Country which was pretty terrific and a great way to send off the last day of our amazing time exploring The Murray.

Follow in @lukelambley tyre tracks with this itinerary or follow his socials for more adventures with Luke and his van.