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5 ways to experience the Murray River region

Heartbeat of the Murray at Pioneer Settlement, Swan Hill. Image credit: Swan Hill Incorporated

3 Aug 2021 by Rochelle Vaisanen

5 Ways to Experience the Murray River Region in Victoria

Looking to escape for a minibreak but not sure what to add to your itinerary?

Whether you’re a first-time visitor to the Murray River region or a seasoned traveller, there’s more than one experience to have along our 2,500km famous waterway.

1. Explore our waterways by boat

For a true Murray River experience, don’t return home without cruising our waterways at steam-powered speed. You’ll find paddlesteamers in Echuca, Yarrawonga, Swan Hill or Mildura ready to welcome you aboard.

Book a Café Cruise on the MV Mary Ann, to dine on apple crumble hot cakes, Szechuan pepper calamari or a Mary Ann BLT as you cruise past Echuca’s historic port from the comfort of your dining table. Extend your time on the water with a houseboat holiday, to enjoy the changing landscapes of the region morning, noon and night (ensuring you follow current government guidelines for who you can holiday with).

Combine a water activity with an active escape and explore the Murray River by oar speed at Kings Billabong in Mildura, Gunbower Creek in the Gannawarra region (water levels will be suitable for kayaking after the middle of August) or in Lake Mulwala (launching from Yarrawonga)

2. Enjoy regional flavours at a farmers market, local providore or fine dining restaurant

Sample local produce from the Swan Hill Farmers’ Market, held the first Sunday of the month. Located at Riverside Park, enjoy views of the Murray River as you sample fresh fruit or locally baked bread while enjoying a morning barista-made coffee.

Stop by Rich Glen Providore in Yarrawonga to stock up on olive oil, sauces and olive-oil based products made by Rich Glen Olive Estate. Fill the boot of your car with goodies to take home or put together a picnic hamper to enjoy on the Yarrawonga foreshore.

Book a table at Miss Amelie for a fine dining meal with a European twist in Wodonga’s historic railway precinct. This Australian Good Food Guide hatted restaurant features a seasonal menu using local produce. You can also stock up on restaurant-quality dishes or artesian supplies from its own providore shop Miss Amelie Gourmet.

3. Don your art critic hat and explore the local galleries and art trails

Explore Australia’s most comprehensive collection of naïve art at the Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery, where you’ll find a range of artwork across different mediums – including works on paper, prints, drawings, paintings and sculptures. The gallery hosts a program of changing exhibitions – with up to 20 exhibitions and 700 exhibition-days annually – alongside its permanent collection.

With three galleries, artist studios and printmaking workrooms, there’s more to this gallery than the artwork that hangs on the walls at the Art Vault Art Gallery in Mildura. While you’ll find local, indigenous, national and international artwork on display, the gallery is focused on educating visitors about the work that goes into creating visual art by allowing them to meet with artists while onsite.

Grab a beanie as your art critic hat and head outdoors to see artwork across disused silos and water tanks. Put one (or all) of these on your Victorian silo art tour – Colbinabbin Silo, Rochester Silo, St James Silo Art or Picola Silo Art – located within a few hours’ drive from Melbourne.

4. Explore the outdoors

Explore the world’s largest forest of River Red Gums through Barmah National Park, as you walk through the famous trees known to live up to 500 years. Follow one of the local walking trails – from the 1.5km Yamyabuc Discovery Trail to the 4km Barmah Lakes Look Track. With over 220 species of native birds known to call this national park home, as well as eastern grey kangaroos and koalas, keep your eyes and ears alert for coloured feathers and rustling on the forest floor.

Head to Gunbower National Park and State Forest to visit Australia’s largest inland island. Follow one of the walking trails or pack the bikes and venture through the bushland on two wheels. Be aware when planning travel to this part of the Murray River region, because you’ll find yourself in New South Wales if you cross the bridge to Barham.

For an outdoor adventure that pairs the Murray River with 70-metre-high cliffs, head to the town of Red Cliffs, 18km outside of Mildura. Named after the orange and red tones of the rock formation, this is one experience best enjoyed at sunrise, when the light reflects off the cliff face onto the surface of the river. Follow the newly built boardwalk to the Red Cliffs Lookout at the scenic reserve for the ultimate sunrise selfie.

5. Have a historical connection

Plan a day exploring Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement to experience Australian history dating back to the 1800s. The village comprises of a traditional Mallee Township, with pioneer cottages and homesteads complete with a mud-brick kitchen. Navigate your way through the village with a horse and carriage ride and stop by the General Store for old fashioned lollies. If you’re staying overnight, book Heartbeat of the Murray to learn about the local region through laser, light and sound.

Learn about the Murray River region’s river trade history at the Port of Echuca Discovery Centre, with interactive displays and daily tours showcasing the importance of this Port which was responsible for building over 200 paddlesteamers each year. If you’re travelling with kids, visit the Cargo Shed Kids Space which has costumes, games or instruments for them to engage with or book the Kids Adventure Tour.

Discover how the town of Bonegilla became one of Australia’s important gateways for migrants in the mid-1900s at the Bonegilla Migrant Experience. With one in 20 Australians having links to Bonegilla, grab a brochure and walk through the site at your own pace, or book a guided tour to hear stories from a local expert along the way.