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Go west! Follow the Murray River to Mildura

Spoons Riverside, Swan Hill. Image credit: Swan Hill Rural City

4 Nov 2021 by Daniela Sunde-Brown

Go west! Follow the Murray River to Mildura

The west of the Murray River is a region rich with local wildlife, sprawling landscapes, intriguing heritage and fresh farm produce.

Spend your days exploring Barham Koondrook, Swan Hill and Mildura, that stretch along the west of the mighty Murray.

Stop 1: Barham Koondrook

Set the GPS for Koondrook and hit the road. There’s a 300-kilometre drive ahead if you’re departing from Melbourne.

Start by immersing yourself in nature with a walk along the banks of the Murray River itself. Between the towns of Koondrook and Barham, world-renowned chainsaw carvers Kevin Guilders and Angela Polglaze have created 18 sculptures from local red gum. The Koondrook Barham Redgum Statue River Walk depicts the region’s pioneer men and women and local wildlife.

Another brilliant way to experience the town is from the water. Barham River Cruises invite you to enjoy the majestic Murray River aboard the Matilda, a small relaxing boat cruise that includes informative commentary on local and river history.

Spend the late afternoon at Barham Vine, a small family-run winery. Around two acres of vines were planted in 2012 and now you can taste the Murray terroir with Barham Vine’s boutique-scale production of shiraz, tempranillo and cabernet sauvignon best enjoyed on the lawn with cheese platters and pizza.

If there’s still light left in your day, squeeze in the Goanna Walking Track. Crossing the Gunbower Creek Footbridge, this 3.2-kilometre loop starts in town and wanders Gunbower State Forest including Gunbower Island, Australia’s largest inland island.

Or hurry over to Koondrook Retreat where life slows down and becomes all about the luxury of nature, offering glamping complete with uninterrupted creek views.

Stop 2: Swan Hill

Reluctantly say goodbye to your luxury tent – your next stop is Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery.

Fittingly for the Murray River, the first local for the regional gallery was aboard a paddle steamer called Gem. That was back in 1966 and now you can visit the purpose-built gallery, home to Australia’s most comprehensive collection of naive art.

From there, turn back the clock by taking a horse-drawn carriage through the Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement and imagine what life was like in the 1880s. Buy a fistful of old fashioned lollies at the General Store, watch a blacksmith hard at work and enjoy scones at The Paragon Café.

For lunch, Spoons Riverside next door serves food with a focus on what’s fresh, seasonal and regional. From the expansive deck enjoy peaceful views over the Little Murray River, nestled amongst the river red gums.

Chasing more local produce? Head towards the main street where Boo's Place Cafe & Provedore has a focus on paddock-to-plate eating and uses local produce in favourites like the Mallee lamb burger and the changing daily specials.

Just south of Swan Hill, Lake Boga is the place to splash, paddle, barbecue and camp. A beloved spot for swimming, fishing, walking and endless watersports, it’s popular year-round but especially in the summer.

Check into your accommodation at one of Swan Hill’s two BIG4 Holiday Parks. The BIG4 Riverside Swan Hill is in town and offers cabins right on the waterfront, while BIG4 Swan Hill has plenty for kids to do including a splash park, jumping pillow, swimming pool, mini golf and go karts.

Settle into dinner tonight at Quo Vadis, a Swan Hill institution that’s fed generations of locals with handmade pizzas and gelato since 1988. Stop in for takeaway and enjoy a drink while you wait or sit in the dining room and embrace the lively atmosphere of families sharing plates of pasta and slices of pizza.

Stop 3: Mildura

Rise and shine, it’s time to roll over to Mildura, a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Swan Hill.

Did you even go to The Murray if you didn’t board a paddle steamer? If you make it to town early enough, board the 10.50am river cruise with Mildura Paddlesteamers. If you miss the two-hour cruise, there’s another departure at 1.50pm.

Mildura’s other gem is its botanic garden, showcasing native and exotic plants, the Australian Inland Botanic Garden is the first semi-arid one in the southern hemisphere and an ideal spot to see the desert in bloom.

While in town, don’t miss the chance to kayak or walk around Kings Billabong. This natural reserve is a birdwatcher’s paradise, so keep your eyes peeled for pelicans, black swans, herons and ducks.

Tonight, add some heat to your long weekend with a meal from Andy’s Kitchen. Award-winning chef Andy Nguyen and his team serve up Chinese and modern Asian dishes from an open kitchen. Think spicy Sichuan chicken, king prawn salads, fried rice, dumplings and noodles.

Rest your head at Quality Hotel Mildura Grand. Set in a stunning historic building in downtown Mildura, it’s the perfect base for your final night.

Got a few more days up your sleeve, get to know what else to add to your itinerary in Mildura with this guide.