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Places to visit in The Murray less than three hours from Melbourne

Cactus Country, Strathmerton. Image credit: Murray Regional Tourism

3 Aug 2021 by Rochelle Vaisanen

Places to visit in The Murray less than three hours from Melbourne

Calling all Melburnians.

Looking for somewhere new to explore but don’t want to spend all your holiday time on the bitumen driving to your destination?

Put the Murray River region on your to-travel list and explore the region’s arts and culture, food and dining or history and heritage in less than three hours drive from Melbourne CBD.

Get ready to hit the road and explore The Murray (on the Victorian side) with this guide.

1. Cactus Country, Strathmerton

Travel distance: 251km
Travel time: 2h 52m

Can’t travel to Mexico? No worries! Jump in the car and buckle up for three hours on the road to explore over 4,000 species of cacti and succulents at Cactus Country.

Spread over 12 acres, you’ll want to allow plenty of time to explore this prickly paradise, with eight walks within the gardens, each offering a different range of spikey species to discover – from South American to South African varieties.

There’s no shortage of instagrammable moments to be had at this attraction. Make your friends double-tap with envy sharing photos from Jim’s valley of hybrid giants, where you’ll find yourself dwarfed by cacti over six metres tall.

This is one destination that promises to indulge your tastebuds as well, with cacti flavoured ice cream and cake available from the café.

If you’re travelling with little ones, grab a ‘Spotto’ game from reception, for an interactive way for them to learn about different types of cati as they stroll through the gardens.

Did we mention Cactus Country is pet-friendly too?

2. Port of Echuca, Echuca

Travel distance: 222km
Travel time: 2h 35m

Name a more iconic duo than the Murray River and paddlesteamers? We’ll wait.

Navigate your way to Echuca, 224km north of Melbourne to learn about its iconic river trade from the early 1800s at its historic port.

Not only was the Port a gateway for goods and services to be transported to river communities, it was main shipbuilding centre, with eight sawmills building more than 240 paddlesteamers each year.

Visit the Port of Echuca Discovery Centre to see interactive displays, such as the Evan’s Sawmill and Steam Display or book a guided tour with a local history expert to hear stories about what life was like during Echuca’s bustling river trade era.

For a relaxing way to hear about the history of the Port, book a paddlesteamer cruise to turn the pages of history at steam-powered speed, including the region’s oldest paddlesteamer, PS Adelaide, that still cruises the waterways today.

3. Colbinabbin and Rochester Silo Art

Distance: 157km (Colbinabbin); 196km (Rochester)
Travel time: 2hours (Colbinabbin); 2hour 17 min (Rochester)

If you haven’t stood before a mural covered silo before, what are you waiting for?

Put 3559 in your GPS to arrive in Colbinabbin (aka Colbo) to see one of the latest artworks to hit the Vicotrian mural art scene, two hours’ drive from Melbourne.

Completed in 2020 by Tim Botwell, this six-silo-wide art piece took eight weeks to complete and depicts five different scenes in Colbo’s history and heritage – from a farmer’s picnic held in the 1800s and 1900s to a tractor pull race famous in the 1980s.

Grab a meal at the Colbinabbin Country Hotel or stock up on snacks at the Colbinabbin General Store before jumping back in the car to tick off your second mural for the day in Rochester, a short 30 minutes’ drive north towards Echuca.

The Rochester GrainCrop Silos offer birding of a different kind, with an Azure Kingfisher featured on the smaller of the two silos and a Squirrel Glider painted on the other.

Completed by Artist Jimmy D’Vate in 2018, the murals are a nod to the region’s ecosystem and landscape, located on the Campaspe River.

Take a walk through town to discover other outdoor artwork and see the painted landscapes in-real-life with a stroll along the Campaspe River – you’ll find plaques along the way to point out local Aboriginal history – from ‘scarred’ trees to grooved rocks.

4. Byramine Homestead, Burramine

Distance: 268km
Travel time: 3hr 1min

History buffs and beer lovers – this one’s for you.

Not only is Byramine Homestead classified by the National Trust of Australia as a building of significance to Australian History (read: preserve at all cost), it’s also home to a microbrewery and one of Australia’s largest vegetable farms.

Built in 1842 by explorer Hamilton Hume, the homestead is famous for its unusual layout with octagonal rooms, designed to ward off the cold weather and bushranger attacks.

Nowadays, it offers a place to explore, relax and unwind, with daily tours of the homestead, a café serving lunch, snacks and sweets and a landscaped garden with historic Elm trees.

Plan your visit to arrive for lunch and sample the range of boutique beers, ciders and wines made onsite paired with a ploughman’s platter or pie of the day.

5. The Big Strawberry, Koonoomoo

Distance: 297km
Travel time: 2hr 58min

Who says your sweet tooth can’t dictate your travel destination?

Put The Big Strawberry on your to-travel list, just shy of three hours’ drive from Melbourne to tuck into strawberry desserts, homemade strawberry ice cream or sip on strawberry flavoured liqueur, crème or port.

As with any fresh produce, the strawberry season can vary along with the availability of fruit picking, with strawberries generally available to pick between April and July and October and January.

If your visit falls outside of fruit picking season, there’s still plenty of things to do during your visit.

Catch the action of the production room, where everything from strawberry jam to sauce and ice cream is made.

Built on the site of the original Koonoomoo School, visit the History Room to explore the local history of this town through photographs and memorabilia or stop by the Man Cave to see a collection of vintage bikes and car memorabilia.

Follow the Vintage Trail around the property to see historical machinery – from a Horse Dray dating back to the 1900s or a 1950s Forson tractor once used for towing a tobacco planter.

There’s an indoor adventure playground with a ball pit and slides for when the kids need to burn off the sugar rush before jumping back in the car.

Don’t leave without having your instagrammable moment in front of the ‘big’ strawberry, standing four-metres high.