When the sun’s shining and the skies are clear, nothing beats motoring through the towns and villages North of the Murray. Travelling the backroads are a great way to see ancient redgum forests, vital grass- and wetlands, and signs of our thriving agriculture sector; truly the lifeblood of our region.
For those interested in history, heritage and art, there’s even more reason to hit the road this season. From our larger towns to our smallest communities, North of the Murray is finally being recognised for the fabulous art – murals and sculptures – that tell the story of our region’s past, present and future.
Planning your route
Here we’ve mapped out a circular route through our region, resulting in an epic 365km drive. Of course, you can cherry-pick, start at any point, reverse the order, or add these stops to a route you’re already planning. You might want to start early and be back in time for dinner, or perhaps spread it over a couple of days, and enjoy other highlights along the way.
However you plan it, keep an eye out for some surprising art. It could be just around the next bend…
Known simply as ‘God’s Country’, local artist Tracy Hancock has created a pair of evocative murals inspired by the iconic Murray River. Commissioned by local business owners who were struck by the power of silo art in other locations, Hancock’s piece is unmissable on the wall of the supermarket between Hawkins St and St Brigids Ln.
Corowa’s impressive collection of public art expands well beyond its reputation as the ‘birthplace of Australian Federation’. Centered on Sanger St in the heart of town, attractions include:
- the showcase interactive murals in Memorial Plaza, created by local street artist Kade Sarte and local high school students. This space is now a favourite meeting place for locals, featuring fun art, free Wi-Fi and seating;
- the Chook Mural & Mosaic Sundial at the Corowa Community Garden (pop in on Tuesdays and Thursday for a cuppa and a chat with the volunteers;
- Federation Museum’s ‘Shearing the Rams’ Mural, celebrating Tom Roberts’ famous depiction of a nearby shearing shed. Tracy Hancock strikes again in this loving representation of perhaps Australia’s most famous painting;
- Dev Knighton’s witty mural on the side wall of the Federation Museum, highlighting rural and town life North of the Murray;
- the 35-metre-long collaborative mural on the supermarket wall a couple of blocks south, and;
- the gleaming Brolgas Sculpture at the top of Sanger St near the roundabout with Federation Ave, installed in 2005 to celebrate the opening of the Federation Bridge and Corowa’s 150th
anniversary as a town.
At the lakeside Apex Park, local street artist Samuel Hall has painted a beautiful two-part mural that pays homage to two important contributors to the region’s history. First is the White Bellied Sea Eagle, the native bird from which Mulwala (in the language of the Bangerang people) gets its name. Second is the no-nonsense depiction of the ‘mother of Mulwala’, Mary Jane Rose, a nurse and midwife who tended to three generations of locals from the 1860s.
Hall’s mural is surely a candidate for Australia’s most beautiful public toilet block!
Mulwala’s foreshore is also home to a work by prominent local sculptor Andrew Whitehead, opposite the Royal Mail Hotel. If only all bicycle racks looked this good: Fashioned from scrap metal, ‘King of the River’ pays tribute to the mercantile and natural history of the region. Who’s the king? The Murray Cod, of course.
The Our Mulwala Wall Art is an installation erected on the external wall of the Mulwala Council Office and Library incorporates cultural and historical photographs of Mulwala etched into aluminium to create a unique way to display history. The artwork is a joint project between the Mulwala Library History Group and the Federation Council.
Another thoughtful and arresting piece is Andrew Whitehead’s ‘Shearing the Rams’ sculpture outside the primary school in this small village. Whitehead invited the school kids to collect metal cogs and other pieces from their family farms to create this personal and universal tribute to the legendary Tom Roberts and his artwork.
On the way past the Exchange Hotel in Daysdale, the organic twin sculptures ‘Man on the Pump’ and ‘Hardworking Horse’ are emblems of the deep community spirit that ties people together across our region. Made from scrap by locals Doug Monroe and Jimmy Hewson, these works have one message: “Coming together as a community, brings people together.”
This village has a couple of sculptural works that might be of interest to those keen on rare flora and celebrations of local people.
The steel ‘Peoplescape’ works outside the Vintage Machinery Museum were part of the public art installations displayed on the lawn of Canberra’s Parliament House to celebrate the Centenary of Federation in 2001.
‘Orchid in a Teacup’, a minute’s walk away at the Community Centre, is a 1.5-metre-tall Oaklands Orchid, created to raise awareness of this endangered native plant only found in the forest around Oaklands.
Metal sculptor Andrew Whitehead’s considerable talents are on display with two works in Urana. On the side of the Urana Water Tower, ‘Not So Itsy Spider’ – a giant metal redback perched 16 metres up, is a funny/menacing tribute to the town’s Aussie Rules Football team, known as the Spiders until merging with Oaklands in the early 2000s.
The tale of acrophobic Whitehead installing the sculpture is almost as hair-raising as the work itself.
Less threatening is Whitehead’s ‘Savannah Goanna’, inspired by the bark drawings of Yolngu artist, David Malangi (seen on Australia’s original $1 note). This intricate, skeletal, and still somehow friendly-looking fella has been guarding the Urana Bowling Club since 2018.
‘The Stockman and His Mob’ is a community sculpture project depicting sheep, a horse and two drovers gathered around a real vintage Bills Trough. Hundreds of these water troughs were installed across NSW and Victoria in the 1930s to provide horses and stock with fresh drinking water.
Heading north through the flat Hay Plains, you’ll hit Morundah – a tiny village punching WAY above its artistic weight. Not only does the place (2016 population: 22) host performances by Opera Australia, it’s also home to Andrew Whitehead’s first commissioned sculpture, ‘Toolbox Horse and Jockey’. The 2009 work, in the village park, celebrates the famed Morundah horse races, held here for over 100 years. Nearby is a delightfully simple joey sculpture (Andrew Whitehead), a tree carving featuring native Australian animals and the ‘hidden kookaburra’.
Looping back around to Boree Creek, the final couple of sculptures await. Can’t get enough of Andrew Whitehead’s detailed, kinetic metal sculptures? Just as well! There are two here in this small village that are well worth your time.
2012’s ‘Swagman and Rusty’ is a surprisingly tender look at an exhausted ‘swaggy’ and his doting dog. And ‘Last Train from Boree’ is a loving and slightly cheeky depiction of Tim Fischer, a Boree boy who went on to become a political leader and Australia’s deputy Prime Minister in the 1990s. His famed affection (obsession?) with trains is on full display as he sits astride a playground-sized steam engine.
And from here it’s just a bit over an hour to complete the loop back to Howlong. Point your nose due south on Albury Road and follow the signs to your starting point.