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European explorers

Step back in time in the mid-1800s, where vast areas of land on either side of the Murray River were opened up to farming, creating thriving inland river towns prospering from the wool trade.

European settlement of less than 200 years is a mere drop in the river, so to speak, but The Murray conjures up fascinating tales of explorers, pioneers, pastoralists and paddle steamers.

If you’re interested in travelling in the footsteps of early explorers or roaming bushrangers, the Murray is a rich source. See the tree marked by Hume and Hovell on their 1824 expedition in Albury’s Hovell Tree Park, or visit the site where Burke and Wills camped at Swan Hill on the 15th day of their ill-fated south-north expedition across Australia in 1860, and where they planted a Moreton Bay fig tree that still stands strong at 30m high.

The first paddle steamer voyage on the Murray River was in 1853 and within ten years there were more than 200 riverboats chugging up and down the river and its tributaries, making it the busiest water highway in Australia.

Today you can explore this rich past at Echuca’s historic port precinct, recognised as one of Australia’s finest heritage icons and home to the largest fleet of well-preserved paddle steamers. A guided tour through the Discovery Centre and a cruise on one of the authentic paddle steamers are a highlight, bringing to life The Murray’s 19th-century heyday. You can also ride an authentic heritage riverboat at Swan Hill and Mildura.

Further downstream, a popular heritage attraction is the Pioneer Settlement at Swan Hill. This recreation of a 19th-century port town is a fun mix of period-costumed characters, old-time shops, a dramatic nightly sound and light show, and daily cruises on the PS Pyap. It’s a great introduction to the region’s history for kids and families.

Discover how the pioneering Chaffey Brothers created a lush agricultural oasis by following the Chaffey Trail in Mildura or go exploring the beautiful heritage buildings in nearby Wentworth.

At the Federation Museum in historic Corowa, you can learn about the birth of Australia’s democracy.

From car museums to military and aviation museums, authentic historical riverboats to sacred indigenous sites, there’s something for everyone on the Murray Heritage Trail.