Magic Carpet Journals
Australia's Murray River
Explore the Murray River with Heather and Barry Minton
Story and pictures by Heather and Barry Minton
Barry and the River Murray at Tocumwal.
The Murray River is the most important river in Australia. 2,530kms. in length, it rises in the Snowy Mountains, a mountain range in the Australian Alps in south east Australia. It is fed by several tributaries and flows northwest forming the border between the states of New South Wales and Victoria, then south west through the state of South Australia emptying into the Southern Ocean at Encounter Bay near the city of Adelaide.
View of the Snowy Mountains.
The Murray River close to its source.
In the days of early settlement before roads and railways “The Mighty Murray” was a major inland highway where fleets of paddle steamers carried goods and passengers to and from the coast to the towns along the river, which were then thriving ports. Trading companies and shipbuilding facilities were established and many of the settlements grew from the trade brought by the river boats. Before bridges were built along the river, towns and settlements developed on the banks often opposite each other with different names. As the inland developed and bridges were built the towns became joined but kept their original names, and we now have an intriguing and sometimes confusing concept of “twin towns” e.g. Echuca (Victoria)/Moama (New South Wales), Cobram/Barooga etc!
A riverboat on the Murray at Echuca.
Nowadays however, the towns are quiet backwaters and the river is mostly used for irrigation purposes and tourism (the lovely old paddle steamers being a great draw card). The area is now a major producer of dairy products and many varieties of fruit, with the SPC/Ardmona Cannery at Shepparton exporting canned fruit all over the world. The area is particularly pretty in the spring when the fruit trees are in blossom.
Peach trees in blossom at Cobram.
As it is only a three hour drive from Melbourne, we have made a number of trips to the Murray River for short stays and so far have explored the area from Wodonga to Cohuna a distance of approximately 300km.
A great variety of accommodation is available, from 5-star hotels and motels to caravan parks. We have stayed at the RACV Resort, Cobram in their modern comfortable cabins set in well maintained gardens. The pool, children’s playgrounds and games room are excellent for young families.
Our cabin accommodation at the RACV Resort.
We have also stayed at the exclusive and very stylish Perricoota Vines Retreat, Moama in their spacious spa villas which have private decks overlooking the lake, or your own secluded courtyard. Their facilities are also excellent and families are well catered for with playgrounds, tennis courts, billiard tables, and two solar heated swimming pools.
Lake side villas at Perricoota Vines Retreat.
Gardens and Villas at Perricoota Vines Retreat.
The Murray River offers numerous amusements for tourists, including fishing and water sports, as well as a variety of sightseeing cruises on the delightful old paddle steamers. Many other sports are well catered for with excellent golf courses, bowling clubs etc. This photo shows the greens at the Cobram/Barooga Golf Club.
In the main street of Cobram stands an original log cabin, typical of those built in the time of early settlement. It is a memorial to the pioneering men and women of the area.
Old log cabin.
Inside the cabin.
We visited Wyterrica Park, near Cobram which is an Alpaca stud farm and shop run by Wendy Hart and Ross Delmencio.
Alpacas at the farm.
Alpacas are a gentle, friendly and placid animal and their fleece knits into a soft, silky and very warm fabric. There were many beautiful garments available for purchase. While we were there we were lucky enough to witness the birth of a baby alpaca.
Alpaca mother and baby.
Most of the sporting clubs and the RSL clubs (Returned Services League) have modern entertainment facilities where tourists are welcome. They serve excellent meals at very reasonable prices and you can have “a flutter” (a bet) on the “pokies” (poker machines or slots) if you wish. The Corowa RSL Club and the Echuca/Moama RSL Club with their unusual entrance decorations are well regarded for their amenities.
RSL Club, Corowa
Echuca/Moama RSL Club.
At Corowa we visited the railway station, originally opened in 1892, it is now fully restored and serves as the local Tourist Information Centre. The nearby rail yards are now converted into a park and playground.
Corowa Railway Station
At the town of Tocumwal we browsed the antique shops and strolled along the river bank and Foreshore Park and viewed the amusing giant fiberglass Murray Cod.
Giant Murray Cod.
Also at Tocumwal, an old iron bridge still spans the river and is a historic symbol of the glory days of the town. Officially opened in 1895, it was originally built for vehicle traffic and later strengthened and used for the rail line. The centre section has an ingenious arrangement of wheels and pulleys to enable it to be raised to allow river traffic to pass underneath. It has now been replaced by a sleek, modern, concrete structure which is much more efficient, but not nearly as interesting!
Echuca, founded in 1845 soon became Australia’s largest inland port. Many of the old buildings are still preserved and you can obtain a clear impression of how it would have been in its heyday when strolling through the port area.
Port of Echuca.
Timber dray at Port of Echuca.
There are many fine examples of the old paddle boats, now used for a variety of cruises: Lunches, dinners, short cruises and even overnight stays are available. This is the “PS Emmylou” built in 1980-82 in the style of the 19th century paddleboats driven by a completely restored 1906 Marshall and Sons steam engine. She is the only wood fired paddle steamer in the world doing regular overnight cruises.
A short drive north from Echuca/Moama into New South Wales is the town of Deniliquin in the Riverina district. The Peppin Heritage Centre building was originally the first public school in the area and is now a museum depicting the early settlement of this area, the history of the regions wool and sheep breeding industries and the people involved. The breed of Merino sheep was developed to survive in the harsh Australian conditions and their wool is famous for its durability, fineness and softness.
Barry and Merino sheep.
On the drive home from the Murray we often visit the town of Shepparton which is the centre for the dairy and fruit growing industries. We take the opportunity to purchase canned fruits at bargain prices at the SPC/Ardmona factory shop. The town has an interesting way of advertising its produce. Throughout the district you will find fiberglass statues of cows, each one uniquely decorated by local artists. We found a herd of these cows called “Moooving Art” on display in the Chinese Gardens at Monash Park in the centre of the town.
We hope to explore more of “The Mighty Murray” in the future.
© 2011 Magic Carpet Journals. All rights reserved
Last Updated on January 26, 2012 by M. Maxine George editor.