DRIVES AND ROAD TRIPS

Hurry to the Murray. Your essential Murray River guide

A classic serene Murray scene. Credit: Destination NSW.

The Murray. It isn’t just any ordinary river.

As most would know, it’s the longest river in Australia, making it the ultimate aquatic playground. Passing through three states – NSW, VIC, and SA – the Murray boasts vast stretches of wonderful waterways, including lakes and locks.

And dotted along its seemingly never-ending stretches is a wealth of inviting historical towns and thriving cities, first-rate wine regions and golf courses, forests, and endless surprises.

Looking to navigate this iconic part of the country? Strap in as we present this inspiring guide to Australia’s greatest waterway.

The Murray is revered for its epic sunsets. Location: Renmark, SA.

Firstly, throw some key stats my way…

  • The Murray’s total length equals roughly 2500km.
  • It’s the third-longest navigable river in the world behind the Amazon and the Nile.
  • For almost 2000km, the Murray is continuously navigable: from Goolwa, SA to Yarrawonga, VIC.
  • Today, it’s the lifeblood for several important industries, including agriculture, and is regarded as the nation’s food bowl.
Going long. The Murray extends more than 2500km and passes through three states. Credit: Destination NSW.

What makes the Murray River area so good?

Visit any of its charm-filled, heritage-rich locations and you’ll notice they evoke an instant feeling of relaxation. There’s a certain power to the Murray, and it’s gripping. You’ll also witness some of the best sunsets imaginable.

Instant relaxation. Riverside strolls in Blanchetown, SA.

Presumably, there is ample opportunity for water-based fun?

Yep! Myriad locations along the Murray suit all manner of aquatic adventures:  canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding, boating, waterskiing, wakeboarding, and jet-skiing among them.

Fishing along the Murray is another popular activity, and it can be hugely rewarding. Angle for Murray cod, Australia's largest freshwater fish and the signature species in these waters. Bream, catfish, perch, and redfin are among other popular varieties.

The Murray supports a wide assortment of sandy beaches. A prime spot is Tocumwal, NSW, which boasts 20-plus golden beaches within just five minutes of its centre. Additionally, there are dozens of sandy patches within easy reach of the NSW/VIC twin locations of Yarrawonga-Mulwala and Echuca-Moama, among other spots.

Canoeing is one of many water activities to be enjoyed along the Murray. Location: Albury, NSW. Credit: Destination NSW.

However, to best acquaint yourself with the might of the Murray, take a paddlesteamer or paddleboat ride. The first paddlesteamer, the PS Mary Ann, was launched near Mannum, SA in 1853. For decades after, the Murray was an important trade route and virtual water highway as steamers floated up and down its stretches.

Recreate the past by hopping on board. Popular departure points for paddlesteamer rides along the Murray include:

  • Echuca, VIC
  • Mildura, VIC.
  • Swan Hill, VIC.
  • Renmark, SA.
  • Mannum, SA.
  • Mulwala, NSW.
  • Wentworth, NSW.
The Emmylou in Echuca, VIC is one of the Murray's most famous paddlesteamers.

Any other water sources?

While the Murray hogs the spotlight, the wider region is home to other snaking waterways. Its main ‘feeding’ rivers are the Darling and Murrumbidgee rivers, while the Edward is an anabranch of the Murray. On the banks of the Edward River is the delightful NSW town of Deniliquin, which is an excellent launch point for more water fun. Yet the town is best known for its annual ute muster in late September.

Deniliquin enjoys a prime location on the banks of the Edward River. Credit: Destination NSW.

A plethora of lakes are sprinkled on either side of the Murray’s banks and suit endless aquatic adventures. Many are within easy reach of key towns, too. Notable lakes include:

  • Lake Mulwala, NSW: Home to an inflatable adventure park.
  • Lake Boga, VIC: Visit the Lake Boga Flying Boat Museum while here.
  • Lake Tyrrell, VIC: A salt-crusted depression with a cult-like status among Chinese tourists.
  • Kangaroo Lake, VIC: Birthplace of former Australian PM, John Grey Gorton.
  • Lake Victoria, NSW: Steeped in history, ideal for photographers.
  • Lake Bonney, SA: Popular town of Barmera is perched on its shores.

The Murray's lakes are just as water-leisure friendly as the river itself. Location: Lake Mulwala.

You mentioned wine earlier. Tell me more?

There are wine regions galore within the Murray region. Try these…

The Murray Darling is Australia’s second-largest wine region and encompasses vineyards in and around Mildura, VIC. Special mention goes to Trentham Estate.

Rutherglen, VIC is a glorious area bounding with boutique wineries – rich reds steal the spotlight – and Swan Hill, VIC has emerged as a key region. Echuca-Moama is another grape-growing area warranting attention: head to Morrison's Riverview Winery & Restaurant for pleasant views.

In SA, the Riverland wine region is Australia’s largest wine producing area. Banrock Station Wine & Wetland Centre between Blanchetown and Loxton is one of the region’s standouts.

The view is fine, as is the wine, at Morrison's Riverview Winery & Restaurant in Moama, NSW.

What about a brewery?

A handful of top-notch breweries are planted within these parts, including:

Wilkadene Woolshed Brewery, near Renmark, SA: Quality brews and outstanding riverside views. The historical rustic shed is equally inviting if the rain is visiting, too.

Mildura Brewery, VIC: One of Australia’s first microbreweries; now with new owners. Housed in an old theatre, boasts an extensive range.

Bandicoot Brewing, Echuca, VIC: A relative newcomer with a menu that offers ample variety and interest.

Byramine Homestead & Brewery, Yarrawonga, VIC: Combine ales with past tales. Relaxing outdoor setting. Bring your appetite and order the ploughman's lunch.

Cheeky Peak Brewery, Wodonga, VIC: Authentic microbrewery experience. Excellent beers across many varieties.

Or for the 'harder stuff', head to Twenty Third Street Distillery in Renmark for top-shelf liquor and a great backstory.

Brews and views: Wilkadene Woolshed Brewery, near Renmark, SA.

Where are the best places for a walk?

Realistically you could pick countless stretches of riverside turf and a wander would reward. However, planting your feet along the following are highly recommended…

Barmah National Park east of Echuca, VIC and neighbouring Murray Valley National Park (Millewa forest) on the NSW side combine to form the world’s largest river red gum forest. Naturally, walking tracks abound.

West of Echuca, Gunbower National Park reveals internationally recognised wetlands and abundant bird life, while Murray River National Park in SA teems with all sorts of landscapes and wildlife.

The Australian Inland Botanic Gardens near Mildura, VIC are full of botanical beauty, and in SA Gluepot Reserve near Waikerie is a bird watcher’s paradise.

The 5km Renmark riverfront interpretive walk in SA is another winning option, while a heritage walking tour around Albury, NSW has many highlights, too. Mildura, VIC explodes with designated walking trails.

Mildura in VIC teems with striking heritage structures.

I prefer strolling fairways chasing after a little white ball. Any decent golf courses?

There are loads of them! Here are some worth keeping in mind:

  • Yarrawonga Mulwala Golf Club, NSW: Australia’s largest public access golf course with 45 holes.
  • Cobram Barooga Golf Club, NSW: Two championship-standard, contrasting courses.
  • Murray Downs Golf Resort, Swan Hill, VIC: Exceptional layout, critically acclaimed.
  • Tocumwal Golf & Bowls Club, NSW: Also has a pair of first-rate 18-hole layouts offering variety.
  • Rich River Golf Club, Moama, NSW: Two outstanding courses, one rewarding experience.
  • Loxton Golf Club, SA: Highly rated; among the state’s finest courses.
  • Waikerie Golf & Country Club, SA: Another super layout with excellent fairways.

Golfers gravitate towards the Murray. Location: Yarrawonga-Mulwala. Image credit: Destination NSW.

Where are the best photo ops?

With so much river frontage to work with – and so many gorgeous destinations to choose from – the options are truly endless. We’ve pulled out a few of many, many highlights:

Lake Mulwala, Mulwala, NSW: A sensational spot for capturing a sunset or sunrise, particularly when silhouetting its iconic red gums.

Big Bend, near Blanchetown, SA: Frame imposing colourful limestone cliffs that make up the Murray’s longest single bend.

Heading's Cliff Lookout, near Renmark, SA: More towering cliffs capable of delivering postcard worthy views.

Murray Cliffs Lookout, near Mildura, VIC: Keep those colourful cliffs coming!

Big Bend in SA is among the most popular areas for photographers. Credit: Ben Goode

Albury railway station, NSW: Glorious historical Victorian building. One of several heritage structures in Albury worth time in front of the lens.

Water tower, Wodonga, VIC: Illuminated at night making for colourful snaps.

Art deco buildings, Mildura, VIC: The city has several examples of this eye-catching architectural style.

You're on the right track if photographing Albury railway station, NSW. Credit: Robert Blackburn

Give me something with a difference…

Contrasting with the abundance of water is 300ha plus of incredible sand dunes that make for fascinating exploration. Just minutes from Wentworth in NSW, the Perry Sandhills are continuously shifting dunes steeped in history and which are a favoured background for films and TV programs. This attraction is also within easy reach of Mildura.

Perry good. The Perry Sandhills make for an incredible sight. Credit: Destination NSW.

Further inland in the Goulburn Valley, the city of Shepparton has one of the quirkiest art exhibitions going around. The city is dotted with colourful fibreglass cows that form part of Shepparton Mooving Art, a tribute to the region’s rich dairy farming influence.

Cow crazy. Shepparton's famed art exhibition is genius.

What is there to do on a rainy day?

Local history museums are scattered all around and reveal absorbing snippets of info about the region’s past. Art galleries abound, too.
Special focus is on the Albury-Wodonga region. Arts Space Wodonga has a diverse collection of works and the Albury LibraryMuseum and the Murray Art Museum Albury will brighten the mood on a gloomy day.

Murray Bridge Regional Gallery in SA warrants a mention, while the Mildura Arts Centre houses various art galleries, a modern theatre, and the grand Rio Vista historic house. Elsewhere, the Corowa Federation Museum in NSW unearths a compelling piece of Australia’s past.

The Albury LibraryMuseum is a great way to spend a rainy day...or even a sunny one. Credit: Destination NSW

Where else can I learn about the Murray’s history?

Port of Echuca Discovery Centre in VIC is among the top picks. It offers a fascinating glimpse into a time when the Murray was bustling with paddlesteamers.

The Pioneer Settlement in Swan Hill, VIC wonderfully recreates the past with its fine collection of classic buildings, while SA’s The Village – Historic Loxton is similarly impressive.

Old Wentworth Gaol, NSW explodes with captivating yarns, while Olivewood Historic Homestead and Museum in Renmark, SA retraces a momentous time in the Murray’s post-European past.

Revisit the past at the The Village – Historic Loxton in SA. Credit: SATC.

Where can I stay?

With BIG4! We have ample Murray River accommodation in NSW, VIC, and SA, occupying positions in most of the region’s key locations.

BIG4 parks in the Murray region: NSW

BIG4 parks in the Murray region: VIC

BIG4 parks in the Riverland region: SA

BIG4 parks in the Murraylands region: SA

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