Keen for an extraordinary new adventure on your next escape? Head southwest from Sydney to Australia’s longest river, the Murray for a truly incredible array of experiences. Paddle steamer tours, kayaking, fishing, golfing, excellent local and seasonal food and wine, and stunning natural scenery await.
Sightsee on a paddlesteamer
While you can catch a paddlesteamer up the Murray on a one-hour cruise, to fully appreciate the waterway it’s hard to look past an overnight experience. Jump aboard PS Emmylou for one- to six-night itineraries to and from the Port of Echuca (the Discovery Centre here is worth a visit). The experience offers a leisurely look at life on the river, not in the least the staggering 600-year-old red gums that line the banks. When you dock, enjoy campfire breakfasts, guided bushwalks and visits to the cellar doors of the region’s top wineries.
Pick up some speed
Parts of the Murray are extremely wide, making the river ideal for waterskiing expeditions. The Southern 80 in Echuca Moama is an adrenaline-pumping pro-waterskiing event attracting some of the world’s top athletes. But anyone can give this high-octane activity a go, with local operators like Brett Sands Watersports offering professional instruction in waterskiing, as well as wakeboarding, knee boarding and barefooting.
Soak up serenity
A manmade reservoir 150km east of Echuca Moama, Lake Mulwala was created to control the flow of the river, and is today known for its ghostly gum trunks protruding from the water’s surface. The setting is particularly magical at sunset — weave your kayak through the eerie trees, on the lookout for nesting waterbirds, your soundtrack the chatter of cockatoos, corellas and kookaburras. Contact the Yarrawonga Mulwala Amateur Canoe Club for rentals and tours.
Explore on two wheels
For cyclists, Five Mile Mountain Bike Trail provides seven kilometres of purpose-built mountain bike tracks, shaded by enormous red gums. Situated in the Murray Valley Regional Park, just a few kilometres north of Moama, the route is great for riders of all experience levels, offering an exhilarating mix of terrain with drops, flowing bridges and wall rides — there’s also a skills area and a pump track.
Join the club
There are more than a dozen world-class golf courses fringing the Murray River — some of the most highly rated in regional Australia, in fact. Head to 18-hole Howlong Golf Resort for immaculate greens and fairways surrounded by native bush, particularly pretty in spring when everything blooms; there’s on-site accommodation, should you wish to linger. Corowa Golf Club also has a hotel alongside its 27-hole championship golf course, not to mention the cinema, clubhouse and pro-shop. And at Yarrawonga Mulwala Golf Club Resort, you can choose to tee off from three different courses: The Murray, situated beside the river; The Lake, with views of Lake Mulwala; and the shorter Executive, ideal for beginners.
Dine on the water
From produce-driven cafés and restaurants to foodie trails, farmers markets, orchards, olive groves, wineries, whisky distilleries and craft breweries, the Murray region doesn’t disappoint on the food front. Get a taste for the diversity of offerings at Redgums, a moving dining room on the deck of the PS Emmylou. Enjoy local wines and seasonal produce as you cruise along the river, spotting native wildlife on the banks while you feast.
Follow a foodie trail
With your tastebuds piqued, explore the Murray’s culinary offerings further on the Echuca Moama Food and Wine Trail, which points out local wineries, distilleries, farm gates, cheesemongers, markets, coffee roasteries and more. Pick up a map from the Echuca Moama and District Visitor Information Centre in Echuca. While you’re seeking out local produce, make the detour to Corowa Whisky and Chocolate, set inside a 1920s flour mill and selling handmade blocks and bars made using Belgium chocolate, as well as a range of delicious distilled drops.
Find time for wine
A small grape-growing region on the banks of the Murray, centred on the twin towns of Echuca Moama, Perricoota is developing a reputation for producing premium shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and fortified wines. Stop past the cellar door at Morrisons Riverview Winery, which also has a stellar restaurant and brewery. Visit St Anne’s Vineyards, where the rammed-earth cellar door overlooks a tranquil lake. And check out Restdown Wines — the organic vineyard also features a Wetland Walk, offering a glimpse of wildlife across the property.
Wine and dine in style
For an alfresco lunch of wood-fired pizzas and wine, head to Blacksmith Provedore at Lake Mulwala. The dreamy design — pastel-pink sun umbrellas on a grassy patio, light-and-bright interiors flecked with greenery — is only outshone by menus favouring local producers.
Also popular for its outside dining opportunities is The River Deck Café in Albury Wodonga, perched right on the water in Noreuil Park. The menu nods to the region — think fresh trout, house-cured meats and Murray cod.
Set up home on a houseboat
There’s no better way to take the pulse of the mighty Murray than by hiring a houseboat for a night or two — or a week. The good news is that anyone can do it — you don’t need a boat licence to captain one of these rivercraft. Pick your accommodation, whether a basic two-berth boat or a luxurious floating ‘hotel’ with a spa, air-conditioning and open-plan kitchen. Then kit it out with jet-skis, paddleboards, kayaks and fishing gear. Echuca Luxury Houseboats has a modern fleet of state-of-the-art boats to choose from, while Dinky-Di Houseboat Holidays offers good-value rentals, ideal for families (some are even pet friendly).
Sleep on dry land
Prefer not to sleep on water? Check in to the Perricoota Vines Retreat just north of Moama, its one- to three-bedroom timber villas overlooking vineyards and a lake. The Moama on Murray Resort and Echuca Moama Holiday Villas are other great options, offering self-contained villas and units in a serene bushland setting. For a romantic stay, Talo Retreat has traditional Mongolian yurts (circular tent-like structures) kitted out with domed skylights, timber floors, a kitchenette and spa. And Atura Albury offers modern hotel rooms with an industrial-chic design vibe.
Pitch a tent
Immerse yourself in nature at Benarca campgrounds, a free, pet-friendly camp and caravan site in the Murray Valley Regional Park — in addition to beautiful views of the river, the area is just a short stroll (or pedal) to the Five Mile Mountain Bike Trail. Enjoy fishing, birdwatching and hiking in the shade of the majestic red river gums.