Category Archives: Murray River times 2022

Off to Renmark

We are now off to Renmark up the Sturt Highway 138 km, the River in not in sight on this stretch, and across the border in South Australia. We pick up half an hour too! The road is a contrast, long stretches of fallow lands being prepared for the winter grain crops. Just goes on forever. The ploughed paddocks are a deep orange colour, some turning green with what we are not sure. We are staying in the Riverbend Campground which is just over the Paringa Bridge, the only remaining bridge in Australia with an operating central lift of the roadway to let boats through. This happens daily at 9.30am and 2.30 pm, if there are any boats waiting. In the two days we were there it didn’t lift, maybe on the return trip east it will happen!

Paringa Bridge, Paringa is a small village on the other side of the River from Renmark.
Sun up through a misty morning on the River

Renmark is close to Berri and Loxton and we went off on a day trip on this triangular route, along the way we stopped into the Riverland Wine Centre. This establishment is a front for a number of small Riverland Vineyards, although the ‘Centre’ seems to be operated by a private mob who buy the wines in and then flog them off to visitors. Allthego cottoned onto to this because they charged for a tasting paddle but didn’t give a credit if you bought something, the normal practice at cellar doors. An interesting place though that has a pizza oven for tasters to linger longer over. Which we didn’t but maybe will when we return along this way!

The ‘Heaven’ cliff face at Loxton

Earier we called into Lock 5 at Paringa. The locks are all looking the same but the nearby Black Stump didn’t. Apparantly, our biggest of eleven black stumps around the country. It was big. In front of a house that had some metal cut out Murray Cod replicas for sale. Allthego couldn’t resist one of these craftwork icons and picked a good one up for a bargain price. The marble eye is a bit wobbly but can be fixed later. Will look good down by the pool at Bedwell Place.

The Black Stump
Murray Cod cutouts, bargain at $10.

Near the Black Stump is the Silo Artwork on the town’s disused grain silo complex. Looks tremendous, particularly the Murray Cod. These Murray Cod are just getting to Allthego and Homealone. Cod everywhere and big Cod too! An example of old infrastructure providing a town with marketing opportunities.

Silo art at Paringa

Further out of town the Headcliffs Cliff lookout provides some spectacular views of the Murray as it cuts into its limestone cliff faces.

The Murray at the Headings Cliff Lookout.
Looking the other way at Headings Cliff Lookout

All the river towns have had their restored paddle steamers, albeit paddle vessels. Renmark is no different, it actually has a restored working paddle steamer, a PS! The PS Industry commissioned in 1911. It goes out for a run every couple of weeks or or so and we have missed it on this trip. Maybe next time on our way back east!

PS Industry at the dock

Renmark is also a ‘Greek’ town, Mildura was the ‘Italian town’. Or so it seems, there are some Greek places here and not as many pizza joints. We had lunch out at Mallee Estates Vineyard, where Eleni’s cafe provides some Greek fare to tempt the tastebuds. Elini is the matriach of this Greek family that has been here since the end of WW11, she came to Australia as a young teenager. Brought the family recipes with her. It is a tasty lunch washed down with some Mallee Estates Tempranillo. Goes with the food. We take some back for the van’s cellar.

A duo here…… calamari with an aioli sauce and smoked pork sausage spiced with orange and fennel. All rather good.

Back at the van though it is hard to go past a lamb roast cooked in the Webber with some roast vegetables on a chilly evening. Can’t beat home cooking on the road!

Roast Lamb dinner back in the van, done on the Webber.
Renmark Custard tart
A Mildura custard tart.

There has also been another episode back at the van in the great custard tart taste off. We brought up from Mildura a tart to check off against a Renmark tart. These tarts are tending to look the same from place to place but some are tasting a bit different, the Renmark tart here is a winner, fullsome, nice rich custard and a crunchy base.

Our next destination along the Murray is planned to be Waikerie.


The Sturt Hwy from Robinvale to Mildura turns away from the River for much of the 88 km journey. It passes through Mallee scrubland and there is little agricultural activity until the outskirts of Mildura when grapes, citrus, olives and almonds return in abundance.

We are in Mildura for four days, there is much to see and also time for some feet up enjoying the town cum rural city. MIldura is the heart of the Murray’s irrigation heritage dating back to the 1880s when the Chaffey brothers arrived from America to develop the scheme. There is a Chaffey trail brochure that leads you around pin pointing many of the important sites, too much detail to dwell on here. There is a strong Italian and Greek influence in the region, including numerous pizza shops (there are around 50,000 people in greater Mildura and so the need for all the pizza shops). We did have dinner out at The Provence, an Italian restaurant with a good reputation and recommended by the restaurant we went to back a few days ago in Swan Hill. It was a nice meal. Allthego was very pleased with his braised goat and potatoes in a spicy tomato sauce. Homealone, a little disappointed with her choice of a sliced Italian sausage with kale in a creamy sauce pasta.

A nice play on words here from this Red Cliffs vineyard. It was quite good too with a pizza for dinner, the pizza a bit average though.
Braised goat and potatoes

We had two special experiences in Mildura. The first being a cruise down the Murray aboard PV Rothbury, navigating Lock 11 beside the weir and then returning after cruising for awhile down the River, a very pleasant afternoon. Now Allthego and Homealone have been through a few locks in other parts of the world, throwing ropes and keeping boats in trim so it was pleasing to have someone else do these tasks this time! Also special because these locks on the Murray are the only working river locks in Australia. The way locks work seems to fascinate people and there is much chatter onboard, some more accurate than other, as to how it all works.

PV Rothbury in the lock
PV Rothbury in the lock that has started to empty.
PV Rothbury leaving the lock

The second experience was getting our first glimpse of one of the spectacular river cliff lines that dot the landscape between here and the River”s mouth. It was out at Red Cliffs, a small town a few km outside of Mildura, where there are also a number of vineyards. Zilzie is one that we see in bottle shops in Queensland. A houseboat was cruising around the bend in the River making for an interesting vista.

Cliffs at Red Cliffs

We are staying at Buronga, opposite Mildura on the other side of the River, in NSW at a riverside campsite. Rather good spot and a great vantage point for sunsets along the river.

Murray River sunset

Our next port of call on this trip is Renmark. However, the Sturt Highway takes us away fom the River on a very direct route through the Mallee country. Prior to leaving Brisbane Allthego had scoured the maps and found what appeared to be an intersting alternative that followed the River on its twists and turns. The road is known as the Old Mail Road or the Old Coach Road and links Wentworth (just up the road from Mildura) with Renmark. The road passes by a number of the locks on the Murray, albeit off on side tracks to the River.

Turn off down the Old Mail Road outside Wentworth.
Old Mail Road, this seems to be the way we need to go!

So we included this in the journey and headed off for a day trip up the Old Coach Road but back to Mildura on the Sturt Highway. All about a 300 km round trip, 160 on the Old Mail Road. Well the first half was on a pretty good gravel road and we got in to see Lock 9, (looks pretty much like the other locks and weirs we have seen) unfortunately further on Lock 8 is accessed from the other side of the River. After this point the road became a bit of a track dodging water across the road and muddy sections by diverting into the paddocks and then working back to the track. Slowed our advance somewhat. Also a little testing on the nerves.

Some water to navigate around

Beside the River for lunch near Lock 7

A big Red River Gum with its roots having a long drink!

Lock 7 was a bit of a disaster, a long drive along a dirt track to find the gate in locked! We diverted off to the side and found a good spot beside the River to have lunch. The River here was quite high and had flooded into the wetlands, trees were well under water, their roots getting a good drink. A pretty spot. We are about 750 km (as the River flows) from the its mouth over in South Australia, yet only 27 metres above sea level. We skipped Lock 6 on the approach to Renmark (where Lock 5 is) and headed back to MIldura. A long day getting back about 7pm. Not sure that this side trip can be recommended, but if you like a bit of a dash along gravel and mud through pretty non descript flood plain country then why not! Diversions to the River are rewarding and as we came into the outskirts of Renmark the fruit trees emerged, hectares and hectares of oranges , lemons, manderins etc.

So back in Mildura for our last night we went and had dinner at the Italian place mentioned earlier where Allthego had the braised goat. But before that we went for a short time to the icon of Mildura, the Mildura Club.

Mildura Club
Darts in the bar at the Mildura Club, note the ‘punkahs’. The Club buiding dates to 1919 and has what is thought to be Australia’s first squash court built in 1933.

The Club originated as a colonial gentlemen’s club dating back into the late 1800s, although the Club’s current premises are early 20th C. A classic place, old bar area, fire places ablaze and darts about to be played. We had a chat with a Commitee member, the Club has about 350 members but only 40 or so really active ones. They are trying to revitalise the Club with some renovations, it has a squash court built in 1933, Australia’s first it is thought. It smells and feels like an old club too! What a great old institution for Mildura to have!

We are now off to South Australia and Renmark, considered to be the start of the Riverland region. It is where the Murray broadens, slows and meanders on its march to the sea.


We have now moved on to Robinvale, about 130 km along the road from Swan Hill. The road closely follows the course of the river for much of the way. The landscape is dominated by irrigated farmland of all sorts, but mostly grapes, olives and citrus trees with increasing acres of olives and almonds as we approached Robinvale. Some sheep as well. We stopped beside the river bank at Nyah for some morning tea, an attractive free camp area here at the sporting field complex.

The Murray at Nyah

A little further along a short detour across a single lane bridge over the river took us to Tooleybuc. A small town with a landscaped riverbank area and restored Bridgekeeper’s cottage. We managed to get a shot of the van doing the bridge crossing inbetween a steady stream of heavy vehicles taking a shortcut to Balranald and one of the inland routes through western NSW up to Queensland.

Restored cottage at Tooleybuc
Crossing the Murray at Tooleybuc

A little further along we came to Boundary Bend, a town where there is a big bend in the river and a great photo opportunity. I suspect that is how Boundary Bend got its name. Olives are big in this area, with a local production centre for oil products.

Boundary Bend

Not far out of Boundary Bend, and about 50 km from Robinvale, there is a turnoff down a gravel track to the junction of the Murrumbidgee River and the Murray. It was tempting to follow this track but with the van in tow and the track getting a little ragged we abandoned the venture, deciding that there might be another opportunity in the future to see this significant geographical site.

Endless rows of grapes beside the road

So it was back to the main drag and the run into Robinvale past more grapes, olives, almonds and citrus trees. We have planned two nights here at Robinvale beside the river. Not doing too much either. Not that there is a lot to see anyway. The town is much smaller than Swan Hill. It does though have a claim on fame in being a sister town to Villers Bretoneux, a bell from V-B sits atop a brick archway into a garden area. The name Robinvale is derived from a local resident, Robin Cuttle, who was shot down near V-B in WW1. ‘Robinvale’, farewell Robin.

Villers Bretonneux Walkway at Robinvale

On the other side of the river is the town of Euston which is home to a weir and Lock 15 on the river. The weir and lock is also accessable from Robinvale. But the Euston side gives some great views of the river cliffs downstream. The river is flowing quite strongly, plenty of water is coming over the weir and stirring up the river below.

Weir and Lock 15 at Euston
Euston weir and lock 15
Cliffs below the Euston weir and lock15

Back at the campground we settled in for an afternoon by the river watching the sun set and later a fire to warm the bones. It is rather chilly after the sun goes down. ‘Oddity’ appeared on the river, slowly moving along the river towards the bridge before turning back and mooring up in front of us. A couple of grey nomads were on board.

A mini paddle wheeler, named ‘Oddity” coming into moor in front of our site.
Beside the River as the sun sets.

‘Oddity’ is run by a washing machine motor and is solar powered, a small outboard is available for emergency needs. A home build job and not much bigger than a small caravan. It is transported around on the back of a truck when not in the water. The occupants are travelling along the river and are in no hurry to get anywhere. It left the next morning on its journey along the river. Maybe we will see it further along in our travels.

Next stop, Mildura for a few days.

Swan Hill

Before we left Cohuna Allthego had the bright idea of doing a bit of a drive on Gunbower Island, it seemed a good idea to go for a drive on Australia’s largest inland island. We had a map of sorts but it became somewhat confusing as the physical features of the Island we were passing by did not seem to match their locations on the map or the way we were going. It became apparant after a while that we were semi lost and going round in circles a bit. We eventually found our way back to the main road, not on the Island, and ultimately back to our camp at Cohuna.

Free camp at Cohuna
Cohuna irrigation canal running off Gunbower Creek beside weir.

Frustrating, time consuming and unproductive. We had seen much of the farming activity that takes place there, but nothing of the River or forests. It turns out that the Island is much bigger than one might think from looking at a map and not reading the scale properly! The lady at Information said the Island was a destination in itself, full of hiking, canoing and wildlife watching activities etc. A week could be absorbed for those so inclined. We hitched up the van and headed off for Swan Hill.

This is where the Bin Bird parks itself for a few months each year without fail.

Along the way we discovered an interesting spot that is the world’s largest Ibis hatchery, the Bin Bird as we call them in Queensland. It was not the hatching season and the birds were in other places. This particular section of the road passes by a number wet lands and lakes where there are small settlements catering to fishing and boating people.

Bridge across the Murray at Swan Hill
Wharf at Swan Hill

In Swan Hill we are at the Big 4 campground which is more or less adjacent to the Pioneer Settlement. It is on the banks of the Murray where an anna branch, known as the Little Murray, rejoins the main stream. A very pleasant spot. Various boats going up and down the river from the wharf. Allthego found the Pioneer Settlement quite an interesting area to wander around.

Pioneer Village at Swan Hill.
PS Gem at rest in a wet dock

He is normally suspicious of these theme park places and displays of times past. Many are just great collections of old stuff that are repeated from town to town across the country. This place is different, quite organised and not overdone with explanatory notice boards about things one might be looking at. Good ride in a coach behind a Clydesdale. The old 1876 PS Gem floating in a pond shows just how big these old paddle steamers were.

The PYAP makes its way back past our camp site after a daily cruise.

The Pioneer Settlement is also the spot where one can board the PV PYAP for a one hour cruise up and back to the wharf. PV (Paddle Vessel) is distingwished from a PS (Paddle Steamer). The PYAP was originally built in 1896 as a barge but was converted in 1897 to a paddle steamer (PS). In 1970 the steam engine was replaced by a diesel engine and she became a PV! Draws less than a metre of water and worked as floating general store for riverside communities. Howzat! Just thought you might like to know that, as well as some information about the flag that is flying on the boat.

PYAP heading downstream, flying the historical Upper Murray River Flag.

The flag is known as the Upper Murray Flag. It is one of the oldest Australian flags having been designed in 1853, a year before the Eureka Flag. Prior to Federation the Australian colonies flew the Union Jack. The Union Jack is represented on the Murray River flag in the left corner. The red cross to the right has five stars, representing the then colonies. The dark blue horizontal stripes represent the Murray and the three main rivers that flow into it-the Darling, the Murrumbidgee and the Lachlan (which first joins the Murrumbidgee). When used in the Lower Murray River (mostly in S.A.) the stripes on the flag are a pale blue, reflecting the lighter coloured waters compared to the darker waters of the Upper Murray in Victoria/NSW, where the darker blue stripes prevail. At Swan Hill we are still in the Upper Murray. It is the only flag in the world named in honour of a river. Allthego will have examples of the flag(s) on display at Bedwell Place, Homealone will not be greatly enthused about this so they may not be up for long.

The Post Office at the Pioneer Settlement

In the evening there is a laser light show using a sprayed water screen out of the river. It is a time series on the River from it’s geological and indigenous past through to the days of European settlement and then onwards to the present day. Quite impressive, goes for half an hour. We then headed off to Quo Vadis, a recommended Italian restaurant in town. This was really good Italian food, we can highly recommend it if you are in this part of the world, had a local red to go with it too. Andrew Peace 2015 Shiraz, very nice soft red. More about this vineyard later.

Burke and Wills tree

Swan Hill is also famous for Burke & Wills, what places arn’t when you criss cross these chaps route on their south to north crossing of the continent. B & W used Swan Hill as a staging post to get their personnel and supplies finalised for the trek north. They had also stopped earlier at the Ibis breeding place we had pulled into on our way up to Swan Hill from Cohuna. The locals planted a Moreton Bay Fig to celebrate the expeditions departure in 1860. It is still at the spot today, an enormous tree that has had to be been heavily pruned.

The lady at the Info Centre thought that Swan Hill had the biggest Cod! Suspect she was right!

The must see in town is the giant Murray Cod, 15 m long and 5 m wide. Readers may recall the giant Murray Cod at Tocumwal in a previous blog. Tocumwal residents believe their Cod is the real thing and that the Swan Hill Cod is really a Murray Trout. Well, who is Allthego to argue?

We now head onwards down the River to Robinvale.

A special piece of the Murray

On our last day in Echuca we set off for the Barmah Red Gum region which is up into NSW along the Cobb Highway, something like 60 km all up. It is a bit of a twisting drive and the road comes back on itself such that the small township of Barmah (in NSW) actually has Victoria more or less to the north of it.

The Barmah Red Gum region is a special area because it is the largest red gum forest in Australia. The area was logged during the paddlesteamer days and the trees taken down the river to Echuca to the saw mills there. The forests are starting to recover. The flood plain of the Murray is quite extensive in this area and that is why the red gums flourish here. Red gums need to be periodically flooded and can withstand their feet being in water for several months, the flooding also enables the seed of the trees to germinate.

As we drove along an interesting geological feature appeared beside the road. It was a ridge line 10-15 metres high running away beside the road, almost like a big flood levee. At one point the road went through a cutting to the other side , the land was considerably higher than on the side we had come from. Allthego climbed up for a photo of the fault line.

The cutting through the Cadell fault. The land at right is higher that that on the left.

We had stumbled over the Cadell fault line! So what you might say! This fault is particularly important in the geological history of the Murray River. Now, if I am losing any of my dear readers here then I am sorry. Allthego likes a bit of geology and geography! I have had a brief look at Wikipedia to check up on this stuff. After all we are following the river and a little bit of geology want hurt, I hope. The Murray is about 130 million years old, having formed when the great inland seas receded from the interior. Some 25 million years ago there was a great continental uplift that gave rise to the fault and ridge line. The fault line runs from Deniliquin in NSW down to Echuca in Victoria. It cut right through the Murray and the river’s course was diverted into a number of channels and lake systems, creating the flood plain. Almost like an inland delta. The perfect habitat for the red gums!

This is the boat we went up the Barmah choke in. Four of us only. The River Red Gum trunk was massive.
Entering the choke.

Now, we have come up here to do an eco boat trip on the river. The 2 hour journey takes us up and back along a section of the Murray known as ‘the Narrows’ or the ‘Barmah choke’. At either end of the ‘narrows’ the Murray is much wider. In the narrows it is about 10 -15 metres or so wide but is lined by red gums, a number have fallen into the river and stick out into the stream, the boat navigates around these, the water is a couple of metres deep. Because of the fault line, the river is also flowing down a steeper gradient and is doing about 7-9 km an hour compared to the normal Murray pace pf 3-4 km. Coming back, the current assisted and we did the journey much quicker. The intiguing thing is that this section of river is thought to be geologically very young. Evidence suggesting the river having had another course change in the mid 1500s. The banks are quite straight up and down and the river’s channel is perched above the plain either side. Apparantly, it is one of the world’s best examples of fault induced river course changes. Enough!

A fallen Red Gum accross the river. Permission is required to clear fallen trees that block the passage. May take a while. We had a narrow passage in one spot between two fallen giants.
A victim of paddle steamer times logging.
Along the choke

It was a great journey on the river, bird life abundant. We saw many azure kingfishers in the reeds and branches dangling riverside. A few people fishing and canoing along as well. The overcast weather an actual advantage as glare and shadows did not hinder the experience. The big red river gums were quite special. Some grotesque shapes. Also, stumps left behind from the logging days were dangling in the river and in other cases had sprouted again sending new growth out. An interesting place to camp and experience the river environment.

Canoeists, going the right way with the current!

We returned to Echuca to ready for the onward journey. A short note though on custard tarts. Glenrowan and Tocumwal had been devoid of tarts, couldn’t get one at all. So in Echuca we thought we needed to find some as a matter of importance. Two specimens were acquired one from a bakery based in Moama (on the NSW side of the river) and one in Echuca, in fact a branch of the Beechworth Bakery.

The Beechworth tart at top and Moama at bottom.

They were not overly inspiring. However, the Beechworth one had an innovative design by using a stencil to create a nutmeg star rather than just a pile of dust. They also did a spirally stencil swirl. Looked a bit like a flat white coffee topping. Our vote went to the Beechworth tart because of the initiative of the stencil pattern. Look forward to more tarts at our next stop!

Torrumbarry weir

The next morning we packed up and left Echuca for Swan Hill. It is about 150 km. But we have a couple of stops in mind along the way. The first is at Torrumbarry about 30 km along the road. By river, through all the twists and turns it is 80 km. Torrumbarry is where Lock 26 and a weir is on the Murray. It is 1628 km to the rivers’s mouth over in S.A. The river flows slowly here, it is only 86 metres above sea level.

Another boat
Race boat

Boats warming up for a start.

When we arrive at the weir there is a large jam of cars and speed boats on the road into the river. The delayed, due to Covid, Southern 80 water ski race is on today. How could we not avoid it? There are numerous classes of entries. Some powerful jet boats indeed. The race leaves the weir and heads 80 km upstream back to Echuca. The fastest boats and skiers do it in 40 miniutes, or thereabouts. There are two skiers behind each boat, on one ski each. The water was a mass of colour and throbbing motors as boats messed around before moving to the start point. We had morning tea and lunch here watching the action.

These fellows had a chat with Allthego
Gunblower Hotel

Time moved on though and we continued on our way passing through the small town of Gunbower at the southern end of Gunbower Island. The island is the largest inland island in Australia, 26,400 hectares formed by an anna branch of the Murray (Gunbower Creek) and the Murray itself. An anna branch is a section of the river that diverts from the main channel and then rejoins the main stream further downstream. The local hotel has a splendid mural that has recently been completed by the same fellow who did the ones at Rochester.

Sunset over the lake at Cohuna free camp.

Further along we decide to stop the night at a free camp beside Gunbower Creek at Cohuna, it is a great free camp opposite the town. It is Sunday and Allthego was hoping to catch the Eels playing at the local hotel over dinner. But alas the pub is closed for food and there is only AFL on the big screen. We stopped in for a drink and are entertained by a couple of old timers bemoaning how times have changed in the town, they had a limited vocabulary and descibed most things as ” ….. this and …. that”. We moved on and picked up some fish ‘n chips at the local cafe for dinner. First fish ‘n chips for nearly a month! Great sunset at the freecamp. We will make it to Swan Hill in the morning!


We are at Echuca, albeit down by the Goulburn River about 20 km out of town. The sun has come out a bit and we have decided to head off on a regional drive to take in some of the scenery away from the town. We seem to be between planting seasons, many of the paddocks are either fallow or have recently been ploughed, not sure what they grow around these parts. The irrigation ditches are full of water though and criss cross the countryside. Plenty of dairy cattle and some sheep are around. We stopped off in Tongala, a milk place, to check out the towns murals and street art. Murals are a thing here and they have an annual festival to promote the action. Despite being a small town they not running out of walls to adorn.

Mural in Tongala
Tongala mural sign post

There is an interesting war memorial in the town that connects the WW1 campaigns of the Light Horse Brigade with the Vietnam campaign. Apparantly, the Light Horse brigade morphed over the years into one of the regiments that first set foot in Vietnem during that campaign. So Tongala has a memorial connecting the horseman of WW1 via a pathway to the Vietnam memorial. Quite involved but effective, as is their walk of honour of trees recently planted and plaques for 24 Vietnam veterans who didn’t return.

The ‘walk’ from the light horseman to Vietnam.

From Tongala we moved on to Rochester to see some some silo art, quite impressive work. Three silos have been painted up, the most recent with a platypus. It actually looks wet and its eyes stare out at you. A great attarction for the town.

Platypus mural at Rochester
Possum and Azure Kingfisher at Rochester

Old bridge over the creek at Rochester, this scene is the focus of the azure kingfisher silo painting.

Back in Echuca we have made it down to the historical wharf precinct to look around and join an afternoon cruise on the PS Alexander Arbuthnot up the Murray for about half an hour and then back to the wharf. Allthego took control of the wheel at one point but was not able to execute a turn despite his past experience on such a manoeuvre.

PS Alexander Arbuthnot coming into the wharf.
PS Alexander Arbuthnot approaching the wharf at Echuca,
In control, maybe!

There are a few other restored paddle wheelers tied up at the wharf and it is an interesting spot to wander around soaking in a bit of history. One of the old boats used to tow three barges behind it loaded with timber from the red gum forests upstream destined for the timber mills in the town. Quite an impressive feat.

This is the PS Adelaide. Oldest of the vessels at Echuca, but one of the most powerful in its day, could tow three timber laden barges.

So, after a full day of wandering around Echuca and its surrounds we returned to Riverbend. Avoided that bridge ! We next head off for an eco cruise along a special section of the river, but more of that next time !

Heading to Echuca

Allthego has had great trouble spelling Euchcuca, no it is Echuca. Postcards that he has sent have had errors in them. But he is getting on in years. We are headed for Echuca after leaving Rutherglen and stopping overnight at Tocumwal. By the way Allthego only sends postcards to himself and Homealone on these trips, no one else does, so why not? At least we know where we have been when we eventually get home and read them! There is a great pile of them back at Bedwell Place with interesting stamps!

Who is that Mexican?

We are trying to do that Farm Gate Trail. Success is almost immediate when we pull into Cactus World. You walk through the gate and think you are in southern US or Mexico, Cactus everywhere, or is that Cacti? Great walk around in an unusual attraction. We had a coffee/tea after checking out the cactusss (plural?) and tried a piece of cactus cake, based on carrot cake but having a slab of prickly pear substituted for the carrot. Not unpleasant but the honey treacle and a dash of creamy stuff helped indeed!

Cactus fruits desitined for some delicacy
Cactus cake

We dithered around at the Cactus place a bit long before heading off trying to find some of the other Farm Gate Trail places as we headed towards Echuca. We wandered down side roads and beside irrigation canals on the lookout for these establishments but it was so frustrating, not many to be found. Or they were at the back of beyond and people were not home. The interesting dairy and cheese place was not open, closed for some work on the facilities. Ah! Ah! It was back to the main road and on to Echuca.

It was getting late in the afternoon and the chosen booked van park was at Riverbend Echuca. Now Allthego sometimes reads things and takes them at face value. He is a reasonable sort of chap in this regard. Somehow, he thought this place was about 6 km out of town, Echuca that is. Now this was an error. This campground was 20 km out of town and actually beside the Goulburn River, Victoria’s longest river that joins the Murray somehere in the scrub where we are to stay. But, it was a pretty good van park, devoid of guests and very quiet. Still a bumpy 20 km drive into town to check out the sites and sights.

The only issue though was the road in, for 10 km it is sealed but the last 10 km or so it is potholes and corroguted dirt. The major drama was crossing the Goulburn River, the bridge had suffered some recent flood damage and Allthego was reluctant to take the single lane crossing to get to the campground. The bridge seemed to have seen better days.

The road into Riverbend
A tircky crossing, the railings not secure!

So, we decided to take the adjacent relatively new concrete bridge instead! No worries there.

Camp site at Riverbend, the sun is out after a day of rain
Goulburn River, Riverbend’s beach!

The weather turned here at Echuca and our first day at River Bend was declared a day of rest by Homealone. It rained on and off most of the time and we holed up in the van. The sun came out the next morning and a vital load of washing was done before we headed off to see some Echuca sites and sights.


Leaving Rutherglen we headed back up through Corowa to Tocumwal, situated right on the Murray River. Along the way we passed through Yarrawonga and Lake Mulwala. The Lake is quite full and we stopped there to have lunch and watched a number of people joining a luncheon cruise on the Lake. Quite an interesting process as the stream of grey nomads (and the like) hopped on board the boat for a cruise around the foreshore and then up amongst the ‘sticks’ sticking out of the water, an old drowned Red Gum forest.

Lunch cruise liner on Lake Mulwala.

Jungle in Lake Mulwala.

Some found the step on board easier than others, much help and frivolity involved. Looked a nice afternoon of cruising around. Apparantly, the Lake (held back by a weir) is to be emptied to try to rid it of thick weed, the waters will recede back to the river course of the Murray and things will be allowed to dry out before the Lake level is restored. This is like a 3-4 month project, so there will be reduced luncheon cruises while all this happens. It would be interesting to see the bottom of the lake and the old Murray’s course, I suppose it means that water will not be let down from the Hume Dam. The Ovens River, from the Victorian Highlands joins the Murray here at the Lake, so water from that will have to be dealt with as well somehow. Leave that to others to worry about! We are moving on to Tocumwal.

River Beach near Cobram.

Another Murray Cod beside the Murray near Cobram.

It is a one night stop here beside the River at the free camp down at Town Beach, not quite free as it is $10 the night plus $10 for some wood for a fire. A very pleasant spot as the sun went down, time for some spaghetti bog in front of the flames. it would have been nice to have enjoyed a custard tart here, but they have been scarce along this part of the drive.

Fire going at Town Beach campsite Tocumwal.

Town Beach at Tocumwal

Followers may have noticed that various depictions of the ‘Murray Cod’ adorn the River banks at almost every stop we have made. There seem to be more of these than actual fish in the water. Catching the elusive cod is heavily controlled (NSW) by way way of bag limit (two a day) and size (between 55 and 75 cm only can be kept). There are possession limits too and rules differ between States and whether you catch them in streams or dams etc. All very confusing. There are closed seasons too to contend with. A 50 cm fish, considered a mature fish, may be anywhere between 3 and 6 years old. The biggest cod recorded was 1.8 m long and weighed 113 kg, a 50 cm Cod might be 2-3 kg. It is triuly an iconic fish!

Another Murray cod at Tocumwal
Old bridge over the Murray at Tocumwal.

Next morning it was off down the road to Echuca and the chance to get into some of the Farm Gate Trail places, as it was Wednesday and they should be open. And maybe some custard tarts!


After returning to Howlong from Brockelsby we turned off the Riverina Hwy and away from the river and headed off to Rutherglen. Allthego viewed Rutherglen as a compulsory stop in order to sample some of the famous reds, ports and muscats the region is known for, it is not unlike Glenrowan (home of Baileys where we often drop in on the way further south along the Hume Hwy) in this regard. Rutherglen is not shy about its famous ports and reds.

Well, how else could you put it?

Rutherglen bottle, apt use of the old water tower!

It was also Mothers Day weekend and the town had been swamped by Melbournians escaping to the country after the long period of COVID imprisonment. We were lucky to get into the caravan park, took an unpowered site for one night and then moved onto power the following morning for a further two nights. The caravan park is quite small and overlooks the town lake and is a street back from the centre of town.

The Lake at our campground, Van is in the middle background behind tree.

All the motels/hotels and other accommodations were booked out and many of the eating establishments , including those at several of the vineyards, were booked out for Sunday lunches. The town’s main street is littered with eating places of all sorts, operating from the old shop fronts of businesses long closed. The streetscape is well preserved.

Rutherglen streetscape

Two ladies enjoying a light lunch, tempting place to go but we didn’t.
Star Hotel

That pork cutlet for Homealone

So we decided to have Mothers Day sunday lunch early on Saturday night at the Poachers Hotel, very nice steak and pork cutlet. Can be recommended if you are ever there, as is their pizza. In the course of the couple of days we managed to get to a couple of old famous vineyards. Morris and All Saints. They both do the reds well, not to mention the muscat and port. Joined mailing lists and have some bottles being sent home towards the end of the trip. Allthego likes to be home when these arrive so that he can keep track of them. Wouldn’t like for them to get into the wrong hands if left on doorsteps by delivery people.

Morris barrels
The row of elms at All Saints
All Saints gardens and castle

The vineyards are also looking great at the moment with the leaves on the vines turning from green to orange as autumn advances. All Saints is particularly well groomed. A long avenue of elm trees well over hundred years old line the driveway into the vineyard castle built in 1864.

Vineyard at All Saints

While here we have also slipped up to Corowa, a nearby sister town, which is astride the Murray. There just happens to be a tempting whisky and gin distillery here. Interesting place in an old flour mill or something like that, they also do chocolates. This establishment is one of those on the Murray Farm Gate Trail.

Federation Bridge over the Murray at Corowa. Corowa hosted a Federation conference in 1893. The main issue decided was for the people to elect people to further conferences and not just have nominees of governments. Arguably, the birthplace of federation.
There are two sets of AFL posts on either side of the highway near Corowa. They mark the Ron Barassi Line, south is AFL land north is Rugby League/Rugby Union land.

The Farm gate Trail winds around the area highlighting various foody places. Problem was, we were doing this on a Monday and then were to continue along its path when we left the next day for Tocumwal. Many of the places were closed on Monday and Tuesday! A bit disappointing and frustrating driving around discovering this, more research required next time! So maybe after our one night stay at Tocumwal we will catch some on Wednesday!


We are staying at the Van Park beside the Hume Weir about 10 km from town. The internet isn’t great, down by the water, around a corner looking out over the dam. Few other people here. This is one of those caravan parks that is being consumed by huts, eating up caravan spots and taking good locations. Building work in full swing. If not careful it will become a little gulag by the dam. For a hut they get three times what a caravan spot is and I suppose this is the attraction for the operator. Annoys the grey nomads though! The dam spill way is spectacular at the moment, oddles of water being let go.

Hume Weir discharge
A big splash

Have had a day wandering around Albury town, looked into the Botanical Gardens, plenty of autumn colours. Some hundred year old plus trees in the park, an enormous Kauri bears down on the grass. Later we head down to the river for lunch, as I recall it the ‘Top Deck’ cafe. we decided to try some Murray Crayfish croquets, quite nice but the flavour seemed to get lost in the accompanying sauce. One of Allthego’s bug bears; water food (fish, crabs etc) is best just grilled or pan fried with a little salt and lemon juice. Avoid fancy coatings and sauces. Having said that fish in a beer batter is not bad, with some chips of course, and by the sea. Forget about vinegar though.

Botanic Gardens
The big Kauri pine tree

Down by the river with that Murray crayfish croquet.

We have also set out along the other side of the river back towards Corryong, along the Murray Valley Hwy to Tallangatta, a new town that grew up in the 1950s when ‘Old’ Tallangatta was moved to higher ground to accomodate the expansion of the Hume Weir. Further on we reached Koetong a stop along an old rail line from Albury. There are still a number of remnants of the line, which is now a rail trail, along the way. Allthego wandered down the trail for a short distance to catch an early 1900s trestle bridge across a gully two stories high. Steam trains used to ply this route and in the 1950s it was used to transport materials for the Snowy Scheme into the highlands.

Pelican in a park

Trestle bridge

Whilst in Tallangatta we paused for a short break and managed to find a custard tart. this was an interesting specimen because it appeared to have been cooked differently to the ones we have had to date. The egg custard appears to have been put into an uncooked casing and then all baked at once! Result, soggy pastry! Allthego and Homealone think the pastry has to be cooked first and then the cusrtard added, to keep it all nice and crunchy. A short distance from the Hume Weir we had found another bakery, next door to a Woolies, its custrad tart was unimpressssive, lacked flavour, although a reasonable yellow eggy colour. We are no closer to the great custard tart! But they are starting to look the same. Why no variety? Why not some stewed apple under the custard?

The Tallangatta tart
The Albury custard tart, spilled out of it’s casing a bit too!

We head back to the Dam via ‘Old ‘ Tallangatta, a narrow winding road with a lengthy gravel stretch, but through green farmland and great views of the lake.

Looking down onto the lake from the road beyond Old Tallangatta

Albury is a large town and it is hard to get a grip on it in a couple of days, perhaps loosing touristy flavour to the urban sprawl and business life. We leave for Howlong a little further west and a diversion to Brockelsby, about 20 km north. This is where in the early 1950s Homealone’s father was posted as a minister at the local Presbyterian Church. Homealone, unlike an elder sister never lived here, but visited from time to time. Much seemed to have changed, Homealone can’t place terribly much about the small town. However, we did manage to track down the old church hall, which apparantly was used as the church after the old church was burnt down some years earlier.

Old UC hall at Brockelsby

Is this the old manse at Brockelsby?
Perhaps an old corner store at Brock?

The old church hall now seems to be a transport depot for a local resident who filled us in on this detail. He bought the hall six years ago. He did think that the house next door was the old manse, perhaps where the family lived back in the early 50s? Maybe some of my readers can add to this tale by way of comment. We couldn’t find the old garage business owned by the family friends of that time.

So it was back on the road to Rutherglen.