Take a look and kick back while you soak up the tranquility and peacefullness of this stretch of water in my video “Cruising on the Murray River”. Are you in the groove and has curiosity got the better of you, the scene is now set for you to come with me for more tantalising exploits as we check out Week 2 – My Ultimate Road Trip.
I’ve seen the “Dish”, sampled excellent Australian wines and experienced views of Australia to die for. I have also been a part of Australian folklore history experiencing Ned Kelly’s raid on Jerilderie and now the car is packed and I am all set to go as Week 2 of My Ultimate Road Trip continues south to the Mighty Murray River and the Paddle Steamer capital of Australia, Echuca.
You are spoilt for choice with the array of accommodation options that are available in Echuca. Hotels, motels, B & B’s and caravan parks are all here, the choice is yours. I stayed at the Acacia Terraces (click here), which comes highly recommend. Fully self-contained, this is luxury in the quiet suburbs of Echuca with the bonus of just being out of town but only a short walk from the city centre.
I’ve checked in, all unpacked for a few days stay, so let’s go and explore this amazing place.
The historic Port of Echuca nestled on the banks of the Murray River is a place with a rich and exciting colonial heritage. Echuca, only 2.5 hours’ drive north of Melbourne is also the home of many festivals and events, the Winter Blues Festival in July and Riverboats Music Festival in February just to name a couple.
The centre of all the action is the actual old Port of Echuca where you can explore the amazing river boat days with those romantic Paddle Wheelers, the history and people of early Echuca and working steam engines in the museum.
The Port of Echuca Discovery Centre is the place to get all the information on the Port and tickets for the Paddle Steamers and entry to the Port Museum. As the sign says, This is an experience 150 years in the making. So much to see, so much to do there’s fun for the whole family.
Jump aboard Billabong Carriages horse drawn Cobb & Co Stagecoach and take slow tour of the Port Precinct.
Echuca is also a perfect place to stop and relax awhile with plenty to see and do with an abundance of restaurants, clubs, cafes and attractions. The Bridge Hotel is one of those spots, built by one of the town’s founders, Henry Hopwood in 1858 and faithfully restored to its former glory this is a top spot to sample fresh local produce and have a beverage or two.
Across the road from the Bridge Hotel is Hopwood Gardens, a beautiful garden with picnic tables and a place for the kids to run riot in the children’s playground.
🔥 Tip: Historically, this is the place that the bullock teams waited before crossing the river on Hopwood’s punt.
Opposite Hopwood Gardens is the old courthouse and the Echuca Historical Society Museum which is housed in the former police station and lock up. The lock up is still on display out the back of the main building. I was reliably informed by the Museum staff that any misbehaving could lead to a stint in the jail cells out the back 😊😊.
This is a walk back in time as you meander through all the photographs, exhibits and collections relating the early Eucha history and paddle steamer glory days.
Echuca has many historic buildings and a lot of them are still in use today as café’s and gift shops. Some are tucked away in little laneways that run off the main street and others you can’t miss. Take a pleasant walk from the Museum down High Street and you’ll be able to see a staggering 80 buildings and places of interest. There are so many to mention here I’ve included a link for your reference to download – Heritage Walk Echuca (click here).
Hand crafted exquisite chocolates, and only a little walk from the museum as you follow the Heritage Walk Trail is the Echuca Chocolate Company. What a discovery in the heart of town and they had some of the most delicious chocolate goodies I have ever tasted.
Just around the corner from where I was staying, I came across this little gem and knew that it just needed a little more investigation. As you might be aware, I am a bit of a car and history buff and given any little excuse I will check out any car museum when I am in the area. The National Holden Museum aroused my curiosity.
Inside this rather unassuming building were 40 plus restored Holdens of many eras as well as rare prototypes, the Marilyn – a two door Holden Monaro Coupe, and lots of film footage on Holdens glory days as an Australian car manufacturer.
My days in the northern Victorian town of Echuca are winding up but I must add that this is certainly a place that is well worth a visit. I will be travelling north through Denliquin and Hay then joining the legendary Kidman Way with my next stop – Hillston. This is where the real outback in western NSW begins.
The Kidman Way extends from Jerilderie in the south through the towns of Hillston, Cobar and Bourke then cutting its way through western Queensland to reach Normanton in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
This legendary highway travels through vast open western plains and it’s not unusual to see mobs of kangaroos in the paddocks or Emu’s scurrying along beside the road with the odd sight of the occasional giant tumble weed blowing across the road.
Drawing on its history from the stock routes that linked cattle stations along the way, this particular highway was named after Sir Sidney Kidman who after opening a butcher shop in 1870’s selling meat to the miners in Cobar went on to become the largest landowner’s in Australia. The Kidman Way was not named for the person Sir Sidney Kidman but for his inspiring vision to open inland Australia.
Along the way there is always the chance to pull over for a rest stop. Scattered along these highway rest stops, you can come across The Long Paddock showing off 11 large scale sculptures that tell the stories, tales and history of the region.
As we have seen before, some of these “Driver Reviver” stops have sculptures and other little things of interest. While we take a break, there is the opportunity to delve into The Sculptures of the Long Paddock (click here) and check out the Geoff Hocking inspired – Legend of the Headless Horseman that stands proud on the side of the road silhouetted against the deep blue sky of the Australian outback.
Hillston has several things to see and do, and as this is a cotton growing area, a visit and tour to the Hillston Cotton Gin will provide you with an insight into the cotton industry.
🔥 Tip: The best time to visit is from April – August during the processing season. Ph: (02) 69672951 for visiting hours.
The Hillston Museum, which is situated on the Kidman Way was a great opportunity to step back in time with it’s fascinating collection of machinery, early pioneer household goods and historic displays. Take the time to appreciate the restored 19th Century homestead as you can imagine how it was way back then.
🔥Tip: This museum is open by appointment only. Check with the historical society on the opening and closing times. Ph: 02 6967 2503 | 02 6967 2555
I love local Arts and crafts and the Red Dust & Paddy Melons Gallery which is situated in the main street is a relaxing place to kick back for a hour or two . The gallery showcases the districts talented artists and there’s plenty of local arts and crafts on display which are all available for purchase.
Being on the road is always a great opportunity to meet other travellers and your discussions often turn to “where have you been” and “where are you heading”. During my discussions I had several fellow road trippers tell me if you’re going through Cobar you must see the Fort Bourke Lookout and The New Cobar Open Cut Gold Mine.
Just minutes from town I turned off the main highway driving along a winding sealed road following it to the top to a well-constructed viewing platform and the Fort Bourke Lookout and Gold Mine. This is a working mine, and on the day that I was there it was fascinating to see the huge trucks making their way up from the bottom of a very deep hole.
The lookout also offers the most amazing vistas of Cobar and the Australian outback. The views at sunset must be seen to be believed.
Situated on the Barrier Highway at the eastern end of town is one very majestic building which contains one of the finest rural museums that I have seen. The great Cobar Heritage Centre built in 1910 is an experience where you can touch and smell some of the exhibits and see the history of the Cobar region as it gradually unfolds before you as you wander through the displays.
Walking amongst the many floors, I started with the local aboriginal tribe settlement display the “Long Time Comin” exhibit of the famous Mt Grenfell rock caves. There are many more exhibits to visit including brilliant displays of indigenous artefacts and bush foods, the unique skills of the early European settlers that were required to survive in what can be a very inhospitable land and the pastoralists that also moved into the area.
As a visitor, I was able to view aboriginal artwork, potter through a model woolshed, have a hands-on experience and a seat at the controls of a massive excavator all the while belting out a tune on the ironstone xylophone. The descent into the “working” mine shaft was an absolute highlight which gave me an understanding into the early copper mining days of which Cobar is most famous.
Days 13 & 14
Can you believe this, almost two weeks on the road and haven’t we covered some kilometres. There has been some unique signs and sculptures in the rest stops and some surprises around every corner of the highways travelled. The towns always had something different to experience in addition to the usual fare that is available to the road tripper.
All good things must come to an end (so the saying goes) and it is time to be heading back to my home base in South East Queensland. The final leg of my journey will take me through the country towns of Coonabarabran and
Glen Innes with just a quick stop over in each and then home to Brisbane.
As with a lot of the places that I have visited on My Ultimate Road Trip, there is usually a lot more to see and do. Several places have festivals held throughout the year and quite a few have other interesting locations in town all within short driving distances that are worth visiting. Research the places you want to visit and some of the festivals that you might want to experience. These can be then easily added to your itenary so you can also enjoy your own “Ultimate Road Trip”.