Barely visible from the sky, Norfolk Island is a world of unspoilt beauty, where a forest of evergreen pine meets the ocean, lush hills and valleys meet the beach. This is how life should be.
Part of Australia for more than 100 years, Norfolk Island was first settled in the 14th and 15th Centuries by seafarers from New Zealand – well before Captain James Cook arrived in 1774 and named the island. When the First Fleet arrived, 15 convicts and 7 free men were sent to the island to take control, with more arriving in the first 12 months. The commercial development of the island began and in the years that followed, the island was transformed into a prosperous region, predominantly through the export of the Norfolk Island Pine. Though there was development, the splendour and the beauty of the island remained intact and has been preserved since.
Just 2 hours flight from Sydney and Auckland, Norfolk Island is a tropical paradise.
Any time of year
The mild tropical weather conditions will have you comfortable at any time of year. The summer days are generally under 28 degrees, the nights a warm 20, while winter temperatures can be anywhere from 12 at night to 20 during the day. The island has a range of accommodation options with more than 60 properties to suit all kinds of budgets. From hotels and luxury cottages, to self contained units and budget apartments. When arriving you need to have your accommodation pre-booked or you won’t even make it past immigration at the airport.
The food on Norfolk is fantastic. All fruit and vegetables are actually grown on the island, freshly picked and ready to eat!! Not to mention the fresh fish and beef, as well as locally made produce like coffee, honey and cheese. There are more than 30 restaurants, cafes and clubs where you can enjoy fantastic fresh dishes. Or if you fancy something more along the lines of some good Italian or Chinese food, you won’t be disappointed either, or you might like to experience local culture with a cliff-top BBQ, sunset fish fries or a progressive dinner.
If its shopping you’re after, there are markets held every Sunday morning with a range of arts and crafts, souvenirs and home made produce. Meanwhile the Farmers markets are held every Saturday morning and you can buy yourself some seasonal fruit and vegetables for a great price!
Great tours, fun times
Most of the tours on the island are based around the natural environment, from 4WD eco tours to island discoveries, horse riding and reef tours. If you want to tour the island yourself, you can hire a rental car for a great price and take yourself around the island. Grab yourself a map and take a drive to some of the island’s great beaches!
Norfolk Island beaches include Slaughter Bay, Anson Bay, Norfolk Island Beach, Duncombe Bay and Emily Bay. Emily Bay is the safest place on the island to swim and the sparkling crystal clear waters are protected from both the breakers and the southern ocean. Its popular for young families in particular who can rest assured their little ones will enjoy a swim in safe waters. Anson Bay is the island’s most gorgeous beach and is located at the bottom of a steep cliff face. Its more secluded than the other beaches and is a great place to explore. The track down is not for the light hearted, but its well worth it once you’re at the bottom. Its a popular beach for surfers and swimmers, but you need to be careful of the drop off when you’re walking out into the water as it might come as a surprise. If snorkelling is what you’re after, Slaughter Bay is full of colourful marine life and well worth the visit.
If you want to see the ocean from a different view, there are plenty of boat tours that will take you out to explore. To discover life under the ocean, without even getting your feet wet, take a glass bottom boat tour to see the wonderful array of tropical fish in one of the world’s most southern coral reefs. You might also take to the waters in a kayak for a relaxing paddle, try your hand at fishing, or plunge right in with one of the diving or snorkelling tours.
Back on the land, you can find some fascinating tours and attractions that will take you around the island, whether you go on your own or with a tour group.
The island has a history of carnage that will have you cringing, but will also leave you fascinated, and a great walk to do is the ghost tour which will introduce you not only to stories of the past, but if you’re lucky, you might even see or hear something “ghostly” yourself! Learn about the commandants, convicts and settlers who once lived on the island, which is actually known as one of the most brutal settlements of the British Empire.
Tours take you through Kingston – the main township during the Second and early Third Settlements. Kingston is in the centre of the World Heritage Listed Kingston and Arthurs Vale Historic Area - one of the group of 11 Australian Convict Sites. There are 4 museums that tell the story of the island’s history and you can take a guided tour of the Area or follow the walking tracks yourself. As a place of secondary punishment, the area has a reputation as one of the harshest and cruellest penal settlement. Visit the cemetery, ruins and standing structures from centuries past, buildings from the convict era, and see the archaeological remains, landform and landscape elements. If you take the ghost tour, you will hear about the harsh history of the region from locals in the know. You might also like to take a historic tour of the old settlement sites at Pitcairn Settlers Village, visit Bloody Bridge, Captain Cook lookout and Cooks monument.
A Nature Lover’s Dream
If you love getting back to nature, the national park is the place to go with its abundance of Norfolk Island’s pine trees and rainforest. The National Park covers 650 hectares and comprises two sections, the Mount Pitt section on Norfolk Island 4.60 square kilometres and the neighbouring 1.9 square kilometre Phillip Island, as well as the much smaller Nepean Island. The National Park has some fantastic walking tracks, as well as stunning views from both Mt Pitt and Mt Bates – the highest points on the island. Take along a picnic or some food ready for a BBQ feast, get your walking shoes on and enjoy a journey through lush palm forests, along the coastal fringe and into a world of Norfolk Island pine. You can even walk beneath the tallest tree ferns on the planet!
There are a range of walks, from gentle to moderate and varying in length up to an hour and a half. Some of the tracks include steep sections and many of the tracks can become very slippery if its wet, so just be wary of what track you are doing on what day. The Bird Rock track has the most challenging section in the park and will take you on a steep walk, through pine forest to the cliff top overlooking Bird Rock and return. If you don’t want to do the steep climb, you can take the Red Stone link track. The Old Mountain track was the main access to Mt Pitt prior to World War II and you can still see the remnants of a gun emplacement; while the 1.7 kilometre Bridle track takes you along the edge of the coastline. And easy walk is the Summit track which takes you along the ridge top from the peak of Mt Pitt to the peak of Mt Bates.
Within the park is the botanic gardens, which allow you to walk through the gorgeous flora and fauna of the region. The Botanic gardens have boardwalks suitable for wheelchairs and strollers and you can wander through a display of gorgeous plants in their natural environment, and if you’re lucky you might even come across some of the island’s birdlife, including the green parrot which is not found anywhere else in the world! In fact, many of the species you will find in the National Park have evolved into unique, or endemic, forms due to the isolation on Norfolk. The longest walk here is the Rainforest Gully circuit, 600 metres long, where you can wander through the rainforest gully looking in wonder at the giant vines and gorgeous surrounds.
Norfolk Island truly is a nature lover’s paradise and with its unspoilt beauty, you can see why we had to include it in our Top 10 destinations.
A fantastic drive to take in the Northern New South Wales region will take you from Lismore to the NSW/ QLD border. It’s called Tourist Route 32 and is an 80km drive that takes you through the hinterland, from Lismore to Murwillumbah and then you continue on to Tweed. You can do it in one hit – taking you around 2-3 hours (the roads are windy so speeds are limited), or take a day and stop in at some of the national parks, visit some of the local farms and just enjoy the road.
If you’ve got a weekend free, why not leave from the Gold Coast or Brisbane and drive to Lismore via the coastal road, stop overnight and then take a trip back via the Tourist Route. A great option for weekenders.
First stop along the way after leaving Lismore is The Channon, and you will pass some lovely macadamia farms – even a lemon myrtle farm – and the little villages of Tullera and Modanville, along the way. The Channon is a gateway to the rainforests of Nightcap National Park and is close to the well known Protesters Falls.
Passing through The Channon village, you can see where the largest craft market in Northern NSW is held every second Sunday of the month.
Of course you can’t visit the region without going to Protesters Falls either. It’s just a 14 kilometre drive from The Channon and the falls were actually renamed after a protest against logging that was held in 1979. If you’re visiting, it’s just a 1.4 kilometre easy walk to get to the falls themselves and you will find yourself taken on a path through the Bangalow palm forest, ending up at the base of the falls. Swimming there isn’t permitted because it is home to the endangered Fleay's barred frog, but it’s certainly well worth the journey!
From the falls you continue along Koonorigan Road, which is a steep and winding road – but it takes you through rolling hills and past some beautiful Jacarandas. The area is teaming with produce farms, including macadamia, coffee, dairy farms, avocados and stone fruit orchards. This road led me to Nimbin Road – and of course – Nimbin. Be careful on the road leading you in and out of Nimbin. It seems like it’s been many years since they were tended to and there are some large, and deep, potholes that might bust your tires! So just keep a sharp eye on the road to avoid them.
From Nimbin, you take the road to Uki and Clarrie Hall Dam, which is just a few kilometres from town. The dam is a great place to go if you want to have a picnic, do some bushwalking or if you’re a keen bird watcher! It was great to stop here and let Abby have a run around for a little while. The village of Uki itself is quaint and a great coffee stop, and just a few kilometres out of town you will find the turn off towards Mt Warning.
World Heritage Listed Mt Warning National Park, or Wollumbin, as the original inhabitants of the land call the mountain, is the perfect place to go to escape. It was originally a volcano which covered a massive 400 square kilometres in area. The history of the name for Mt Warning actually dates back to 1770 when James Cook saw the mountain from the ocean at Byron and used it and a point he named Point Danger Fingal Head to warn future mariners of the offshore reefs he encountered.
If you’re there early enough you can actually be the first in Australia to see the sunrise! This is because of its proximity to Byron – the easternmost point of Australia. It was dedicated as a national park in 1966 and its inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage Listings in 1986 ensures its protection for future generations.
If you have time, make sure you join one of more than 60,000 people who make the 8.8 kilometre, 5 hour round trip walk to the top!
From Mt Warning, the road takes you to Murwillumbah – along the Tweed River – an area that is rich in dairy farms, sugar cane and banana plantations. Murwillumbah sits on the south eastern foothills of the McPherson Range in the Tweed Volcano valley and here it’s nice if you can stop off and relax for a break in one of the gorgeous shady parks for a picnic, enjoy some boating or try your hand a little bit of fishing.
This is the last stop along Tourist Route 32. From here, you can take the highway back from Tweed, past the Gold Coast and into Brisbane.
The Clarence Valley is at the southern end of the region and is home to the last port of call for our journey – Yamba. In the Valley you will find marine parks, rainforests and thriving communities, as well as the beautiful Clarence River, one of Australia’s largest waterways.
The Clarence Valley begins in the north at Iluka, nestled on the northern side of the Clarence River, it has been a town since the 1880s but has somehow managed to keep its identity sacred, and has not been overrun with population or tourists. This is part of what makes it so special. The lifeblood of the town is commercial fishing, so you know you’re guaranteed some fresh seafood when you head to one of the local restaurants. There are also some great beaches for swimming and surfing, some lovely parklands for picnics and relaxing, and all your necessities like the local pub, butcher, supermarkets, bakers, cafes, gift shops, post office, newsagent and chemist.
Head back on to the highway and across the river and you arrive at Yamba.
Explore & Discover
Yamba is the second largest fishing port in Australia and is famous for its prawns! It also has excellent swimming and surfing beaches and has been voted the “best town in Australia”. As soon as you drive into town you already feel relaxed, and this is what the lifestyle here is known to be - relaxed, with plenty of sights and some award winning restaurants. In Yamba, if the weather is right, you can choose to take a dip in the ocean pool which has been built into the rocks, enjoy a river cruise, you might like to try to catch the big one on a fishing charter or, if you’re there at the right time of the year, you can even enjoy some whale watching off the coast.
Take a walk along the waters edge and check out some of the local beaches. Visit the lighthouse and take some great photos of the structure, which was built in the 1800s, as well as the views of the beach below. And visit some of the cafes and specialty stores in the main shopping precinct.
While you’re there, be sure to take the time to drive the few kilometres out to Angourie where you will find the Yuraygir Coastal Walk. The signposted 65km walking route extends from Angourie to Red Rock and passes through the villages of Brooms Head, Minnie Water and Wooli. If you want to do the entire trip, you can do so within about four days on average, but there are shorter walks you can do as well. The walk is a series of tracks, trails, beaches, and rock platforms that are linked by following the "coastal emu footprint" marker. Along your journey you will encounter vast heathland plains, long sandy beaches, crystal clear creeks and lagoons, rocky headlands and abundant wildflowers and birdlife. Or you can just follow a short walk and see a couple of the local beaches.
Eat & Sleep
Seascape’s Boathouse Riverfront Cottage is privately located right on the Oyster Channel. You have your own private jetty, which is perfect if you have your own boat and want to explore the river and its 101 islands, and you can feed the pelicans or catch and cook your own fish. The boathouse has ample space for a large family and the deck out the back overlooks the jetty and the Oyster Channel and has plenty of room to entertain your holiday group.
Seascape also has apartments available which are fantastic for a romantic getaway for couples or a family holiday, so don’t think the boathouse is your only choice. There are three types to apartments to choose from and if you want to escape the sounds of every day living, this is the ideal spot with the hum of waves crashing taking over.
If you’re looking for a great feed, you can’t go past the Yamba Shores Tavern – where you can choose from the Bistro, or the new Boardroom & Bar. The Boardroom & Bar offers a dining experience that you won’t forget and one that is uncommon, and extremely worth the visit. The menu has been designed for sharing – with a variety of small plates (tapas) and then a range of large plates which are ideal for 2 people (although if you’re a big eater, you might want one for yourself!) – both of which have a combination of both land and sea flavours. And the dessert menu? To die for, particularly the Frozen Rocky Road!
Heading down the coast from Byron Bay, stop off at the little seaside village of Lennox Head. If you’re a keen surfer, you’ll have definitely heard of Lennox Head as it is a mecca among surfers and famous for its right hand point break Lennox Point – which is one of the top 10 surf breaks in Australia. It is also where you will find Lake Ainsworth, a freshwater lake that has distinctive tannin-stained waters – caused by the surrounding tea trees.
30 kilometres south of Byron Bay is Ballina. The highway actually bypasses Ballina, but its worth the detour. If you’re stopping for just a short time, set yourself up the beach in a park, with some fish and chips and a cold drink, and watch the boats sail by.
Just past the Ballina turnoff, the Bruxner Highway leads you towards Lismore and Nimbin. Along the way, stop off at Alstonville though and grab yourself some yummy goodies from the Macadamia nut and Avocado farm.
A world of arts
Lismore is located on the doorstep of a number of World Heritage Listed National Parks, and it is also home to more artists and buskers per capita than anywhere else in Australia. Its well known for its cultural diversity and creativity, as well as its relaxed lifestyle and the city itself is not only vibrant, but there is also plenty of history evident, with many buildings dating back to the 1800s, as well as plenty of arts, crafts and live music.
Lismore was once a part of the rainforest which was referred to as "The Big Scrub," – less than 1% of this remains now following European settlement. You can still see a remnant of this rainforest on the Southern Cross University grounds and at Wilsons Nature Reserve.
Another thing that Lismore is well known for – its fresh produce. The rich volcanic soils of the area help to produce some of the best food in Australia! Take a walk along the river’s edge, visit the Heritage Park playground (including a train ride!), sip on a coffee and relax.
About an hour from Lismore is where you will find Nimbin. If you’re Australian, you would have heard of the town. Nimbin is part of what is known as the "Rainbow Region", an area of cultural importance to the Indigenous Bundjalung people. It is famous for its alternative subculture – stemmed from the communes which started to build up in the area on the 1970s and 1980s.
Writer Austin Pick’s impressions of the village were: "It is as if a smoky avenue of Amsterdam has been placed in the middle of the mountains behind frontier-style building facades. ... Nimbin is a strange place indeed."
To enter the town, whatever direction you go, the scenery is farmland and stunning landscapes and national parks. The shops are colourful, the air is ... well ... let’s just say “green” ... and you can see why Nimbin is such a mecca for back-packers, musicians and artists, healers and hippies.
Stop off at the Nimbin Candle Factory. It’s actually been said that Nimbin candles are the best candles in the world to meditate by, and they’re also used extensively in ceremonies, colour therapy and spells in many areas. The colours are amazing, the smell as you enter the factory is overpowering in the most wonderful way, and it’s a lot of fun watching the process of how the candles are made.
Somewhere to stay
There are plenty of accommodation options throughout the region, from seaside apartments in Ballina, to hotels in Lismore, and guest houses in Nimbin.
Near Alstonville you will find a little haven – the ultimate romantic getaway. Pines on the Plateau is a bed and breakfast, self-catering country retreat. Here, it’s easy to lose yourself amongst the ancient trees of the hinterland and the lodges are not only comfortable, but also extremely tranquil! There are two cottages, beautifully decorated and the wrap-around verandah overlooks the gardens, lush green farmland and finally the mountains on the horizon. The views are amazing and mixed with the decor, you are truly set to experience an all-country feel. With a breakfast hamper awaiting you, and welcoming personal touches, this is a wonderful place to stay.
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Lismore, the Gateway Motel is a popular, relatively new four star motel that is less than a 5 minute drive to Lismore CBD. The motel’s gardens are beautifully landscaped and there is an in-ground swimming pool, as well as undercover parking out the back. You can either dine at the restaurant or get yourself some room service, and there are a range of room options to choose from.
Byron Bay is about 30 minutes south of Cabarita and for thousands of years it was a place where Aboriginal people came to swap stories, find brides and husbands and trade goods. What used to be a sleepy little seaside town has now become a mecca for tourists, particularly international backpackers and surfers. The population increases all the time and currently sits at around 30,000. It’s teaming with activity – from surf lessons and skydiving, to hang-gliding, kayaking with dolphins and horseriding along the beach, to golf and fishing. Just to name a few.
The atmosphere, the scenery, the views and the food – it’s hard to pick a favourite.
Things to do
Byron’s most famous, and the most popular features are Cape Byron and the Lighthouse. Cape Byron is the most easterly point of Australian mainland and can be accessed via a walking track which starts at the lighthouse itself. Here you can enjoy views to Lennox Head in the south and across the Bay to Mt Warning. You can’t go to Byron and not go to the lighthouse, get your photo taken smiling as you stand next to the sign that tells you that you’re at the eastern most point of Australia, take a walk to the point itself if you have the time and energy, and keep an eye out for dolphins frolicking in the waters below (or whales if the season is right).
Arakwal National Park is a nice place to visit and if you’re a surfer, there are plenty of options. Tallow Beach is part of Arakwal National Park, a beautiful coastal heathland located just south of Cape Byron and the Lighthouse – and the beach is quiet, the waters were shallow and you can see to the bottom for metres and the sands are clean – if you love Byron beaches but aren’t a fan of the crowds, this is where you should go. Though be aware there are no lifeguards here so be extra careful. It’s great for surfing, swimming and fun in the sand. Other popular beaches are Wategos, The Pass, Belongil, The Wreck, Broken Head or Cosy Corner.
If you’re more of a land-lubber, visit the national parks in the hinterland. Mt Warning National Park surrounds Mount Warning which is part of a remnant caldera of a much larger extinct volcano (the Tweed volcano). The Park is rich in plant, bird and animal life and part of the Shield Volcano Group of the World Heritage Site Gondwana Rainforests of Australia.
Nearby is Brunswick Heads, a small coastal village just 15 minutes from Byron which has retained its traditional seaside village atmosphere. It is quiet, with fantastic beaches and the river which hosts a protected rainforest as well as a harbour and small marina for fishing boats and other small vessels. From the harbour, you can take an Eco Cruise with Byron Bay Eco Cruises & Kayaks. The cruise is a beautiful way to see the area from another angle – along the Brunswick River and the waterways of the Brunswick Valley. The commentary is fabulous and as you learn about the area’s history and the environment, you can enjoy some bird spotting, watch as mullet flew out of the water and just enjoy the ride and the views. The tour is fun, comfortable and the scenery is picture perfect.
Staying in Byron
Byron Bay offers a full range of accommodation for the traveller, whether you’re on your own, with a partner, travelling with friends, or taking the family away for a holiday. You will find a range of options to suit – from holiday apartments or studios, to backpacker’s hostels, holiday houses, hotels, resorts, retreats and lodges. And don’t forget about camping grounds and caravan parks. The options are endless. One place that tops the cake though is The Oasis Apartments & Treetop Houses. Bordering the Arakwal National Park, there are a few choices of accommodation there – including self contained holiday apartments, treetop houses and beach houses. The pool looks amazing, there is a spa, gym with an outside deck and BBQ, sauna and games room with plenty to keep children of all ages entertained.
Wake up to the sounds of whip birds calling just outside your apartment, watching the sun rise, and admire the resort’s green grasses and the bright treetops, combined with the mahogany buildings – such a beautiful contrast with a true oasis feeling. This truly is Byron Bay’s best kept secret when it comes to accommodation!
The Tweed region of northern New South Wales is characterised by its vast network of local communities, brilliant mountain scenery, sub tropical rainforests, popular beaches and historic river ports.
20 million years ago, it was a very different story and the area was actually a massive shield volcano that stretched from Nerang in the north, to Byron Bay in the south, inland and out to sea. As time passed, eventually the volcano disappeared and rain washed away the lava. What remained was a caldera, a large mountain which would become known as Mt Warning, a volcanic plug, mountain ranges and the birth place of the Tweed River.
It is a place where country meets the sea, where farmers meet city folk and where villages meet high rise buildings. Whether you’re staying at Coolangatta or Tweed Heads, or further south towards Cabarita, there is plenty to see and do, and some of the finest accommodation around.
The Tweed region begins at Kirra, on the beach on the Gold Coast and just near the border into New South Wales. Kirra Point, a small rocky headland, actually separates Kirra from Coolangatta, and is one of the world’s most well known point breaks – and the views are amazing! There are plenty of surf competitions held there every year, though none more notable than the Billabong Pro. If you’re looking for more of a relaxing time in the water though, Kirra North is your best option. It’s great if the weather is fine – or even if you just want to take a walk or run.
Somewhere to Stay
Kirra Surf Apartments is a great option if you’re looking for accommodation here. The apartments are spacious and have fantastic views. The balcony is large and on a clear day, you could see everything right before the horizon. The rooms are decorated with beautiful contemporary furniture, comfortable lounges, and some have a spa bath, fully self contained kitchen with a large fridge and even views from the bedrooms.
The apartments are just a short stroll to the North Kirra Surf Lifesaving club and a variety of restaurants and cafes and it’s just a 30 minute walk following the esplanade to get to the Tweed River.
Another fantastic accommodation option on the Tweed region is a bit further south along the coast – the beautiful village of Cabarita. Cabarita and nearby Kingscliffe are well known to South East Queenslanders, and Northern New South Walers as quiet, classy holiday destinations where the scenery, the people and the beaches are perfect – and The Beach Resort doesn’t disappoint.
The resort is stylish, spacious – and right on the beach (literally). They have 2, 3 and 4 bedroom apartments; the furniture is just beautiful while the rest of the decor is set to match and it has the perfect sized balcony where we are able to relax and enjoy views of the waves crashing in. Sit back, and enjoy the view. And if you’re feeling hungry, The Beach Bar & Grill is right there in the same building.
Somewhere to Play
There are so many options in the region for things to see and do. Take a walk along the river and have a picnic, take the kids to one of the playgrounds that you will find right next to the beach, or try one of the many adventure activities that you will find at Kirra, Tweed Heads, Kingscliffe and Cabarita – including water sports such as kayaking, canoeing, diving, snorkeling, stand-up paddleboarding, surfing, deep sea fishing and water-skiiing. On the land, there are many options available as well, from high ropes courses to hiking in the rainforests, horse riding and abseiling, to visiting museums and art galleries.
A great option if you’re looking for a few hours of activity is to visit Tropical Fruit World – where you will find up to 500 different varieties of fruit! It is a fruitarian’s heaven. Your visit will begin with the Miracle Fruit Show – where you can taste a range of different fruits grown on the plantation; followed by the Plantation Safari - a great way see the plantation at its finest. You get on a carriage on the back of a tractor and take a guided tour through the orchard, before the journey ends at the animal farm. Here you can feed some of the animals before taking the Jungle River Cruise. Feed the ducks as you go along, then stop off at Treasure Island for a train ride, and a play (for the kids AND big kids) with cubby houses, mini golf and other games. If you’re still hungry after the tours, the Rainforest Cafe has a fantastic range of food that will keep you going for hours.
The twin towns of Yarrawonga-Mulwala are a 2 hour drive from Echuca, passing through the towns of Nathalia (on the banks of Broken Creek and with a population of just under 2000) Strathmerton (which was the most northerly point in Victoria at one point) and Cobram (surrounded by a number of orchards, dairy farms and wineries).
Mulwala is located in New South Wales, with Yarrawonga in Victoria, separated by the river and both located on the banks of the beautiful Lake Mulwala. Historically one of the major industries in the Yarrawonga/ Mulwala area was the explosives factory, constructed in 1942-43.
Lake Mulwala, the highlight of the region, was created in 1939 by building a dam across the river to provide irrigation water for the surrounding district. Crossing the Murray between the two towns is possible across the weir of the dam, as well as Mulwala Bridge. The bridge was actually built before the lake was filled (between 1917 and 1924), replacing an earlier wooden bridge which had been built in 1889-1891. While you’re driving over it, you might notice that there is a bend and dip in the middle where the two ends meet. Construction of the weir began in 1935 and was completed in 1939 as part of the Murray-Darling Irrigation Scheme. The lake is a renowned fishery for the Murray Cod and is actually one of the few places where the cod is a common fish; and the lake is also a popular location for activities such as boating and kayaking.
Take a drive or walk through the area, stopping off at the Yarrawonga-Mulwala Pioneer Museum, a spacious, modern facility which has one of the largest exhibits of the early pioneering days of Australia; explore the river beaches and take a walk along the designated tracks, eat and drink your way around both towns, or simply relax with a picnic or barbecue on the water’s edge. You might also do the 3.5 kilometre walking track, The Common, which takes you into a typical red gum forest on the banks of the Murray River.
You will find an abundance of local produce, including cheese, chocolates, olives and vineyards in the region; the Farm Gate Trail is an opportunity to experience the region and visit unique farm providers; or you might like to take a drive to nearby Tungamah (30 minutes south) and take the Tungamah Heritage Walk, which will take you past a number of historic buildings from the 1880s.
The Murray River region is also extremely popular for avid golfers, and there are not only more than 40 courses, but they are all easy to get to and you will find plenty within a short distance of each other! The Mulwala Yarrawonga region has a number of courses, including the new Black Bull Golf Course. The course is set amongst stunning scenery with the 9 holes (currently operating) wrapped around the waters of Lake Mulwala. The course has been designed to excite the imagination and test players of all levels, from the Pro to the novice.
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay, you will find plenty of choice, including luxury resorts, quality hotels and motels, self-contained houses or caravan parks. If you want accommodation that has everything you need, and more, Club Mulwala is not only a resort, but also – as the name suggests – a club. The resort is nestled on the edge of the beautiful waters of Lake and is centrally located in the Murray River Region within walking distance of Yarrawonga / Mulwala’s main attractions.
The adjoining spa – essenza resort spa – offers a variety of services that are sure to keep you relaxed and calm after a day of exploring. The club has bars, sports areas and function rooms and if you’re hungry, they offer a range of dining options to suit all your needs, including Chinese, Diggers Restaurant which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the delicious Stone Grill, where dinner is served to you, raw, with a hot stone so you can cook your own dinner! You can choose from seafood, steak, lamb, chicken – even kangaroo and crocodile! The restaurant had a lovely atmosphere, fantastic service and exceptional food.
Golfers Resort is another great option and was developed by Golf Professional Glenn McCully and his wife Jan. It is host the Glenn McCully Golf Schools and is spacious and comfortable with plenty of room to relax and share a glass of wine after a day on the course. Enjoy time out on the driving range or take golf lessons in an undercover teaching area.
Taking off from Corowa, the drive to Albury-Wodonga is around 45 minutes. It’s also around here that you will finally see your first overtaking lane. Albury-Wodonga is a settlement that incorporates two cities, Albury in New South Wales and Wodonga in Victoria, and of course they are divided by the Mighty Murray River.
The twin cities are home to around 90,000 people and are surrounded by rolling valleys, hills and lush farmlands. It’s actually not too far from here to the Australian Alps so the landscape becomes a lot busier than you will have seen on the drive from Mildura. The river was once a busy trade route for paddle steamers and today it’s a great place for fishing and water sports.
The Waradjuri people are said to have occupied the Albury area for thousands of years prior to European settlement, which began when squatters settled in the district in the 1820s and 1830s. The first European buildings were a provisions store and small huts. In 1851, with the separation of Victoria from New South Wales, Albury was a frontier town, with the first bridge being built in 1860. Wodonga was founded as a customs post, with the first post office opened in 1856. Wodonga is the smaller town, but between the two of them, there are a variety of things to see and do.
Albury and Wodonga have plenty of things to explore and the “eat streets” offer a variety of fine dining opportunities. From historic pubs and busy clubs, to stylish cafes, there is something to suit all tastes. The flavours of the region stem from the European settlement to the area after World War Two, bringing with them their own cultural knowledge and culinary delights. There are now a number of specialty delicatessens, smoke houses, cafes and restaurants with a European influence.
Restaurant 579 on Olive specialises in modern Australian cuisine and the food is tasty, the meal sizes are large and the restaurant has a nice ambience. The décor is modern and classy, and no matter what meal you choose, the flavours are guaranteed to complement each other. If you’re after something a little lighter, the Green Zebra in the main shopping precinct offers an abundance of fresh flavours. Whether you’re wanting to feast on pasta, salads or bruschetta there are plenty of options. You can even take goodies home with you. There is half a wall full of local spices of many different flavours – all you had to do was decide which one to buy. The owners grow their own vegetables and with the help of local experts, have built a 450m2 vegetable garden at their own house!
If you love shopping, you will find everything you would expect of a major city, with large shopping malls and specialty stores, to markets and bulky goods, local and international. There is free parking ranging from 30 minutes up to the full day and the main shopping strip – Albury Central, trades 7 days a week and includes late night shopping on Thursdays. The Hume Murray Farmers’ Market is held every second Saturday between 8am and noon at Gateway Village on the Lincoln Causeway. Or just take a walk or drive around the district and you will find an abundance of homewares, music stores, fashion, galleries, bakeries, farmers markets, theatres and so much more.
Whether you want to stay in the city centre, or on the outskirts of town, in a hotel, motel or caravan park, bed and breakfast or spa, luxury or budget, Albury-Wodonga has the accommodation you’re looking for. Quest has hotels in both Albury and Wodonga. Quest Albury has 104 non-smoking rooms, including studio, one, two and three bedroom apartments offering full kitchen and laundry facilities. The rooms are spacious and look out across the city and surrounding mountains. Quest Wodonga only opened in August and you can choose from 80 brand new studio, one, two and three bedroom serviced apartments. Both Quest hotels are located conveniently close to both entertainment and shopping, so whether you choose to stay in Victoria or New South Wales, you will be comfortable.
If you want to get out of the city, Aspen Holiday Park’s Boathaven Holiday Park at Ebden is a fantastic place to stay. Boathaven is located on the shores of Lake Hume and like all Aspen parks, it is high quality, comfortable and located in a fantastic setting. Relax in a spa cabin just metres from the water’s edge, take a dip in the pool, have a picnic and just sit back, relax and enjoy the lake views. Watching the sunrise over the lake in the morning is also a great start to the day.
The drive from Swan Hill to Echuca-Moama is a little less than 2 hours, but there is much to see along the way. Kerang is located on the Lodden River and is a commercial centre for livestock, horticulture, lucerne and grain. It was first inhabited by the Wemba-Wemba Aborigines, with Europeans first coming to the area in 1836.
Further afield off the regular track is the small town of Koondrook and the popular Gunbower Island. Cross the little historic bridge and you will find yourself lost on the largest inland island in the southern hemisphere. Gunbower is home to an array of waterbirds, wildlife and aquatic plants; and has plenty of free camping spots! You can take a walk here, drive the island from left to right, front to back, ride a bike, camp and even canoe around the island. Kerang Kayak Hire not only hire out kayaks, but they also lead you on a tour and they are the only business in the region to do so. The 5 kilometre Canoe Trail is basically a 2 hour paddle – although this depends on the winds, the strength of the current and your experience – and allows you to see the island’s wildlife and natural beauty from a different view. Even if you’ve never kayaked before, you will feel right at home with your guide.
Meeting of the Waters
The twin towns of Echuca in Victoria and Moama in New South Wales are stunning and offer so much for the visitor you will want to stay for weeks. Echuca means “Meeting of the Waters” (Aboriginal) and is on the junction of the Goulburn, Campaspe and Murray rivers. It is also the closest point along the Murray River to Melbourne and was developed as a thriving river port city during the 1800s. Moama, a name taken a local indigenous word meaning "burial ground", was founded by James Maiden in the mid-1840s as a stopping-point for stock and cargo waiting to cross the Murray.
You will find an almost endless choice of accommodation in Echuca Moama, from motels and bed and breakfasts, apartments and resorts, caravan and camping parks; self contained units; even backpacker accommodation.
Madison Spa Resort is a beautiful choice, where the decor is classy and elegant, from the stylish decorator items to the marble fireplace and table, the designer lounge chair, the kitchenette with its Espresso machine and the super comfortable beds with their crisp white linen. The rooms are spacious with beautiful local paintings adorning the walls. There is a restaurant with fantastic food, or just as a social stop off at the end of the day for a quiet drink. Visit the lap pool, relax in the indoor Roman bath house, or get yourself a massage! Another great accommodation choice is Maiden’s Inn Holiday Park. The waterfront villas have recently been refurbished and sit on the edge of the marina. The rooms are a great size, everything is comfortable and the views of the river are stunning.
If you want something completely different though, why not go on an overnight paddlesteamer cruise or houseboat voyage? Echuca Luxury Houseboats, at the Riverboat Dock are a fantastic way to discover the Murray, with two levels, Jacuzzi, enough beds to fit up to 12 people and stunning decor - the perfect home away from home, or better! Navigate your way along the river (usually around 20 kilometres), stop to explore, dock to enjoy time with those you love, and relax in luxury!
Discover the Flavours
If you’re feeling hungry, there are plenty of taste sensations in Echuca-Moama. Bakeries, outdoor cafes, Chinese, Italian, Greek and Thai, and of course Australian flavours. If you’re looking for a great place to visit for morning or afternoon tea, Pericoota Station has been in operation since the 1800s, with a history in Merino Sheep, Cobb and Co Horse Transport, Short Horn Cattle and Orange and Grapefruit Orchards.
For a main meal, the American Hotel is Echuca-Moama’s oldest pub, originally built in the 1850s and is definitely reminiscent of the era. It is a beautiful pub with a great atmosphere and is owned by Dean Oberin. The food is fantastic and the service is prompt. Dean also owns Oscar W’s. From the outside it looks like a typical early settlement home surrounded by a lovely rose garden, but inside it transforms into a Red Gum Grill and Deck bar. Australia's favourite restaurant overlooking the Murray River, the setting is absolutely stunning particularly with the sun going down over the river. Stepping into the restaurant is like stepping back in time, with the galvanised iron, huge open fire and antique lounges, and the meals are made with regional produce prepared in an Australian style.