A 3-day itinerary in The Murray for adventure lovers
A road trip in the Murray will uncover a wealth of hidden gems – grab your mates, pack the car and take a journey along the river that may just surprise you.
Beyond its glorious river, there’s another side to the Murray region that not everyone knows about – where wineries can be visited on horseback, where happy-hour drinks happen on the deck of a paddlesteamer, where you can fly over glittering wetlands and stay the night under the stars. From Moama to Deniliquin, this three-day trip is full of unbelievable experiences you’ll want to add to your bucket list.
- Sip local spirits at Echuca Distillery
- Get a bird’s-eye view of the Moira Lake Wetlands
- Stay the night in a refurbished vintage van on the river
- Learn to basket weave with Aboriginal elders
DAY ONE: Echuca Moama
DAY ONE KEY FACTS:
Echuca Distillery is located at:
- 555 High St, Echuca VIC
- A 3-minute drive (1km) from Echuca Paddlesteamers
Straddling the Murray River on opposite sides of the bank are the historic twin towns of Echuca Moama: the former in Victoria and the latter in New South Wales. These are Yorta Yorta lands, and Dunghala is the local name for the Murray River, the arterial waterway that runs through the middle of everything. It’s here, among the rugged red gums and the putter-putter of the steamboats that your three-day journey packed with unexpected delights begins.
An abundance of boutique vineyards and cellar doors reside among photogenic bushland here, making it an epic destination for a winery tour with your pals. To see the vines from a different perspective, grab your cowboy hats and head to Billabong Ranch for a horseback ride along the river to Cape Horn Vineyard for a glass of vino and a wood-fired pizza. If you’d prefer to kick back, opt for the luxury of a horse-drawn carriage and let your noble steeds do all the work. If a stylish ride is more your scene, you can cruise between St. Anne’s Winery, Morrison’s Winery and Three Black Sheep café in the back of a 1959 Ford Skyliner convertible with Flash Fairlane Tours.
As the day begins to fade, make your way to the water and catch the colours of the sun setting aboard a refurbished steamboat from Echuca Paddlesteamers on their Sunset Cruise Tour. These beautiful vessels were the stars of this region towards the end of the 1800s, and riding one will make you feel like you’ve whirled back in time. With a beverage in hand, and an Insta-worthy platter of regional produce to graze on, sit back, relax, and soak up the scenes of the towering gums dancing on the mighty river.
Back on dry land, taste your way through the experimental range of botanically infused natural craft spirits at hip Bar Lee in the Echuca Distillery. With a shareable food menu and fun cocktails that showcase the distillery’s all-natural spirits, this is the perfect place to celebrate your first night – make sure to order the colour-changing Maiden’s Butterfly Pea and Passionfruit cocktail that magically changes from blue to pink.
If you want to continue the merriment, the American Hotel is the place to be. Perfect for groups and with a party vibe, feast on slow-cooked smoked meats while the region’s best DJs sling your favourite beats on the vine-covered rooftop.
As the night closes in, hop back across the NSW border to your luxurious home away from home: Tindarra Resort in Moama. There’s room for the whole crew with spacious studios and interconnecting villas, and you won’t want to leave after seeing their sparkling pool (complete with flowing waterfall and heated cave spas!). If you feel like kicking on, their Riverside Bar has an outdoor fireplace and is open until the wee hours on Friday nights.
DAY TWO: National parks & lakes
DAY TWO KEY FACTS:
Murray Darling Scenic Flights are located at:
- Deniliquin Airport, Macknight Drive, Deniliquin NSW
- A 52-minute (75km) drive from Echuca-Moama
After a morning stroll by the river or breakfast on your villa deck, pack the car and get ready for your next adventure in the Murray. A one-hour drive north along the scenic Cobb Highway will see you sweep through the Barmah and Murray Valley National Parks. Together, these parks form the largest river red gum forest on the planet, and today you’ll experience this greenery from all angles.
Your first stop is Deniliquin, or Deni as the locals call it, perched on the Edward River (or Kolety in the local Wamba Wamba language). Grab a coffee at Harry Pepper Coffee, take to the skies with Murray Darling Scenic Flights for an extraordinary journey over the ever-changing colours of the Moira Lake wetland system. Get your camera ready to capture the wonders of the ancient landscapes below: the shimmering lakes, marshy wetlands, stretches of eucalypt and grassy plains. Or you can choose to take their scenic flight over Lake Tyrrell, one of the Murray region’s famous pink lakes. With waters so still, the pastel-pink lake reflects everything above it; from up high it will look like you’re staring into a perfect still-life painting of an Australian, cloud-dotted sky.
Back on the ground, make your way to the Deniliquin Visitor Centre and scoop up a mountain bike – a complimentary service to encourage visitors to explore the tranquillity of the forest in a different way. Stop by the local IGA to stock up on some fresh fruit, then hit the Moama Five Mile mountain bike trail in Murray Valley National Park – a 7km route suited to all skill levels. Plonk down for a well-earned rest and snack break on the serene riverbank at Five Mile picnic area.
Find a deeper connection to the Country you’re on courtesy of a workshop at Yarkuwa Indigenous Knowledge Centre. Sit down with Wamba Wamba women and share in their craft as you weave a mityat (pronounced ‘mee-chart’ – the local word for basket) you can take home. You’ll gain an appreciation of how significant weaving is to the local economy, and learn how to ‘feel into your body’ as you move your hands and fingers – a practice Wamba Wamba people call wilkila.
Tonight you’ll get a taste of #vanlife with a night’s stay in a vintage caravan named Olina. Based in Deniliquin or nearby Wanganella (and delivered and parked for you at any campsite of your choosing), this quaint, refurbished 1980s beauty sleeps up to four people and is kitted out with stylish accessories and mod cons – including air conditioning and a barbecue, which you can fire up beside the winding river.
DAY THREE: Deniliquin
DAY THREE KEY FACTS:
Yarkuwa Indigenous Centre is located at:
- 104 End St, Deniliquin NSW
- A 6-minute drive (4km) from Deniliquin Airport
Begin the day at local Deni fave The Crossing Café, which serves up a sophisticated menu of seasonal produce: think old-fashioned pancakes smothered in maple syrup and house-made lemon curd, and Turkish eggs dusted with dukkah.
Stroll off your morning meal along the Beach to Beach Riverside Walk, a literal oasis frequented by sleepy kangaroos and dozens of water birds. Don’t miss the Ute on a Pole sculpture beside Waring Gardens: a tribute to the rip-roaring and famous Deni Ute Muster – a quintessentially Australian festival held annually in the area. If the weather calls for it, take a dip in the pristine McLean or Willoughbys beaches, and see for yourself that some of the most picturesque swimming holes aren’t just on the coast.
Refuel after your walk and go back to the future at the immersive Cruizin Diner*, inspired by 1950s America. Suitably decorated with vinyl booths and neon signs, chow down on classic treats such as deviled sausages, apricot chicken and meatloaf while 50s tunes play in the background. After lunch, hop next door and keep the history going at The Depot, which is gridlocked with all sorts of motoring memorabilia that car lovers will nerd out on.
End the day, and your trip, with a stop at the intriguingly named Storyteller: The Baron’s Tasting House – a boutique bar and speakeasy that often plays host to local musos and DJs. Sit back, drink in hand, and make a toast to your epic journey.