Expert’s Guide to The Murray with Robbie Knowles
Born and bred in the Murray, Robbie Knowles is the owner and captain of the historic paddle-steamer Cumberoona which plies the waters of Lake Mulwala, a vast man-made reservoir near his home town of Bundalong.
What’s one place people might not expect to find in the Murray region?
There are plenty of great places to eat out around here, but no- one really expects Corowa Whisky and Chocolate at Corowa Distilling Co. It’s just so different, and the kids are always nagging us to go back there. You can have a good meal and whisky tasting (for the grown-ups), see chocolate being processed (for everyone), and then go and learn how to make a chocolate freckle (for the kids).
What’s one of the best ways to experience the beauty of the Murray from the water?
I love the River of Islands houseboat. It’s located on a private property with direct access to the Murray – it’s the only houseboat upstream of the Yarrawonga Weir, on the western edge of Lake Mulwala. From here down to Bundalong Junction you have about 60km of waterways, and so many islands, to explore. The boat has eight berths, so it’s perfect for families. You can pull up on sand bars to swim or explore in canoes and kayaks.
Tell us about places where everyone in the family can enjoy themselves.
The Yarrawonga Mulwala Golf Club has something for everyone in the family. They’ve got three different courses, but also plenty of ways for kids to burn off energy: tennis, swimming, lawn bowls, an indoor playground with arcade games. And then there’s the cinema. They show kids’ movies during the day, then features at night – you can order tapas and beers and the best popcorn in the world. We alternate between outings here and at the Mulwala Water Ski Club, where kids can learn to wakeboard or barefoot or take a tube ride, then the family can sit down to a nice meal.
What are your favourite places for canoeing and kayaking?
Between the Yarrawonga foreshore (to the west of Lake Mulwala) and Corowa (to the east) there are something like 700 islands, shaded by enormous river red gums. It’s the ideal playground for exploring in a canoe or kayak. I’ve worked on the water for more than 20 years and I still haven’t seen it all.
What about areas of natural beauty on land? Where should families explore?
When we’re not on the water, we often take to the Corowa Wetlands and Rail Trail. It’s a great day out walking, and the path is also suitable for the kids’ bikes and prams. There are birds and animals wherever you look and places to stop off and take a swim or have a picnic along the way.
This is the biggest river in Australia – there must be some great family fishing spots. Where would you recommend?
You can’t beat the middle of Lake Mulwala itself. I always go to a place known as The Red Trail – you’ll catch Murray cod and golden perch there. At the northern end of the lake there are a lot of turtles and (recently) platypuses – not for catching, of course, but they’re exciting for the kids to see while you’re drifting around.