With mountains, scenic rivers, waterfalls and national parks, the Riverina region of NSW is a mecca for adventure enthusiasts. Whether you’re into hiking, kayaking, bird watching or koala spotting, here are the outdoor must-do's in the area.
Splash about at Wagga Beach
Wagga Wagga may be around 400km from the nearest coastline, but it still offers plenty of places to cool off in the water. Case in point, Wagga Beach, a strip of sand just five minutes from the heart of town on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River. Take a dip, set up the stumps for a game of beach cricket, launch your kayak, or just find a patch of shade (there are plenty) for a picnic or barbecue.
Lace-up your shoes (or bring your bike) for the Wiradjuri Trail
The 42km Wiradjuri Trail loop around Wagga Wagga takes in some of the city’s most significant Aboriginal sites, connecting hilltops, riverbanks and everything in between. There’s no set start or finish line, so pick a point of entry and enjoy a day of wandering along the Murrumbidgee River, through Silvalite and Pomingalarna reserves, and to Wagga Beach – bring your swimsuit to cool down.
Paddle the mighty Murrumbidgee
The mighty Murrumbidgee River flows through some of Australia’s hottest and driest regions, providing a source of irrigation for all manner of crops, from citrus to grapes. The waterway’s 230km Canoe & Kayak Trail links Burrinjuck Dam and Wagga Wagga, with plenty of spots where you can pause to refuel in the shade, or set up camp for the night. Download the handy map before you set off.
Get back to nature at The Rock
The Rock Nature Reserve – Kengal Aboriginal Place is a very special part of the Riverina, offering opportunities to rock climb, hike, go bird watching and enjoy picnicking. The geological giant that is The Rock itself soars 364m above the plains; climb The Towers on the northeast face, or tackle the Yerong Walking Track, a moderately challenging route up the slopes of The Rock to a spectacular lookout.
Spot koalas in the wild
Locals knowas the Koala Reserve. When you visit, you’ll understand why. More than 200 koalas call this patch of native forest home, and they’re not shy about saying g’day to passers by – look out for them in the branches of river red gums overhanging the Murrumbidgee River. There are well-maintained trails for hiking and cycling, as well as plenty of places to enjoy a picnic.
Take a dip in a thermal pool
Toward the northern end of Kosciuszko National Park, Yarrangobilly is the gateway to some of Australia’s most beautiful limestone caves, six of which are open to the public – some on guided tours, and some on self-guided tours. Be mesmerised by stalagmites, stalactites, shawls and cave corals, then take a dip in the thermal pool, fed by natural spring water and at 27°C year round.
Channel your inner twitcher
With copious waterways, wetlands and national parks, the Riverina region is a bird-watching paradise. Download the Bird Trails of the Riverina and South West Slopes of NSW guide, which details top trails and spots to pull out your binoculars, including the Narrandera Wetlands, Rocky Waterholes and Bushy Bend in Hay, where you’ll likely spot galahs, red-rumped parrots, crested pigeons, blue-faced honeyeaters, noisy friarbirds… and so much more.
Get a dose of alfresco culture
Hugging the curves of the Murrumbidgee River through Bushy Bend reserve and to Sandy Point beach, the Bidgee Riverside Trail in Hay is dotted with large public sculptures by artists John Wood and John Woodward – and each tells the story of the region. Enjoy a leisurely stroll, or hire a bike from the Hay Visitor Information Centre to explore on two wheels.
Go chasing waterfalls
Just a 30-minute drive from Griffith, Coccoparra National Park comes alive after the rain, when creeks flow in full force and waterfalls tumble over escarpments. It’s particularly pretty in the spring, when wildflowers – orchids, wattles and tea trees – colour the countryside. Keep watch for glossy black cockatoo, peregrine falcons, painted honeyeaters and Gilbert’s whistlers, among other birds that flock here. Another waterfall not to be missed is Paddy’s River Falls near Tumbarumba – you’ll hear it before you see it.