Visit any of The Murray River Region’s charm-filled, heritage-rich locations and you’ll notice they evoke an instant feeling of relaxation. It’s the ultimate aquatic playground.
The Murray isn’t just any ordinary river. At 2500 kilometres (1553 miles), it’s the longest river in Australia, and the third-longest navigable river in the world behind the Amazon and the Nile. Passing through three states – New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia – the Murray boasts vast stretches of wonderful waterways, including lakes and locks.
Dotted along its seemingly never-ending stretches is a wealth of inviting historical towns and thriving cities, first-rate wine regions and golf courses, forests, and endless surprises. If you're looking to navigate this iconic part of the country, you'll love this inspiring guide to Australia’s greatest waterway.
- Take a historic paddlesteamer or paddleboat ride while learning about the river’s past as a trade route and water highway.
- Sample some of the best beer and wine in the country at the local wineries and breweries.
- See a spectacular sunset at one of the region’s many lakes or river viewpoints.
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Top things to do around the Murray River
Have some water-based fun
Myriad locations along the Murray River suit all manner of aquatic adventures: canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding, boating, waterskiing, wakeboarding, and jet-skiing among them.
Fishing along the Murray River is another popular activity, and it can be hugely rewarding. Angle for Murray cod, Australia's largest freshwater fish and the signature species in these waters. Bream, catfish, perch, and redfin are among other popular varieties.
The Murray River supports a wide assortment of sandy beaches. A prime spot is Tocumwal, New South Wales, which boasts 20-plus golden beaches within just five minutes of its centre. Additionally, there are dozens of sandy patches within easy reach of Yarrawonga-Mulwala and Echuca-Moama, among other spots.
To best acquaint yourself with the might of the Murray, take a paddlesteamer or paddleboat ride. The first paddlesteamer, the PS Mary Ann, was launched near Mannum, South Australia in 1853. For decades after, the Murray River was an important trade route and virtual water highway as steamers floated up and down its stretches. Popular departure points for paddlesteamer rides along the Murray include:
- Echuca, Victoria
- Mildura, Victoria
- Swan Hill, Victoria
- Renmark, South Australia
- Mannum, South Australia
- Mulwala, New South Wales
- Wentworth, New South Wales
Explore the nearby rivers, lakes, and dunes
While the Murray River hogs the spotlight, the wider region is home to other snaking waterways. Its main ‘feeding’ rivers are the Darling and Murrumbidgee rivers, while the Edward is an anabranch of the Murray. On the banks of the Edward River is the delightful town of Deniliquin, which is an excellent launch point for more water fun. Yet the town is best known for its annual ute muster in late September.
A plethora of lakes are sprinkled on either side of the Murray’s banks, and suit endless aquatic adventures. Many are within easy reach of key towns, too. Notable lakes include:
- Lake Mulwala in New South Wales is home to an inflatable adventure park.
- Lake Victoria in New South Wales is steeped in history, making it ideal for photographers.
- Lake Boga in Victoria is picturesque. Visit the Lake Boga Flying Boat Museum while you’re here.
- Lake Tyrrell in Victoria is a salt-crusted depression which can reflect the sky like a mirror on a still day.
- Kangaroo Lake in Victoria is the birthplace of former Australian Prime Minister, John Grey Gorton.
- Lake Bonney in South Australia is a popular place for sailing and water skiing. The town of Barmera is perched on its shores.
Contrasting with the abundance of water in the Murray region is over 300 hectares (741 acres) of incredible sand dunes that make for fascinating exploration. Just minutes from Wentworth in New South Wales, the Perry Sandhills are continuously shifting dunes steeped in history and which are a favoured background for films and TV programs. This natural attraction is only 30 minutes drive from Mildura.
Visit a local winery
There are wine regions galore within the Murray region. The Murray-Darling basin is Australia’s second-largest wine region and encompasses vineyards in and around Mildura, Victoria. A special mention goes to Trentham Estate.
Rutherglen, Victoria is a glorious area bounding with boutique wineries – rich reds steal the spotlight – and Swan Hill, Victoria has emerged as a key region. Echuca-Moama is another grape-growing area warranting attention: head to Morrisons Riverview Winery for pleasant views.
Visit a local brewery
A handful of top-notch breweries are planted within these parts.
- Woolshed Brewery near Renmark, South Australia has quality brews and outstanding riverside views. The historical rustic shed is equally inviting if the rain is visiting, too.
- Mildura Brewery in Mildura, Victoria is one of Australia’s first microbreweries; now with new owners. Housed in an old theatre, it boasts an extensive range.
- Bandicoot Brewing in Echuca, Victoria is a relative newcomer with a menu that offers ample variety and interest.
- Byramine Homestead & Brewery in Yarrawonga, Victoria combines ales with past tales. Relaxing outdoor setting. Bring your appetite and order the ploughman's lunch.
- Cheeky Peak Brewery in Wodonga, Victoria is an authentic microbrewery experience with excellent beers across many varieties.
Go for a stroll
Realistically, you could pick countless stretches of riverside turf and a wander would reward. However, planting your feet along the following trails are highly recommended.
Barmah National Park east of Echuca, Victoria and neighbouring Murray Valley National Park (Millewa forest) on the New South Wales side combine to form the world’s largest river red gum forest. Naturally, walking tracks abound.
West of Echuca, Gunbower National Park reveals internationally recognised wetlands and abundant bird life, while Murray River National Park in South Australia teems with all sorts of landscapes and wildlife.
The 5 kilometre (3.1 mile) Renmark riverfront interpretive walk in South Australia is another winning option, while a heritage walking tour around Albury, New South Wales has many highlights, too. Mildura, Victoria explodes with designated walking trails.
Ruston’s Roses in Renmark, South Australia is Australia’s largest rose garden. The site boasts a whopping 50,000 rose bushes showcasing nearly 4000 varieties, so it’s fair to say that colour blooms brightly at this popular attraction. These numbers help Ruston’s to claim the title of the National Rose Collection of Australia.
In neighbouring Loxton, the rose revelry continues. 1100 roses are on display at Hentschke Memorial Rose Garden and Loxton Pioneer Memorial Garden.
Take a swing at some golf courses
Australia has plenty of great golf courses, and the Murray region also has its fair share. Here are some worth keeping in mind:
- Yarrawonga Mulwala Golf Club in Yarrawonga, New South Wales is Australia’s largest public access golf course with 45 holes.
- Cobram Barooga Golf Club in Cobram, New South Wales has two championship-standard, contrasting courses.
- Tocumwal Golf & Bowls Club in Tocumwal, New South Wales has a pair of first-rate 18-hole layouts.
- Rich River Golf Club in Moama, New South Wales has two outstanding courses.
- Murray Downs Golf Resort in Swan Hill, Victoria has an exceptional layout and is critically acclaimed.
- Loxton Golf Club in South Australia is highly rated; among the state’s finest courses.
Get your camera out
With so much river frontage to work with – and so many gorgeous destinations to choose from – options for photography are truly endless. We’ve pulled out a few of many, many highlights:
- Lake Mulwala in Mulwala, New South Wales is a sensational spot for capturing a sunset or sunrise, particularly when silhouetting its iconic red gums.
- Albury railway station in New South Wales is a glorious historical Victorian building. It’s one of several heritage structures in Albury worth time in front of the lens.
- Big Bend, near Blanchetown in South Australia, has imposing colourful limestone cliffs that make up the Murray’s longest single bend.
- Heading's Cliff Lookout, near Renmark in South Australia, has more towering cliffs capable of delivering postcard worthy views.
- Murray Cliffs Lookout, near Mildura in Victoria has even more colourful cliffs!
- The water tower in Wodonga, Victoria gets illuminated at night, making for colourful snaps.
- Art deco buildings in Mildura, Victoria are very photogenic. The city has several examples of this eye-catching architectural style.
Wander through a few galleries and museums
Local history museums are scattered all around and reveal absorbing snippets of information about the region’s past. Art galleries abound, too.
Special focus is on the Albury-Wodonga region. Arts Space Wodonga has a diverse collection of works and the Albury Library Museum and the Albury Regional Art Gallery will brighten the mood on a gloomy day.
Murray Bridge Regional Gallery in South Australia warrants a mention, while the Mildura Arts Centre houses various art galleries, a modern theatre, and the grand Rio Vista historic house. Elsewhere, the Corowa Federation Museum in New South Wales unearths a compelling piece of Australia’s past.
In the Goulburn Valley, the city of Shepparton has one of the quirkiest art exhibitions going around. The city is dotted with colourful fibreglass cows that form part of Shepparton Mooving Art, a tribute to the region’s rich dairy farming influence.
Learn about the Murray’s history
Port of Echuca Discovery Centre in Victoria is among the top picks for learning about the Murray River. It offers a fascinating glimpse into a time when the river was bustling with paddlesteamers.
The Pioneer Settlement in Swan Hill, Victoria wonderfully recreates the past with its fine collection of classic buildings, while South Australia’s The Village – Historic Loxton is similarly impressive.
The Old Wentworth Gaol in Wentworth, New South Wales explodes with captivating yarns, while Olivewood Historic Homestead and Museum in Renmark, South Australia retraces a momentous time in the Murray region’s post-European past.
How to get there
There are a few cities and towns that act as gateways to the Murray River. Albury is the biggest, and receives multiple daily flights from Sydney and Melbourne. Mildura is another popular gateway, which is accessible by flight from Melbourne, Sydney, and Adelaide.
It’s possible to access the Murray River via train. Express services run between Sydney and Melbourne, stopping at Albury-Wodonga on the way. The travel time is similar to driving from these major cities.
Driving is one of the most popular ways to get to the Murray River. From Melbourne, the closest point is Echuca which is just under 3 hours drive away. From Adelaide you can drive to Mildura in 4.5 hours, and from Sydney it takes a little over 5.5 hours to drive to Albury.