Echuca could teach a few country towns how to do tourism. Of course it helps that it’s only three hours from Melbourne and on the banks of the Murray River, but there are plenty of towns you pass through on the way there that can’t hold your attention like Echuca and its twin city Moama do.
First up there’s the Murray, but the food’s excellent, the climate welcoming and the tourist attractions charming. Perhaps the highlight of these is the Port of Echuca Discovery Centre.
Sounds terrifically dull right? Despite the designed-by-committee name, the centre has managed to honour Echuca’s rich paddle steamer history without any danger of the exhibits sliding into tedium.
Let’s put it this way – we found ourselves gazing with genuine interest at a display of reclaimed paddle steamer rudders.
The restored port is also an absolute gem. It has kept its original design, avoiding the temptation to go all modern and shiny. Bonus points for no “big” attraction in sight.
Echuca is about 220 kilometres or three hours from Melbourne via the Calder Freeway.
Also worth a look…
St Anne’s Vineyard Cellar Store. Located in the Port of Echuca precinct in the original carriage builder’s workshop, St Anne’s cellar door is a showcase for the winery’s two vineyards: Myrniong near Ballarat and Perricoota just outside Moama.
The wines are good, but the fortified wines are exceptional. And no need to tip your hat to moderation here; you can buy your booze by the barrel. Fill your mini-barrel of fortified wine from a selection of 3000-litre barrels on the premises and, while you can’t buy those, a girl can dream.
Pacdon is a local business specialising in English smallgoods. What started out as a working holiday for UK-born James Arrowsmith has turned into a business that, with the help of his wife Jane and business partner and chef Peter Tonge, produces traditional English smallgoods.
Of course there’s sausages, but their biggest sellers are traditional pork pies and black pudding. Not surprisingly, haggis is more of a niche market. The produce regularly sells at Melbourne’s farmers’ markets.
Billabong Ranch Brumby Run, October 29
30+ obstacles. Run Walk or Scramble! This mud and obstacle course (with 12km, 8km or 6km options) is designed to drag you out of your comfort zone by testing your physical strength, stamina, and mental grit.
- Register online: billabongranch.com.au
Moama on the Murray
- 69 Dungula Way, Moama
Set a little bit out of town, the resort has made the most of its semi-rural location. The villas are dotted around the resort, some facing the lush landscaped central area, but we were lucky enough to have one overlooking bushland.
Wake up to the sound of kookaburras and the smell of gumtrees and at night enjoy a drink on the deck while watching the sun go down. There are pools, play areas including a water park, barbecues and large lawns.
- 6 Shaw Street, Moama
The result of a bowls club that took the plunge to build a world-standard restaurant in a small town, Junction Moama is pretty distinctive outside, with a giant birdcage over a fire pit.
Even getting to the restaurant is a bit surreal. You walk past bowls club staples: bowling greens, a bistro, pokies and bars, to a luxe restaurant and lounge bar that would hold its own anywhere in the world. And the food is sensational.
It would be hard to ignore paddle boats at Echuca. There are many offerings, but two of the best are the dinner cruise on the MV Mary Ann and the lunch trip on the Pride of the Murray to Morrison’s Winery.
The night cruise watching the riverbank slide by on the Mary Ann is, well, cruisy and the food is damn fine. You can see a bit more of the river during the day on the Pride of the Murray and enjoy lunch at Morrison’s.
- 535 High Street, Echuca: all your breakfast favourites, with a Mediterranean bent.
Johnny and Lyle
- 433 High Street, Echuca: huge servings in a buzzy atmosphere.
Jan Fisher travelled to Echuca Moama as a guest of Murray Regional Tourism and Echuca Moama Regional Tourism.