- The Murray is the third longest navigable river in the world, after the Amazon and Nile.
- The entire river is 2756 kilometres in length and it spans three states - Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia.
- Along with its tributaries, the Murray is part of the third largest water catchment on earth.
- For half a century from 1853, the Murray was a virtual water highway.
To look at the map, it almost seems as if the Murray River flows uphill in places! Rising in the Australian Alps you might think it would simply flow down to the Victorian coast, but it flows east between Victoria and New South Wales to South Australia and the coast.
Rather poetically, the Murray flows from above Corryong to Coorong, the Aboriginal words for bandicoot and narrow neck respectively, and what pleasure it would be to have time to follow the entire river, all 2,756 kilometres of it. You might travel by water on the continuously navigable section from Yarrawonga to Goolwa or by road, criss-crossing to discover delightful towns and natural wonders as you go.
Where does it begin? That’s the stuff of legend and the Australia Alps’ High Country has plenty of that. Today the Corryong area hosts the Man From Snowy River Festival, a bush gathering of mountain riders, poets and musicians who come to celebrate the spirit of AB Banjo Paterson's poem, The Man from Snowy River.
Adventures in the mountains here include horse riding, rock climbing and white water rafting at the Murray Gates section of the Upper Murray, offering level five rapids to tackle with adventure operators.
Lakes and wetlands
The river flows down from the heights to Lake Hume and you can drive the Murray River Road or fast track through pretty valley country along the Murray Valley Highway. Either way, you arrive at Albury Wodonga, the twin towns on either side of the river which marks the border between Victoria and New South Wales.
Lake Hume is a local holiday destination with sailing, jet and water-skiing, windsurfing, canoeing and fishing. From Albury Wodonga you can explore the Rutherglen wine region and some of the towns of New South Wales such as Howlong and Corowa.
Next stop, Yarrawonga and Mulwala at the head of Lake Mulwala, an aquatic playground and place for bird and wildlife– look for the beautiful white ghost gums at the eastern end. Take time out at Tocumwal to follow the Farm Gate Trail for almonds, honey, cheese, strawberries, vineyards, breweries, buffalo products, country pubs and lovely gardens.
Further on, the wetlands of the Barmah State Park and State Forests protect the largest Red River Gum Forest in Victoria – the mighty red trees which love water and grow along the riverbanks. The Yorta Yorta Aboriginal people have a long association with the forest and there are walks and interpretive signage.
This historic inland river steam port has a temperate climate, vineyards, golf courses, a slow food culture and is home to a large fleet of paddle steamers and houseboats. Take a tour and stay on steamer – The Hero moored neared the Steampacket Hotel has three bedrooms on board.
The Port of Echuca is a tour to look behind the scenes at the traditions of the shipwrights and riverboat captains and even a peek at an illegal bar with a secret tunnel, dating from prohibition in the late 1800s. Murray River Paddlesteamers operate a fleet of paddleboats for short day cruise, lunch or dinner in the evening aboard or overnight cruises.
Visit the National Holden Museum and follow the Echuca Moama Food and Wine Trail or a chauffeur-driven guided tour to some local wineries. Dine at Oscar W’s, Ceres Restaurant and check Pericoota Vines retreat for luxury self-contained accommodation in Moama.
Also an important river port in the 1850s, Swan Hill is bounded by vineyards and vast citrus farms. The bridge over the Murray into New South Wales has a central span which can be raised to allow paddle steamers to pass through.
If you play golf, call in at the Murray Downs Resort and Golf Club and Spoons Riverside which is Swan Hill’s only river café/restaurant located between paddle steamer P.S. Gem and Swan Hill’s Art Gallery. The gallery features Australian art of the region you can learn more about local life at the Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement.
There are vineyards to visit such as Andrew Peace Wines and Buller Wines and Sonre Tourist Farm, growers of almonds, pistachios and olives, have added La Mangia Café for coffee and more after their farm tours which begin at 11.00am.
Many a road traveller has been glad to reach this oasis by the river but it also makes a great destination in its own right. The climate is similar to the Mediterranean and no one has done more to put Mildura’s produce on the map than chef Stefano de Pieri.
Stefano was born in Northern Italy and uses local produce to create his own regional style on a five- course set daily menu. As well as the restaurant there’s a Café Bakery and Cellar Door and Bar selling Stefano’s wines and Mildura brewery beers.
Pink salt? You aren’t seeing things, SunSalt’s Gourmet Pink Salt Flakes from the region, taking their colour from mineralized brines. Sunraysia Farmers Market at the Australian Inland Botanic Gardens on the first and third Saturdays of the month are a chance to chat to the producers in the area and take a Discover Mildura tour to see behind the scenes.
With wining and dining, cruises on the Murray River and galleries and arts centres to visit you might be forgiven for not going the distance to Mungo National Park in New South Wales. But this incredible place is an experience of a lifetime, best explored with guides such as Harry Nanya Tours based in Wentworth or Sunraysia Discovery Tours.
Mungo is famous for its dry lake where Aboriginal remains and artefacts have been dated back 50,000 years or more. The Walls of China sand dunes are a remarkable spectacle.
Into South Australia
Across the border the mighty Murray River towns include Renmark, Loxton, Swan Reach, Mannum and Murray Bridge.
Big Bend is the name given to the area around Swan Reach is where the towering cliffs are the tallest on the Murray and believed to be up to 20 million years old.
Discover the river aboard the majestic PS Murray River Princess on historic or nature-based adventures or check out the glamorous River Dream Boatel, a five-star rated houseboat with panoramic windows. You could also hire a houseboat take a nature tour, wine tour or even an Outback pub-crawl with Big Bend.
Ecotourism attractions include the Banrock Station Wine and Wetland Centre and Birds Australia Gluepot Reserve, a birdwatchers paradise, 60 kilometres north of Waikerie, is renowned for its prolific birdlife, walking trails and great bush camping.
The tranquil Coorong is where the Murray meets the ocean at Murray Mouth. One of Australia’s most beautiful national parks, this is the home of the Ngarrindjeri people. This long lagoon runs beside the sand dunes for 200 kilometres between Encounter Bay and Lapicede Bay and the Murray River expects to arrive at the open sea between them, depending on water levels.
The Princess Highway follows the Coorong making it easy to access scenic walks. As well as the river mouth, wetland ecosystem features ocean beach, freshwater lakes, estuaries and lagoons and is a natural sanctuary for birdlife.
Written by Alison Plummer on behalf of Tourism Australia. This article is copyright free and may be reproduced.