Driving the River Murray: Mannum to Echuca

Driving East along the River Murray from Mannum, the Enzotraveldog team travel from South Australia to Victoria, to New South Wales and back to Victoria. This is where three states, and the three major rivers of the Murray Darling Basin meet. Brief stopovers in Morgan, Renmark, Wentworth, Robinvale, Swan Hill and Echuca each revealed dog friendly highlights.

Morgan

An unpowered site at Morgan Riverside Caravan Park had us right on the banks of the Murray.  Just a couple of steps away from the campsite, dogs can run free and swim along the riverbank parkland. The views of the river and the car ferry were beautiful, especially in the evening light. Morgan has one main street with some historic buildings and a pub. We didn’t spend time in the town other than our initial drive through; the riverbank was such a good spot!

Murray River at sunset

night view of the car ferry crossing the Murray River

 

Renmark

Arriving in Renmark during a dust storm, we checked into the River Bend Caravan Park, next to the historic Paringa Lift Bridge . The local railway line, including the centre lane of the bridge, has been converted into a walk / cycle path. We spent one night camped on the riverbank watching the water skiing and one night by the lagoon watching ducks; I love ducks.

orange sky of a dust storm
Spooky driving through a dust storm
This 78 foot long vertical lift bridge was opened in 1927 to carry both road and rail.  The railway line is now a foot and cycle path.

ski boats lined up at the Renmark Caravan Park

We walked around town and the cycle path, but the highlight of the stop-over was the local Greek restaurant. Elanis Restaurant at the Mallee Estate Winery was the best Greek meals the folks had eaten since their Greek trip last year. The owner’s dog, Zeus came over for a chat as we all sat on the verandah. Octopus, grilled haloumi, pork and fennel sausage, Greek salad, a Tempranillo for the Silverback and a Riesling for the Sparrow plus some sparkling mineral water. The folks were in foodie heaven. I had some haloumi and octopus, not sure what sort of animals they are but they tasted excellent!

Elani's at Mallee Estate Winery, Renmark

Wentworth

Right at the junction of the major rivers that form the Murray Darling Basin, Wentworth has a long history as a hub for river trade. Of course, with all those sailors and varied river rats in town, the place needed a decent Jail! The Old Wentworth Gaol is now a museum, dogs welcome, there are even exercise yards, how good’s that! It’s a bit of a spooky old place with some very musty old stuff in some of the buildings.

Wentworth Gaol interior
Towers on every corner meant the guards could see the whole yard.
The tree was planted when the jail was turned into a school. Really helps the aesthetics!
The ladies restroom!
The mens cells

Afterwards, we had lunch down by the river at the site of the old wharf. There’s a jetty and parklands where good boys can chase a ball before assisting the folks with their picnic lunch leftovers. Moored on the other side of the river was a lovely old paddle steamer, PS Ruby.

Replica Wentworth wharf with Captain John Egge taking a rest. PS Ruby in the background.

Robinvale

It’s all about the river in these parts. Everyone seems to water-ski, and all the campsites manage to incorporate the word ‘river’ into their names. We stayed at Robinvale Riverside Caravan Park on the Australia Day long weekend. There were people, dogs and ski boats everywhere. That said, we got a large site and the blokes drinking around BBQ’s noise was kept down to a reasonable level.

There was a neat riverbank walk with historic markers and information boards. Once outside the caravan park, being off lead seemed not to be a problem. I had a very cool swim in the river. There were even doggy-do bags, what more could anyone ask for? A little way up the track was the Robinswood Homestead. Open to the public and available for hire, this 1926 Californian Bungalow style house was the home of one of the area’s original pioneer families, Mr and Mrs Cuttle. It’s a great example of a middle class home of the era. The homestead, and hence the town, are named in honour of their son Robin, who died in France in WW1. One of the rooms is dedicated to the French-Australian connection with the town of Villers Bretonneux where Robin was killed. There’s even a Villers Bretonneux – Robinvale Association.

Swan Hill

We stayed at, you guessed it, the Big 4 Riverside Swan Hill, right on the bank of the Murray. It was very cool spot. from the van we could see the PS Pyap go by twice a day. A hundred years ago it was a travelling general store servicing 60 settlements along the Murray. Today it takes tourists on a one hour river cruise. Sitting by the river in the late afternoon and evening was awesome.

We walked the riverside park walk north to the Milloo Street Wetlands Project, where the town processes much of its storm-water through man made ponds and reed beds etc before letting it run into the river. We walked back through the middle of town, so I could add a selfie with the Big Murray Cod to my ‘big things’collection and then continued South to the Pioneer Settlement. This is a collection of historic buildings, vehicles, boats and other artefacts giving an idea of what life was like in Swan Hill a hundred years ago. It is also where the PS Pyap sails from.

Echuca

We really only spent half a day in Echuca, after visiting friends. Moama and Echuca are sister cities on opposite sides of the river. One in Victoria and the other in New South Wales. You get a lot of that along the Murray dating back before Federation when the States were separate colonies and the river could only be crossed by punt. There were even customs officials at the punt sites to collect the various import taxes.

We took the opportunity to walk around the Historic Port Area and adjoining main streets. Echuca was a major transport hub back in the paddle-steamer days. It was the nearest river port to Melbourne and hence the transfer point from paddle steamer to horse and cart for all sorts of farm produce going to Melbourne and city goods going the other way.



Echuca is home to many large and small paddle-steamers and we saw quite a few tied up on the river. It is also a major centre for hiring houseboats for River Murray cruising.

There were lots of Victorian buildings, cafes for the folks to get coffee, many pubs and even a preserved brothel building which must have entertained many sailors and travellers back in the day.

 

Outside one of the cafes there was a dog treat dispensing machine! I’ve never seen one of those before. The folks were so intrigued they took several photos of it, but then forgot to put a dollar in to get me a treat. Honestly, I wish I could talk sometimes!