We have made our way to Swan Hill in country Victoria, the Mallee region to be more precise. It is quite picturesque here beside the mighty, gum-lined Murray River. The wide brown river sweeps through the edge of town and forms the border between Victoria and New South Wales. The bridge that joins the two states was apparently once guarded, in another time, when disease struck Swan Hill and New South Wales could not risk having illness cross the border. Today the greatest risk seems to be the dreaded fruit fly, which I am sure is no laughing matter to those in the know.
The mornings here are cold and frosty but the sun has made the kindest of efforts and graced us with her presence, for warmth, glowy photos and orange hued horizons at days end. The five of us are here for three nights, all tucked up together in a small cabin. We are forced to share the same small spaces, to hear nights breath, and to awake eye to eye in the morning. Our days are spent in shared activity and so although I glimpse an Art Gallery, I will not be tempted to visit this time. Instead here are my picks for three family friendly activities in Swan Hill.
1. Pioneer Settlement. The historic village on the edge of the Murray has more than 50 restored buildings plus historic equipment, machinery and household items on display. Step back in time with vintage car rides, spinning demonstration, rope making classes or a lesson in butter churning. The highlight for me is the opportunity to have a cruise along the Murray River aboard the Paddle Steamer Pyap. I love me a boat cruise and will never say no, but seeing the Murray from the water is evocative, scenic and good fun. Open daily 9.30am to 4pm.
2. Lunch at Spoons Riverside Cafe.
Spoons Riverside is a sweet little cafe on the banks of the Murray River replete with sweeping deck and gorgeous gift shop. The food is delicious and my whole crew were happy to sit and eat on the enclosed deck today. If you find that your children will not sit still for long enough then grab a coffee and cookie (and some gorgeous earrings from the gift shop) and hit the deck. The deck that leads to the walking track that is. A path weaves along the riverbank from the cafe all the way into town. There are multiple playgrounds along the way as well as beautiful gardens, unique wildlife spotting and even an outdoor gym.
3. Pental Island.
Take the turn off to Pental Island as you first come into Swan Hill. Pental Island is bordered by the Murray River in the North and the Little Murray River in the South. If you are feeling adventurous (and maybe even if you are not), cross that teeny tiny bridge over the Little Murray, drive straight on and then pull into the Pental Island Holiday Park. Bring your tent (you can do this!) or stay in one of the simple cabins. 3 km of sweeping river frontage, a spot of fishing, grand old river gums standing sentinel. Maybe a camp fire. The kids will roam organically and you probably will want to join in. If you are a coward, as I am, there are other options. A couple of holiday house type options on the island, or you could just stay in nearby Swan Hill. The important bits are; peace, running river, tall & proud gum trees, adventure, timelessness, roaming free.
Swan Hill was a long drive for us from Melbourne, but it was worth the trek. It is in these times that memories are made, family ties are strengthened and we are reminded how much fun we can have, just us, together.
One last tip for adventure. We went for a lovely river front drive near Nyah and crossed over into NSW. To get back over the border we used the Speewa cable Ferry. It was free and fun. Try it!
Would you be brave enough to try tenting on the Murray? Does staring at rivers do good things for your soul? Visit me at Facebook and let me know what you think.