Murray River - Echuca
Author: Natasha Zosko
Winter by the Murray – not so bad!
WE ARE HERE
Camping by the Murray in winter was not on the travel calendar this year, but COVID-19 has forced Victorians to think local as most interstate borders are closed to us.
After several months of lockdown, we needed a break in our van, the Rhapsody T4, so opted for northern Victoria after checking the long term forecast for a spell of dry weather.
Having fond memories of previous camping holidays on the Murray, we headed for Echuca for a week of bush camping with the dogs – Tigger and Harvey.
It did not take us long to find a suitable spot in the Echuca Regional Park at Christie’s Beach – a very private bush site with great views of the Murray yet only 15 minutes’ drive from the centre of town.
The water level was quite low, with many fallen trees in the river and root systems exposed, but not enough to prevent boating activity.
Our nearest neighbours were 150 metres away, social distancing on steroids.
Echuca has a lot to offer visitors, not the least of which is the fabulous collection of paddle steamers from the bygone era of river trading in the 1800s. Many boats have been fully restored and offer daily cruises.
Founded in 1853, Echuca became the largest inland port in Australia, second only to the Port of Melbourne. With a literal meaning ‘meeting the waters’, Echuca sits on the junction of the Murray and Campaspe rivers just downstream of the Goulburn River.
If you have not been here before, make the Echuca Moama Visitor Information Centre one of your first stops to learn about what to see and do in the region or check out their website: www.echucamoama.com.
As this was our second visit, our focus was more on the bush than the town, although we could not resist heading to the port to check out the paddle steamers.
There is something very special about camping alongside such an iconic waterway among the majestic river red gums which line the Murray for most of its length.
These gums are unique to the Australian bush and survive our extreme climate by propagating when floodwaters run high and dropping limbs during drought to conserve water. The Murray’s river red gums are particularly prone to dropping large branches at any time, so be careful where you pitch your tent or park your van!
The trees’ broken branches and hollows also provide valuable nesting hollows for birds.
Echuca is on the Murray River Bird Trail and we were not disappointed by the variety of birdlife we saw during our short visit, ranging from water birds including ducks and swans to galahs, cockatoos, cockatiels, various parrots and kookaburras.
We were very well prepared for cold mornings and evenings, and brought our Oz Pig which not only provided warmth and a great ambience, but also an additional cooking utensil. It is essential to bring your own firewood as collecting wood is not permitted.
On our last morning when the temperature had dropped to 1 degree, the van’s excellent gas heating kept us from becoming frozen moments. The dogs would not leave the van!
There are no facilities other than two bush toilets at Christie’s Beach, so it was great having the ensuite and the ability to have a hot shower. We used the family tent/no fly zone as an additional storage area at night to keep chairs and dog beds dry.
We would recommend Christie’s Beach as a place to camp in the low season – plenty of sites, close to town yet far enough away to give you a bush experience. There are lots of birds, good walking tracks and best of all, a front row seat to this mighty river.
Until our next update - see you around the Tracks!
Natasha and Bronwyn