The silence along the mighty Murray River was shattered by the shrill whistle of The Canberra, as it approached the old wharf at Echuca. It is one of a few of the original 35 paddle steamers &70 barges that called this town their homeport, that are still operational. These were used to carry passengers and cargo to this inland port, some 214 klms north of Melbourne. On the return journey the boats would be full of the most valuable cargo, Australian Merino Wool that is one of the best in the world. The river was the lifeline to this vast inland area & played a major part in opening up our outback.
Now adays it carries tourists a short distance along the river on a cruise so that they may get a glimpse on what it was like to travel along this incredible river that rises in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales & exits in South Australia, with tributaries from the Darling River through to Queensland.
The town of Echuca was also the site of the first rail head meeting the river in 1864.
Wandering around the township it is easy to image what life was like in the 1880s with all its incredible historical houses and the port precinct that has been restored its formal heyday, some 141 years ago.
Interesting that this area was being let to deteriorate for many decades until the revitalisation which has turned this relic of the past to be one of the leading tourist destinations along the Murry.
We decided to indulge in a river cruise that mesmerised our senses, watching the beautiful trees on the shore glide past. The churning of the paddle through the water was hypnotic as was the sound or footsteps on the wooden deck. All this helped to transport us back to a time when things were much simpler.
Once the trip finished, we purchased some incredible pies from Beechworth Bakeries and ate them, while we sat on the banks of this mighty river watching the paddle steamers move by.
The country was experiencing one of the worst droughts in a long time when we were there and although the water level was considerably down, we could not help but marvel at the beauty & serenity of this incredible area.
This fluctuation in water levels has been allowed for in the construction of the original wharf & was designed to allow for a variation of 10 meters, in the rise & fall of the water.
The town was featured in the TV series All the Rivers Run, with Sigrid Thornton and John Waters. It was about a riverboat captain and her lover in circa-1900 Australia.
If you would like to find out more about the town then we suggest that you visit these sites for more information:
A great video on travelling the Murry via Steam Paddle boat can be found here: