Lifestyle

Travellers encouraged to visit fire-affected Upper Murray

By Tara Whitsed

While many travellers might be dreaming of tropical Bali for this year’s holiday destination, people are being encouraged to instead explore this beautiful country we live in.

After fires ripped through many parts of NSW and Victoria over the summer holidays, businesses have suffered, losing the bulk of their annual tourism income.

Last month, the Victoria Tourism Industry Council urged all Victorians to support regional tourism operators as they face a ‘double whammy’ hit to their businesses — first the bushfires and now a two-month ban on Chinese tour groups visiting Australia because of the coronavirus.

Victoria Tourism Industry Council chief executive Felicia Mariani said regional businesses in fire-affected areas reported they would be forced to close their doors if visitation did not increase in the next month or two.

“Tourism operators are telling us that while more marketing spend is very welcome, the benefits of this will likely not be realised until the Labor Day long weekend or Easter break,” she said.

“What they need are visitors travelling to them right now and spending in the region to support their operations.

“What these operators really need — and want — is visitors coming back to their towns and communities.”

This reality became very clear on my recent travels to my hometown of Tintaldra, which narrowly escaped the blaze that engulfed the Upper Murray from late December to early January.

Currently, as far as the eye can see, there is scorched land — but in just a few short weeks the beautiful landscape has already started to regenerate.

The Upper Murray is a truly breathtaking area.

Growing up, every winter morning (if we weren’t blanketed in fog), I gazed up at the snow-capped Kosciuszko National Park as I took the bus from Tintaldra to Corryong to go to school.

At her best, the Upper Murray looks like a green city of hills and mountains with valleys carving their way throughout.

The 360-degree views of the place are truly unlike any other, with the Upper Murray straddling the Victorian and NSW border.

From Mt Mittamatite to Burrowa-Pine Mountain National Park, there is striking scenery surrounding the communities.

It will not take long for the Upper Murray’s beauty to be restored, however, and the community needs your tourism now more than ever.

Here is my guide to the Upper Murray — somewhere you should consider taking your next getaway.

THINGS TO DO

Fishing

With some of the best waterholes in the state, the Upper Murray has typically been a dream destination for anglers.

After the bushfires, however, heavy rainfall resulted in many fish deaths throughout local waterways. While the fishing opportunities may have decreased, it is incredibly important to support the area.

Local anglers are working hard to restock waterways to restore the incredible population of fish. They are the same people who might be able to give you a few tips regarding the best spots to take to the water.

Cycling

There are many places to take out the bike throughout the Upper Murray. The area is home to the highest sections of the High Country Rail Trail.

The trail hugs the shoreline of Lake Hume from Wodonga to Old Tallangatta and then continues on the Cudgewa line to Corryong.

The original railway line was built in 1887 and was used to transport material for the Snowy Mountain Scheme, according to the Upper Murray Tourism website, with the last train heading out on the track in 1978.

The scenic High Country Rail Trail takes in magnificent lake and mountain views, with railway and immigration history available along the way via interpretive signage.

From Old Tallangatta to Corryong the trail is 74 km and takes in pine plantations, state forest and mountain views.

And this is just the beginning of cycling options in the Upper Murray, with many more trails including Nariel Gap, the Tooma Road Ride, the Towong Loop and more.

Camping

It does not take long to find a picturesque spot to camp in the Upper Murray.

Whether it is in the contained caravan parks throughout the region or along the riverbank in a National Park Reserve, there are plenty of camping options.

Two camping spots not to be missed are along the Murray River between Tintaldra and Walwa, on Murray River Rd.

Clarke Lagoon Wildlife Reserve is at the base of Pine Mountain and provides private camping spots with the sound of the river bubbling behind.

The reserve is filled with ample spots with easy river access, meaning it is a great place to finish-up a canoe trip from the bridge at Tintaldra (a great launching spot).

If bushwalking is more your thing, perhaps Neils Bend Murray River Reserve is for you — also located between Tintaldra and Walwa.

Adjacent to the Burrowa-Pine Mountain National Park, the reserve is a perfect base for those wanting to enjoy some of the beautiful bushwalks on offer. Boat ramps and river access points within the reserve also make this the perfect spot to launch your fishing boat.

Water sports

Whether you prefer kayaking, paddle-boarding, canoeing, waterskiing, wake-boarding or the good-old biscuit, there are waterways suitable for all recreational activities.

Khancoban Dam is a fantastic spot to take the speed boat out for those more adrenaline-pumping activities. Although it is equally as fantastic to sit atop the dam in a kayak.

Alternatively, the Murray River offers many places to float from location to location.

As mentioned above, a fantastic and easy float can be done from Tintaldra bridge to Clarke Lagoon Wildlife Reserve.

Canoes can be hired from the Tintaldra Caravan Park so there is no excuse not to jump in the river. The float usually takes around an hour and only has a couple of tricky areas.

Man From Snowy River Festival, April 2 to 5

With event organisers recently announcing that 100 per cent of this year’s profits would go to bushfire recovery, there has never been a better reason to attend the Man From Snowy River Festival.

Held across the Corryong district over four days, the event is jam-packed with all things stockman — from the horseback ‘challenge’ to bush poetry and more, there’s something for everyone.

The event has grown in leaps and bounds since its inception and attracts visitors from all across Australia.

Corryong turns into a bustling country town during the event and it is a truly unique way of experiencing what the Upper Murray has to offer.

More information at: www.bushfestival.com.au

Towong Races, March 7

With a striking historical grandstand overlooking the Towong Racecourse, this event is as much about the views as it is about the racing.

The beautiful old girl was saved during the bushfires so there is even more reason to be in her presence.

With gates opening at 11am, there will be Fashions on the Field hosted by former Corryong girl and radio host Riley Rose Harper.

The event will also feature live music, jumping castles and face-painting for the kids, along with a great seven-race program.

Buses will be run from Albury/Wodonga, Walwa, Jingellic, Tintaldra, Khancoban, Colac Colac, Corryong and district so there is no excuse to miss this one!

More information at: country.racing.com

THINGS TO SEE

Cudgewa Bluff Falls

Cudgewa Bluff Falls are located 18km from both Cudgewa and Tintaldra, in the Burrowa-Pine Mountain National Park.

This spectacular set of waterfalls provides visitors with an opportunity to see water cascade off the park plateau, over the Cudgewa Bluff and into a tranquil grotto below. The falls are not always flowing, however, so be sure to check with the Corryong Visitor Information Centre beforehand.

The area offers two camping areas with picnic facilities and toilets. There is a picnic area at the start of the Bluff Creek Nature Trail, and from here it is a 45-minute walk through serene bushland to reach the base of the falls.

If you would prefer not to walk so far, there is the option of driving to the upper car park area of the falls, which is 2.5km past the Bluff Creek area, past the Blue Gums camping area and you will cross a creek before reaching the small car park, located about 200m from the falls.

Man From Snowy River Museum

Located in Corryong’s main street, it is easy to see the interesting array of displays at the Man From Snow River Museum from the street.

Little buildings are nestled throughout the block including a school, police station and gaol.

The museum was a result of pioneering families of the 1960s who had a vision to preserve the early history of their local area.

Today the commitment of the community to carry on this mission is apparent in the quality of the museum and the volunteers who give their time to run it.

The museum has a varied and extensive collection and includes nationally significant items plus research facilities for local and family history.

The museum includes a Jack Riley exhibition, pioneer portraits and research files, a music collection, a nationally significant ski collection, Jim Simpson’s prisoner-of-war knitted rug, the Corryong Hospital Collection, horse-drawn equipment and much more.

For more information, visit: manfromsnowyrivermuseum.com.au

The Great River Road

A recent initiative of the Upper Murray 2030 Vision Plan, the Great River Road highlights the stretch between Burrowye and Tintaldra and the area near Lake Hume.

Many winding parts of the road unfold to reveal views unique to this section of the Murray River.

The road offers the best touring experience of the Murray River, with views of mountains and valleys and the spectacular Snowy Mountains as the backdrop. The road links a number of smaller villages such as Walwa, Jingellic, and Tintaldra which make for pleasant stopovers.

Along the drive there are five locations with public artworks, some of which are interactive.

The amazing sculptures along the way include a giant Murray cod on top of the old Tintaldra bridge.

For more information visit: www.visituppermurray.com.au

THINGS TO EAT & DRINK

Tintaldra Pub

Recently taken over by new owners, this historic pub will celebrate its 150th birthday this year.

The hotel has arguably one of the best views in the Upper Murray, with punters able to gaze across the Murray River from its front balcony.

Operating seven-days-a-week, the pub does an array of tasty meals from pizzas to a good-old parma.

If you are lucky, you might catch one of the Tintaldra Hotel’s seafood nights with produce brought directly from the Sapphire Coast in NSW.

Enjoy tasty oysters and mussels on special nights at the historic hotel and check out the renovations if you haven’t been through the township since 2015.

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/tintaldrahotel

Tintaldra Store & Tearooms

Take a step back in time at the Tintaldra Store & Tearooms. Also 150 years old, the historic store is owned and operated by character Betty Walton and her family. The 92-year-old bush poet knows all there is to know about the township and will definitely engage in a lengthy yarn with customers.

Enjoy Devonshire tea inside the historic store, complete with museum and pianola, or take a tour of the old bakehouse behind the store.

Book a lunch for your bus tour and Betty and her team will delight with homemade jumbuck stew and damper, served on enamel cookware.

Or simply enjoy the views from the store’s outdoor gazebo overlooking the mighty Murray River.

Betty also offers bed and breakfast accommodation next door.

For more information, visit: www.tintaldrastore.com.au

Jardine Lodge

Recently taken over by new owners, this accommodation sits in the heart of Corryong.

The business is also offering a local ‘Wine and Dine’ package, which enables guests to support seven local businesses in the one hit.

Valued at $400, the deal includes one night’s accommodation in Jardine Lodge’s spa room, a one-hour massage with Kristie Shiels Mobile Massage, a dinner voucher for Riley’s Restaurant, a lunch voucher at Upper Murray Pizza and Cinema, a breakfast voucher for Café Corryong Brew, a snack voucher for Corryong Greengrocers and a shopping voucher for homewares store A Little Thyme.

For more information, visit: www.facebook.com/jardinelodge

Black Sheep Cafe and Cafe Corryong Brew

These cafes are the perfect stop for breakfast or lunch.

Offering fantastic food and coffee, the Black Sheep is situated near the end of Corryong’s shopping strip while Café Corryong Brew is right at the other end.

Both menus provide an array of fresh and local produce.

Sit on Café Corryong Brew’s front balcony where you will get the perfect view of Mt Mittamatite and the township as you watch Corryong life go by.

For more information, visit: facebook.com/cafecorryongbrew or instagram.com/blacksheepcorryong/