The twin towns of Albury and Wodonga may be separated by the Murray River and a state border but they share a rich historical heritage and relaxed country atmosphere that naturally draws grey nomads.
With a combined population of around 110,000, the settlements in New South Wales and Victoria were once the focus of a grand plan by the Whitlam government to lure people away from big cities like Sydney and Melbourne. However, the fact that the then prime minister’s dreams of de-centralising Australia and growing the population of Albury-Wodonga to 300,000 never came to fruition will be viewed as a blessing in disguise by many visitors.
Both cities boast wide streets, historic buildings dating back to the 19th century, an abundance of parks … and then, of course, the Murray itself which was once a busy trade route for paddle steamers.
Located on the Hume Highway six hours from Sydney and three hours from Melbourne, Albury-Wodonga is a major regional community with a full range of shops and services, plenty of great caravan parks, and a booming food scene with an abundance of local produce.
It’s also a great place to explore on foot. Albury alone reputedly offers more than 40 kilometres of interlinked trails, while Wodonga boasts more than 80 kilometres of paths. For history enthusiasts, the Albury Heritage Trail – which can either be walked or driven – is highly recommended. It takes visitors past buildings such as the Old Courthouse (1860), Post Office (1875), former Albury Town Hall (1908), the original Crown Lands Office (1860’s), and the huge railway station (1881).
Up until the 1960s, passengers travelling between Sydney and Melbourne had to change here because the Victorian trains and New South Wales trains ran on different rail gauges! Albury-Wodonga is spoilt for parks.
There’s the stunning 10-acre Botanic Gardens, the beautiful Sumsion Gardens with its large lagoon, and the Noreuil Park Foreshore. But that really is just the start. Other popular places to visit include the vast Hume Dam, Saint Matthews Church, the Albury Pioneer Cemetery, the Catholic Precinct, the war memorial on Monument Hill, the historic Turks Head Hotel, and the Hovell Tree. This tree was marked by explorer, Captain William Hovell, in 1824 and is the first evidence of the presence of whites in Albury.
Grey nomads staying in Albury-Wodonga may also be tempted to take a trip of 25 kilometres or so along the Murray Valley Highway to Rutherglen, which is famed for its wines. And, 12 kilometres north-east of Albury, is the fabled ‘wonky’ Ettamogah Pub, built to resemble the fictional hostelry depicted in the cartoons of Ken Maynard.
When you also throw an abundance of festivals and great fishing into the mix, it’s pretty clear why Albury-Wondonga is the complete grey nomad package.
Maybe Gough Whitlam had the right idea, after all. Why don’t more people live here?