Barmah attracts grey nomads in caravans

While its headline act neighbour, Echuca, may get most of the general tourism attention, the small Murray River town of Barmah is quietly earning itself a big reputation among savvy grey nomad travellers.

The Victorian community, with a population of just 300 or so, is notable for the fact that it actually lies north of the border of New South Wales … and that it sits on the doorstep of the largest redgum forest in the world.

Settled in 1856, the town originally supplied fish to the gold mining town of Bendigo before a couple of sawmills opened up and the community prospered. The post office and the Catholic church were built in the late 1870s, as was the Barmah East Wine Palace, currently known as Moira Lakes Wine Palace. Now, of course, it’s fishing, bushwalking, camping and sightseeing that’s put the town – located about 230 kilometres north of Melbourne and 30 kilometres north-east of Echuca – on the Big Lap map.

Barmah National Park, together with the adjoining Millewa forest in New South Wales, forms the largest River Red Gum forest in the world. It is home to trees over 500 years old and up to 30 metres high. The complex ecology of the forest is closely linked to the Murray River and its flooding regime, creating a diverse natural habitat for a variety of wildlife, particularly waterbirds.

The Barmah – Millewa forest is an internationally recognised wetland under the Ramsar convention and represents all four freshwater wetland types in Victoria. It is home to 220 species of birds, 35 species of mammals, 28 species of fish, 20 species of reptiles, 10 species of amphibians, and an unconfirmed number of invertebrates.

While there are several good caravan parks in the Barmah area, there is also no shortage of camping opportunities along the 112 kilometre frontage to the Murray River. Campers are urged to be extremely wary of camping underneath trees as River Red Gums drop branches without warning.

The Barmah Lakes camping area has toilets, fireplaces and tables. Dispersed camping is permitted elsewhere along the river, with basic facilities at Ulupna Island. The sandy river beaches make for great swimming spots, and anglers may also enjoy trying to land a Murray Cod and Golden Perch, either from the bank or a boat.

There are also some superb walks to take, including the 1.5km Yamyabuc Discovery Trail, the 4km Lakes Loop Track, and the 3.5km Broken Creek Loop Track. A great way to get to grips with the complexities of the habitat is to take the two-hour Kingfisher Cruise through the wetlands, which takes in the local lakes and winding creeks. Similarly, the Barmah Forest Heritage & Education Centre in Nathalia offers a fascinating overview of the regions and tells stories from Aboriginal occupation to pioneering cattlemen and timber workers.

This is what travelling, and ‘discovering’ Australia is all about.


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