Paddle steamers, food, and lots of walking

Recently we had a quick trip to Echuca.

It’s the end of the V/Line service, and the $10 fares are a bargain for that distance, but the trip included planned diversions to visit relative in Heathcote on the way up, and Shepparton on the way back, as well as a planned visit to Barooga (ultimately cancelled) – so the trip was done by car.

(It is possible to do Heathcote to Echuca, and Echuca to Shepparton by V/Line coach, but only once or twice a day, so you’d need to plan your trip exceptionally carefully. And actually stopping for lunch, as we did in Heathcote, would be pretty much impossible.)

Steam power at Echuca

Echuca itself is very walkable, and would be a great place to visit car-free. There are a number of accommodation options hotel close to both the historic Port and the railway station. From where we stayed, everything in the town was within walking distance – and we did a lot of walking.

And eating. Within 5 minutes walk of the hotel we found were numerous restaurants, bakeries, cafes and pubs, and an ice cream shop that never seemed to close.

One of the pubs, the Shamrock, offers 101 different varieties of chicken parma, some of which sound good, and some of which I’m betting they don’t see a lot of orders for. I ended up sampling the classic variety, which was excellent.

Echuca Paddle Steamer Alexander Arbuthnot at dusk

At the Port of Echuca you’ll find a free museum, umm I mean Discovery Centre, with plenty to see. There are also (paid) stagecoach rides, and of course the paddle steamers.

We rode the PS Canberra on the Saturday night, an extended dusk tour up and down the Murray along with the PS Alexander Arbuthnot (celebrating both their birthdays), including whatever the paddle steamer equivalent of a parallel run (for trains) is called.

Heaps of fun, highly recommended.

I learnt one curiosity: the New South Wales/Victorian border is the high water mark on the Victorian side of the river. This is so NSW has jurisdiction on the river itself.

The old iron bridge used to be partly for road traffic and partly for rail. Rail got moved onto another bridge some decades ago, and an additional road bridge opened recently – but the original bridge is still in use for road vehicles.

On the Sunday we did a lot more walking; the Scenic Trail walk to the confluence of the Campaspe and Murray rivers, which is reasonably well signed and easy to find, and a walk around the Banyule State Forest, which isn’t.

In fact I’m not quite sure we ended up in the right place – we ended up on a track that was shared with cars (kudos to those drivers who slowed down to prevent too much dust) but using maps we got onto less-travelled tracks for some of the walk.

Along both walks you could clearly see how high the recent floodwaters had got. Some were explicitly marked, and were well over my head.

Flood water mark, Echuca

We ended up on the Murray river at a spot called Chinamans Bend – at least that’s how it’s marked on the paper tourist map. I couldn’t find a reference to it on the online maps – I’m betting that name has fallen out of favour.

On Monday we headed back via Shepparton to Melbourne, with a stop off or two along the way.

A great long weekend getaway. Recommended.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

2 replies on “Echuca”

Now wouldn’t it be fantastic if the 10 years old 90km/h speed restrictions were lifted between Bendigo and Echuca and ramp up to 130km/h which is what they are supposed to be.
Not forgetting the long walk or taxi ride from Echuca station to the tourist precinct at the Port of Echuca which, surprise surprise actually has a rail line and platform right on the wharf!
Imagine the enjoyment of arriving by V’Locity right in the middle of the tourist precinct. All that has to be done is to re-weld the line that was severed around 15 years ago in a fit of pique by Pacific National.
Speed up the train by also removing some of the smaller stations like Clarkefield, Malmsbury and Kangaroo Flat and V/Line would really be on to a winner… and so would Echuca.

@Mike, this announced a few days ago (complete with typo):

These time savings have been made possible with upgrades to a 60-kilomete section of track between Goornong and Echuca, allowing trains to travel at up to 100 kilometres an hour between Goornong and Echuca.

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