During the past four years, my wife Meredyth and I have been part of a large contingent of tennis fanatics — comprising family and friends — that descend upon Shepparton for its annual grass court tournament.
We hold court (so to speak) at the pristine Victoria Lake Holiday Park overlooking the picturesque Goulburn River which is Victoria’s largest inland river. And I must say it’s always such a hospitable environment camping and glamping among the towering river red gums.
So it’s not difficult to fathom that tennis and camping — and partying — are my favourite leisure pursuits.
It was tough battling it out on those finely manicured grass courts, ‘but the nightlife (at the Aussie Hotel) nearly drove me round the bend’. (Cold Chisel’s Khe Sanh is still reverberating in my head.) Yes, I played harder off the court than on it!
So I could have done with a more desirable form of R&R… And what better way than ‘jumping the net’ and adopting a touristy tack to enjoy Greater Shepparton’s ‘Many Great Things’ — a diversity of attractions, arts, cultures and events.
And, on a tennis lay day, that’s exactly what Meredyth and I did!
A visual feast
Murals and silo art are in abundance in the region and we visited Aboriginal Street Art in Shepparton’s CBD which pays homage to Indigenous history and culture. Renowned artist Matt Adnate’s works in Fryers St depict the late William Cooper, a local Indigenous leader, and the late Pastor, Sir Douglas Nicholls who was the first Aboriginal Australian to be knighted and served as Governor of South Australia. Cam Scales’ mural in Welsford St commends all local Aboriginal people who represented Australia in war and pictures Private Daniel Cooper, a Yorta Yorta man who was killed in action during World War 1.
Meanwhile, Rochester’s two silos were painted by artist Jimmy DVate in July 2018 and feature a squirrel glider and an azure kingfisher, along with a scene of the Campaspe river which runs through Rochester. And at the Campbell’s Soup factory in Lemnos, a giant soup can towers over the facility.
Mooroopna’s water tower comes to life each night with colourful light projections. And in Tatura, glass mosaic murals depict the history, development and future of the township, emphasising the importance of the sun, earth and water. There is also silo art in Tungamah, St James, Devenish and Goorambat.
We also came across Moooving Art in Dookie, and at Monash Park which hosts the largest ‘herd’ collection of Greater Shepparton’s Moooving Art — an ever-changing public art exhibition using a unique 3D canvas: life-sized cows! Scattered throughout the region in parks, gardens, public spaces and businesses, there are more than 90 colourful fibreglass pieces, each one individual and distinctive.
Food for thought
Dubbed the “Food Bowl of Australia”, Greater Shepparton — encompassing Mooroopna, Murchison, Tatura, Dookie, Toolamba, Tallygaroopna and Katandra - is also home to a veritable stockpile of fresh produce including stone fruit, apples, cherries, pears, strawberries, olives, grapes, tomatoes and meat and dairy products.
In fact, Shepparton itself is the heartbeat of an extensive fruit growing region and is one of the largest canned fruit producers in Australia. SPC and Ardmona fruits are both canned here. The area is also a large dairy producer, providing milk and other delicious dairy products to the Goulburn Valley and beyond.
Unfolding of history
Greater Shepparton has a rich and diverse Aboriginal history. We also took a walk along 'The Flats' between Shepparton and Mooroopna where interpretive signage reveals the history of the local Yorta Yorta people.
It also has an amazing depth of history, full of intrigue, bravery, survival and charm.
Heritage Centres located in Shepparton, Mooroopna, Murchison, Tatura and Merrigum are filled with priceless gems, from the history of WWII internment scattered throughout the Murchison and Tatura regions, to the history of irrigation, farming and medical procedures of the past.
In fact, Tatura was home of the Victoria Cross recipient Private Robert Mactier and the memorial gardens honouring him. Private Mactier won the sole Victoria Cross for his battalion but made the ultimate sacrifice on September 1, 1918 at Mont St Quentin, France.
Not only does Tatura have a depth of history from WWI but a museum filled with artefacts pertinent to WWII and the internment camps that housed German and Italian internees throughout the area.
Something for everyone
On a lighter subject, Greater Shepparton is also a family friendly destination, highlighted by KidsTown — Australia’s largest adventure playground. KidsTown offers an adventure for all, from giant slides, to fruit bin mazes and accessible play equipment.
But if that doesn’t tickle their fancy, the ‘tin lids’ can drop into Fun Planet where rock climbing and go karting are just some of the adrenaline-pumping activities on offer.
Or, they can bring their swimmers and head to Aquamoves which has fully equipped indoor and outdoor pools, a water slide and splash park.
Water sports are popular and Victoria Park Lake, Waranga Basin and the rivers provide excellent opportunities for fishing and recreational sports. You can even boat or canoe on Victoria Park Lake, as well as the Goulburn and Broken rivers.
There are a dozen wineries within an hour drive of Shepparton. Meredyth is a wine connoisseur, so a trip out to Tallis Wine Cellar Door in Dookie to sample some of its finest was a must-do for my dear epicurean.
And there are also many museums and historic buildings to explore. For instance, the Shepparton Heritage Museum located on the site of the historic river crossing of McGuires Punt over the Goulburn.
As a self-confessed revhead, I just had to get my vintage car fix at the Shepparton Motor Museum.
Incorporating the historical Furphy Museum, it displays up to 100 classic, heritage and muscle cars generously loaned or donated as well as motorcycles, vintage bicycles and car collectables.
There are a myriad of historic monuments throughout the region including the Furphy statue in Shepparton. Joseph Furphy worked at the Furphy Foundry but was also an author who wrote under the pen name of Tom Collins and wrote such classics as Such Is Life.
Greater Shepparton is a multicultural melting pot when it comes to festivals. Festivals including the Shepparton Festival, Converge on the Goulburn Festival, St Georges Road Food Festival, Fryers Street Food Festival, and Goulburn Vibes allow patrons to delve deep into the tastes and cultures of varied and vibrant communities.
Meanwhile, the Australian Botanic Gardens is testimony of how an old refuse site can be rejuvenated to become an iconic attraction, Laden with native vegetation and a natural lagoon, it is popular amongst bird watchers as well as local exercise enthusiasts.
The region is also renowned for its rail trails, and shared path networks where walkers and cyclists interact in harmony. And it’s also home to the Lower Goulburn National Park and the Shepparton Regional Park, where you can also discover the story of the Yorta Yorta people.
Euroa, in the Shire of Strathbogie, is only 50 minutes away. And that’s where we found time for a sumptuous lunch (which has become a yearly ritual) at Seven Creeks Hotel. And ever the military buff, I also stopped off at the VC War Memorial just down the road.
Footnote: After gallivanting around Greater Shepparton, I’ve come to the realisation: RVing and camping serves up an ace to tennis… Time to hang up the racquet and enjoy more adventuring!
WHERE TO STAY
Victoria Lake Holiday Park
Free call: 1800 880 070
Ph: (03) 5821 5431
Riverside Caravan Park
Free call: 1800 809 412
BIG4 Shepparton Park Lane
Ph: (03) 5823 1576
Acacia Gardens Caravan Park
Ph: (03) 5825 2793
Greater Shepparton has a range of accommodation including hotel, motels, self-contained cabins, self-contained houses, and boutique properties.
Greater Shepparton Visitor Centre
Free call: 1800 808 839
Ph: (03) 5832 9330