A bustling city in Victoria’s far north-west corner, Mildura is a surprising oasis in the middle of the state’s semi-arid region. Approaching the city from the south, vineyards and orchards dominate the landscape, while the mighty Murray River to the north has irresistible appeal.
The history of Mildura
Mildura is Australia’s first irrigation colony and partially owes its rich history to the Canadian Chaffey brothers. George and WB Chaffey were developing an irrigation settlement in Ontario, California, when they met Alfred Deakin, the cabinet minister from Victoria.
Impressed with their achievements and convinced of the Murray’s irrigation potential, Deakin encouraged them to visit the town. In 1887, the brothers came to Australia and created the Mildura Irrigation Colony.
Today, it is a burgeoning city that produces large quantities of Australia’s fresh produce, including wine and table grapes, citrus, stone fruit and vegetables. With a population of around 60,000, it has all the retail shops and services you could wish for, as well as an astonishing number of cafés and restaurants, with mouth-watering menus.
Where to stay
Buronga Riverside Caravan Park, nestled on the banks of the Murray River, is a wonderful family park with spacious sites and friendly staff. The two playgrounds and animal yard kept the kids entertained for hours.
Situated opposite the old Mildura Wharf, the caravan park is a great spot to watch the PS Melbourne chug up the river. A five-minute drive across the bridge places you in the middle of the CBD, with supermarkets and retail shops at your fingertips.
Things to do
Mildura Homestead is a replica of the first homestead built in 1847. The station was initially a tremendous success and by 1854, 10,000 sheep grazed the run. However, its success did not continue and the property was liquidated in 1878 due to a drought and a plague of rabbits. The enterprising Chaffey brothers chose the homestead as their first base and added more buildings. Today, the cottage, woolshed and stable help recreate station life of the 1850s.
Rio Vista historic house
Built by WB Chaffey, the Spanish name, meaning ‘river view’, reflects the Californian influences found at Rio Vista historic house. At present, the house is home to an art gallery.
The historic port of Wentworth is the place where the Murray and Darling rivers meet. The Darling River is Australia’s longest river, flowing 2740km before joining the Murray. The viewing tower at Junction Park is the best spot to see the confluence.
The township of Wentworth is also home to the Perry Sandhills. The red sandhills have been used to film scenes for the television series The Flying Doctors, as well as feature films, such as The Man from Snowy River II, Burke & Wills and Boney. It is the perfect playground for adults and children alike – plunging down the red sands is quite an experience!
Old Wentworth Gaol
Opened in 1881, Old Wentworth Gaol was the first prison specifically designed for Australian conditions and it was used until 1927. A tour gives more insight into the struggles of colonial life. If you’re keen on history, head to the visitor information centre and take the Heritage Drive Trail. This trail takes you past large homesteads, historic schools, old churches and the Pioneer Museum.
Located across from the wharf Fotherby Park is home to the restored paddle steamer Ruby, which is now fully operational. Built in 1907, Ruby transported passengers and cargo between Echuca, Mildura, Wentworth and Goolwa, ending her days as a houseboat in Mildura. The Rotary Club of Wentworth purchased her in 1968 and started the restoration in 1995. Six years and thousands of volunteer hours gave Ruby a brand new hull and she steamed up the river in 2007, on her 100th birthday.
Mildura is 525km north-west of Melbourne and sits on the Victoria/New South Wales border.
The full feature appeared in Caravan World #532, December 2014. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!