The Murray River is the main water source for millions of Australians who rely on it for domestic, farming and industrial purposes. It’s also the source of many a happy childhood memory, as families flock along its banks for holidays, especially in summer.
So what is it about the Murray that’s just so special?
A bit of background
Known as Millewa or Tongara to Indigenous Australians, the Murray River played a pivotal role in sustaining many Aboriginal clans for over 40,000 years. It attracted many tribes in part due to the abundance of food – from fish, shellfish, crays, yabbies and mussels, to bulrush roots, pigface berries and nearby land animals, including kangaroos and emus.
Indigenous men would hunt for fish, birds and animals often using nets made from Murray rushes. Women would cook meals by digging holes in its clay banks, placing a fire at the base and running it until all the surrounding clay was heated, before removing the fire, laying grass-wrapped food inside, and covering it up again with clay. A few hours later and a succulent meal would be ready.
Insofar as white Australian history is concerned, the river was first discovered by explorers Hume and Hovell, but it was Charles Sturt who became the first white person to navigate the river. It was Sturt who named it in honour of soldier and politician Sir George Murray.
Infamous bush ranger, Ned Kelly, and his gang have also forever being connected to the Murray River. They knew it well and took advantage of certain shallow areas to cross with their horses from Victoria into New South Wales.
In more recent white history, the Murray River was used as a veritable transport highway, moving paddle steamer loads of wool, wheat and other essentials along southern Australia.
Where exactly is the Murray River?
It travels through three Australian states, beginning in the alpine area near Mt Kosciusko before travelling through New South Wales, Victoria and thinning out in South Australia, where it exits into the Southern Ocean via Lake Alexandrina. The Murray is the sixteenth longest river in the world, the third largest water catchment in the world (when you include its tributaries), and acts as a natural border between NSW and VIC.
What can you do on the Murray River?
Fish – you will find Murray Cod, Bream, Perch and Redfin throughout the Murray.
Indigenous activities and walks – given the history and connection between Aborigines and the Murray River, visitors can take advantage of Indigenous tours and presentations.
Golf – there’s something like 37 golf courses that can be found along the River.
National Parks – there is something like 15 national parks that can be found at one point or another on the Murray. 15! Where to begin…
Canoe and kayak – the world’s largest canoe race, the YMCA Massive Murray Paddle, is held each year on the Murray. 404km in five days, this annual event is in its 46th consecutive year.
Houseboat – you can hire a houseboat and chill out as you sail down water.
Paddle steamers – no longer essential transporters, paddle steamers have been reinvented as great vintage tourist attractions.
Birdwatching – the Murray River is home to some of the most common as well as most threatened bird species in Australia, including pelicans, magpies, kookaburras, swans, bats, parrots, whistling kites, white bellied sea eagles, great egrets, the endangered superb parrot and the azure kingfisher. The Barmah National Park is home to some 236 bird species whilst Gluepot Reserve looks after 18 nationally threatened bird species.
Water ski – this sport is a huge attraction along the Murray, and that’s in part why some fairly extensive rules exist around it. Make sure you’re up to speed on the legal dos and don’ts before you plan to water ski along the Murray.
Camp – there are various camp sites all the way along the Murray.
Wineries – the good life is alive and thriving along the Murray. You’ll not only find some sensational wineries, but also local producers, farmers' markets and slow-food celebrations throughout the year.
If you’re considering something different to a beach holiday with the family this year but you still want to be close to the water, don’t overlook the Murray. We’ve only scratched the surface here and we’re sure you’ll come up with plenty of other sensational things to do. Enjoy!