Situated on the banks of the Murray River, Swan Hill is the ideal destination to enjoy a relaxing getaway. Boasting fantastic local produce, award-winning wineries, river activities including fishing, canoeing and kayaking, plenty of camping and accommodation options, you will need more than a couple of days to really enjoy the region. Topping it off is the premier tourist drawcard, the Pioneer Settlement.
Daytime Pioneer Settlement
Located on the banks of the Little Murray River, an anabranch of the Murray River is the Pioneer Settlement. Visitors of all ages will have a ball as they experience the life and times of Swan Hill residents during the 1800s.
There are several interactive activities, especially during school holidays, but most days you can hitch a ride on a stagecoach or be chauffeured in a 1920’s Dodge. You can explore the PS Gem before climbing aboard a working paddle steamer, the PS Pyap for a cruise along the Murray River. There are several ticket options you can purchase for entry to the Pioneer Settlement and you can find them here. Open daily 9.30am – 4.30pm.
Heartbeat of the Murray
Once the sun goes down, your Pioneer Settlement experience will explode with a light, laser and water show. The state-of-the-art special effects transport you through the ages as you’re taken back to a time when megafauna roamed the earth.
The story of the Murray River leads you through the Dreamtime and into the modern age. This was a definite highlight of my visit and the unique backdrop of the Little Murray River and towering River Gums really added to the atmosphere. Open daily, check the times when purchasing your ticket.
It’s hard not to stop at a winery like the one Andrew Peace’s family has created. As you exit your car you’ll be greeted by the honking of geese as they enjoy the lake beside the cellar door. A beautiful BBQ picnic area overlooks the lake and would be topped off by one of Andrew’s wines.
Andrew’s father passed by the vineyard in 1980 and bought it to escape the rat race. From the first vintage produced in 1995, Andrew Peace Wines is now one of Australia’s largest family-owned wineries. The warm climate helps to create bold and distinctive wines, many of which you can sample at the cellar door. Open 9.00am – 5.00pm Monday to Friday and 12.00pm – 4.00pm Saturday (Sunday by appointment).
Did you know?
Explorer Thomas Mitchell arrived near the junction of the Loddon and Murray Rivers in 1836 and set up camp. The noises made by nearby swans frustrated Mitchell so much, he named the place Swan Hill. The pioneer settlement grew around a punt crossing a little further downstream some ten years later.
In 1853, the Governor of South Australian offered a bounty to the person to reach the furthest point from the mouth of the Murray River. He was even aboard PS Lady Augusta when Francis Caddell navigated his vessel to Swan Hill a mere four hours before the second paddle steamer, PS Mary Ann piloted by William Randell, arrived. This opened the way for river traffic, with Swan Hill, Mildura and Echuca becoming major inland ports.
The ill-fated Burke and Wills Expedition arrived in the bush settlement on 6th September 1860 and made Camp XV on the riverbank near what is now Riverside Park. It’s fabled that the stunning Moreton Bay Fig tree was planted to honour the expedition. Monuments dedicated to Burke & Wills and Thomas Mitchell can be found on the median strip adjacent the bowling club.
The steel lift span bridge replaced the punt in 1896 and is currently enjoying some much-needed restoration and strengthening works. Still a single lane bridge, it carries a tonne of traffic as one of the gateways to Outback NSW. The nearby red-brick water tower is one of many used to supply the town with water pumped from the Murray.
The Secrets of Lake Boga
It turns out that Lake Boga played a crucial role during the Second World War and was so secret that a “dummy” communications bunker was constructed at the other end of town to confuse the enemy. It was also the main flying boat repair depot in Australia. Only 15km from Swan Hill, the Lake Boga Flying Boat Museum is well worth checking out, especially the restored A24-30 Catalina and the secret underground communications bunker. There’s also a number of uniforms, photographs and equipment on display. Open daily 9.00am – 4.00pm Adults $15, children $8, family $30 and concession $12.
Where to Stay
Swan Hill Holiday Park is situated on the Murray Valley Highway only 3km from the town centre. With grassed sites for powered and unpowered camping and several recently renovated cabins, there’s a range of accommodation to suit all travellers.
The swimming pool will help keep you cool in the warmer months while the well-appointed camp kitchen makes it easy to prepare any meal you need and is the social hub of the park. Your hosts Peter and Judy are extremely helpful, love a chat and will make your stay memorable.
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