There are a couple of routes that’ll get you from Albury-Wodonga to Corryong in Victoria. The main one is via the Murray Valley Highway; however the second option, which follows the Murray River Road, is much more scenic and interesting. So pack your swag and ride shotgun as we explore this route and discover everything the beautiful Upper Murray region has to offer.
Following the Riverina Highway out of Albury, you will reach the Lake Hume dam wall. If you haven’t already, take some time to walk across the top of the wall and enjoy amazing views of the lake. Once across the Bethanga Bridge, you’re in Victoria, with the Murray River on the left. You’ll find a lot of motorbikes love this section of the road too, so be careful, especially on blind corners.
The first point of interest you’ll encounter is the old Granya Hotel. Built in 1928, this is a popular stop for travellers along the route, offering bar & bistro, bed & breakfast accommodation and free camping. It’s also worth checking out the Granya Pioneer museum housed in the nearby old primary school.
The Wymah Ferry can be found 7km from the pub and is a unique way of crossing the Murray River into NSW. The ferry is one of only two remaining on the river, the other is at Speewa near Swan Hill. It was not operating at the time of writing due to low water levels.
Murray River Road follows the water closely on the next stretch, and with levels being so low at the time, the cattle were grazing freely on the grassed floodplain. The dead gum trees that are used to being submerged stand like sentinels, their hollowed trunks home to a variety of birds. The ranges climb on both sides of the river, making it the perfect vista for landscape photography.
At nearby Thologolong lies a roadside monument celebrating the district as the birthplace of the Murray Grey. As Helen Sunderland, who’s family ‘discovered’ the breed, wrote in her diary, “this breed by accident was Nature’s, which in turn is God’s gift to our land Australia.’ From little things, big things grow, and the Murray Grey has become one of the best meat breeds in the world.
One of the things I love most about this drive is the number of free camping areas along the way. They don’t have any facilities, so stick to the ‘take only photos and leave only footprints’ rule and they will remain open for a long time to come.
Kennedy’s Reserve is a good space on the river, just off the road and adjacent to Mount Lawson State Park. While 2wd access is possible to the most popular sites from the Murray Valley Highway, there are several seasonal 4wd tracks that are all accessible from the northern end. The summit of Mount Lawson stands at 1,041m and offers great views north over the Murray Valley.
Another great spot is Burrowye Bend Reserve which offers a large riverside area suitable for all types of set up. There are no facilities, but access is easy, and the views are spectacular so it’s very popular with RVers. Atop a nearby high point on the River Road is a shiny metal sculpture of a wedge-tailed eagle. The largest of Australia’s raptors love this region and can soar up to 2000m high, hot summer thermals giving them added assistance.
One of Australia’s most iconic riverside pubs is the Bridge Hotel at Jingellic. Beside offering icy cold beverages and great bar meals, right out the back is Jingellic Reserve, a very popular free camping area. The pub provides the toilets and hot showers for $4. Across the river and behind the Walwa golf course, via Nursery Lane, is another hidden treasure that offers more privacy than at the Jingellic Reserve.
The quaint little hamlet of Walwa offers supplies at the general store, the Walwa Hotel serves great meals and there’s a dump point at the recreation reserve in O’Halloran Street. The Bush Nursing Home was once threatened with closure but has since been redeveloped and is important to the local community for quality health services. It also has a general practice and chemist. Nearby is Neil’s Bend that extends a good distance with several small protected spots. The largest is right at the end and has the best river access.
At the Jim Newman wayside stop is a lookout that offers great views of the Murray winding slowly through the valley. It also has a rusted Bogong Moth sculpture with an interpretive panel explaining the significance of the moths to the Indigenous groups.
Another of the free camps popular with RVers is at the Clarke Lagoon Wildlife Reserve. This one has a seven-day limit and you must be self-contained. When the kids were younger, we would camp here, and they’d spend all day floating down the river on lilos and tyre tubes.
Life in the historic town of Tintaldra began in 1837 with squatters searching for feed and water for their cattle. Pre-federation it was an important crossing point and so a customs house was built. Today there is not much left, even the Tintaldra Hotel was closed and up for sale. The old bridge is beautiful though.
One of the best free camps that’s a long way from the road and accessed through a couple of gates and a farmer’s paddock, is Lighthouse Crossing Reserve. This highly-rated reserve is not recommended when conditions are wet, but the grass is kept low and there is some shade, a perfectly ideal place to wake each morning.
The Murray River Road turns a sharp right at Towong, but if you turn left and drive over the bridge, you will find the Towong Flat Camp, a stunning spot. Being so flat and grassy, this site caters for even the biggest rigs. It is close to the road, but far enough away to feel safe.
At the junction with the Murray Valley Highway, this journey ends. The nearby town of Corryong has all the facilities you need but that is a story in itself. I hope you enjoy your adventure along the Murray River Road.