A journey along the Murray River brings a new adventure every day. It’s a natural playground that’s perfect for families to explore together.
Watch the kids’ faces light up as they go wild on the water, follow ancient red gum trails and spot wildlife in national parks, toast marshmallows by the fire at off-the-grid campsites and while away lazy afternoons by the river. If you’ve been craving time in nature, spend a few days exploring Australia’s longest waterway on this scenic family road trip.
Day 1: Thrills on the water
Albury to Lake Mulwala
Nestled on the New South Wales side of the Murray River, the charming town of Albury is the launch pad for the iconic Mighty Murray River Drive road-trip route and it makes a great starting point for this nature escape, which can be extended at any point. Explore the river’s tree-dappled waterways by hiring canoes or joining a guided tour with Murray River Canoe Hire. Grab lunch at The River Deck Café, or throw down a picnic spread at Oddies Creek Adventure Playspace – the kids will love its 30-metre flying fox. If you’re in town on a Sunday, don’t miss browsing fresh produce, local craft and wares at the Kiewa Street Market.
Lake Mulwala is our next stop, an unforgettable sight with its majestic and ghostly river red gums and endless activities that can be as thrilling or relaxing as you wish. Pick up a fishing licence and try your luck catching cod and crayfish, popular in these waters; go tubing, waterskiing, wakeboarding and even surfing with the Mulwala Water Ski Club; kayak the lake’s golden waters at sunset; or try stand-up paddleboarding with Emu Outdoors and soak up the serenity while looking out for native birdlife.
Tonight, spend the night under the stars, on board your own River of Islands Houseboat. Watch the ever-changing landscapes as you sail past, mooring up for the evening with dinner on the deck. Note that some vessels may require a minimum stay.
Day 2: Choose your nature adventure
Lake Mulwala to Moama
Back on dry land, this morning we’re driving to Deniliquin, stopping at the Tocumwal Blowhole on the way. Watch the water bubble and flow from the granite hole; the local Ulupna and Bangarang Aboriginal communities believe it to be connected to the Murray by an underground stream.
Once you reach Deniliquin – or “Deni”, as the locals call it – grab breakfast, lunch or dinner with regional flavours at The Crossing Café. If you want to stay longer in Deni, BIG4 Deniliquin is a kids’ paradise, with pools, a bike track, heated water splash park with waterslide, mini-golf course, pontoon boats and more. Or check into the watersports hub at McLean Beach Holiday Park on the Edward River, a tributary of the Murray.
Keep following the Edward River south as it meanders into the spectacular Murray Valley National Park in Mathoura. Here, you can explore the Barmah Wetlands, home to a unique ecosystem with more than 60 threatened native animal species and 40 threatened plant species. Go bird-watching along the Reed Beds Bird Hide Boardwalk or join Kingfisher Cruises to spot wildlife as you glide serenely through the wetlands. Turn up the adrenaline and explore the river red gum forest on two wheels: the park has three mountain bike tracks, with eastern grey kangaroos known to hop past.
Set up camp for the night in Mathoura at Gulpa Retreat Tourist Park or Swifts Creek Campground, or head to one of the many accommodation options in nearby Moama. Family-friendly Tindarra Resort offers award-winning villas and a sprawling pool complex, or book another night on a houseboat with Moama on Murray Resort Houseboats.
Day 3: Uncover the river’s treasures
Moama to Balranald
Start the morning exploring the historic twin towns of Echuca-Moama, straddling either side of the mighty Murray River. Once Australia’s largest inland port, the area has been Australia’s paddlesteamer capital for more than 150 years. Today, Echuca retains the largest paddlesteamer fleet in the country with many lively river experiences to enjoy. On board the classic PS Emmylou, you’ll cruise past pristine ecological forests and breathtaking geographic, historic and Aboriginal cultural sites.
A little pocket of Mexico can be found just an hour outside of Echuca: Cactus Country is Australia’s largest cactus farm. Wander their unique walking trails, take a selfie with giant cacti, join a scavenger hunt in the desert oasis and even try a scoop of cactus ice cream. If your dates align, the Echuca Moama Market is a lively spot to stock up on the region’s food and wine and chat to local artists and artisans
Get back on the road and head to Barham, weaving through vast pastoral land and fragrant citrus groves along the way. Get a feel for this pretty town’s historic waters on a Barham River Cruise; your hosts will regale you with tales of the town as you drift past red gums immersed in the water.
Make your way to Balranald for the evening, a heritage town surrounded by spectacular riverscapes and national park. There’s a range of accommodation to suit all families, from caravan parks and campgrounds to motels and resorts.
Day 4: Explore ancient lands
Balranald to Wentworth
Those who love to fish will want to rise early and spend the morning trying their luck in Balranald’s famous waterways. Five rivers converge here: the Murray, Murrumbidgee, Wakool, Edward and Lachlan. Pick up a map from the Balranald Visitor Information Centre to find the best spots on the Five Rivers Fishing Trail.
If you want to stretch out your trip a little, make the two-hour detour to Mungo National Park, a starkly beautiful landscape of ancient dry lake basins and sand formations. Home to Mungo Woman and Mungo Man, this area is rich with Aboriginal history and is of great significance to the local Indigenous people. Explore at your own pace or with organised tours from Tri State Safaris or Outback Geo Adventures.
Finish your journey in the lovely town of Wentworth, located where the Darling and Murray rivers meet. The Viewing Tower here offers vistas over the confluence of Australia’s two longest waterways, each distinctive in colour, and walking trails line the banks.
Stroll north to the Old Wentworth Gaol and take a self-guided tour through the historic prison building. The nearby Wentworth Pioneer Museum features 3000 artefacts, including megafauna fossils and an enormous preserved Murray cod.
Many of the fossils on display were discovered west of town at Perry Sandhills, some 333 hectares of constantly moving red dunes. Climbing the dunes is worth the effort, rewarded with views revealing a red gum almost swallowed by sand – only the canopy peeks over the top; a fitting final image of these diverse lands.
Take me there
Drive: Albury is a six-hour drive from Sydney, a 3.5-hour drive from Melbourne, a four-hour drive from Canberra, and a 1.5-hour drive from Wagga Wagga. Wentworth is a 25-minute drive from Mildura, and 2.5 hours from Broken Hill.
Fly: Qantas and Rex airlines operate daily direct flights between Albury and both Sydney and Melbourne. If you wish to start your trip from Wentworth, Qantas and Rex have daily flights to Mildura from Sydney or Melbourne; Rex also flies from Broken Hill to Mildura.
Explore more: For more NSW inspiration, head to visitnsw.com