Echuca Moama is about two and a half hours drive from Melbourne, and defined by the distinctive whistle of the paddle steamers that chug up and down the Murray River just like they did in the 1800s. Back then, they carried everyday staples like flour, corrugated tin and wood bales. Today, they carry visitors quaffing wine—another everyday staple, especially during summer. The experience of sipping crisp white on a wood-fired paddle steamer while the unmistakably Australian red gums along the river shake their leaves into the water is just one of the reasons why you should make Echuca Moama your next destination.
It’s close enough to Melbourne to make it the perfect road trip getaway, yet old-world enough to make it feel like you’re having a proper country town experience. Without further ado, here are some of the best river activities and foodie haunts to chase up in Echuca Moama to cure your post-holiday blues.
1. Seasonal Eating At Junction Moama
Start your visit right with cocktails at Junction Moama. Located within the Moama Bowling Club, you simply sign in at reception then stroll down the hallway to find yourself in a lush, capacious bar with green plants everywhere and a menu that champions regional produce. We recommend the River Cruise, which combines vodka, passionfruit, orange juice and orange blossom to create a first-class refreshment that tastes like a Frosty Fruit. Other stand-outs on the cocktail menu include the Cappuccino Martini, and the Ultimate G&T, which marries Four Pillars Gin and mango. These cocktails were designed by none other than Fred Siggins of Black Pearl, but you also can’t go wrong with the locally-sourced wine list.
As for food, Junction dishes up dinner every night and lunch on weekends. Think interesting dishes such as cured meats, oysters, kangaroo kibbeh, and kingfish ceviche. Larger plates to share include slow-roasted lamb, pork belly with vodka-soaked pineapple, and miso ocean trout. Desserts are equally impressive with the signature Sundae Mess changing weekly and the chocolate pavlova with smashed figs and coconut cream providing the perfect balance of tart and sweet flavours. Junction features a different local artisan each month, so check out their website to time your visit according to your taste buds.
2. Strawberry Picking At The Strawberry Pick
Grab a hat and put on some sturdy shoes, because it’s time to go strawberry picking. This picturesque start-up by two childhood friends provides one of the most enjoyable ways around to spend a summer afternoon. Matt and Wayne were inspired to start The Strawberry Pick after noticing that most pick-your-own farms sprouted from commercial farms, rather than being standalone businesses. The result is a seven-day-per-week venture where you will find the reddest, ripest, tastiest strawberries in town. Entry is only $3 for adults and children, and you can opt to fill up a 1kg punnet or a 500g one. Sampling the strawberries is strongly encouraged, and you can even grab a couple of jars of the boys’ homemade strawberry jam, balsamic glaze, and coulis. Just don’t forget your hat as there’s no shade in the patches—you’ve been warned.
3. Paddleboarding At iWaterski
Through the gates of Maidens Inn Holiday Park, you’ll find a quiet little marina where you can learn to paddleboard, wakeboard and waterski. We recommend the paddleboarding because it's quicker to get the hang of than most other board sports—plus, it’s super fun, and allows you to jump into the river for a quick dip any time you want. The team will give you tips for paddleboard techniques, plus they’re always happy to accommodate groups. Hire a board early in the morning, discover how easy it actually is to stand up, and slowly make your way down the river, waving to other visitors gaping jealously from the shore. Bonus points if you feel the burn the next morning from the upper body workout.
4. Vegan Brunch At The Sweet Meadow
Yes, the vegan movement has hit Echuca, and it’s from the school of Smith+Daughters – which is to say it’s really, really good. Housed within a beautiful 1920s cottage, The Sweet Meadow is ridiculously pretty, just like the dishes on the menu. The vanilla waffles with raspberry chia jam and salted caramel banana ice cream are fluffy, golden wonders with just the right amount of crunch, while the creamy avocado on spelt sourdough comes with pesto, greens, dukkah, lemon and a spicy cashew-chilli dip. The açaí berry smoothie bowl is heaven-in-a-bowl and the coffee from Allpress Espresso is made with Bonsoy, almond or coconut milk. For guilt-free, delicious and stunning dishes, pop this on your list.
5. Wine Aboard A Paddle Steamer
You can’t go to Echuca without going for a cruise down the Murray River on an old-school paddle steamer—it simply can’t be done. Murray River Paddlesteamers have a fleet of three different vessels ready to treat you to an authentic paddle steamer experience. Naturally, being Urban List readers, we reckon you’ll like the Wharf to Winery option. This will take you 30 minutes downstream to Morrisons Winery, where you’ll enjoy a two-course lunch, a glass of wine or beer, and a spot of wine tasting. Then you’ll jump back on the paddle steamer to chug back up the river, full of wine and cheer. Perfect, right? Thought so.
6. Wine At An Actual Winery
Just a forty-minute drive out of Echuca Moama, Restdown Winery is a sprawling 450-hectare property comprising a carbon neutral winery, a vibrant green vineyard, a wetland walking trail and a Hereford beef herd. Run by husband-and-wife team Don and Jo, it’s a certified organic and vegan winery. Don and Jo get a lot of the inspiration for their wines from France, and there’s a Provencal-style rosé as well as a full range of red and white wines available for tasting and purchase. They also offer lavish local produce platters which include goodies from their Backroads Trail partners. If you’ve never tried rillettes, a kind of confit torn pork seasoned with spices, salt and pepper, this is the place to gobble some up on freshly baked bread with pickled grapes and triple brie. After eating your fill, ask Don and Jo to introduce you to their delightfully happy, healthy cows and they'll gladly oblige before pointing you in the direction of a 1.4km walking trail or joining you in a game of petanque.
Melbourne’s an incredible city, but sometimes we all need to get out of town for a weekend. The Urban List has partnered with Visit Victoria to bring you great, regional getaway inspiration — the ultimate guide to Victoria’s regional gems. For more ideas about where to wander through nature’s finest hot-spots, click here.
Image credit: Michelle Jarni for The Urban List