It’s not just utes, blue singlets and burnouts… Deniliquin is the surprise packet when it comes to riverside holiday destinations
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From out of the fog a shadow emerged, scaring the life out of the drovers and dogs. The cattle stampeded. Riding a toughened workhorse,
a headless horseman… and a legend began.
A drover named Doyle passed away at Black Swamp in the early 1850s, with his ghost said to ride the plains at night. An ingenious butcher from Moulamein played on the legend. Using a frame to hide his head, he rode through drover’s camps atop a trotting cob, startling everything and everyone. He would cut a few from the mob, with the cattle supplementing his butcher shop.
The great thing about living in Victoria is being able to reach so many destinations within 300km of the CBD so easily. Not all of these places are within the Nanna State, and Deniliquin is one such town. Located on the Edward River, an anabranch of the Murray River, it is a surprise packet when it comes to riverside holiday destinations.
Follow the Northern Highway through Echuca joining the Cobb Highway in Moama. This is also the start of the Long Paddock – a 610km route that follows the same tracks created by Cobb & Co all the way to Wilcannia. Within 80km you will have reached your destination.
WHERE TO STAY?
The highly-awarded Big4 Deniliquin Holiday Park is located on the Edward River, 3km from town. It has something for everyone. Extremely large grassed sites suit all types of rigs; with the ability to drive through if the site behind you is free.
The tin lids will be kept busy with two playgrounds, a jumping pillow, mini golf and a water playground including a slide and resort-style pool.
A second smaller pool is a great place if you prefer to avoid the kids and enjoy some serenity.
Electronic games won’t get a look in as you can also hire carts for the kids to ride around the park, helmets included. Test your skills with an upsized chess board or work up a sweat with a set or two of tennis.
Did I mention the Edward River? The park has its own boat ramp and the river is a top place to swim (just ask the locals). You can also hire the upmarket pontoon, licensed to carry 10 people. You can explore the river at your own pace, with a map showing the river highlights.
Grab some tasty snags or juicy steaks from Bimbella Beef Butcher Shop and enjoy a barbecue overlooking the river while watching the kids play. If you feel like heading into town for dinner, the RSL has a courtesy bus that stops outside the front of the park.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Besides relax by the river with a good book
and a comfortable chair? There is so much to
do in Deniliquin I can’t fit it all into this article.
Best suggestion is to head to the Peppin Information Centre where the extremely knowledgeable team will help you out.
The old schoolhouse (circa 1870) was decommissioned as a school in 1968 with final classes in 1972. Most locals over the age of 55 were educated at the school. The old headmaster’s residence is situated at the front of the block.
The local community saved the two buildings from demolition and the Crossing Café and brilliant Information Centre were the rewards.
The original classroom is still set up as if stuck in a time warp. Carved desks, old school bags hanging from pegs and a bust of Queen Victoria staring into space. Exhibitions from local artists fill the main hall while back rooms and outer buildings have displays, photographs and story boards highlighting the history and development of the region.
Allow at least an hour to explore here.
Feel like a walk? There are a few options for you. Walk through the town past country-style shops and stop to feed the ducks at the Waring Gardens Lagoon; check out the peacocks strutting their stuff.
The 2.6km Beach to Beach walk follows the river from Willoughbys Beach to Mclean Beach, past ancient red gums and the Ute on the Pole. Continue on to the Island Sanctuary where you may spot kookaburras, bloom honeyeaters and sacred kingfishers as well as goannas, echidnas and kangaroos. Look closely for scar trees: Aboriginals have inhabited this region for thousands of years. The original river crossing was also in this area,
and it was the reason why the town grew here.
Willoughbys Beach is popular with free campers for its easy access and great location. Parents used to drop their kids at Willoughbys, then head into town to shop while the kids would float down the river in old tyre tubes to meet them two hours later at Mclean Beach. In 2018, Deniliquin is looking to break a world record for the number of people floating down the river, so keep an eye out for that one. You can hire bikes and kayaks from Mclean Beach Caravan Park and pedal or paddle Beach to Beach.
The Deniliquin Boat Club has been around for more than 70 years and has produced some of Australia’s best water skiers. On a Friday afternoon, they run a
ski school for kids aged three and up.
For $2 the kids are taught river safety and how to water ski; your kids will love it.
The club is also heavily involved in setting up and running the ski events at Moomba.
HUNGRY FROM ALL THOSE ACTIVITIES?
There are a number of options to tempt the tastebuds and fill the belly. The perfect spot for brunch is the Crossing Café, which is open early six days a week.
You will think you are in a café in Melbourne with the quality of the meals. If you’re a chicken parmigiana aficionado, the Coach House is the place to go;
and the RSL pumps out the largest meals I
have seen in a long time.
I can recommend the operators at the Long Table Café (open by appointment only). If you give them a call, they are extremely accommodating. Located 22km from town, Lawry and Kath pride themselves
on ‘real food, chemical free’. Free-range pigs,
goats and turkeys enjoy a good life before being enjoyed as home-made salami, smoked roast turkey or pork. An expansive vegetable and herb garden and a fruitful orchard ensure very little that graces your plate isn’t from the farm.
Picnics and sunsets go hand in hand.
With Deniliquin sitting on the flattest plains on Earth, the Headless Horseman Sculpture at Black Swamp is an idyllic spot to dine while watching the sun sink below the horizon.
FESTIVALS, FISHING, FUN
My visit coincided with the annual XXXX Gold Fishing Classic where fisherman try to catch a tagged Murray cod (named Murray this year) and win $50,000 or a boat for the biggest fish, plus hundreds of other prizes worth more than $70,000. The Saturday night yabby races were a highlight. Each yabby was auctioned. Some earned a massive price on their head before being placed in a bucket then tipped onto a table. First to reach the edge of the table meant ‘winner take all’ for the owner.
A few more reasons to head to Deniliquin include:
- Easter Deni arts & culture Fest: Art shows, artisan markets, rhythm and blues and rodeo
- September Deni Truck Show & Industry Expo: Show and shine, industry information and live entertainment
- 28-29 September 2018 Deni Ute Muster: Utes, musical entertainment, family fun
The headless horseman was never caught, but the legend continues to this day.