By Alan, Pam and Chloe
Getting started for living life on the road is filled with sorting and storing and then trying to fit everything into the caravan and Ute and hit the road.
Packing everything was a challenge but we managed and left Geelong mid-June with Bendigo our first destination.
Some items we did pack included a good break and chip resistant Corelle dinner set and quality Krosno wine glasses. We have packed the dinner set with non-slip mat and the wine glasses travel in a box. These wine glasses have travelled with us for some time in this box very successfully.
We also use two fine bone china tea cups so we can continue to enjoy home indulgences.
Another important item packed is a GOOD ironing board cover which we can put on any ironing board in a caravan park ensuring we have a good clean surface to work with. This is easier than trying to pack an ironing board. We have in the past, used a small portable ironing board which has proved unsuccessful.
Our first home was Bendigo Central City Caravan Park on a gravel based drive through site with room to put out the awning. Bendigos winter weather was challenging to say the least with the first day foggy with a maximum temperature of nine degrees.
We stayed for 2 weeks and managed to combine work with catching up with friends and family.
GSA Ranger and Bluesky caravan on Bendigo campsite.
Bendigo Central City Caravan Park is handy to the CBD, shopping, hotels, restaurants and attractions.
The caravan park has a Pet Friendly policy and disabled facilities. There are drive through sites and for caravanners and campers the clean amenities and barbecue area are close.
The amenities have floor heating. Powered sites $37 to $42, camping site $30 to $35. There is a Camp Kitchen, plus a kiosk, LPG and Wireless broadband internet. There is a dump point. Ensuite cabins range from $89 to $190. The selection of cabins range from two bedroom to studio. Outside peak and major events Seniors card rate is available. There is a pool and public transport is available at the park entrance.
We also visited the towns of Heathcote, Bridgewater and the great Marong Family Hotel indulging in a lovely lamb lunch from their special menu of nine different home grown lamb dishes.
Marong Family Hotel is in a region with more than 20 wineries which earn respect for fine red wines.
Owners Robyn and Ross Lougoon have selected a range ofreds and whites from Bendigos best vintages plus some Internationals and wine from their own winery Connor Park. Connor Park is one of the oldest blocks of Shiraz in a region which first planted vines in 1856 during the heady days of the great goldrush.
Marong Family Hotel is a smooth mix of classic pub and fine dining. Robyn and Ross Lougoon purchased the Hotel in 2007 and have breathed life into the refurbished hotel.
Now Marong Family Hotel caters for special occasions, weddings and family get-togethers and various events. The new attractive outdoor alfresco dining area is a pleasant atmosphere in which to enjoy the chefs delicacies.
Brendan Fevola plays at Yarrawonga.
Next stop was north on the Murray River to try to find some sun. Yarrawonga looked good, so we stayed at Yarrawonga Holiday Park right on the banks of the Murray River. This was a lovely spot but the road into the park was very busy because it is a public road to the footy ground.
We stayed for a week and did manage to find some sun on a couple of days but it was still cold. It is winter in Victoria so we should not expect it to be much warmer. Yarrawonga was convenient and we walked into town for our daily exercise accompanied by a happy Chloe.
Yarrawonga Holiday Park is just downstream from the Yarrawonga weir.
It is a unique destination with river frontage, beach and boat ramp. A waterfront site is $37 to $60. Powered site $33 to $55 and unpowered site $30 to $50. Cabins range from Standard $70 to $95 with Luxury Riverview cabins $135 to $200. There are modern amenities and laundry. Facilities include camp kitchen, games room and a Jumping Pillow. Yarrawonga Holiday Park has a Pet Friendly policy.
Cobba Captain near Cobram.
We also toured Cobram and experienced a paddle boat cruise with Cobba.
Cobba isa friendlynew Paddleboat Cruise operating from Thompsons Beach in Cobram just over the river from Barooga NSW.
The paddleboat can entertain 49 passengers and has wheel chair access. Murray Valley touring takes on a completely different perspective from a paddleboat.
The pace slows to that of the early pioneering paddler crews who worked their way upstream to the Top End of ariver system which was the trading lifeline for the towns, businesses and rural industries which drew on its waters.
A caf serves food and refreshments. Cobba operates on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Cruise times are 9:30 - 10:30, 11:30 - 1:00, 2:00 - 3:00, and 3:30 - 5:00.
After that is was into Rich Glen Olives for coffee and we are amazed with their range of products from olives, oils, dressing, jams, dukka, meat rubs, cleaning products and beauty products all made from olives. They also cater for Big Rig parking.
In 1997 Franc Vodusek and his son Damien planted the 320 acre (36,000) grove trees on the family property Rich Glen on the banks of the Murray River in Yarrawonga, Victoria.
Six varieties were planted, including Arbequina, frantoio, piqual, kalamata, ligurian and manzanilla. These varieties were specifically chosen for their fine oil quality.
Rich Glen Olives Yarrawonga.
Rich Glen Estate harvest and blends the olives to create a smooth, flavoursome oil, rich in flavour, colour and aroma with a peppery finish.
The Rich Glen Olives farm gate store sells Olives and Oils, Dressings, Face Body Range, Household Range Savoury Fruit Pastes Dukkahs, Olive Leaf Teas, Marinated and Pickled Olives, Abstract Steel Art and Olden Day Machinery.
A Caf offers morning and afternoon teas and lunch.
There is a Vegetable Maze, Kids Hopscotch, and Celtic Stone Herb Garden.
Yarrawonga gave us a chance after about three weeks on the road to assess what we had packed. The large sharp knife we had packed was not particularly good so while walking one day we found a kitchenware shop with very friendly staff and purchased a set of 4 non-stick knives proving to be a very good buy.
The Big Strawberry is located on the Goulburn Valley Highway at Koonoomoo, about 8km from Tocumwal and 9km from Cobram. There are two strawberry seasons and picking usually starts around mid to late September going through to the end of January. It then starts again late March and finishes late July but these two seasons can vary. Quality strawberries are picked at this time.
The Big Strawberry hand selects the finest fruits to make Strawberry Wine, Strawberry Liqueur, Strawberry Port and Strawberry Creme.
Quality time Gunbower Caravan Park.
From Yarrawonga we travelled down the Murray River to Gunbower staying at Gunbower Caravan Park.
This is a small park with a country outlook. We stayed a week to take advantage of their winter special, stay for a week on powered site for $150, but had limited phone and internet service, and had to stand outside to use our phones.
Whilst this was ok most of the time it was not so good in the continuing cold and wet days. Gunbower Caravan Park, Victoria, on the Murray Valley Highway 25 minutes from Echuca is set in two acres of grassed and well treed land on the highway in Gunbower.
Accommodation options include comfortable ensuite $80-$110 or Standard cabins $50-$60, (linen not provided but can be hired) together with spacious shaded, grassed caravan and camping sites. Unpowered $20-$30 or Powered $25-$30.
Discounts are available for CMCA and seniors card holders. Off-peak deals are available. The park has a Pet Friendly Policy.
Gunbower Caravan Park is situated between Echuca (just a 30 minute drive) and Swan Hill in Victoria, 220km north of Melbourne. There is an undercover Camp Kitchen and barbecue area. Laundry, dump point and clean amenities. There is a solar heated in-ground pool. The local hotel and shops are within walking distance.
Gunbower is best known as the gateway to Australia's biggest inland island which is more than 50 km long. The Island is home to a population of native animals such as kangaroos, emus, goannas, possums, snakes and over 100 different species of birds. There are many great places to fish around Gunbower.
We did manage to explore a little of Gunbower National Park, Gunbower Island, Cohuna, Kow Swamp and Leitchville. The weather again was not that kind to us the day we went to Kow Swamp the waves where like being at the beach not what you expect. It was 6 degrees, so pics taken out of the window!
Coffee time Leitchville Hotel.
Following on from Gunbower we visited Leitchville again as we had had a great welcome from locals. And they have a very nice Travellers Rest area that allows for overnight camping with toilets close by.
We had Betty from the progress association visit us mid-afternoon to welcome us to the town and also to give us information regarding the area. This was so nice and made you feel very welcome.
We were the first camper for the day but while Betty was talking to us another camper arrived. The weather improved slightly at this stage and we are able to sit outside and work. The following day we started work early and had planned to move, however more campers arrived, it got later so we decided to stay another night as the solar panel had recharged our battery in the caravan and all was good.
As a group of free campers we all dined at the local Leitchville Hotel and we were again made to feel very welcome in the town and combined with local supermarket shopping we estimate over $300 was spent in the town in two days from our group of three 'free campers'. The Caravan and Motorhome Club of Australia (CMCA) has just installed a dump point. It is the family friendly country atmosphere which is also the nearby Leitchville Hotels attraction, huge counter meals, and excellent fresh coffee are underlined by Publican Ryans and the locals positive attitude to tourism in the area.
Wooden carving Pelican Koondrook.
It was then a nice leisurely drive to Koondrook where we set up at Koondrook Caravan Park.
Our site was very wet under foot but the sun was out and we could sit outside again.
This was nice for a change and provided the opportunity to talk to other campers as well.
Koondrook Caravan Park (Vic.) is situated on the banks of the Murray River and Gunbower Creek.
Accommodation includes en-suite cabins $80-$90, en-suite powered sites $32-$40 together with Powered $25-$32 and unpowered sites $22-$27.
The park has a Pet Friendly policy.
There is a camp kitchen, sheltered barbecues, boat ramp and parking, coin laundry and drier.
Chloe was a happy girl when we decided to walk along the great river bank walking track to Barham. This took about an hour with stops along the way looking at the wonderful red gum sculptures on the track.
On the way back we came across Long Paddock Food Store. This little food store does beautiful breakfasts and lunches as well as cake. Its fully licensed and great for a coffee too.
Long Paddock Food Store is located near the heritage area of Koondrook in the centre of town next to Post Office, hairdresser, beauty salon and opposite the hotel and general store, and close to the Koondrook Caravan Park.
It is open for breakfast and lunch. Hours are seasonal but generally Wednesday to Sunday from 8.30am and closed on Mondays.
Long Paddock Food Store is also fully licensed and visitors can enjoy a drink in the attractive outside courtyard.
Long Paddock uses local produce in its seasonal menu.
New amenities block Lake Boga.
After Koondrook we drove to Murrabit for a look as we had never been to this town. It is a small town that comes alive with their market on the first Saturday of every month. We are sorry to have missed this but will try to make it another time. This gave us the opportunity to take the short route to Lake Boga via the gravel road to Lake Tutchewop where we stumbled across Victorias first ever successful commercial cotton crop.
Lake Boga was nice and sunny and this was very pleasant being able to setup home on the grassy powered sites at Lake Boga Caravan Park right on the edge of the lake.
Lake Boga township is not very big but it has post office, convenience store and Hotel.
Lake Boga is also home to the The Flying Boat Museum which we also visited and this was very interesting and informative. You could spend many hours looking, listening and reading your way around this great place and getting a better understanding of what really went on with these flying boats during the war.
We left Lake Boga after two nights as the weather was crashing. We travelled to Murrayville just 22 kms from the SA border with strong head winds all the way. Luckily we did, because it got worse for the next three days.
Murrayville is another very friendly small town. The caravan park has power, toilets, hot showers and a BBQ area all for $9.90 per night for two people. Our phone and internet worked well but we had no TV reception.
As we had nothing prepared for dinner we walked to the local Murrayville Hotel where the sign on the outside wall says no ghosts here, just friendly spirits.
We enjoyed a great meal of fish, chips and salad all for $14 per serve.
Murrayville Hotel is near the caravan park.
The locals moved away from the open fire to allow us to enjoy our meal in the comfort and warmth of the fire and interact with their chit chat.
Murrayville Hotel Motel is now under new management.
Owners Darryl and Lisa are keen to revitalise the hotel.
The havebyboosted the country pub feel with memorabilia, Royal Flying Doctor appeal fund raising, cosy open fires in winter and attractive alfresco dining area.
After Murrayville we travelled onto SA via Pinnaroo, Loxton, and Tailem Bend and onto Wellington where we set up camp for the night. The next day we had intended to travel on further but the weather was so bad we stayed another couple of nights.
Editors Note: Also see-
Catalina A24-30 on show at Lake Boga museum.
GSA campsite Wellington SA.
GSA Guard Dog Chloe.
GSA in Big Rig parking Rich Glen Olives Yarrawonga.