Town Hall with the Memorial Fountain
(dedicated to the memory of Henry Pye)
in the foreground
Swan Hill (including Beverford and Lake
Major town on the Murray River
Swan Hill is a well laid out city of some 10 000
people with a pleasant, garden-like main street,
located at the eastern edge of the Mallee area
in north-western Victoria. Here the Murray River
meets the Little Murray River. Together they
denote the eastern boundary of the settlement.
The Murray proper forms the border with NSW and,
as the town's Giant Murray Cod indicates, the
river provides good opportunities for fishing,
as well as boating and water sports. In all it
extends 2530 km from north-eastern Victoria to
the coast of South Australia, making it one of
the longest navigable rivers in the world with a
catchment area covering 14 per cent of the
Swan Hill is 344 km north-west of Melbourne
on the Murray Valley Highway and 70 m above
sea-level. Its large saleyards indicate its role
as a market centre for part of NSW's Riverina
district, although irrigation has also led to
the production, in the shire, of wheat, wool,
citrus fruits, grapes, wine, dairy products, fat
stock, fodder crops and maize. Local
manufacturing centres on farm machinery.
bridge across the Murray River at Swan
Prior to European settlement the area is
thought to have been occupied by the Wemba-wemba
Aboriginal people. Surveyor and explorer, Thomas
Mitchell, camped here in 1836 and gave the site
its current European name. In his journal he
writes of a 'shallow lagoon, where swans and
other wild fowl so abounded that, although half
a mile from our camp, their noise disturbed us
through the night. I, therefore, named this
somewhat remarkable and isolated feature,
Swan-hill'. The Beveridge brothers established
'Tyntynder', the first European property in the
district, around 1846.
A punt began operating at Swan Hill in 1847.
It was the only point at which the Murray could
be crossed within 160 km and this would remain
the case until the 1930s. When the first punt
sank the wood was salvaged and used to build the
town's first hotel.
In 1853 Swan Hill was visited by Francis
Cadell who here concluded a rather famous
steamship voyage from the mouth of the Murray.
Despite popular claim it was not the first such
voyage but it did herald the start of the inland
river trade and Swan Hill became the first major
inland port. A wharf was built and remained in
use until the 1920s (the remnants can still be
seen on the riverbank along with a photograph
and explanation plaque).
Swan Hill became a municipality in 1871. The
river trade declined with the growth of the
railways but the town received a new lease of
life when the Mallee was cleared and developed
for agricultural purposes. It became a borough
in 1939 and a city in 1965.
The town hosts the Red Gum Festival in March,
the Racing Cup Carnival in June, the Italian
Fiesta and Fireworks in mid-July, the Inland
Irrigated Wine Show in October and the Swan Hill
Agricultural and Pastoral Show on the first
Friday and Saturday of October.
Things to see:
Visitors can garner local information at the
Swan Hill Development and Information Centre at
306 Campbell St which is open weekdays from 9.00
a.m. to 5.00 p.m. and on Saturday from 10.00
a.m. to 1.00 p.m., tel: (03) 5032 3033, or,
toll-free, 1800 625 373.
Adelaide paddlesteamer near the Pioneer
Just before you cross the bridge over the Murray
into NSW, Monash Drive veers off to the right,
heading south past the pleasant environs of
Riverside Park (where there are picnic and
barbecue facilities), the railway station and
turntable, and the river junction. It then
follows the course of the Little Murray River as
the main river veers eastwards.
Just past the railway station, at Horseshoe
Bend, is the Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement, an
open-air historical museum which covers 4 ha on
the banks of the Little Murray. Australia's
first such display, it is, essentially, a
reconstruction of a 19th-century river port
town. To that end, all employees are dressed in
period attire. Kangaroos and peacocks stroll
around the complex while sheep and goats are
tethered. There are several picnic areas,
including one at Pental Island, reached by a
Authentic streets and buildings have been
recreated in the 'Horseshoe Bend Township'. The
Stereoscopic Theatre (1895) was an entertainment
venue in the late 19th century. It creates a
three-dimensional impression when pictures
within the large cylindrical chamber are viewed
through special binoculars. There is a Masonic
hall displaying the arcana of Masonic rituals, a
replica coach-house (c.1860) with shingle roof,
stub floor and drop-log walls, a drop-log post
office which is still in use, a general store,
an old-time photographic studio, a newspaper
office and printery from Ballarat which is still
functioning and one of the country's first
prefabricated iron houses (1854), shipped to
Australia when the goldrushes led to a
population surge. Towanninie homestead's
outbuildings include a mallee-stump stable, a
mud-brick kitchen and log cabin.
Equipment includes vintage cars, an old
locomotive, carriages, trucks and buggies and
there are free horse-drawn wagon rides.
Moreover, activities such as baking,
blacksmithing, pottery, woodturning, printing,
damper-making, saddlery and chaff-cutting are
all carried out in the traditional manner with
traditional equipment. The 45-minute Sound and
Light Tour is conducted through the complex in a
small vehicle at dusk each day. Music, theatre,
lighting and dialogue are used to illustrate
aspects of the past.
The entry point is through the paddlesteamer
PS Gem (1876) which also contains a restaurant,
open in the evenings. When operational it
covered 1100 km a week from Morgan in South
Australia to Mildura.
One-hour Murray River cruises depart daily at
10.30 a.m. and 2.30 p.m. from Horseshoe Bend on
board the PS Pyap (1896). Participants are
provided with a river map pointing out physical
and historic features such as the 1836 campsite
of Thomas Mitchell.
In all this popular complex is one of the
better examples of its type. It is open daily
from 8.30 a.m. to 5.00 p.m., tel: (03) 5032
Luncheon Cruises of the Murray, taking in the
Murray Downs homestead, are also conducted every
day but Monday from 12.30 p.m. to 2.00 p.m. on
the M.V. Kookaburra, tel: (03) 5032 0003 (they
have houseboats for hire).
Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery
At the southern end of Horseshoe Bend is the
Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery. It is open
weekdays from 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. and from
2.00 p.m. to 5.00 p.m. on weekends and public
holidays, tel: (03) 5032 1403.
Dowling House Art-and-Craft Centre
Around the corner, at the intersection of
Campbell St (the highway) and Gray St, is
Dowling House, an old timber building
transported from Kyneton in 1916. It is
currently used for the display of local arts and
crafts. It is open daily from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00
This pleasant park by the Murray (off Monash
Drive) has picnic, barbecue and bike-hire
facilities. The cairn marks the approximate site
where Major Mitchell, the first European in the
area, camped in 1836. Disturbed by the sound of
wildfowl in the night he named it Swan Hill.
The Bridge, Tower and Federal Hotel
The bridge, built in 1896, was the first
lift-span bridge on the Murray (note the large
counterbalancing weights). The central span is
lifted to allow passage to paddlesteamers. The
old water tower adjacent the bridge was built in
1883 and served as the town's first water
supply. Just over the bridge, on the Moulamein
Rd, is the Federal Hotel (1889).
Burke and Wills Tree
The Burke and Wills Tree is a beautiful and
enormous Moreton Bay fig which was planted from
a seed by a Dr Gummow who played host to the
explorers when they passed through the town in
1860 on their ill-fated excursion to the centre
of Australia. The tree, arguably the largest of
its kind in the country, is in Curlewis St,
opposite the bowling green.
Adjacent, on the McCallum St corner, is the
old National Bank (1888), recently restored to
its original colours by a firm of local
Giant Murray Cod
11 m long and 6 m wide, the 'cod' signifies the
local popularity of fishing on the Murray. It is
located in Curlewis St, adjacent the railway
station. Children can sit inside the mouth of
this old movie prop for a photograph.
2 km east of town, on the Moulamein Rd, is the
historic property and homestead of Murray Downs,
established in the 1840s. Burke and Wills left a
sick camel here in 1860 during their ill-fated
excursion into the centre of Australia.
Suetonius Officer, a well-read philanthropist,
pioneer irrigator and prominent figure in the
development of the area, bought the station and
built the current homestead in 1866. He
introduced pumps, initially operated by horses
and windmills and later by steam, and
established fields of lucerne, maize and
oranges. Ostriches were a subsequent addition.
The property was semi-autonomous with its own
bakery, blacksmith and 50 employees who gathered
in the homestead for church services.
In 1884 the property was bought by
businessman and philanthropist Alfred Felton
whose will established an enormous trust fund
for charities and for the purchase of artworks
by the National Gallery of Victoria.
The homestead is built largely of Murray
Pine, the sap of which repels termites. It is
surrounded by large formal gardens and the
fort-like design was to afford maximum
protection against Aborigines. There is an
animal park with ostriches, deer, pheasants,
peacocks, wallabies and kangaroos, a craft shop
and Devonshire teas are available, tel: (03)
5032 1225. The admission fee includes an
interesting one-hour tour.
Hilltop Resort Fauna Park
Just north of town, on the Murray Valley
Highway, this fauna park is part of a resort
complex but can be visited by non-residents.
There is a range of animals on display in a
walk-through enclosure. You can feed the animals
and enjoy a train ride around the perimeter, tel:
(03) 5032 1515.
14 km north of Swan Hill, on the Murray Valley
Highway, is Buller's Winery at Beverford.
Established in 1952 it produces a wide range of
table and fortified wines and is open from 9.00
a.m. to 5.00 p.m. weekdays and from 10.00 a.m.
to 4.00 p.m. on weekends, school holidays and
long weekends, tel: (03) 5037 6305.
'Tyntyndyer' (Aboriginal for 'song of birds'),
the area's first European property, once covered
78 000 ha, stretching for 50 km along the Murray
River. The homestead, set beside the river, was
the first brick veneer homestead in the country.
The original log structure (1846) was covered in
1850. The building is classified by the National
Trust and is now owned by the local Aboriginal
community who conduct guided tours explaining
their perspective of the property and its
landscape. There is a museum display of
colonial-era items and Aboriginal artefacts. An
admission fee is charged.
The gates of Tyntynder are located 17 km
north of town on the Murray Valley Highway, just
north of Beverford. It is open from 9.30 a.m. to
4.30 p.m. from Wednesday to Sunday, tel: (03)
The Pheasant Farm
20 000 pheasants, including a number of purely
ornamental species, and 5000 guinea fowl wander
around on this free-range commercial farm. If
you wish to visit they are open daily and have a
kiosk serving refreshments. The entry fee is
currently $6 for adults, $5 for pensioners,
$3.50 for children, $16 for a family and $4.50
per person for larger groups. The farm is 33 km
north-west of Swan Hill. Head north on the
Murray Valley Highway for 10 km then turn left
onto the Chillingollah Rd and it is another 23
10 km north-west of Swan Hill post office, in
Church Rd at Woorinen (pronounced 'woo-ri-neen'),
is Raymer's where, for $2.50, you can inspect
the gardens (complementary tea or coffee). There
is also a large nursery. Woorinen Rd runs off
the Swan Hill-Sea Lake Rd (an extension of
McCallum) St on the western side of town.
Lake Boga, 17 km south, adjacent the Murray
Valley Highway, is a popular spot for swimming,
fishing, picnicking and sailing. On the highway
beside the lake is a restored Cannie Ridge Steam
Pump used for pumping water into irrigation
channels from 1904-1952. The Lake Boga Yacht
Club Easter Regatta is held at Easter-time.
Lake Boga Flying Boat Museum
At Jacaranda Crescent in Lake Boga township a
Catalina flying boat marks the site of the
museum which is located in an old bunker built
in World War II. It recalls the occasion in
World War II when a Flying Boat Repair Depot
operated at Lake Boga. The museum has an
interactive map display, memorabilia and
photographs. It is open from 9.30 a.m. to 4.00
p.m. daily, tel: (03) 5037 2850.
Other attractions are the Imperial Egg
Gallery at the Catalina Motel which has over 100
jewelled, carved and painted eggs (03 5037
2790), and the Von Glass and Craft Shop in
Kerang St which specialises in stained glasswork
and decorative boxes, tel: (03) 5037 2580.
Best's Wines, established by the Thomson family
in 1930 (see entry on Great Western), produces a
large range of table wines and fortifieds. The
cellar door is open from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.
on weekdays and 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. on
Saturdays and public holidays. During long
weekends only the winery opens on Sundays from
12.00 p.m. to 4.00 p.m. There are picnic
They are 5 km off the Murray Valley Highway
in Wilson Road. Keep your eyes peeled for the
winery sign. It is on the left-hand side of the
highway if you are heading south in the built-up
area of Lake Boga township, tel: (03) 5037 2154.
Lakes Kangaroo and Charm
Lake Kangaroo and Lake Charm are popular water
skiing lagoons located south of Lake Boga on the
Murray Valley Highway. For further information
see entry on Kerang.