SUMMER DAYTRIPPERS: Lake Mulwala

CHANCES are not many visitors to Yarrawonga-Mulwala give thanks for voluntary labour carried out more than 70 years ago.

But perhaps they should.

Because without some determined local men in 1938 who took up their axes and cross-cut saws, the water activities now enjoyed on Lake Mulwala might not be possible.

This group worked to clear an area of the red gum forest that would become the lake as part of the construction of Yarrawonga Weir, aiming to create a recreation facility.

They completed the tree felling in June 1939 and the first filling of Lake Mulwala began in August that year.

Standing on the Yarrawonga foreshore today, you can easily guess where the cleared section ends, so numerous are the tree stumps and trunks protruding from the water beyond.

A plaque recognises the efforts of those workers, but this could be overlooked by the many holidaymakers each summer who benefit from their labour.

Yes, water can play a big part in any trip to Yarrawonga-Mulwala but there are also many attractions nearby that require no immersion.

Your day can be tailored several different ways depending on your age and interests.

Young families may stick close to the lake while others may prefer the wine, cheese and olive products available along the popular Farm Gate Trail.

Pioneer history can be explored at several locations while more active pursuits such as golf — mini or regular — bike riding, kayaking or fishing are encouraged.

Whatever you decide, be sure to start early to make the most of your day.

Allow about an hour’s travel time from Albury-Wodonga, either via the Hume Freeway and Murray Valley Highway to Yarrawonga or the Riverina Highway and through Corowa.

If unfamiliar with the region or undecided about your program, a quick stop at the Yarrawonga-Mulwala Visitor Information Centre on Irvine Parade is recommended for its plentiful brochures and knowledgeable staff.

You may want to return there at lunchtime as the attached Lake Cafe & Deck offers waterfront views while you eat.

Actually, diners are spoilt for choice along Yarrawonga’s main shopping strip and at the various clubs.

The restored Customs House next to the centre reminds us how separate Victoria and NSW once were, a sign from 1894 decreeing that all persons with goods about to enter “the colony of New South Wales” must report in beforehand.

Another glimpse into the past lies with the information boards at the Yarrawonga Weir Power Station.

The weir operated for 50 years before being opened officially as its original ceremony set for October 1939 was postponed because World War II began.

Pelicans congregate by the water’s edge, more interested in present-day fish than past engineering feats.

A drive or walk along the foreshore, either side of the lake, reveals an abundance of green lawn, picnic spots, playground equipment and designated swimming areas.

Yarrawonga has a splash feature suitable for the very young as well as a skate park and waterslide while a bigger waterslide can be found in Mulwala.

Many visitors bring their own boats, but hiring is an option for the day tripper with fishing boats, ski rides, tube rides canoes and the well-named Barby Pontoon all up for grabs.

If needing some help finding the best fishing spots, the team at Gone Yonder Fishing may be able to guide you.

Gliding across Lake Mulwala, the all-weather boat MV Paradise Queen provides cruises and meals, while scenic flights over the district enable you to see a lot in a limited time.

To stretch your legs and appreciate the wildlife, seek out the nature track at Chinaman’s Island Wetland, near Yarrawonga Yacht Club.

The circuit is two kilometres long and suitable for walkers, cyclists, wheelchairs and dogs on leashes.

Away from the water in Mulwala, Tunzafun Amusement Park and the Yarrawonga-Mulwala Pioneer Museum, both of which rely on volunteers, provide alternative pastimes for all ages.

An uncommon attraction is the Antique Clock Museum in Yarrawonga’s Lynch Street, where more than 400 antique and novelty clocks in working order are displayed.

Beyond the twin townships, local history and produce are only a short drive away.

Not that Elizabeth Hume and her nine children would have found the journey they made in the 1840s an easy one.

Assisted by her brother-in-law, explorer Hamilton Hume, the widow and her family travelled 520 kilometres to reach the location of her future home, Byramine.

Classified by the National Trust, the Byramine Homestead lies 14km west of Yarrawonga and its style emphasises security, not unexpectedly given Elizabeth’s husband was shot dead by bushrangers.

The octagonal central room, called the fortress, was designed to provide a clear view of all angles in case of attack from bushrangers or Aborigines.

Byramine means rustic retreat and its garden boasts the oldest elm trees in Victoria, brought from Elizabeth’s former home at Gunning.

Another property from the 19th century is Savernake Station, about 23km north of Yarrawonga, where a guided tour of the 1886 homestead and 1876 selector’s hut can illuminate days gone by.

Several stops along the Farm Gate Trail, an initiative of Sun Country on the Murray, are not far from Yarrawonga-Mulwala and may be worth a visit depending on your tastes.

Boosey Creek Cheese, located towards Katamatite on Grinter Road, is a modern working farm with a 50-stand computerised dairy that also makes several varieties of cheese using milk from its Friesian cows.

At Rich Glen Olives, west on the Murray Valley Highway, you can sample more than 100 products made on site including salad dressings, flavoured oils, sauces, jams and a natural olive skin care range.

Further along the highway is Fyffe Field Wines, which offers white, red and fortified wines and its after-dinner speciality, Cobram Creme.

Some people feel Cobram Creme is superior to the well-known Bailey’s Irish Cream; a bold claim, but one certainly worth testing for yourself.

Produce, history, tours and sports — perhaps visitors to Yarrawonga-Mulwala would still find enough to do even if those 1930s volunteers hadn’t taken it upon themselves to clear the lake area.

But you only have to look at the family groups by the water, launching their boats, zooming past on jet skis, paddling in canoes and swimming, to know that this hard physical work so long ago was time well spent.

OTHER SUMMER DAYTRIPPERS YARNS:

-  The Ned Kelly trail

-  Lake Hume

-  Paddling the Murray River

-  The Snowy region

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