After spending time with our family, Day 16 of our trip saw us heading to the Macedon Ranges and the town of Kyneton, to visit some more family. We found the free camp, Mineral Springs, north of the town. It was lovely and situated in a park beside the Campaspe River. There are toilets and a dump point, although it was overflowing when we were there. It is only a short walk from one end of the park to the other, and there are two mineral spring pumps where one can fill up their drink bottles. We didn't, although I tasted the water and it tasted 'different'. There are limited RV parking sites, so one needs to get there early. We got there about 4pm and an hour later all the sites were taken.
The town of Kyneton is historic and was established in the 1830's as a traveller's stop, and came into prominence during the 1850's Gold Rush, as it is on the way to the gold fields at Castlemaine and Bendigo. Kyneton also became the center for agriculture with the establishment of many flour mills.
The next morning we left our lovely camp at Kyneton Mineral Springs and had a wonderful visit with family before heading north via Castlemaine. We didn't spend a lot of time walking around Kyneton, but will go back when it is warmer and spend more time there. There appears to be two main streets that are filled with many historic buildings. It is also not far from the famous Hanging Rock.
We only had a quick drive around Bendigo, and topped up with fuel. We had intended staying north of Bendigo, however when we arrived at Huntly Lion Park there was not a lot of room left, so we decided to drive a further 78 km to Echuca. At Echuca we stayed at the Rotary Park on the banks of the Campaspe River.
This is a donation park – suggested $5 – and has town water for filling up water tanks. It has a lot of historic buildings around the outside of the oval and plenty of self-contained caravan parking.
It was so lovely, and we had never been to Echuca before so we decided to stay an extra night and do some exploring.
Echuca is situated on the Murray River. The Murray is 2,560km long and forms much of the border between N.S.W. And Victoria. Echuca and Moama were founded by ex-convicts. In 1845 James Maiden established a punt crossing and inn on the northern side of the Murray. The area became known as Maiden's Punt. In 1851 the area became known as Moama, meaning 'place of the dead'. Henry Hopwood arrived on the southern side of the river in 1850 and set up a rival punt and inn in 1853. The area became known as Echuca, meaning 'meeting of the waters', in 1854. It was Hopwood who suggested a river port to aid river trade, and by 1891 Echuca was the largest inland port. A ship building industry was soon established and was supported by many sawmills. It was not until the establishment and expansion of the railways that the paddle-steamers started to decline.
Our first stop the next morning was to the historic wharf area. There was plenty of parking, and we had a look at the choice of paddle-steamer cruises and chose the PS Alexander Arbuthnot. The ship is named after the former owner of Arbuthnot Sawmills, where the ship was built, Alexander James Cooke Arbuthnot. It was built in 1916 and served as a barge, moving logs. In 1923 she was fitted with an engine, boiler and super structure and started life as a working steamer. She worked until the 1940's. Today she cruises daily and is only one of two original paddle steamers at Echuca. The cruise was good. We sat up the front, which we thought was the best place, as Peter chatted to the ship's captain. The commentary included the history of many of the paddle-steamers that were moored along the banks. What was really interesting with this cruise was the fact that one walks along the length of the original wharf and actually walk through a section of restored original wharf. The other cruises leave from jetty's further up stream. PS Arbuthnot was well worth the $25 ($22 for seniors).
Port of Echuca Discovery Centre is also well worth a visit. One can combine the PS Arbuthnot and PS Pevensey (used in the TV Series 'All the Rivers Run) cruises with entry to the Discovery Centre and safe about $4. There are interactive displays, a working steam engine, saw mill display, the old wharf and railway station. Guided tours are also available.
We walked along High St and marveled at the number of restored historic buildings. Most had information plaques attached to the buildings. This restoration and public information boards has made Echuca a tourist town today. Kelly's Fine Furniture started life as an office for J. Shacknell. Shacknell came to Echuca in 1863 and build this building in 1879. His company occupied the building until 1935. Shacknell proved a challenge for Hopwood's businesses and set up many opposition businesses.
Next door, the lower floor was also built by Shacknell in 1866. It was used as a store. The upper floor was added in 1872. A Heritage Walk pamphlet can be obtained from the Visitor Information Centre, and information boards are attached to the historic buildings.
In the afternoon we drove to some free camps along the Victorian side of the river. The views were perfect, but we wouldn't take our van there. We would much rather pay the $5 a night at the Rotary Park. Echuca is a place we will come back to - probably many times.