River deep at historic Moama
Amber Wilson, Moama | AAP | May 5 2017
Imagine a place that's swampy enough to inspire a song by Creedence Clearwater Revival, and yet so Australian you could be forgiven for thinking you've landed at Footrot Flats.
Home to one of the major arteries pumping H2O through this big, dry country of ours, Moama is what it is thanks to the Murray River. And what it is today is a little pocket of Australiana history and culture.
The Murray and its scores of tributaries is Moama's centrepiece, so visiting this region is not only a visit in history, but a trip back to nature. River red gums line the waterway and you'll spot plenty of kangaroos, parrots, cockatoos and Mallee fowls.
No trip to Moama can be mentioned without also highlighting its neighbouring township, Echuca. These guys are so close together - just across the bridge, in fact - that they've somewhat amalgamated despite crossing state lines.
Between the two towns, you'll spot local kids sporting Blundstone boots, shop-owners chewing the fat, and bustling brick corner pubs that look like they've never had a dry night.
And it's easy to see - even during a late autumn or early winter visit - that these towns get hot in the summer.
Scores of houseboats for sale or lease are lined up down the Murray River - sporting names like Wine Down and The Shack - giving you the impression that when January rolls around, this town is all about fishing and drinking good beer.
The best way to explore the river is to get right in. There are few attractions in this world that are as suitable for kids and their exhausted parents as they are for loved-up couples, but paddlesteamers are one of them.
Echuca Moama has the largest paddlesteamer fleet in the world, with the historic boats ranging from former cargo transporters to luxury craft that take overnight passengers and even host weddings.
It's all very authentic - and the region doesn't give the sense of having been scourged by tourism. Even Echuca's historic wharf doesn't feel like it's been made up to impress visitors. It's just been like this, in all its charming yesteryear glory, since the 1800s.
Go for a joyride. The PS Pevensey was first built as a barge in 1910 before being converted to a paddlesteamer, and was used for picking up bales of wool from station properties and bringing them back to Echuca wharf, where they'd be loaded on trains to Melbourne.
It's worth getting up close to the dedicated chap shoveling coal into the boat's furnace and watching the sweat literally glisten on his brow.
This is a gorgeous piece of machinery that will impress gadget nerds as much as history buffs. The steam pushes the mechanism to turn the wheels through the water, and given this particular vessel has been operational for more than 100 years, it's an impressive engineering feat.
Another way to experience the legendary river is to walk it.
The Echuca Moama Visitor Information Centre is jam-packed full of information on self-guided walks - and staffed by people who couldn't be more passionate about their region.
There's plenty of serious bushwalks for fitness freaks, but if the thought of exercise sends cold shivers down your spine, Moama offers plenty of easy boardwalk strolls too.
Horseshoe Lagoon is a good bet - you can get up close to Moama's wetlands, take a look at a fair dinkum billabong, and possibly even spy a family of turtles having a lazy day.
Accommodation is part of the Moama experience too.
At first, the abodes of traditional Mongolia might not seem to have much to do with this thick bush and riverland. But Talo Retreat, a group of yurts located at Moama on Murray Resort, somehow clicks in perfectly with its eco surrounds.
This is "glamping" at its best - in the middle of a fauna-dense bushland, the yurts are well-appointed with wooden floorboards, soft linen, heating and even a spa bath on the deck.
As you'll discover quickly, there are few things in life quite as neat as sitting starkers in the middle of the bush at night, drinking champagne with your beloved in a top-notch bubbler, and listening to Australia Crawl on the wireless while kangaroos nibble nearby.
IF YOU GO
GETTING THERE: The easiest way to get to Echuca/Moama is to fly into Melbourne and hire a car for a two hour and 45 minute trip north.
STAYING THERE: Moama on Murray Resort is set in the middle of 34km of bushland and 2.5km of river frontage, making it perfect for a nature escape. Accommodation includes villas, cottages, camper boats, houseboats and luxury yurts. Prices start at $143 per night. For more, visit www.moamaonmurray.com.au.
PLAYING THERE: Camping, cycling, walking, fishing, bushwalking and birdwatching are the hallmarks of a trip to Moama and the key to enjoying its grand old river. For a full list of activities, check out www.echucamoama.com.
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* The writer travelled as a guest of Destination NSW.
(Image: Amber Wilson/AAP Images)