As it was over 34 degrees on the one day I had to spend in Mildura while my husband was elsewhere in the city working, my absolute Must Sees were the coolest places in town: the library and the pool.
The complex seems rather new and indeed so huge and fantastic that I would have remembered it if it had been here 5 years ago on my last visit.
Two outdoor pools (completely empty: I guess with heat day after day, the locals have become sensible and know better than to go out and fry in the sun), a large indoor lap pool, small toddlers pool, and a medium sized wave pool, which wasn't doing its thing at the time (just bubbling away like a spa in the middle).
When it is in operation though it must be pretty impressive, because there are WARNING STAY BACK FROM EDGES signs all around the walls of the pool, and little rope barriers too.
I guess when you're about 500 kms from the sea, this is as close to waves as you're going to get.
Pretty good substitute, seemed to me!
All new facilities and spotlesscly clean, excellent water quality and visibility underwater.
Oh boy. Mildura and surrounds is just about totally under the grape! Its a new industry that is contributing to the growth of the town. To see red soil and then row upon row upon row upon row of vines is an extraordinary site. And there are so many vineyards to chose from, its wholly dependent on your tastes as to which to head for.
The first home of William Chaffey prior to Rio Vista, the grounds, overlooking the Murray, are now a small heritage park with a few period buildings dotted round the park. Its kinda cute without being too demanding - good picnic spot with great views over the river.
Gold Coin donation honesty box.
Set back from the road on the edge of town is William Chaffey's home - Rio Vista. Started in 1869, this grand home is where William and his second wife lived unil his death in 1926. It is now a musuem of 19th century life in the rugged provinces of Mildura. The grounds also now form part of the more contemporary Mildura Arts Centre.
A$3 entry fee
A kilometre or so out of town is one of the few official Murray River beaches. Its a great spot to while away an afternoon (chances are that in Mildura the weather will be fine for you to be able to do it moreorless all year round). Swimming in the Murray is something else! The only warning is never to junp in if you can't see the bottom and watch out for snags underwater. But its worth doing at least once!
A few kms east of the centre in Irymple is the King's Billabong Nature Reserve. Tracks cut through the waterways of the billabong and make for relatively easy hikes through to some lovely wetlands. The billabong is fed by the flood waters of the Murray and its well worth heading out for a couple of hours stroll.
When I was a child, visiting Mildura, along with the pelicans, going for a ride on one of the Paddlesteamers up and down the river was one of my favorite things.
It's a very popular activity, and cruises range from an hour, to longer (and there may also be dinner cruises here).
In pioneering days, paddlesteamers were an important source of trade and transportation up and down this mighty Murray river, connecting towns along the river with each other, and the boats could continue right down to South Australia, near Adelaide, where the river finally ends, 2520 kms after it began as a trickle in the Victorian high country.
This pic is a scale model of the Avoca paddlesteamer, on display in the Information Centre.
Of the remaining paddlesteamers, the Melbourne stands out as being quite special, as it's quite historic now, and also, I believe, the only one left which is still steam driven, so you can see the boilers and have a much better idea of how it must have been in the 'old days'.
It's quite a relaxing trip, travelling slowly up the Murray with the paddle wheels chugging. You can sit out on deck and watch the river go by, admire the river redgum trees, pass some house boats, or sit indoors and partake of the refreshments from the little cafe desk.
The Buronga Winery, seven kilometers from Mildura, was established in 1969 and following subsequent ownership, was purchased by Thomas Hardy & Sons in 1998 from HJ Heinz who had spared no cost in updating the winery to a 35,000 tonne operation with a 30 million litre storage capacity and two automated wine cask filling lines. Prior to Hardys merger with Berri Renmano Ltd in 1992, a semi-automated two litre packaging line and further storage facilities were added to the winery.
Now an integral park of the BRL Hardy Wine Company, the Stanley Wine Company is proud of being one of, if not the most efficient producer of cask wine in the Australian wine industry. The winery now has an impressive 80,000 tonne crushing capacity and modern technology which allows 20 million litres of grape juice to be cold fermented fortnightly during vintage. In addition, 6 million litres of juice can be stored in cold room facilities for future use in blending and fermentation. Once the winemakers are satisfied with the quality of the wine it is packaged along three packaging lines with a combined annual filling capacity of over 40 million litres.
Set on a 50 hectare site, the three hectare winery complex features row upon row of stainless steel tanks in which wine is stored range in size from 24,000 litres to 565,000 litres. Staff and visitors are positively dwarfed alongside these monsters! Stanley Winery Cellar Door staff are on hand to offer a large range of wines for tasting and sale, gathered from the extensive BRL Hardy portfolio. In addition to Stanley Wines produced at Buronga, there are wines from Padthaway, Clare, Coonawarra and McLaren Vale. From Western Australia, wines are featured from Margaret River, Swan Valley and Gin Gin.
The next place on my list of "Must sees in 35 C degree heat" was Mildura Library.
Actually, becoming accustomed to free internet access available in Victorian libraries, I'd gone there earlier in the day and booked in a time (that way I could get an hour for free instead 10 minutes or nothing if the 4 terminals were full.
It's only supposed to be for searching, etc. If you want to use email you have to pay).
And, as expected, the air conditioning was a bonus too. Extremely comfortable. New computer facilities were great too, with LCD screens.
Even better, handy location, right next door (attached to the same building) as the swimming pool!
Woodsies is one of the largest touristy gem shop/gem display/cutting attractions of its kind in Australia.
It's both a well stocked, beautiful show room, with outdoor viewing area for the tumbling of stones and rocks, with an indoor demonstration room where a few times a day you can watch stones being cut and polished and listen to an explanation by the cutter (who makes it all look so easy, despite being so labour intensive), plus you can shop for souvenirs after admiring all the jewellery (much of it is very good value too) , visit the gem museum (the only part of the attraction you need to pay for, and at $3 it's cheap) where my favorite part of the exhibits is the room where rocks are put under ultraviolet light which makes them glow strangely, as if from within...
and then you can dine in the cafe which has been made to look like a cave, with the plaster on the ceiling shaped like the roof of a cave with stalactites coming down, or go through the maze outside....so there's lots to do for the whole family.
Mildura Visitor information centre is a great first stop to get maps & information on the region. Not only that, it also serves as quite a good source of local and historical information, with a kind of gallery display along one wall, telling the story of the beginnings of the town as an Irrigation settlement, geography of the region, information on the neighbouring National Parks of Mungo National Park & Broken Hill, including up to date info on weather and road conditions. Very comprehensive.
The Information Centre is part of the huge Deakin Complex, which was completed in 1998 at a cost of $11.2 million, and includes the Library, the Swimming complex with its olympic pools, other pools and wave pools, a cafe, theatrette, meeting rooms and display space, and the indoor garden with creek running between the Info Centre and the Library.
When built, it was the only one of its kind in Australia.
Quite an extensive botanical gardens, with several large rose gardens, but for the most part, native plants and trees and walking trails. The rockery plant area near the rose garden is a good place to see native birds feeding on nectar in the mornings.
The Perry Sandhills don't cover a wide area, but are quite striking regardless, since they are in the middle of a very flat landscape where the main vegetation is stunted small scrubland and open paddocks.
It is forbidden to sand drive on them, but you can still have a lot of other fun climbing on them (and we saw the remains of toboggans made of flattened cardboard boxes)
We were there not long before sunset, and it was great.
There is also a good amount of Aboriginal local history to be learned about in the Visitor Information Centre. They've even relocated this old Canoe tree inside the centre itself, as an exhibit.
Canoe trees were trees where the bark of the tree was cut by the aborigines to make canoes. Eventually the bark would start to re grow, but there would always be the canoe shaped scar in the trunk of the tree.
In the southern states of Australia, canoe trees are some of the only visible relics on the landscape, and even then, to see them you need to know what you're looking for and to be able to tell the difference between a canoe tree and a tree that's been struck by lightning.