You’ve aced it Cohuna

Cohuna would have to be one of the best town based free camp sites anywhere. Well that's my opinion of course. So exactly where is Cohuna? It is situated on the banks of Gunbower Creek, n important branch of the Murray River just 65km north west of Echuca on the Murray Valley Highway.

The lovely water fountain and if you look at the enlarge image you can see the fish sculpture behind it

Obviously it really depends upon what you are looking for from your free camp of course.
Some might prefer the peace and quiet of the open country with hardly a soul in sight. Others want a busy little town with a half decent shopping centre.

Looking from the town side across the river at the free campers on Flora Park


At the moment this little town has grass underfoot which we have found to be rather rare on this trip. We also have water views from our doorway as we are alongside the weir which directs water up the various irrigation channels.

Grass not quite so green but still it is grass and that is the town across the water
All this is within walking distance to the town shops. So how’s that for a free camp?

Sunset across the Gunbower Creek from the campsite
A very generous 72 hours stay allows us plenty of time to relax and explore the town and surrounding area. We believe towns would benefit a lot more by allowing longer stop overs. See our post on this topic here.

A short drive takes you to many areas

So what is there to see in the area? 

Well the camp ground itself is located on a separate island, Gunbower Island which is claimed to be Australia's largest inland island. It has a water frontage of 130 kilometres and is mostly covered by native forests and wetlands. Tent camping, picnics, fishing, boating, birdwatching & bush walking are all common activities on the island.

Along with some friends, we went for a long drive around the island. We didn't really appreciate the island though as it was very dry. It is hard to imagine it as a wetlands from our drive around the area. It is just so dry here as just about everywhere around western Victoria is at the moment. We could see that we really could get bogged during the wet season, however a bit more green colour to be seen would have been appreciated.

A pelican is one of the birds found in the wooden statues

Another thing we did was to use Cohuna as a base and go for a pleasant drive through the countryside and we ended up at Koondrook where we were pleasantly surprised my the wood carving trial we discovered. Timber was a important industry in this area and the town recognizes this through the wood carvings depicting important people and the bird life in the area.

Just one of the  many wood carved statues around.nearby Koondrook

Cohuna, Victoria, in my book you’ve aced it! I will be back time and time again when we pass through this way.

Free camping at Woomelang

One of the beauties of free camping is that you might be stopping in an area you might otherwise skip. If it is adjacent to a  town or village then it is quite likely to be an important aid to its survival. Please don't forget to the locals and visit the local shops and businesses.


There’s a free camp here that asks for donation for clean toilets, with a hot shower and powered sites available. A nice bricked fire pit with seats is on site too. It is a small park only suitable for maybe 4 vans providing the drivers are considerate. Any large rigs eg 12m long bus types can easily park on the street frontage in front of the toilet block. You can still hook up to a water tap. The power might be more difficult as the power is close to the centre of the parking/camping area.


Here this town is doing is quite tough with the general store, the petrol station, as well as the usual fire brigade and op shops are manned by volunteers. What an awesome community spirit this town has. They were so very friendly too as I found on my walks around this little town.


We’ll stay put a couple of nights and enjoy a brief respite from our travels.. It is also a good place to be based for reaching the northern end of the Victorian Painted Silos Trails, which we'll showcase in a separate post just on the painted silos soon.

The first of the silos from the northern end

I love the opportunity to sit back and relax whether it be doing some crafts, reading a book or catching up on my internet and blogs. What was a delightful joy was to meet a fellow crafter who camped there on our 2nd night. She creates hand felted fabrics and showed me the divine jacket she had made. She also crochets whilst her husband drives. A pity I didn't get any photos.(It was too dark for my photographic skills)

Free camping at the historic river town of Echuca

We rocked up to the Rotary Park on the Campaspe River in Echuca just before the hot winds came. It’s sad as it is so dry and dusty everywhere for hundreds of kilometres even along the river. The whole region needs a good steady down pour of gentle rains that can soak in rather than flood or famine which seems to be more the norm these last 10 or so years.

The Campaspe River runs alongside the free camp at Rotary Park
We had visited Echuca late in 2014 but just as day visitors and we went to a few of the museums in the town. We covered these in this earlier post of our visit there.

One of the other campers were flying a kite up near the horse paddocks

We are starting to notice that Autumn has arrived at last. It was a cool to cold night but the days are absolutely lovely, reaching a comfortably warm 25 or so which is just perfect in my book.


Echuca was an important river port town in it's heyday with paddle steamers plying their trade up and down the river. It was also a major crossing point for transport over the border into NSW esp for stock.

Paddle wheelers still go up and down the Murray River

We enjoyed a walk along the esplanade at the historic Port Echuca. I love seeing the old time crafts and machinery.

Old style sits alongside more modern style woodworks
Old steam engine

I was also beguiled once again by the mini port barrels (fortified wine variety). I wanted one the last time we were here and I still yearn for one but my blasted practical financial sensibility just couldn't justify spending that much money for a barrel. It's one of those things that to me makes for a terrific birthday present: something you really want but for whatever reason you wont or dont buy it for yourself.

Port barrels available right on the wharf at St Anne's Wine Cellar.

On a previous visit we had chips in the lovely park adorning the port. This time we visited a award winning fish and chip place for our light meal but we were sadly disappointed with our fare. Don't get me wrong, it was OK, ordinary even certainly nothing spectacular. Sometimes it is better not to have any expectations and then be surprised when it is fabulous, no matter whether we are talking about food, experiences or even people.

A panoramic shot of the Murray River (dble click to enlarge)
Click on any of the photos to enlarge the images if you're interested esp the last one - the panoramic photo.

Tocumwal

Tocumwal is a town in the southern Riverina region of New South Wales, Australia, right near the Victorian border. The town is situated on the banks of the Murray River which is why we visited it.


Tocumwal Town Beach Campground offers low cost camping right on the sandy banks of Murray River with basic facilities including toilets (BYO paper) and cold showers and potable water. A caretaker comes around each evening to collect the small $5pp fees. The site is reasonably flat and accessible to caravans, motorhomes, campers, and big rigs with area suitable for tents. It is a dusty ground which when we visited was a bit of a bother when the wind popped up or a inconsiderate driver drives past too fast.


Town Beach is less than 1km walking distance of the small shopping area. A small monthly Farmer's Market is held in the town park.


Whilst there we called our fellow motorhome friends, Wayne and Nini who live nearby to come and join us for morning tea. We introduced them to Gary and Joy who are traveling to the Painted Silos Trail with us.


Each evening we were entertained by the noisy Corellas. This video is not even a quarter of the show. Enjoy! 🍷



Riverside Free Camping near Rutherglen and it's Wineries

About 7km west past Rutherglen or 70km west of Albury, is Stantons' Bend. It is a fabulous free camping area that is certainly very popular on long weekends. As it happened there was a state side long weekend the weekend we were there.


It's a big area with lots of riverside camping spots though understandably these were mostly gone by the time we rolled in. Stanton’s Bend is a large reserve accessed via Moodemere Road off the Murray Valley Highway.(Its mostly a dirt with a bit of corrugation but at about 4km of dirt road, it's not that long or bad if you go slow and our friends in "Gary's Joy" a 30ft bus with a huge trailer could gain access.

Gary's Joy is some 18m long (38ft?)

I wouldn't try going there in wet weather as the roads would be quite muddy and thus potentially boggy also it is well known to flood in heavy rains. Once in through the gate, follow the main track which loops around the river with dispersed bush camping along the river. It is grassier about 700m further west but it is also more overhanging trees and more populated as the 'beach' area offers easier foot access for people esp those with kiddies. We choose a mostly sunny spot a bit further away from other campers and thus about 30m from the river which we could still walk into.



On the Monday we drove with our friends into Corowa where we saw a few vintage hot rods that had come up for some rally but we missed the majority much to Gary's disappointment.

 


We couldn't leaver Rutherglen without visiting at least a couple of wineries. I opted for 2 that also did fortified wines as I just love a good port. We tried some of the other wines, with all of us having different preferences as to which type of wines we liked best. I came away with a White Fortified Wine from Stanton and Killeen for something different to 'just' Port. I also picked up a gift for our son whose birthday was approaching. If you're reading this Allan, its not a bottle so don't get your hopes up, but Happy Birthday anyway!



The days are pleasantly warm to hot and happy hours shared with our friends were a part of every pre-dinner ritual with a couple of games of Sequence following dinner a lovely way to welcome the evenings. I also got to spend some time in "my outdoors crafts room". Meaning I love to craft under the shade of the gum trees. To have a view of the famous Murray River is just  an added bonus.



Sock Monkeys & Dolls

My Sock monkeys and dolls are available through my facebook page www.facebook.com/platypuscreations1.

Just one of my sock monkeys
 
50% of all sales go to a Rare Cancer charity called Without a Ribbon Inc

Is a 24 hours stay enough?

We have been free camping a lot since we were introduced to this lifestyle some 7 years ago and we love the freedom it gives us to come and go without have to plan and book days and weeks in advance. We would love councils and shires to consider longer free camping for the reasons we listed below. We recognize that businesses aka caravan parks need to have people pay to stay in their parks. However this post isn't about supporting free camping verses caravan parks. Maybe we will do a post in the future about our take on this part of the debate. However this post is limited to the recognition shown by some shires and councils to allow limited free overnight stops.



We felt strong enough about to this topic to send a  much shorter letter to the editor of Australia's largest motorhome & RV club (CMCA) magazine, The Wanderer, which was subsequently published in the March 2018 edition (Vol 33 no 3)



Our original unedited letter

I am writing in regard to free camping and how many towns and regions are offering places to camp for free or at low cost. I am especially grateful for these camps that offer 48-96 hours stay. Frankly I am puzzled by towns and councils putting in only 20-24 hour stays. By the time we arrive, settle down after the drive, cook, sleep, it is time to move on again, leaving no time to explore and look around your town, do some shopping and visit a restaurant or club etc.


Personally for my wife and I, we tend to move onto an area where we can stay a minimum 48 hours as we feel it is just not worth the effort of stopping for just one night.

I would like to suggest a minimum 48 hour stop would benefit your town so much more. Let's face it, every RV, if given enough time will spend more dollars at a more relaxed pace. We are not the group that just need a quick stop for break and to get a few basic supplies before moving on to our destination. For many of us, it is a lifestyle thing, where we are not necessarily on a tight time frame. We would like to experience what your region has to offer and we would like more time to do this.
 

Sure I can understand that a 24 hours limit is easier to control for councils, but at the same time it makes it easier for RVs who are self sufficient to not stop for long if at all.

There will always be a certain group that will only stop and stay within a caravan park. There is another group that can only free camp for a limited time often 2 or 3 nights before they need power etc. There is a growing number of dedicated free campers who can and do travel long term (and a small but growing percentage that chose to live in their RV permanently). 


By catering for longer stays you will attract more spending across a broader spectrum of businesses. I am reasonably sure the CMCA (Campervan and Motorhome Assoc) will have proof of how much spending occurs in towns if you need to back up what I say with proof.


Free camping at Joe O'Connor Park within walking distance of Yass where we often stop and relax & shop.

I am also very grateful for these free camps, not just because it is just that, free, but because it attracts a totally different sub culture of travellers whom we enjoy the company of and the second vitally important reason is because of the freedom it gives us when travelling. We do not have to plan ahead just where and when we are going to be at a certain place. If we like a place or meet wonderful people then we are very likely to extend our stay on the spur of the moment. We can't do this if we are restricted to caravan parks.

We all need fuel, food, water on a regular basis. Then there are miscellaneous expenditures from restaurants, pubs and clubs, motor vehicle maintenance and repairs, laundromats, camping and fishing supplies, hairdressers, pharmacies &/or doctors, books, magazines, etc. It is up to each council to decide how much they desire to attract such people, many of whom are baby boomers with the majority of debts paid off and now reaping the benefits of hard work by relaxing and buying things they couldn't or wouldn't spend in their earlier years. 


Free camp within walking distance of Hopetoun, Vic

Just as an example: On this trip to Adelaide we decided to see some of the painted silos. Because we were able to free camp at Lake Lascelles, we ended up staying and enjoying there 3 days using this place as a base to go sight seeing and visiting nearby silos. We also went into Hopetoun several times. We used the laundromat, bought lunch one day and a dinner another day there, visited the garage (for advice as they were unable to assist us at that time) and bought some groceries at the local IGA. Had we not been able to stay the 3 nights, we may have bought 1 meal there at the most but I doubt it.

Our lovely panoramic view from our motor home free camping at Lake Lascelles
 

Stopping by Albury for a few days

We rocked up to Albury to stay at a fellow MSO. Alan and Mary have a 50m acre farm they deem as small (after previously having a farm of some 1000 acres). They have generously opened up their place to fellow club members to stay over for a few days if they wish to sight see around the Albury/Wodonga area.

Our home for a few days near Albury

We were encouraged to join them for happy hours on the back verandah amidst the abundant bird life.

On our first day there we went into town and checked out one of the shopping centres as well as the Information Centre near the beautifully maintained train station. It is a grand old Victorian building, and possibly one of the most beautiful railway stations outside of Melbourne and Sydney.

Albury Railway Station is beautiful

On our second day there we went for a drive around a suggested tourist loop taking in the Hume Dam and The Bonegilla Migrant Museum.

The Hume Dam

Hume Dam is a major dam across the Murray River and is a part of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme. We were told that one could walk across the dam but we found that the top of the dam was closed to the public though there were viewing platforms that were open. To give you an idea of the capacity of the Lake Hume that is formed, it holds around six times the amount of water as Sydney Harbour. I am not sure about the general recreational use of the dam as to swimming and fish, but there is a sailing club on the southern borders of the lake and we could see at least one sailing boat on the lake.

The Hume Dam wall

The Bonegilla Migrant Museum

 

Rob at the entry

Australia’s largest and longest operating migrant centre opening for displaced men in particular in 1947 and soon to include families. It housed migrants up until 1971. Some 300,000 people passed through this centre, mostly from Europe. It is now listed as a significant heritage site and one can visit the many restored buildings and learn of the lives and deprivations people went through before arriving in Australia.

Somehow this appreciation seems to be lacking in many of today's migrants


It was interesting to note that those who came with nothing appreciated what Australia tried to do for them. The migrants that arrived under an assistant scheme were generally speaking a lot more critical. They might comment on the boredom of the food even as they acknowledged that there was plenty of it.

There were many informative, visual displays and memorabilia

Though I think it would have been hard to adjust to a new culture, different food and separation from family support, amongst other difficulties, for many it was a chance to start over. I haven't a clue what goes on in such migrant placement centres today, but I expect that the same frustrations exists with some appreciating the possibility of being able to start over in a new country and others expecting more than is being done for them/


Sumsion Gardens, Wodonga

Sumsion Gardens
We would have visited the Huon Lookout, but it is poorly marked as in NO signs on the main road and it is a dirt track which we ignored expecting it to be bitumen. By the time we realized it we used Google Maps and found a track further ahead that appeared to go up to the look out only to find that after a little bit, the track was barred closed by a gate allowing no vehicular access. So we gave up and went on ahead to Wodonga and had a lovely picnic lunch on the water's edge at the delightful Sumsion Gardens with all manner of ducks, geese and other birds for company.