Mildura: an oasis in a barren land
No matter which direction you are travelling from, Mildura will stun you like an oasis appearing on the horizon at the end of a long desert safari. From the – albeit sometimes fascinating – monotony of the outback, lush palm trees, rich citrus trees and fruitful vineyards greet you so unexpectedly, they make you feel like a dreamy child arriving in the land of milk and honey – or in this case, the land of wine and fruit.
Mildura truly is an oasis, one that has been carefully planned, designed and constructed by two foreigners with a daring vision. In 1886 the Canadian brothers George and William Chaffey took on the challenging task of opening up more land for farming and settling in the Victorian countryside. They developed a series of steam-driven pumps to lift the water from the Murray River to various heights to irrigate an area that had been desolate and barren. Success was immediate and Mildura quickly developed into a vibrant community.
The Mildura region today grows 95 percent of dried vine fruit, 69 percent of table grapes, 55 percent of almonds and 21 percent of citrus – all of Australia’s total fresh produce. Each year, 40 million litres of wine are produced around Mildura.
The abundance of high quality foods has turned Mildura into a gourmet destination with plenty of renowned restaurants and high profile wineries. Among them is the award-winning Stefano’s Restaurant with TV star cook Stefano De Pieri, which is located in the old cellar of the Mildura Grand Hotel. Other award-winning venues include Seasons and The New Spanish Bar & Grill as well as the idyllic Trentham Estate Winery. Give the local brew a try at the Mildura Brewery. The tasting tray gives you a flavour for all of their beers.
The Murray River offers plenty of leisure activities. The Paddle Steamer Melbourne cruises along the river twice a day. The unique feature of the cruise is travelling downstream through Lock 11, which was built to bypass the weir across the river. In the lock the Paddle Steamer Melbourne is lowered to the downstream level and raised again on the return journey.
Apex Beach offers an opportunity to cool down in the river. The locals praise it as Australia’s most beautiful 'outback beach'. In summer you’ll even find lifeguards here.
A glimpse into the old days can be experienced at the Rio Vista, the former home of Mildura founder William Chaffey. The building symbolises his dream of prosperity. It has now been turned into a museum. The Rio Vista is part of the Mildura Arts Centre, which hosts alternating exhibitions throughout the year.
The King’s Billabong Wildlife Reserve, just a stone’s throw from the town, reminds you of the unique bush setting of Mildura. The Majestic River Red Gums and a great variety of birdlife make this an ideal place for bushwalking, fishing, picnics and birdwatching.