Roughly halfway between Sydney and Melbourne, at the junction of the Sturt and Newell Highways in New South Wales, you’ll find Narrandera Shire, an agricultural town rich with more than crops and wool production. Fuelled by the Murrumbidgee River, the region is made even more charming with its tree-lined streets and heritage buildings.
Taking its name from the Narrungdera clan, part of Wiradjuri Nation, it’s a great place to discover the wealth of history here through one of the self-guided walking tours or cemetery walks (grab a map at the local visitor information centre). It’s also a much-loved stop with travellers journeying along the well-worn Sydney to Melbourne route.
Murrumbidgee River Bridge
Narrandera Shire Council’s marketing and tourism team leader, Kellie Dissegna says what makes the region so attractive to the RV market are the wealth of facilities.
“Camping options are numerous,” she says. “Narrandera has two caravan parks, both with drive-through sites only a short walk from the town’s centre, and one with a fantastic view over Lake Talbot, especially at sunrise. Free camping is offered at several locations on the water’s edge – Brewery Flat and Murrumbidgee National Park along the Murrumbidgee, and Five Mile and Rocky Water Hole along the Bundigerry Creek.”
Leanne Hawker of the Barellan Progress Association adds that the addition of two new RV dump points in Barrellan, and the recent RV Friendly Town™ accreditation has also made the area more popular.
GOING TO GRONGY
Dissegna says the ease of parking and close proximity to shops and amenities are also a drawcard, “as is the welcoming village of Grong Grong on the Newell Highway, which offers free hot showers and the opportunity to pick free fresh herbs, fruit, and vegetables from the gardens in the Grong Grong Earth Park.” Known locally as ‘Grongy,’ the family-friendly community attraction offers natural play areas and plenty of picnic space. There’s also free bicycle hire, cycling paths, a free library, and community pizza oven. The Earth Park is part of a revitalisation of the area’s disused rail corridor and is hugely popular with locals, particularly in the warmer months.
“A visit to a Wiradjuri Elder’s workshop to watch him use the skills passed down to him by his father to make authentic tools and weapons, and maybe listen to a tale or two, is also a great way to immerse yourself in the cultural heritage of the region,” she says.
Discover more about the cultural heritage of the region at a Wiradjuri Elder's workshop.
This region is also a great spot for foodies, with plenty to discover including Agri Australis, where hazelnuts for the beloved Ferrero-Rocher chocolates are grown. Beer lovers are also encouraged to sample Barellan Beer. A ‘single origin’ brew which contains malt only from local Barellan farmers. It’s not-for-profit, community owned, and rather tasty too! If you love it, you’ll find it on tap at the Commercial Hotel and Barellan and District War Memorial Club.
“Local farmers offer tours, treats, and on-farm experiences to those travelling to show them our orchards and the fabulous produce they can make,” she adds.
Showcasing the much-loved Barellan Clydesdales
CAMPING AT THE CORDIAL FACTORY
At Brewery Flat sits the former Oakbank Brewery, which is not just a distinctive red brick building which towers over the Murrumbidgee River, it’s also a camping area with plenty of facilities, swimming, shaded barbecue areas, and a boat ramp.
“Brewery Flat offers a view of the Murrumbidgee River and you’ll also be woken by the abundance of wildlife at the Narrandera Wetlands. The main street is only a short stroll over the Irrigation Canal. You can stock up on supplies, enjoy good coffee, or sample the famous Bee Sting from the bakery.”
In its heyday between the 1890s and mid 1920s, the brewery was a modern production facility employing up to 100 locals and brewing stout, bottled and draught beer, and cordial daily. Sold in 1924 to Tooths of Sydney, the new owners closed down the operation, but the Oakbank Cordial Factory kept operating until 1986. The walls of the red brick tower have been listed on the National Trust as a building of historical significance and the area is a popular spot for fishing, bird and wildlife spotting, and camping.
TAKING IN THE WILDLIFE
People also come to Narrandera for the koalas, says Dissegna. They were abundant in region until the early 1900s when the population was decimated by hunters for the fur trade. In the 1970s koalas were released in the reserve adjacent to the Murrumbidgee River, becoming a success story. Now, there’s a population of roughly 400, who have ventured both upstream and downstream from the original reserve. Visitors to the area can go to the Narrandera Visitor Information Centre to ask about recent sightings, so they can be certain to spot a koala or two in the wild.
While you’re visiting, it’s worth the time to investigate the local ship wreck too. The Paddle Steamer Wagga Wagga was the last of the Murrumbidgee River paddle steamers and was run aground on a sandbar in 1918 after it sprung a leak. During the months of July and August, when the Murrumbidgee River water levels are low, travellers can check out the wreck and stretch their legs along the Narrandera bike and hike trails or explore the Narrandera wetlands.
WETLANDS TO WATER ACTIVITIES
While the town offers an abundance of activities year-round, Dissegna says it’s the months surrounding summer that offer the most to visitors.
“On warm days, you can take advantage of all the water activities Narrandera Shire has, paddle a canoe on the still waters of Rocky Water Hole, go for a swim at the Lake Talbot swimming complex, or just throw a line in at the Murrumbidgee River.”
It’s also during these months there’s a swell of visitors as a variety of events take place across the region including the popular ‘Barellan Clydesdales and Heavy Horses Good Old Days’ weekend. Held at the showgrounds, it showcases Clydesdale horses and celebrates the pioneers of the region’s history with displays and demonstrations of past farming methods.
Taking place over the Labour Day long weekend in late September/early October, the event is popular with RV travellers as it offers plenty of services making it easier for visitors to stay and enjoy the event, says the event’s public relations officer, Carl Chirgwin.
“Our 2017 event blew us away with the amount of people who attended. We are very excited for how the 2018 event is shaping up as we provide a relaxed and enjoyable time for all those who attend.”
He says there’s ample parking space, as it is located in the shady area of the Barellan Showgrounds with an accessible dump point at the showground and two to three lit shower cubical trucks, and the War Memorial Club provides a courtesy bus.
Narrandera prides itself on being an affordable, safe, and friendly place, and has pulled out all the stops for RV travellers to make sure you pull in, and as Dissegna says, “whether your stay in Narrandera Shire is short, or whether you set up for a few weeks, you will find relaxation, adventure, friendship - and certainly some surprises”.
Tags: Narrandera NSW
Written: Tue 01 May 2018
Printed: May, 2018
Situated on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River in NSW’s Riverina district, Narrandera is 555km south-west of Sydney, and halfway between Wagga Wagga and Griffith. The town also acts as the gateway to the productive Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. Easily accessible by road, weekly train services from Sydney, or via flights through Narrandera-Leeton Airport, Narrandera is best known for its fresh produce, rich history, country charm, and tree-lined streets. Narrandera also plays host to a jam-packed events calander, with the Taste Riverina Food Festival, John O’Brien Bush Poetry Festival, and Narrandera Farmers Market just a few of the popular events that entice visitors to town.