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    ESP looks at the "Riverina" in New South Wales

    Excerpts from Publication

    Sun Herald - 31/5/1998

    Author: Rob Woodburn 


    In autumn the land is awash with amber. Glossy reflections of shimmering golden leaves flick across the car's bonnet as we slip down the mountain slopes around Gundagai towards the flat, verdant, irrigated heart of the Riverina.


    Early this century, the south-west of NSW was John Oxley's "barren wilderness". Now this formerly arid region produces nearly all the State's oranges and a fruit bowl of other citrus and deciduous fruits.


    The Riverina region occupies 63,500 sq/km either side of the Murrumbidgee, stretching from Tumut in the east to Hay in the west.  It is a vast tract, best explored at leisure and preferably by car. At least a week would be needed to sample the region in depth but specific areas can be profitably explored over a long weekend.


    Wagga Wagga, the regional centre, is about a five-hour drive from Sydney along the Hume Highway. It's a journey that can be enhanced by first swinging south at Gundagai to visit Tumut, in the high country.  This is a highly recommended diversion, especially in autumn when Tumut wears its prettiest clothing for the Festival of the Falling Leaf and nearby villages such as Adelong and Batlow are at their most picturesque.


    This cool-climate mountain region is famous for its apples, stone fruit and berry orchards, excellent fishing opportunities, bushwalking and fine bed and breakfast accommodation - the ideal overnight solution on a self-drive holiday.


    The name Gundagai is etched into Australian folklore. The infamous bushranger, Captain Moonlight, lies in the local cemetery. Most visitors make sure they see the famous dog on the tuckerbox statue, a short distance from town, and Snake Gully's copper characters from Steel Rudd's On Our Selection.


    At Gundagai's tourist centre there is a remarkable cathedral sculpture containing more than 20,000 hand-cut marble pieces. The central Riverina puts on its most spectacular show in early spring, when the canola crop flowers into fields of billowing yellow blooms fringed by lush green wheat and splashed through with the intense purple of Paterson's curse. It is a sight that would have made Van Gogh weep with joy.


    Coolamon is the centre of canola country and delightful in spring. Heritage tours offer visitors the chance to experience local life and sample produce.


    Wagga Wagga's botanic gardens are probably at their best in autumn. The gardens are quite justifiably the pride of a town that, despite being NSW's largest inland city, still has a country heartbeat.  The 9ha gardens, on Tom Wood Drive, include a formal Elizabethan section, a Chinese pavilion, a walk-in aviary, a small zoo and a miniature railway. The National Glass Collection is held in the City Art Gallery, as is the Carnegie Print Collection. The town has several antique and craft shops and each Sunday there is a lively market.


    Wagga Wagga boasts no less than six theatre groups, all performing regularly. The presence of the Charles Sturt University campus adds fizz to town life, not least in the shape of table wines from University Winery's cellar door.


    The Riverina is the biggest wine producer in NSW, crushing in excess of 110,000 tonnes of grapes a year. In recent times local winemakers have achieved spectacular success in the premium wine market, notably with the country's most prized dessert wine, De Bortoli's Noble One.


    The railway town of Junee, a hop north of Wagga Wagga, is rightfully proud of its fine examples of heritage architecture.  The railway station is a renaissance-style building, built in 1883. The huge locomotive roundhouse is now a fascinating railway and transport museum.  Monte Cristo, one of Junee's first homesteads, has been carefully restored and furnished. This redbrick Victorian house is reputedly haunted and the adjacent museum has the biggest collection of carriages in this part of the world.


    The Riverina's west has been likened to a mix of California and Tuscany. It is big like California, with Griffith and Leeton at the epicentre of the local wine industry, while Griffith sports a distinctly Italian air, a legacy of European migrants whose influence has been felt since the 1920s.


    Griffith residents enjoy a relaxed, cosmopolitan lifestyle centred on a main street that is lined with lively cafes and trattorias. Many a tasty local souvenir is found at Koala Gourmet Foods in Whybrow Street. Of local wineries open to the public, seven are in and around Griffith, including De Bortoli's and McWilliams.


    Narranderra is an attractive riverside town, best explored on the Two Foot Heritage Tour, which visits the local park with its miniature zoo and aviary and the Parkside Cottage Museum, which holds historic examples of local enterprise. Victoria Square's Royal Doulton fountain is a World War I memorial.  


    Web Sites to view on Riverina (Also view our Links Page)



    Riverina Regional Development Board www.rrdb.com.au/home.asp

    Snowy Mountains www.snowymountains.com.au/Adelong.htm



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