Welcome to the Murray River, rising near Mount Kosciuszko and flowing all the way to the Southern Ocean in South Australia. At 2,520km, this river is the third longest navigable river in the world, right after the Amazon and the Nile. Those are some pretty impressive chops.
To do this trip, you’ll need to get yourself down to Picnic Point in Murray Valley National Park, so book a cheap flight and car hire via Melbourne or prepare for an 8-hour road trip from Sydney. This section of the Murray, just north-east of Echuca, is the calmest (i.e. best for beginners), with no rapids to stress you out on your road to relaxation.
Did you know: The best time of year to go is between September and April.
Kit up at Picnic Point
Get prepped for your trip at Picnic Point – if you’re not bringing your own canoe or kayak, hire one at Barmah or Echuca: they’ll drop off the canoe and gear to you. From here it’s a 3.5 hour (17.4km) trail to Barmah day visitor area, where you can camp for the night.
From Picnic Point, follow the Murray downstream. This canoe trail is rated easy, so you can take it super easy, too. Notice your surroundings – the trees on the banks reflect off the river like glass; the morning sun keeps you warm, dappled beautifully through reeds and gum leaves. Such calm.
Canoe-cramp be gone
Take a break and throw a line out for a spot of fishing. It’s so quiet here, you can hear the breeze touch the leaves. Maybe you’ll catch a Murray cod for lunch (be sure to have a fishing licence).
Did you know: Canoe camping has a handy side effect: since you’ve got all that floating, portable storage, you can pack as much as you like (to near-glamping standards) in that cavernous canoe keel that just won’t quit.
On that note, it seems about time to stop at Swifts Creek campground for a picnic. It’s right at the most narrow part of Murray River (naturally, it’s called The Narrows) and is surrounded by the largest river red gum forest in the world, making you feel pretty damn insignificant in comparison. Paddle your canoe out in search of woodland birds, wood ducks and koalas. Pull out your binoculars and a waterproof camera, even if you don’t fancy yourself as a birdwatcher. Maybe you’ve got a newfound hobby.
Bond with the birds
Continue to Barmah Lake, but no need to hurry: you have the gentle current in your favour and you’re in safe hands.
Stop at your leisure for a swim in a shady riverside clearing. The waters in Barmah are a Ramsar-listed protected wetland, so if birds don’t usually rock your world, they will here.
You’re paddling through an underwater forest, you drift from reeds and shadows to big blue sky and it is so quiet you think you can hear a conversation between the creak of your oars and the creaks from the trees. Pure, unadulterated solitude. Don’t be daunted by the distance remaining – you have all the time in the world.
Set up camp
Drift on as you approach the end of your trail. The river looks like liquid gold now as the setting sun lights the way. Pitch your tent at Barmah Lakes campground, have a feed, and sleep well with your newfound inner peace.