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Australian Outback: Two Mighty Rivers and a Green Valley

Part 4

By Joyce MacPhee Created: June 4, 2012 Last Updated: June 5, 2012
Related articles: Life » Travel
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The restored vintage paddle steamer PS Melbourne (circa 1912) on Lock 11 on the Murray River. (Joyce MacPhee)

The restored vintage paddle steamer PS Melbourne (circa 1912) on Lock 11 on the Murray River. (Joyce MacPhee)

This article follows the last leg of my trip to the Australian Outback, travelling to the juncture of the Murray and Darling Rivers, into the lush Barossa Valley to Adelaide and the conclusion of the tour.

Leaving Broken Hill in northwestern New South Wales, we made our way to the charming village of Wentworth. In a beautiful green nature reserve, we visited the confluence of Australia’s two most important freshwater waterways, the Murray River and the Darling River.

The Murray is the boundary for the state of Victoria. These rivers are very scenic and peaceful, and several walking trails are located in the reserve. Both rivers are greatly treasured, and the memorials of several people whose ashes had been scattered in the area could be seen on the shore.

This area has a Canadian connection. Canadian brothers George and William Chaffey were engineers who helped to develop Wentworth and the villages of Renmark and Mildura by establishing irrigation projects in the late 1800s.

Australia’s two most important freshwater rivers, the Murray and the Darling, meet in Wentworth, New South Wales. (Joyce MacPhee)

Australia’s two most important freshwater rivers, the Murray and the Darling, meet in Wentworth, New South Wales. (Joyce MacPhee)

In Mildura, Victoria, we visited Lock 11, one of many locks on the Murray River that had been constructed in the 1920s to aid navigation. There, we saw the restored vintage paddle steamer PS Melbourne (circa 1912) with a full load of sightseers. Mildura (population 30,000) is a scenic, historic city that provides most of the grapes for Victoria’s wine industry. It was a pleasant place to stay the night.

Woodsies Gem Shop, just outside the town of Mildura, is a gem indeed. The shop has extensive displays of gems and minerals, a gem workshop, as well as a showroom on the main floor selling exquisite jewellery. The opals were magnificent!

The well-labelled displays of local, national and international minerals and gems in the whimsical Aladdin’s Cave were very colourful and impressive. One display section was swathed in dramatic darkness and showcased illuminated crystals.

These gems and minerals are the private collection of the Woods family, which operates the shop. I admit I kept the tour bus waiting outside this shop, as I became so absorbed in the exhibits I lost track of time.

These rivers are very scenic and peaceful, and several walking trails are located in the reserve.

Barossa Valley

Next day, as we travelled closer to Adelaide in South Australia, we entered the green Barossa Valley. Home to many vineyards and wineries, it is considered by some to be Australia’s most famous wine region. The vineyards were impressive and stretched as far as the eye could see in some areas. We passed by a famous Wolf Blass winery as well as the area where the popular McLeod’s Daughters television show had been filmed.

Seppeltsfield is an historic winery established in 1851. (Joyce MacPhee)

Seppeltsfield is an historic winery established in 1851. (Joyce MacPhee)

Seppeltsfield, an historic winery that was established in 1851, is located within a cluster of buildings and land called Seppeltsfield Village. We had a very enjoyable tour of the spacious grounds, and a delicious picnic lunch there. Some members of our group enjoyed a wine tasting session as well.

The beautifully landscaped grounds and gardens were dotted with palm trees that had been planted by the original owner. I was surprised to also see maple trees whose leaves had turned red with the cool weather. These maples were introduced trees. Australian native species such as gum trees do not turn red in the fall, although some species do turn from green to yellow.

Gorgeous Glenelg Beach

All too soon we arrived in Adelaide, where the tour began to wind down. We stayed in the charming seaside suburb of Glenelg, where mainland South Australia was first settled in 1836.

The name Glenelg (which is a palindrome—the same spelled backwards and forwards) hearkens back to a place name in Scotland. Directly across the street is Glenelg Beach, Adelaide’s most well-known beach.

Glenelg Beach is a long, broad stretch of white sand on Holdfast Bay. It is an absolutely gorgeous spot and popular with visitors and locals alike. The surf at Glenelg is never high enough for surfing, but there were enthusiastic kayakers, and lots of swimmers and strollers.

The white sand was soft and fine and a joy to walk on. Seaweed and perfect small white shells dotted the shores. We enjoyed our walk on the long Glenelg Pier and admired the view of the ocean. The sunset was superb and a brilliant palette of orange-hued light reflected in the calm waters. Beaches don’t get much better than this!

Near Glenelg Beach is a replica of the HMS Buffalo, a teak British Navy ship built in India that served many purposes from 1813 to 1840, when she was shipwrecked. Aside from transporting goods, the Buffalo also carried colonists and convicts. My travelling companion’s ancestor was one of the convicts who arrived in Australia aboard the Buffalo. The replica structure now houses a family restaurant. I touched the anchor of the original Buffalo that was on display, as this is said to be good luck. So far so good!

On the last evening of the tour, we dined in high style at the popular nearby Glenelg Watermark International Buffet. It was fun to choose from a dazzling array of over 100 dishes of delicious ethnic cuisines. Of course, everyone ate too much!

The next morning I got up early enough for one last stroll on Glenelg Beach, which was just as beautiful in the morning light. We then headed for our flight home, with hugs all around and fond farewells.

Joyce MacPhee is an Ottawa writer and editor.

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