4 night cruise on PS Murray Princess

What an enjoyable 4 nights cruise! From the moment we were greeted by the crew at the red carpet as we boarded on our first day to the farewell to the crew as we departed on the last day this was an enjoyable cruise. The pace is relaxing with the right amount of down time, onboard and offshore activities.

This is not the cruise for young people and there were no children on board. The cruisers were almost all retirees. Even the fabulous entertainer was in his late 70’s. You wouldn’t know it though as his energy levels would tire out a much younger person.

The 4 night cruise departs from Mannum at 4.30pm every Monday and returns again on Friday morning. The route goes upriver past the iconic cliffs at Big Bend, through Lock 1 at Blanchetown before turning around and coming back downriver.

The first day includes a compulsory safety briefing for all passengers and a Welcome Dinner in the Sturt Dining Room. The Dress Code for the dining room is sportswear and casual clothes during the day however smart casual evening wear is encouraged.

The vessel moors overnight near Cournamount. Day 2 has the ship leaving its mooring at 7.00am and continuing upriver. Breakfast is served from 8.00am. A morning stretch class is held on the Sun Deck each morning led by the young-at -heart entertainer.

This day includes a morning talk by the First Officer on the history of the paddle steamers, pioneers and engineers that tamed the river. Lunch is at 12.30 followed by a DVD presentation called ‘Source to the Sea’. This is a short documentary of an event that took place in 2001 and celebrated the Centenary of Federation.

During the day the ship passes by the famous limestone cliffs of Big Bend. These giant cliffs tower over the four storey vessel below and are home to many thousands of birds.

In the afternoon the ship passes through Lock 1 at Blanchetown and this is a sight not to be missed by all passengers. We were particularly amused by the antics of the scores of large Pelicans as they swoop in and land in the turbulent waters of the weir where they can catch any fish that come over the weir.

The ship moors for the night just past the double vehicle bridges at Blanchetown. Following dinner was a game of chance called the Murray Cup and this involved passenger participation. It was a lot of fun and the winner of the Murray Cup has to hold on to it day and night for the remainder of the cruise to redeem special privileges. If however they allow the Cup to be stolen the privileges go to the person who holds the Cup.

The third day of cruising sees the PS Murray Princess head back downriver through Lock 1 again. The morning exercise class was held and a game of Bingo was hotly contested in the dining room.

Around midday the vessel moors at the historic riverside town of Swan Reach. Passengers can alight and do a walking tour of the lovely little town. Swan Reach was settled, as many SA towns were, by German settlers in the early 1800’s. The little town has a museum, a private Classic Car Gallery, a Craft & Produce Shop and the Historic Swan Reach Hotel.

The Historic Swan Reach Hotel started life as the Swan Reach Homestead until 1899 when Emma Hasse, the wife of the then owner, applied for and was granted a liquor licence. The Hasse family ran the Hotel up until 1914 when it was purchased by its current owners. The Hotel has a lovely large outdoor area with great views of the river below. It’s a great spot for lunch and cool beverage.

The vessel departs Swan Reach after lunch and travels downstream to the area known as Sunnydale right under the cliffs of Big Bend. The ship moors for the night at a permanent campsite. Here it was all aboard carts for the Sunnydale Woolshed Tour. All passengers are loaded onto carts for the short drive along the dusty track to the Woolshed where the family put on a great show in their historic Woolshed.

Back on the carts to the campsite and we found the crew had moved the bar into the camp and were busily preparing a scrumptious BBQ dinner. The long tables were set with colourful gingham tablecloths and there was a circular fire pit in the centre of the camp.

After dinner passengers could join a Nocturnal Tour. This was a cart ride through the bush where the guide pointed out the various wildlife using a spotlight.

The delicious BBQ meal was served following a fabulous musical number put on by all the crew. The crew look like they really enjoy this night and their happy moods are infectious.

The next morning a Bush Tucker Breakfast is an optional extra for those who would like to try bush tucker or passengers can join the Captain for a bush walk after breakfast.

The ship departs from Big Bend and again you get a really good look at these incredible cliffs as we cruise slowly by. We arrived at Ngaut Ngaut Aboriginal Conservation Area mid morning and here we are treated to an excellent tour by the local Aboriginal people who are proud to share their stories and culture with passengers. Some of the rock carvings we were shown date back over 8,000 years and indicate continuous occupation of the area by Aboriginal people. Ngaut Ngaut was a meeting place for other tribes to come to trade and this is evidenced by stones from far away places such as Lake Mungo and even the Glasshouse Mountains in Queensland. This fabulous tour was a highlight for me.

The PS Murray Princess departs Ngaut Ngaut and continues to cruise downriver. Lunch is served followed by a Trivia Quiz. Later in the afternoon those passengers who like a bit of adventure can partake in a ride on the tender boat. Life jackets must be worn and the tender boat zooms along and around the Murray Princess, even crossing the huge wake a few times spraying the passengers. This was a bit of fun.

The ship moors up at an area known as Younghusband. The Farewell Dinner is held on this last night and is a six-course degustation meal. The food was fabulous and enjoyed by all. The evening was made memorable by most passengers making the effort to get dressed up and the great dancing music provided by our entertainer, Bobby.

The last morning is always a melancholy one as you need to have your packed bags outside your room by 7.00am before heading to the dining room for the last breakfast. The ship gets underway and a short two hours later is pulling up to the wharf in Mannum right on time.

The red carpet is rolled out again and the crew line up to say a fond farewell to passengers as they depart to continue their travels. We had a fabulous time made more enjoyable by the crew who obviously enjoy what they do, the great food and wine and the spectacular scenery and natural beauty of the mighty Murray River.

The cliffs at Big Bend

The PS Murray Princess

The paddle wheeler PS Murray Princess was built in 1986 by the Goolwa Ship Construction company. It is currently operated by Captain Cook Cruises which is part of the SeaLink Travel Group.

It has a stern paddlewheel and a steel hull. The ship has an overall length of 70 metres and a width of 14 metres. It was constructed so as to fit in all the locks along the Murray. Although it is quite a big ship it has a shallow draft of 1.1 metres making it suitable for river travel.

Murray Princess can carry 120 passengers in 60 cabins and 28 crew. It is powered by two large Diesel engines and also has forward and aft thrusters, useful for manoeuvring in and out of locks and around tight bends in the river.

The vessel has five decks and they are named after notable characters from the Murray River’s history. I’ll write more about them later.

The lowest deck is Chaffey deck and houses inside cabins 1-9 as well as crew quarters, a small gym and the all-important laundry. This deck is partly below the waterline so the cabins only have portholes. Chaffey Deck is accessed by a set of steep stairs.

Randall Deck houses outside cabins 10 to 34. We are in Cabin 21 on the port side. Overlooking the huge paddlewheel at the back of the vessel is the Paddelwheel Lounge. Here you can make use of the tea/coffee station and bottled water is always available as well. There is a small gift shop and the staff will happily make you a cappuccino. Randell deck is the one you usually use to board and disembark from.

Cadell Deck houses outside cabins 35 to 60 and the Upper Lounge. The Upper Loung area provides excellent viewing of the large paddlewheel at the rear. In one corner of the Upper Lounge is a small library and puzzle table. A large jigsaw is underway. There is also a large wooden box filled with board games availabalbe for passenger use. At the front of Cadell Deck is the Wheelhouse and passengers are welcome to come on up and check out how the crew manage and work this large vessel. The crew are more than happy to show off their ship.

Sturt Deck is home to the large Sturt Dining Room where all meals are provided. When you board the ship you are given a name tag with your first name, your allocated dinner table and your cabin number. Passengers can sit anywhere for breakfast and lunch but at dinner you sit at your allocated table. There is a Bar right at the front of the ship. From the large windows at the front of the ship is a great view of the river as we cruise along. This is a comfortable area with comfy leather chairs and little tables. The perfect spot for a quiet chat, a read or just to watch to river go by. The Sturt Dining Room and the Bar are decorated with timber panelling and plush carpets. Sturt Deck also is home to the Crew Mess and offices.

The top deck is called the Sun Deck, apparently named after a Chinese cook whose name was Sun Lee. The Sun Deck has lots of rattan chairs, little tables and a large sun shade. When it is warm the Sun Deck is another lovely spot to enjoy the river scenery.

Four of the cabins are wheelchair accessible and there is a lift from Randell to Sturt Decks. Quite a few passengers use walking sticks but they seem to be able to get about the ship with no problems.

WiFi is available however due to the high cliffs and the remoteness of some of the areas we travel through the service can be very patchy.

We have had a few discussions with people over the last few days and we reckon the average age of passengers on board is probably around 80. We are probably the youngest on board. Most of the people we talk to have been retired for many years. One couple we spoke with have 14 great-grandchildren and one on the way. Most are ‘young at heart’ though and enjoying travelling. I wouldn’t recommend this trip for young people unless they were a large group that could make their own fun. It certainly isn’t a trip for children.

Cruising on the PS Murray Princess

We were able to check in to the Riverside Caravan Park when we arrived in Mannum as our site was free so we quickly got set up and packed our bags for our cruise. We can leave the motorhome on our powered site while we are on the cruise as long as we stay one night before or after. We’ve booked to stay for two nights after the cruise as I think we’ll need a down day to give the motorhome a good clean, do washing, get some groceries and generally relax before setting off meandering again. The park charges $15 per night for the nights we are on the cruise and then $35 per night for the other two nights. It means we can leave our fridge on power so we don’t have to worry about anything thawing out. The Murray Princess provides secure parking for cars but their carpark is too small for our motorhome.

It was a bit of a walk from the caravan park to the wharf carrying our small carryon bags but we made it slowly and arrived there early. Boarding was to commence at 2.30pm so we had half an hour to spare. We settled in on seats under the Rotunda in the Mary Ann Reserve. This is a lovely park along the riverbank in Mannum. Lots of people were in the park taking advantage of the lovely sunny day, strolling, having picnics and watching the huge Murray Princess as she was moored up. We sat next to another couple who had luggage so we assumed they were fellow passengers. After chatting we discovered they are from Wagga. Small world!

A red carpet was rolled out on the wharf right on time and boarding was announced. We were the second ones on board and once on board we were directed into the Paddlewheel Lounge at the aft end of the ship. Here we had to check in with the Cruise Director Lisa. Richard asked if there had been any cancellations an could we get an upgrade. We had only booked the trip a few weeks ago and got the last available cabin which was on the lowest deck with only a porthole and twin beds. This cruise is usually booked out months in advance so we were lucky to get that cabin. Guess what??? There had been a cancellation so we could upgrade to a higher deck in an outside cabin with windows but still with twin beds. We were happy to upgrade so we are now in Cabin 21 on the Randell Deck.

We quickly settled in and unpacked in our small and cosy cabin before setting off to explore the ship. There was a compulsory safety briefing in the Sturt Dining Room for all passengers and it was the usual information about where to meet in an emergency and where the life vests are stored. The First Officer was amusing when he said that he’s not sure if we would ever need the life vests as if the ship was to sink the top floors would still be above the water and we could just wait there until we were rescued.

The ship got under way and departed from Mannum wharf right on time at 4.30pm. We quickly went out into the middle of the river and did a 180 degree turn so we were facing upriver. As we approached the double car ferries at Mannum the Captain sounded the huge air horns to let them know we were coming, although we are a bit hard to miss being some four stories high.

We went up on the Sun Deck at the top of the ship to watch our departure and stayed up there for while watching the river banks go by.

Dinner was held at 6.30pm in the Sturt Dining Room so we changed for dinner and went up there to find our allocated table. Our name badges show our table allocation for dinner. At breakfast and lunch you are free to sit wherever you like but at dinner you are allocated to a table. We are on Table 4 with 7 other couples. We enjoyed the 3 course meal and conversation flowed freely.

After dinner half our table stayed on to participate in an Anzac Trivia quiz. Some of the questions were quite tricky and we only got 15/19 correct. Not too shabby but not enough to win.

Rich and I retired for the night at 10ish and went to sleep lulled by the gentle rocking of the ship. By this time we were moored up to the bank after cruising for about 5 hours upriver.

Lock 1 & 2 on the Murray River

After leaving Waikerie we set off to check out Lock & Weir 2 on the northern side of the river. We had to cross the river on the Waikerie Ferry to get to the other side.

The Lockmaster at Lock 2 is to be congratulated for the beautiful grounds. They are a credit to him. He is obviously a gardener and has the most gorgeous roses in front of the lock house. I am always amazed at some people. There is a sign at the top near the entry to the carpark that says no caravans as there is a steep road down to the lock and not a lot of turning space. So we left our motorhome at the top and walked down. When we arrived at the bottom we found a car and caravan parked at the bottom. They were sitting in their chairs eating their breakfast. They’d obviously used the free BBQ but for heavens sake, can’t they read!! No caravans means no caravans.

Lock & Weir 2

Our next stop after Lock 2 was the lovely riverside town of Morgan.

We spent about an hour wandering around the Historic Port & Railway at Morgan where remnants of the wharf are still standing. Morgan was once an important inland port where goods were brought down the river and then loaded onto trains at Morgan. Ups to 8 trains a a day went to Adelaide carting tonnes of cargo each year. Historic Paddle Steamer Cannaly built in 1907 is moored up at the wharf and she is in the process of being restored so she can once again take passengers on the river. The Morgan Visitors Centre is house in the original Railway Station Masters home.

On the opposite bank are lots of lovely homes with green grass all the way to the water many with their own jetty’s. As it was Sunday there were quite a few ski boats in the water as well as a couple of jet skis buzzing around, fishing boats and kayaks. Morgan has a caravan park right on the riverside and along further is the houseboat mooring area.

We crossed the river on the Morgan Ferry and headed towards Lock 1 at Blanchetown. We stopped for a brief time at Pelican Point Lookout. What a spectacular view of the river from that vantage point. At Pelican Point the river below is on a huge bend with high sandstone cliffs on one side and low river flats on the other. Below on the opposite bank were rows of holiday shacks with their own jetties poking into the river. It is obviously a popular spot for water sports and there were a few boats towing skiers and kneeboarders as we watched.

Pelican Point

I can’t imagine what the early explorers thoughts were as they came across the river on their explorations. As you approach the river from up on top of the cliffs you are in mallee desert country. It’s very dry with Saltbush and scrubby mallee trees in sandy soil. Then all of a sudden you arrive at the steep cliffs and down below is the sparkling river. I’m sure they would have been amazed.

We stopped in the small town of Blanchetown where we crossed the river over a bridge. Away to the left we could see Lock & Weir No 1. After finding a spot to park we made our way down to the lock just in time to see it being used. As you approach the lock you come up against a pool fence that prevents anyone accessing the lock from above. As I passed the lockmaster I asked why they have these fences as they don’t have them in Europe. You can’t see a thing as you cant get close enough. He was very friendly and said I could come in at the gate but to stay away from the moving lock gates. Thanking him I was able to go inside the fence and look over the concrete barriers to the boats below. To my surprise I found there were 5 boats inside the lock waiting to go upstream. From outside the fence you could only see one boat. The friendly locky went along and made sure each boat was tethered properly with a crew member holding a rope and once he was satisfied they were all ready he released the water into the lock to raise the water level up. Once the water level was the same as upstream the gates opened and all the boats were able to motor out and head upstream.

We got chatting with a lady who was holding the rope on one boat. Their boat is just like our motorhome, just on the water. They sleep on board and have a shower and toilet. They were from Adelaide but they moor their boat at Murray Bridge and use it often to cruise the river. They asked about us and we pointed out our motorhome. When they found out we were heading to Goolwa the pilot stuck his head out and said to do a cruise when we get to Goolwa on the PS Oscar W. His cousin Dennis is the captain. We might just do that.

Anzac Service, Waikerie, SA

We were up bright and early to attend the Anzac Service in Waikerie, South Australia. As we were camped in the front yard of our friends Kathy & George and the service was to be held in the park just up the road, we walked to the park for the 8.00am service.

Although Waikerie is only a small town with a population of 2,684. There was a good turnout for the service held in the lovely little park. I was very pleased to see quite a few young people and young families in attendance. It’s great to see young people appreciating and valuing the Anzac Day traditions.

The catafalque party was a group of local cadets and some of them didn’t look very old. What a great job they did and they obviously took their role seriously. One poor lad nearly fainted about 3/4 the way through the service and a quick thinking comrade caught him before he fell to the ground. Poor kid. I’ll bet he hadn’t had any breakfast.

The service was similar to the many we have attended over the years and it was quite moving to hear a personal story of a soldier who fought in World War 1 and was the speakers grandfather.

More Silo Art at Waikerie

We found some more Silo Art in the Riverland town of Waikerie. Waikerie has a population of 2,684 and has long been regarded as the fruit capital of South Australia. Waikerie was established in 1894 when a group of 281 settlers were dropped off and started planting grapevines, citrus and stone fruit orchards. The town grew and is now one of the largest fruit processing operation in the Southern Hemisphere.

Waikerie is said to be named after the Aboriginal word for the Giant Swift Moth and means ‘many wings’.

Waikerie riverfront is a long section of the river where water sports of all kinds take place. It is a really popular water skiing spot and you can hire houseboats at Waikerie.

There is a caravan park but for those who like free camping, like us, there are numerous camping spots right on the rivers edge. We were fortunate to be able to stay in our friends front yard whilst in Waikerie. Thank you Kathy & George for hosting us. We really enjoyed our stay in your lovely town.

Camped in our friend’s front yard, Waikerie, SA

Camping at Lock 9, Kulnine

This is the second time we have camped beside the Murray River at Lock 9, Kulnine near Lake Cullulleraine. It is a bush camp with no amenities but there are toilets up at the lock if you feel like a bush walk to get there.

To get to this great campsite you turn off the Sturt Highway at Lake Cullulleraine and follow this road to its end at the river. It is some 8km of gravel road so we just have to go very slowly so we don’t rattle apart. Once at the Lock you take a left turn onto a track, follow this along until you reach the boat ramp. You can free camp anywhere in this spot. The track continues along the river to the end of the point but it crosses a steep water course and the angle of that is too steep for us. We would drag our rear end if we attempted to go down that! We chose a flat spot not far from the boat ramp where we could see the river and hear the water as it rushes over the weir.

The lock system on the Murray is extensive and consists of 13 Locks starting with Lock 1 at Blanchetown, SA. The others are as follows:

Lock and Weir completion dates

Structure Name Year Completed Location
Lock & Weir 1 1922 Blanchetown
Lock & Weir 2 1928 Waikerie
Lock & Weir 3 1925 Overland Corner
Lock & Weir 4 1929 Bookpurnong
Lock & Weir 5 1927 Renmark
Lock & Weir 6 1930 Murtho
Lock & Weir 7 1934 Rufus River
Lock & Weir 8 1935 Wangumma
Lock & Weir 9 1926 Kulnine
Lock & Weir 10 1929 Wentworth
Lock & Weir 11 1927 Mildura
Lock & Weir 15 1937 Euston
Lock & Weir 26 1920’s Torrumbarry (replaced in 1996)

Locks 12-14 and Locks 16-25 were never constructed.

The lock system enables boats to navigate up and down the river and the river is navigable for boats from the mouth of the Murray in South Australia to Yarrawonga Weir.

There are also two small locks on the barrages near the mouth of the Murray that were constructed in 1940.

The locks are manned by lockmasters and they usually live near the lock. There’s a great little video on a day in the life of a lockmaster here.

The locks are open from 8am – 11.30am and again in the afternoon from 1.00pm to 4.30pm. To let the lockmaster know you are arriving at the lock you blast three long sounds on your horn (or call him by phone, each lock has its own number to call). When he has heard or received your request the red light will start to flash. This lets you know the lock is being readied for you. Once the light changes to green you can enter the lock.

6-8 medium houseboats can use the lock at the same time. It only takes 5-7 minutes to empty or fill the lock but it can take up to 15-20 minutes for a craft to pass through the lock. There was a houseboat moored near the lock waiting for the lock to reopen in the morning.

Although the locks were built to allow river trade it is now the tourist industry that uses them. Houseboats, tour boats and other recreational craft are the users of the lock system today and the locks provide an enormous contribution to the tourism industry along the river.

It is a very peaceful spot to camp. We were the only ones there, apart from the Pelicans and a couple of kangaroos that hopped by as we sat by our fire pit. I recommend this free camp to most, big rigs excepted as you would have trouble negotiating the narrow track in.

The next morning we continued our journey along the river, crossed the border into South Australia where we had to stop at the Fruit Fly Bin and leave any fruit and veggies behind that are on the banned list, before arriving in the town of Paringa. Paringa has some new Silo Art and around the corner near the general store is the The Black Stump. This giant River Red Gum root is the remains of a 600 year old tree and is 8m wide.

Ride with Murray in Renmark

What a surprise we had in the lovely riverfront town of Renmark, SA. We were enjoying a pizza and coffee sitting outdoors at the Smokehouse Pizza Cafe. We looked up and both said ‘what’s that?’ As a little blue bus went by very slowly. Turns out it was Murray the driverless bus.

Murray is part of a Driverless Bus Trial service in Renmark and Murray runs a select route though the main part of town every 30 minutes. He runs on Tuesday from 10am to 1pm and from Wednesday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm. The service is free. You just wait at one of the six stops and get on when Murray comes to a stop. The stops all have river themed names:

Murray is an all electric vehicle and, although there is a person on board to explain how Murray works and what the trial is all about, he is completely automatic.

We talked to one of the guys at the stop near the Information Centre as Murray was stopped there picking up some passengers. He said one of the most popular questions they get asked is ‘Can Murray crash?’ The answer is no. He said Murray has even stopped for a butterfly to fly past!

Another piece of wartime history – the Catalina Museum, Lake Boga, Vic

After a peaceful camp alongside Lake Boga we set off to visit the Catalina Museum. I had no idea what to expect and didn’t really know anything about flying boats.

The museum is sponsored by the local Lions Club and they have done an incredible job. It’s a really fabulous little museum. I didn’t know that Lake Boga played a huge part in the war effort in Australia. I’d never heard of Lake Boga. The story goes that after the Japanese attack on Broome in 1941 both Lake Kangaroo and Lake Boga were inspected and Lake Boga was chosen to be the top secret site for the No 1 RAAF Flying Boart Repair Depot. Lake Boga was chosen mainly because it is round and the flying boats could land from any direction. It didn’t matter which way the wind was blowing.

Lake Boga saw its first flying boat on July 12, 1942 when a quantity of stores and equipment was flown in by a Catalina Flying Boat. Over the time of its operation the Lake Boga Flying Boat Repair Depot serviced over 416 aircraft with various aircraft such as Catalinas, Dorniers, Martin Mariners, Walrus, Kingfisher and Sunderlands.

The museum houses the original underground communications bunker and the bunker now displays communications equipment of the era. As the mission was top secret only personnel that had top security clearance could enter the bunker.

Lake Boga covers an area of 1000 heactares (2000 acres) and has only run dry twice in recorded history. The last was in 2008. This enabled the Lions Club to arrange to the removal from the lake bed of the huge concrete mooring buoys that had been left behind after the war. These huge blocks, some with chains still attached, weigh 2 tonnes each.

When you enter the museum, after passing past the huge concrete mooring blocks in the carpark, you are greeted by the volunteer staff. You are directed to the the outdoors first to view the underground bunker display. This is followed by a 20 minute film in their little theatrette. Then you go into the museum proper where they have an actual Catalina Flying Boat A24-30 on display as well as lots of memorabilia from the time that Lake Boga was part of the war effort.

You can actually climb up a ladder at the rear of the Catalina and look inside. It must have been very hot/or cold inside those things and I imagine when the engines were running it would have been very noisy.

Over the time the Repair Depot was active there were flying crews from Australia, the US and the Netherlands stationed there. There was also the repair and support crews of men and women of the RAAF and WAAF.

These flying boats played a significant part in Australia’s war effort by bombing, supplying troops on the ground, reconnaissance and ferrying equipment.

What a fabulous museum! We spent a good 2 hours there and could probably have spent longer but we had to continue our journey along the Murray River.

The Great Aussie Beer Shed & Heritage Farm Museum

According to Trip Adviser this is the number one attraction in Echuca. We’d never heard of it before in spite having visited Echuca many times so we thought we’d better check it out.

It’s a little way out of town on a rural residential property and we arrived smack on their 9.30am opening time. There is a large carpark big enough for lots of cars and tour buses so we had no trouble finding a flat spot to park.

We were greeted at the door by a big, friendly bloke who explained that they are not really open on weekdays but he was expecting a bus in so we were welcome to stay and come on in. There were about 6 others who pulled up just after us and they hadn’t booked either so none of us are very good at reading the fine print! Neil Thomas is the owner of this amazing establishment and he was previously an Inspector with the Victorian Police for 37 years.

Well, what can I say about this museum? Firstly, it is one man’s obsessive collecting over 45 years. Secondly, I have never seen so much stuff and it’s such an eclectic mix. Outdoors he has collections of old farm machinery including quite a few Furphy Water Wagons. There is a mock up of a blacksmith’s workshop and even an old drovers wagon.

Further around past the farm machinery is The Car Museum. This is filled with old cars and other car memorabilia. The Car Shed is dedicated to Neil’s dad who was a Chief Inspector in the Victorian Police for 35 years. Right up to his old age when he needed a wheelchair he would ‘help’ out at the museum and delight visitors with his yarns.

Entering the main shed is a bit mind blowing. There is so much stuff it is hard to know where to look. However everywhere you look is another quirky collection. Of course the first thing you notice is the beer cans. He has thousands of beer cans from all over the world. Neil did say it is the largest collection of beer cans in the world. I believe him!

He not only has beer cans, he has all things beer such as an extensive collection of beer taps. You know the things you find at the pub where they pour the beer from? There is a beer mat collection, a collection of ashtrays with beer logos, a bottle cap collection, a collection of beer kegs, a huge collection of bottle openers and the pride of the collection is the magnificent Carlton Draught Clydesdales cart. This is on permanent loan from Carlton to the museum after Carlton decommissioned the horses and wagon.

Neil also has collections of other items such as a collection of ancient poker machines. As they are all in working order he has to have a poker machine licence to display them!

I found a collection of old irons, a collection of washing machines, a collection of coca-cola memorabilia, a collection of old fridges including kerosene fridges and Coolgardie safes. One item that stands out is the original safe from Flemington Racecourse. This is where the Melbourne Cup was stored each year before the big race.

Neil does a little talk and he has a wealth of knowledge about his collection. His talk is amusing and informative. He is obviously a ‘people’ person.

After exploring the big shed we went outside again to check out the Horse Drawn Carriage Display. There are some fine examples of horse drawn carriages and the walls are lined with a display of over 4000 beer steins from all over the world.

Apart from all that they also have accommodation and a large function centre that they hire out for weddings, birthdays and corporate events with seating for up to 100 people.

We spent about 2 1/2 hours at the Great Aussie Beer Shed &in Heritage Farm Museum and definitely recommend a visit if you are ever in Echuca.