To make departure a simpler process we’d packed up all our tables, chairs, awnings etc before we went to bed. We left Renmark nice and early and headed east towards home. After crossing the old lift bridge across the Murray River into Paringa we stopped for a quick look at the silo art and the Big Stump.
Of course we had to stop at the border to get a photo!
We arrived in Mildura at lunchtime and drove down to a lovely park on the riverside where the kids could make use of the playground and we could have something to eat.
It’s a lovely park along the river and every time we stop there it looks like further improvements have been made. We love the coffee shop in a shipping container called ‘Shippy’s’. After our lunch break we crossed the Murray River again and were finally back in New South Wales.
Our destination for the night was Balranald and I found a great camp spot on WikiCmps at the Balranald Weir. What a lovely spot to camp. I have added it to Our Favourite Aussie Campsites page. The Murrumbidgee River was in flood though and the weir was completely submerged. Surrounding paddocks were full of water however the camp site was high and dry.
There was a fire pit and picnic table and we made good use of those. I love a good campfire. We had a funny evening listening to music. Everyone took a turn to choose a song to listen to and I enjoyed listening to the music that the kids like to listen to.
After a great sleep at our very quiet camp spot at Balranald Weir we set off again and drove the remaining 5km into Balranald where we topped up with fuel and did a little grocery shop at Foodworks.
My mission for the day was to explore Yanga National Park. It has been on the list for a long time. I don’t know how many times over the years we have driven past the signs and have never had the time to call in. This time I was determined to check it out.
Our first stop in the National Park was Regatta Beach. The turnoff to Regatta Beach is not far out of Balranald and leads to a 4km good gravel road. Regatta Beach is fabulous. There is a good concrete boat ramp, toilets, a large picnic shelter with gas BBQ’s, and the fabulous expanse of lake. I had no idea that huge lake was there. Usually there is a sandy beach however it was all under water during our visit.
Our next stop was further along the Sturt Highway to Yanga Homestead. Just off the highway at the entrance to the National Park is a free Rest Area where we have overnighted previously. It’s a good spot for an overnighter but is close to the road so you do get road noise.
The drive into Yanga Homestead is a good gravel road and the Rangers Office is also located there. The office remained closed due to COVID though and I was very disappointed to find out when we arrived at the homestead that to view the interior with the audio guide you have to pay at the Visitors Centre in town before you come out. Oh well. We weren’t going to go back in to town so we’d just have to explore the outside.
Wow. I loved it. If you’ve been reading my blogs over the years you will know I love history and Yanga Homestead is a historical marvel. The story of Yanga is similar to many historic properties in rural Australia and it is good to see that at Yanga NP both the pastoral and Aboriginal heritage are being preserved.
Yanga Homestead is built on a hill next to Yanga Lake. When full Yanga Lake is 1,246 hectares with a maximum depth of 5 metres. It can hold up to 55,000 megalitres of water. That’s about 22,000 Olympic swimming pools. The lake is shaped like pair of spectacles formed by two connected basins. The lake has been an oasis for Aboriginal people for over 40,000 years and there is lots of evidence of Aboriginal use of the area. Yanga Lake is linked to the Murrumbidgee River by Yanga Creek which allows flows into and out of the lake back to the river. In 1913 a concrete regulator was built to help retain water in the lake.
Yanga Station was established in the 1830’s by explorer William Charles Wentworth. Most Aussies have heard of him! At the time it was the largest privately owned station in the southern hemisphere at 240,0000 acres. A slab homestead was built on the peninsular overlooking Yanga Lake during the 1850’s by Augustus and Eliza Morris. Eliza established the garden at Yanga. The simple slab homestead was enlarged over time to become the grand residence you can still see. Sir Arthur Sims purchased Yanga in 1919 and along with his other properties in the Riverina, Wyvern, Old Cobran and Cobran Stations he became the largest landholder in Australia at the time. Yanga was passed down through the generations until it was eventually sold to the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service in 2005.
The homestead comprises two ‘wings’, the ‘kitchen’ wing and the ‘main’ wing surrounding a central tennis court that was once the centre of social life in the district. There are numerous outbuildings including stables, gardeners shed and station store. The formal gardens commenced by Eliza stretch down towards the lake. The gardens are lovingly kept by a team of dedicated volunteers.
The Cook’s Cottage houses an excellent exhibition of station life including historic photos and artifacts.
After dragging me away from Yanga Homestead we set off again along the highway. We all decided it was worth a look at The Willows Campground, Yanga National Park and what a lovely place it is. There are multiple camp sites, most with a fire pit and picnic table. There is a separate Willows Picnic Area near the historic Wilga Woolshed for day visitors. Willows Campground gets its name from the Weeping Myall trees in the area.
Next time we go that way a visit to the historic Yanga Station Woolshed is now on the list. You can camp on the Murrumbidgee River at Mamanga Campground which is close to the 100 year old woolshed. The last shearing was done at Yanga in 2005 prior to the sale to NPWS. Definitely want to see that one!
We continued our journey across the very flat Hay Plains and found lots of cotton scraps on the sides of the road. It looked like clumps of snow. In the distance we could see huge bales of cotton, wrapped in colourful plastic, in paddocks waiting to be taken to the gin for processing. Millions of dollars of the valuable resource is grown in the area.
Stopped for a lunch break at a Rest Area on the highway. It was so funny watching the kids using their arms to indicate to the truckies they want them to toot at them. Then they jumped up and down with excitement when the truckies responded.
We arrived in Hay late in the afternoon and headed directly to Sandy Point Reserve. This is a wonderful free camp provided by the Hay Council ands we have stayed there many times. It has also been added to Our Favourite Aussie Campsites page. After setting up camp I set off to check out the amazing silo art that was painted by well known artist Adnate in 2020. The paintings celebrate Hay’s connection to war (that’s a whole other blog post). Ben and Maddie checked out the skate park and we had a great little fire to cook our chicken steaks for dinner. We spent the evening singing songs around the campfire and talking about the wonderful things we’ve seen and done on this fantastic trip over the last 6 weeks. All of us were looking forward to getting home but were also a little sad that our travels would finish the next day.