One city on the north bank is Albury, which forms a cross-river conurbation with its twin, Wodonga, on the Victoria side.
Albury grew up as a transport hub, at the point where people changed trains travelling between Sydney and Melbourne.
These days the city gives you dumbfounding natural beauty, abundant greenery, lots of opportunities for fun in the open-air but also culture at a city museum and art museum, both redeveloped since the 2000s.
The Murray River is a constant draw, for the parks and wetlands on its banks, but also epic Lake Hume, a reservoir created upstream 100 years ago.
1. Albury Botanic Gardens
The city’s delightful botanic gardens have been around since 1877 when the Mayor of Albury planted an English elm.
In dainty beds and groves of specimen trees there are more than 1,000 plant species at Albury Botanic Gardens, from 450 genera and 95 plant families.
The biggest feather in the gardens’ cap is the collection of rainforest species, and you can discover these on the Rainforest Walk, leading you past a host of beautiful trees and ferns like a bleeding heart, Australian teak, native quince, weeping lilly pilly, firewheel tree, water gum and Illawarra flame tree, on a relaxed 40-minute stroll.
For younger visitors there’s the Children’s Garden, with a life-sized dinosaur with interactive speaking tubes, a fairy temple and troll caves.
2. Murray Art Museum (MAMA)
After a multimillion-dollar overhaul, Albury’s regional art gallery reopened in 2015 as a slick contemporary art experience.
Even the building is a work of art, with a facade designed as a 24-hour “art skin”, for kinetic art, projections and lighting.
This is all attached to the original venue, at what used to be Albury’s town hall, built in 1907. As for exhibitions, MAMA combines travelling shows with art that gives a sense of place and identity for Albury and its indigenous people.
When we put this list together in early 2020, there was an exhibition about the Murray Darling River system, photography in rural Australia from the early 20th century and, Little Gems, a multi-discipline show by decorative artist Kate Rohde.
3. Monument Hill
The west end of Albury’s main thoroughfare, Dean Street, culminates with a hill that in 1924 was crowned with a memorial to mark the First World War.
This white monument by architect Louis Harrison can be seen across Albury, and a few decades later was joined by the Memorial Bowl to honour those who served in the Second World War.
You can hike up the wooded hillside from the city centre, and at this elevation you’ll be wowed by an all-encompassing view of the region.
When we wrote this article in early 2020 work was underway to improve the roadways, park furniture, lighting and landscaping at the foot of the monument.
4. Lake Hume and the Hume Dam
The Murray River is dammed a few kilometres east of Albury to form the enormous Lake Hume, estimated to hold more than five times the volume of Sydney Harbour.
The dam itself, built between 1919 and 1935, is a landmark in its own right, at 51 metres high and 1,615 metres long.
You can walk along the dam wall, for exhilarating views of the lake and Mount Granya rising in the east.
You can go camping on the lakeshore, and if you get hold of a Victorian state fishing licence there are plentiful freshwater fish like carp, redfin, brown trout, rainbow trout, golden perch and Murray cod in the lake.
5. Wonga Wetlands
West of Albury there’s a system of billabongs and lagoons spread over 80 hectares on the Murray River floodplain.
The Wonga Wetlands is actually a work in progress, being recovered from former grazing land using treated wastewater from Albury.
Almost 160 bird species have been counted in this habitat, which also grows scar trees and river red gums dating back six centuries.
There are three walking trails to help you encounter the Wonga Wetland, and you can marvel at its wildlife through six bird hides.
The Wiradjuri Campsite has been set up by the local indigenous Wiradjuri people, recreating a settlement’s cooking, sleeping, tool-making areas, as well an area for ceremonial dance.
The reserve’s visitor centre is in a homestead dating back to the 1890s and gives you extra context about the floodplain, its history and inhabitants.
6. Noreuil Park
Albury’s best-loved riverside park is within a kilometre of Albury’s CBD and is a go-to for warm afternoons in the summer.
The calm Murray River is ideal for a whole host of activities, from swimming to paddle boarding, canoeing and kayaking.
You can jog, cycle or wander along the foreshore, under the canopy of mature trees, and there are lots of picnic tables or grassy spots where you can throw down a blanket and idle away a few hours.
The River Deck is on the water’s edge and has a terrace beneath leafy elms and plane trees where you can watch the river drifting by.
7. Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk (Wagirra Trail)
The Wagirra Trail takes you along the Murray River from the south of Albury out to the Murray Wetlands, connecting with a network of other footpaths along the route.
It’s a gorgeous way to get out into the nature around Albury, two metres wide and weaving through quiet riverside parks.
Recently, the five-kilometre stretch between Kremur Street and Wonga Wetlands has been enhanced with sculptures by local Aboriginal artists.
These works are explained by interpretative panels and little videos that you can open on your smartphone, going into depth on local Aboriginal history and the significance of the Murray River.
8. Albury LibraryMuseum
In 2007, Albury’s city library and museum were put under one impressive modern roof, in an award-winning building designed by the renowned firm, Ashton Raggatt McDougall.
For people from out of town, the Albury LibraryMuseum is both a 21st-century landmark and a place to tap into Albury’s story.
The permanent exhibition, Crossing Place looks at the settlement of this land, by the indigenous Wiradjuri people and eventually Europeans, calling on artefacts, audio recordings, photography and footage.
Charting Albury’s 20th-century development are lots of interesting pieces of ephemera, from the railway, hospitals, sports clubs, schools, cinemas and much more.
There’s also a compelling exhibition about the local early aviation firm Robbins and Porter, as well as at least four short-term shows on at any one time.
9. Oddies Creek Park
Cross the Murray River from Victoria via the Lincoln Causeway and you’ll be at this well-appointed park with grassy spaces and tall, mature gum trees.
Oddies Creek Park needs to be on your radar if you have children, thanks to a massive adventure playspace that attracts more than 100,000 people each year.
The main structure here is five metres tall and has ramps to accommodate wheelchair users.
There’s a 30-metre flying fox, swings, slides of all sizes, a climbing net and a sandpit.
Parents have plenty of seating if they need to take timeout, while the wider park is equipped with shelters and picnic and barbecue areas.
10. Albury Swim Centre
Right on the Murray River in Hovell Tree Park sits Albury’s outdoor swimming centre, open September to April.
This is the prime place for residents and visitors to take it easy and cool off on a hot summer’s day.
The main pool is Olympic sized (50 metres), with eight lanes, complemented by a heated 25-metre pool, a pool for babies and toddlers with shade sails, as well as a giant water slide.
The pools are surrounded by grassy space with ample shade and picnic facilities.
You can grab snacks and cold drinks at the kiosk, or bring your own food and drink for a barbecue.
11. Rutherglen Wine Region
Albury is on the northeastern shoulder of a wine region that encompasses a big patch of North East Victoria.
This centres on the town of Rutherglen, which has a winemaking heritage going all the way back to the gold rush in the middle of the 19th century.
The Rutherglen Wine Region is famed for its crisp whites (Chardonnay, Marsanne) and complex reds (Durif, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon), but its high reputation comes from sweet fortified wines like Muscat and Topaque.
In fact, this is Australia’s fortified wine capital and there are more than 20 wineries and cellar doors within an easy trip of Albury.
If you have to pick just one, consider the All Saints Estate in Wahgunyah, presided over by an 1864 castle-style mansion at the end of a regal elm avenue.
12. Canoeing on the Murray River
Some of the best canoeing and kayaking in regional Australia can be done on the Murray River, and there are two main companies for waterborne adventures, both based at Noreuil Park.
These are Canoe the Murray, and Murray River Canoe Hire, offering guided or self-guided trips.
Both have a big range of craft, from sit-on-top kayaks to double and triple canoes, catering to everyone from beginners to experienced paddlers.
As for duration, you can also choose anything from 90 minutes to a full five-day odyssey.
Life jackets, paddles and drop-off are all included in the price and you’ll be free to travel downriver at a leisurely or more vigorous pace.
Keep your eyes peeled and you may catch sight of a platypus on the way.
13. Albury Railway Station
When it opened in 1882 Albury Railway Station was the terminus for the Main Southern Line, 642 kilometres from its starting point in Sydney.
The Italianate station building was designed by prominent railway engineer/architect John Whitton as an opulent emblem of NSW colonial pride, in direct competition with neighbouring Victoria.
There’s a clock-tower crested by a cupola and a central hall with vaulting ceiling ten metres high.
For decades until 1962 Albury was one of the Australia’s most important stations, as there was a difference in gauge between NSW’s and Victoria’s railways, so passengers had to change here on their journeys between Sydney and Melbourne.
To make this possible, one of the longest covered platforms in the country was built at Albury, still in place and more than 300 metres long.
14. St Matthew’s Church
The cross on top of the steeple of this neo-Gothic church just in from Dean Street is the highest point in Albury’s CBD.
The building was first completed in 1859 and then given a chancel in the 1870s.
But a devastating fire in 1990 means that St Matthew’s is an intriguing mishmash from different periods.
The west wall and base of the tower are the oldest portions dating from that initial buildings, while the chancel remains largely the same, about 150 years after it was completed.
The remainder of the church, including the nave and steeple, is around 30 years old.
In the tower is a tolling bell cast in Glastonbury, England, while the Finchman pipe organ was produced in Victoria and installed in 1876.
15. Visitor Information Centre
If you’re stepping off the train in Albury and need some orientation, the Visitor Information Centre is right in front, in a lovely old detached house with a neat formal garden.
This is part of the historic Railway Precinct, and as you’d hope is a goldmine of info on attractions, tourist trails, upcoming events, accommodation and more.
You can pick a handful of maps and leaflets, make the most of free Wi-Fi and even organise things like bike hire right here.
If you’re using a caravan then there’s a free dump point and water facilities right beside the centre.