The city of Mildura is at the heart of “Victoria’s Food Bowl” growing massive quantities of citrus fruit, wine grapes, avocados and wheat.
Dipping into this agriculture is all part of the Mildura experience, and there are wineries and open farms awaiting you close by.
The Murray River has always been crucial to Mildura’s fortunes, irrigating farms and helping to transport their cargo.
You can see how this massive waterway was made navigable in Mildura in the 1920s, and spend a blissful afternoon walking or riding along the city’s green riverfront.
Threading through the heart of Mildura is Feast Street, packed with places to eat and rich with Art Deco architecture .
1. Lock 11
Australia’s longest river wasn’t always easy to navigate, as it was susceptible to floods and sometimes dried up completely.
The answer for Mildura, which needed to get its citrus fruit, wine grapes, wool and grain to market, was a sophisticated and wide-ranging lock and weir system that took shape during the 1920s.
Lock 11 is a serious engineering achievement: The weir is made up of 24 steel trestles, each weighing 11 tonnes, but can be completely removed from the river during floods.
The lock is a sizeable concrete chamber, accommodating 4.5 megalitres and filled via two tunnels.
After watching a boat pass through the lock you can walk across to the relaxing parkland on Lock Island, which is accessible during daylight hours and has a perfect lookout over the weir on its south-east corner.
2. Vineyards and Wineries
More than three quarters of all the grapes grown in the State of Victoria are harvested in Mildura and its environs.
In fact many of Australia’s wineries source their grapes from this part of the country.
Traditionally, varieties like Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay do well in Mildura’s warm Mediterranean climate, with low rainfall and lots of sunshine.
So you’ll be free to delve into a wine region that has been producing vintages since 1891. There are dozens of vineyards and cellar doors (tasting rooms) within a short trip of Mildura’s CBD, counting some of the most respected names in the industry in Australia.
The Trentham Estate for instance is only 15 minutes away and has an impossibly pretty location, right on the Murray River.
You can sample an estate-grown Shiraz, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris at the cellar door, or sit down to an elegant meal at the restaurant, with a menu incorporating Mildura’s famous fresh produce.
3. Mildura Riverfront
The Murray River guarantees complete public access along its banks.
Since 1881 the State of Victoria has stipulated that there has to be a 60-metre green strip along the south bank to safeguard against floods and erosion, but also offer a space for public recreation.
The river is a huge asset for Mildura, which in recent years has been working on a riverfront redevelopment project.
There’s a chain of parks all down the riverside, from Rio Vista in the north, through Jaycee Park and then Ornamental Lakes Park.
At the latter you can board a paddle steamer for a cruise along the Murray, but this is also the setting for the Mildura Water Play Park, a go-to on summer days for families with younger children.
There are stately mature trees, neat lawns and picnic areas all the way, peppered with indigenous sculpture and places to sip coffee and watch the river flow.
4. Australian Inland Botanic Gardens
Billed as the first semi-arid botanical garden in the Southern Hemisphere, this horticultural attraction across the Murray is where the desert literally comes to life.
There are more than 20,000 plantings here, a good half of which are scientifically labelled.
These come from all over Australia and New Zealand, but also Africa, Europe and North and South America.
Particularly compelling are the mature eucalyptus mallees, thought to be up to 2,500 years old, while the spectacular rose garden grows over 1,600 bushes in colour-coordinated patterns.
For a whirlwind tour you can take a tractor-train ride through the gardens every Saturday morning at 11:00.
5. Feast Street
Langtree Avenue has been Mildura’s main shopping and dining street since the very birth of the town.
One whole block, between Eight and Ninth Street is a pedestrian mall, while the palm and gum tree-lined stretch just north of it has the nickname Feast Street for its abundance of cafes, bars and globe-trotting line-up of restaurants.
Mildura’s warm days and balmy evenings allow for lots of outdoor seating and terraces on the footpaths, and on special occasions the entire street is closed off to road traffic.
There’s also lots of arresting old architecture on show, much of it in the Art Deco Style, like the Mildura Brewery (No. 20), which is a converted old cinema and the early-1940s T&G Building at the corner of Eight and Langtree, hard to miss for its clock tower.
6. Mungo National Park
Mildura is the closest city to what is one of the most incredible landscapes in the country, which is saying something for Australia.
A sacred meeting place for a number of Aboriginal Nations, and so tightly protected, Mungo National Park is composed of white dunes and dried-up lakebeds that look like they belong on the moon.
It was in this environment that the 40,000-year-old remains of Mungo Lady and Mungo Man were discovered, preserved by the sand and low humidity.
The park gives up new archaeological discoveries by the year.
You can get in touch with this landscape and its human and natural history at the visitor centre, learning about the once full Lake Mungo and the megafauna that lived here.
For an Aboriginal perspective you can take a guided tour, seeing ancient burial sites and fireplaces that have been here for more than 40 millennia.
7. Murray River Cruises
The locally-based tour company, Mildura Paddlesteamers maintains a fleet of three historic paddle steamers setting off for cruises on the beautiful Murray River 365 days a year.
The flagship and most active vessel is the P.S. Melbourne, built in 1912 and restored in 1965. Departing Mildura Wharf, this makes twice-daily two-hour cruises, accompanied by commentary and gliding downstream to the iconic Lock 11. This is an all-weather vessel, with heating and glazed indoor spaces, as well as a kiosk for snacks and drinks.
Also in the collection are P.V. Rothbury (1881) and P.V. Mundoo, a replica of an original from 1875, both catering to less frequent lunch, dinner and winery cruises.
8. Mildura Arts Centre
The city’s all-encompassing arts hub borders Rio Vista Park on the riverfront.
This modern building houses a 444-seat theatre for live music, plays, dance, talks and children’s fun.
Mildura’s art collection can be seen at curated rotating shows in the centre’s gallery, which also hosts travelling exhibitions.
There’s also a cafe/bar for pre-show refreshments, and the centre is bedded in a gorgeous landscaped sculpture garden.
Under the same umbrella is the nearby Rio Vista Historic House, a three-storey mansion dating back to 1889 and housing more than 1,000 period items.
The property belonged to William Benjamin Chaffey, who was key to introducing modern irrigation systems to Australia.
9. Fossey’s Ginporium and Whisky Distillery
The landmark complex, The Setts, on Eighth Street is the home of a family-owned gin distillery and tasting room.
In Fossey’s range of artisanal infused gins you’ll find imaginative creations like Christmas Pudding, Shiraz, Gin Toddy, Rose Petal, Hot Cross Bun, Rose Petal and Desert Lime, along with single malt whisky.
These draw on Mildura’s renowned, high-quality produce, which also shows up on the nibbly food menu provided by The Gourmet Chef, another local business.
The best time to come is Thursday afternoon from 14:00, when the Ginporium is open to people who want to learn the ins and outs of distilling gin and whisky.
Afterwards you can order a tasting paddle to discern the subtle differences between the different infusions.
10. Mildura Holden Motor Museum
At this private museum you can trace the history of the Holden car brand, from the late-1940s 48-215 sedan right through to the latest Statesman and Monaro models.
Something remarkable about this collection is that it all belongs to one man, Ron Morello, who opened it up to the public in 2016. There are 30+ models on show at any one time, all pristinely restored and accompanied by a timeline and memorabilia on the walls of this large converted warehouse.
Take a break at the museum’s cafe, adorned with yet more Holden artefacts and serving a menu of sweet treats, hot and cold drinks and quick bites.
11. Orange World
This working 20-hectare citrus farm invites guests onto the property for three tours each day, seven days a week.
On this informative experience, you’ll ride on a 70-seater tractor train through the orchard and avocado canopy.
Come during the picking season and Orange World will be full of activity during the rush to harvest, while around September the entire farm is abloom and a sweet fragrance lingers on the air.
Fruit and juice tasting is included in the tour, while there’s an educational talk at the nursery and a lookout tower to survey the orchard.
12. Merbein Common
This floodplain reserve rests in a meander in Murray River, a little way north-west of Mildura.
Thanks to an enormous state-wide restoration scheme, the nationally important wetlands at Merbein Common are being returned to their original splendour.
The site is also primed for outdoor recreation.
You can hike next to the river, among black box and red gum woodland, and out into open spaces to watch the waterfowl.
There’s a free campsite at the reserve, as well as a boat ramp for fishing or just exploring the wetlands at your own pace.
The river water is as clear as it gets, and you’ll be able to swim at a designated area.
13. Old Wentworth Gaol
A little way down the Murray River from Mildura there’s a remarkably preserved 19th-century gaol in the little border town of Wentworth.
This was built between 1879 and 1881, from locally fired brick, with bluestone dressings sourced almost 500 kilometres away in Malmsbury, Victoria.
The gaol served its original purpose until 1927, after which some of it became a school for a few decades.
Throughout, the basic structure and cellblock remained intact, and is now an enlightening museum painting a vivid if spooky picture of life and conditions in a colonial prison.
On a self-guided tour there’s ample information about the story of the building and Wentworth in the late-19th century, explained on mounted boards with lots of black and white photography and historic documents.
14. Woodsies Gem Shop
This outsized, family-run jewelry shop is more than its name suggests, qualifying as a worthwhile tourist attraction, especially if you’re here with your family.
To see the craft of jewelry-making firsthand, there are free grinding and cutting demonstrations daily at 11:00 and 14:00, during which you’ll discover how jewelry is cast and how precious stones are cut and polished.
In the garden Woodsies Gem Shop has a whimsical maze spread out over almost half a hectare, while a real highlight is Aladdin’s Cave, presenting the Woods family’s massive collection of gemstones, crystal and fossils, sourced from across Australia and the world.
15. Sunraysia Farmers’ Market
In a region known as “Victoria’s food bowl” you can be sure that the farmers’ markets will be out of this world.
Mildura’s market is held on the first and third Saturday of the month, 08:00 – 12:00 at Jaycee Park on the Murray River.
There you can buy world-class and seasonal fruit and vegetables, but also all sorts of other goodies like farm-raised meat, dried fruits, nuts, potted plants, herbs, wine, sauces, locally roasted coffee, olives, sourdough bread, local chocolate, natural cosmetics and flowers.
As a showcase for all this glorious produce, the market has a volunteer-run stall making delicious breakfast dishes.
Added to that you’ve got cooking demonstration, live music and all kinds of fun to keep children on board.