Bedded in the Goulburn Valley, Mooroopna is a rural town facing off across the river from its larger neighbour, Shepparton.
In Mooroopna, 20th-century agricultural industries like grain processing have made way for upmarket residential neighbourhoods, enhanced by amenities like parks and golf courses.
The valley, aided by one of Australia’s largest irrigation networks, is a green corridor lined with farms and wineries, while the floodplain between the two towns abounds with parks, trails and nature reserves.
You can get to Shepparton’s CBD and its museums and shops in a matter of minutes from Mooroopna, but in between there are family attractions, heritage walks and a lively main street to check out.
1. The Flats
On the Goulburn River’s floodplain you can immerse yourself in local indigenous history via the Mooroopna Aboriginal History Walk.
This 3.5-kilometre trail is labelled with information boards telling you about the large Aboriginal community that lived by the river.
They moved here from New South Wales following the Cummeragunja Walk-Off of 1939, the first ever mass strike of Aboriginal people in Australia.
This was a protest against the tight restrictions placed on their movement, but also meagre rations and the increasing practise of the government’s removal of children from their communities.
Perusing the boards, installed in 2013, you’ll learn about their daily lives and diet on the riverside, as well as the disruption caused by annual floods.
2. Australian Botanic Gardens Shepparton
Set out on what used to be landfill, this attraction condenses the agriculture, botany, history and culture of the Goulburn Valley into one space.
You can ramble in wetlands and native grassy bushland, while the literal highpoint is a lookout set atop a 30-metre manmade hill.
In the raised, landscaped parts of the Australian Botanic Gardens Shepparton you can make your way around a Terrace Garden, Food Garden, Refugee Garden and Residence Garden, while down on the River Plain there’s a Billabong Walk, Children’s Garden, Weaving Garden, River Walk Loop, Turtle Garden and Rockwall Garden.
3. Victoria Park Lake
Cross the Goulburn River once more for this delightful public space, barely ten minutes from the centre of Mooroopna.
Resting on the east bank is a lake that was impounded at the turn of the 20th century on what used to be swamp and grazing land.
The lake and its surrounding parkland encompass more than 40 hectares and are a summertime destination for outdoor events and shows.
The Shepparton Park Run takes place here every Saturday morning, while the S-Cape skate park is the go-to for skateboarders, rollerskaters, scooters and BMXers.
The lake is a haven for waterfowl, and has jetties around its shore for fishing.
4. Goulburn Valley Wine Region
Vines have been cultivated along the Goulburn Valley since the 1860s, and the industry continues to grow, sustained by a warm climate, sandy soils and an abundance of water.
Among the main varietals are Riesling, Marsanne, Chardonnay and Shiraz, but the principal grape grown at almost every vineyard is Cabernet Sauvignon, producing earthy and fruity wines with signature chocolate notes.
There are wineries and cellar doors (tasting rooms) throughout the valley, from Seymour all the way up to the confluence with the Murray at Echuca.
For a real dose of heritage you could pay a visit to Tahbilk, which has been in the business since 1860 and is a member of Australia’s prestigious First Families of Wine.
5. KidsTown Adventure Playground
At just five minutes on the Midland Highway, this attraction by The Flats is closer to the centre of Mooroopna than it is to Shepparton’s CBD.
What you’ll find at KidsTown is a series of innovative and safe play spaces, all fenced in and set across more than two hectares.
There’s equipment for all ages and abilities, ensconced in peaceful bushland and complemented by picnic and barbecue areas.
The playground is open 360 days a year from dawn to dusk, has a miniature train that runs on weekends and school holidays and comes with its own cafe for cold drinks, treats and healthy snacks.
6. Mooroopna Water Tower
In the middle of McLennan Street (A300) in the heart of Mooroopna stands the town’s abiding landmark.
This cylindrical water tower has been around since 1927, when it was raised to ensure the water supply for local industry.
A few decades earlier, Mooroopna became the first township in the Goulburn Valley to have its own reticulated water supply, in 1876. And while the tower might look a little nondescript by day, at night its blank facade becomes a canvas for impressive themed illuminations.
These change every so often to mark dates like the 70th anniversary of the United Nations in 2015 and a wide range of charities.
7. Gemmill Swamp Wildlife Reserve
The Mooroopna side of the Goulburn River floodplain is dominated by this 170-hectare reserve composed of wetland and floodplain forest.
There’s a tangle of tracks to help you traverse the wetlands and stands of river red gums on foot or by bike.
The reserve is relatively unfrequented so you’ll be sure to find lots of peace and solitude, and may get to see some of the rare and vulnerable wildlife supported by these habitats.
Among them are turquoise parrots, multicoloured superb parrots and squirrel gliders.
8. Riverlinks Westside
For live entertainment in Greater Shepparton you’ve got Riverlinks, which runs two venues and presents a vibrant schedule of performances and activities including gigs, musicals, plays, classical music, dance, circus and comedy.
In Mooroopna there’s Riverlinks Westside, which has a proscenium arch theatre seating 416 and boasting exceptional acoustics.
This venue comes with an orchestra pit and fly tower, which makes it ideal if you want to catch a musical or play.
9. Historical Society of Mooroopna Museum and Gallery
Mooroopna has its own story to tell, which you’ll encounter at this local history museum at what used to be the Grutzner House Nursing Home.
Goulburn Valley Health and the old Mooroopna Hospital have left the society an enormous hoard of medical artefacts, the largest to be found in regional Victoria.
So you can go down some fascinating rabbit holes, like the unique direct blood transfusion service set up in the town during the WWII.
There are 15 rooms in all to check out, painting a picture of agriculture, industry, business and domestic life in Mooroopna and bursting with interesting artefacts from heirloom clothing to military equipment, archive photos, maps and documents.
10. Shepparton Motor Museum
As a key transport hub and the home of the Driver Education Centre Australia (DECA), Shepparton is the logical setting for a major museum on motoring.
At any one time there will be more than 100 historic cars, trucks and motorbikes on display at the Shepparton Motor Museum, with an inventory that is rotated for new exhibitions four times a year.
These vehicles are accompanied by a trove of memorabilia, counting vintage enamel signs, oil cans, photographs and posters, all lining the walls.
Under the same roof is the Furphy Museum, dedicated to the long-running agricultural machinery company, founded in 1864 and making everything from water carts to harvesters.
11. Tatura Irrigation and Wartime Camps Museum
If farming in the Goulburn Valley is a thread that you want to follow, there’s a great little museum a brief road trip away in Tatura.
Here you can tap into one of the largest and oldest irrigation systems in Australia, learning how vineyards and dairy farms are nourished by the Goulburn River through human ingenuity.
There’s another side to Tatura story, as the town was the site of a garrison, military hospital and no fewer than seven POW and internment camps in the Second World War.
This heritage has left the museum with a wealth of artefacts recounting an enthralling period in Australian history.
12. Belstack Strawberry Farm
In an impossibly picturesque spot, right above the Goulburn River, Belstack Strawberry Farm has an extended harvesting season that begins in mid-October and continues right through to late-May.
Throughout this time you can come by to pick your own strawberries, filling buckets and stocking up on all the homemade goodies sold at the farm shop, like jams, sauces and pickles.
You can indulge in a strawberry sundae, high tea, strawberry milkshake or something more substantial at the farm cafe, while there’s tons of fun for kids.
You can meet farmyard animals, which is a real treat during lambing season in March, and there’s a nine-hole mini golf course, a permaculture garden and ample land for bushwalks and bike rides.
13. Mooroopna Golf Club
Golf is a year-round sport in this part of Victoria, and if you need to get a round in there are two courses a short hop from the centre of Mooroopna.
The closest is the 18-hole Mooroopna Golf Club, just off the A300 and a great-looking rural course, kept in excellent condition all year.
This is a forgiving place to get back in the swing of things, and although the tree-lined fairways are narrow, the greens are lush so your approach shot should stick nicely.
Green fees for non-members are $33 for 18 and $20 for nine holes, while a cart will set you back $40 (18) or $25 (9). Finish up with a bite at the Eagles and Birdies Bistro, looking over the course and found at the first hole.
14. Shepparton Observation Tower
Shepparton has its own utilitarian-looking structure, right in the middle of town.
This broadcast tower, completed in 1968, climbs to 76.2 metres and introduced microwave technology to the city.
The reason to keep the tower in your plans is for the observation platform at 35 metres, affording far-off vistas extending over the Goulburn Valley and the green corridor along its banks.
There are 160 steps and 8 flights to the platform, and a record climb and descent of just 89 seconds was set in 2015 during the Zaidee’s Tower Run.
15. Moooving Art
Since 1999 Greater Shepparton has been invaded by a roving herd of fibreglass cows as a nod to the surrounding dairy industry.
Moooving Art began as a temporary Christmas campaign, but the cows, painted in colourful and creative patterns have become a treasured part of the cityscape.
There are more than 90 in the herd, and pop up in parks, gardens, on town streets and at places of work.
See how many cows you can find, and check out the wacky designs, like clownfish cows, mer-cows and tiger cows.
Moooving Art souvenirs can also be bought from the Greater Shepparton Visitor Information Centre.