This inland city on the Goulburn River has an overabundance of good things, like fresh produce, wine, water and warm weather.
Farming has always been in Shepparton’s veins, made possible by a vast irrigation network, and the wider Goulburn Valley is bedded with vineyards and wineries awaiting your company.
Back in Shepparton there are great museums for art and transport, as well as a roving, growing herd of full-sized painted cows to celebrate the city’s farming heritage.
And you won’t be stuck for inspiration for outings, with open farms, Australia’s largest adventure playground and a gigantic pool complex all at hand.
1. Victoria Park Lake
One of many great things about Shepparton’s cityscape is the presence of this open body of water right on the east bank of the Goulburm River.
Initially Victoria Park Lake was a mix of swampland and grazing, until the beginning of the 20th century when it became a public park named for Queen Victoria.
The lake was adapted for recreation in the 1920s and on its lush, green banks you can breathe the fresh air, stroll and cycle among the river red gums and glimpse the profuse birdlife, from pelicans to ducks.
There are enticing shaded lawns for picnics, and if you linger late in the day you’ll be wowed by a gorgeous sunset over the lake.
On Saturday mornings this is the scene for the Shepparton Park Run, and there’s a calendar of events on these shores all year.
2. Shepparton Art Museum (SAM)
One of the top regional art museums in Australia is right here in Shepparton.
This was founded in 1936, and unveiled award-winning plans for a sensational new, environmentally-friendly building in 2017. When we wrote this article in April 2020 work was slated to be completed by 2021. SAM remains open to the public, barring a coronavirus closure, presenting a collection that has been augmented over more than 80 years.
For 50 of these the museum has specialised in local and international ceramics, spanning several hundred years and including contemporary indigenous pottery.
As well as selections from this important collection, there will be up to seven exhibitions going on while you visit, while SAM also curates a lively schedule of programs and events.
3. Moooving Art Shepparton
Greater Shepparton is famed for its dairy industry, which makes up a big part of the area’s economy, while cows are a permanent part of the landscape.
To honour this and help raise the profile of the city, there’s a herd of some 90 fibreglass cows, painted with all sorts of weird and wonderful patterns.
These life-sized bovines can be found across Greater Shepparton, at gardens, playgrounds, public spaces and local businesses, many in places you would never expect.
You can keep track of the herd and new additions via the tourist office’s Facebook and Instagram accounts.
4. Shepparton Motor Museum
This purpose-built museum houses scores of vehicles, gathered from the Goulburn Valley, across Australia, and internationally too.
The collection, including heritage cars, motorcycles, pedal cars, farm equipment and bicycles, is large enough that it needs to be rotated every three months.
There are regular themed displays for anything from BMXs to muscle cars, accompanied by tons of memorabilia.
All the exhibits will be accompanied by absorbing informative plaques, while the car park outside hosts markets and car parades throughout the year.
5. Goulburn Valley Wine Region
From Seymour in the south right up to Echuca where the Goulburn joins the Murray there’s a wine region with a history that can be traced back as far as 1860. Goulburn Valley has been an Australian Geographical Indication for more than 20 years now, combining a warm climate, ample water from the river and sandy soils.
The signature grape here is Cabernet Sauvignon, which has earthy and ripe flavours, with hints of chocolate.
One name that has been around since day one, is Tahbilk, still producing wine from vines that were planted in the 1860s.
The “new cellar” at this winery was excavated in 1875. Close by, another prominent name is the younger Mitchelton Wines, which has established a high reputation for its Rhône varietals and Riesling.
6. Australian Botanic Gardens Shepparton
A former landfill site in the south-west of Shepparton is being turned into a vibrant showcase for the native flora around the city and the Goulburn Valley.
This can be discovered in a growing variety of creatively landscaped gardens and habitats, like the wetlands, native forest, turtle garden, waving garden, food garden, terrace garden and residence garden.
There are walking and cycling trails throughout, including on the banks of the Goulburn River, and you can also make your way to the top of Honeysuckle Rise for distant views from the observation platform.
7. KidsTown Adventure Playground
Shepparton claims the largest adventure playground in all of Australia, open 360 days and attracting upwards of 150,000 visitors each year.
Fully fenced and spread over more than two hectares, the playground has been imaginatively devised to challenge, entertain and educate children of all ages and abilities.
There are giant slides, tree houses, a working miniature train (weekends and holidays), a flying fox and an amphitheatre seating 230 people.
For grownups who need a break there are plenty of seats close to the equipment, while the Dig-In Café at the playground is open Fridays, weekends and school holidays.
8. Shepparton Heritage Centre Museum
The oldest building in Shepparton, the Public Hall of 1873, is the anchor for this museum promoting and preserving the history of the city and surrounding region.
You’ll find it in the Historic Precinct by the Goulburn River, site of the intact riverboat wharf from 1880 and the punt crossing established in 1850. Within you can check out four galleries, a recreated colonial-era cottage built in 1995 and the archive storage bay.
Among the many curiosities on display there’s a colonial four-poster bed, a clock from Shepparton’s 1882 post office, a wedding dress from 1860 and a baronial chair carved in the 16th century.
9. Shepparton Observation Tower
Unmistakeable, right in the middle of Shepparton, is a 76.2-metre telecom tower, constructed in 1967-68. This structure brought microwave technology to the town, but is also a minor attraction in its own right.
There’s a viewing platform open to the public at 35 metres, reached via 160 steps on eight flights.
From there you’ll have a complete panorama of Shepparton’s CBD and west over the densely wooded banks of the Goulburn River.
Your visit to the top and back again will be short and sweet, though perhaps not as quick as the 89-second record, set during the Zaidee’s Tower Run in 2015.
10. Lower Goulburn National Park
The lower reaches of the Goulburn River are protected by this linear, 9,310-hectare national park as it twists down to its confluence with the Murray close to Echuca.
The park is a much-loved getaway for camping trips and fishing trips (brown trout, rainbow trout, European carp and small redfin are all plentiful). Meanwhile the often steep banks of the Goulburn are crowded by riverine vegetation that stands in vivid contrast to the farmland immediately outside this corridor.
The most prominent species is the river red gum, lining much of the course of the river and if you go carefully you may see a koala in the trees.
Greater Shepparton’s prime recreation centre is a moment or two from Victoria Park Lake in the heart of the town.
This is an all-season facility, with fun-filled indoor pool boasting a rapid river, Tarzan swing and slide.
For exercise and training you’ve got a 25-metre pool, complemented by spas, a sauna and a hydrotherapy pool.
There’s a large, up-to-date gym here too, hosting some 80 classes a week, many taking place outside on the shaded lawns.
And come summer you can hit the 50-metre outdoor pool, embedded in that greenery.
12. Kaiela Arts
This art gallery on High Street is the place to get in touch with the Aboriginal art of Kaiela Dungala (Goulburn – Murray). Not-for-profit, Kaiela Arts offers a platform for highly talented Aboriginal artists to tell their stories and find an audience.
Around 80 artists have displayed their work here, covering every medium from paintings to ceramics and screen-printed clothing and accessories.
This work is in the linear style traditional to the region.
You can visit, peruse the gallery, have a chat and see if there’s anything that catches your eye, knowing you’ll be supporting the region’s Aboriginal community.
13. Greater Shepparton Visitor Centre
Your first port for call after arriving in Shepparton should be this amenity at 33-35 Nixon Street.
Of course, the visitor centre is a useful resource for Shepparton and its region, with brochures, leaflets, maps and enthusiastic, knowledgeable staff helping you get your bearings.
But the shelves are also stacked with goodies from the Goulburn Valley and beyond, like wine, jams, honey, relishes, vinegar, dried fruit, olive oil, nuts and much more.
This is also somewhere to grab a souvenir, like your own painted cow from the Moooving Art exhibition.
14. Belstack Strawberry Farm
Just off the Goulburn Valley Highway south of Shepparton is the Belstack Strawberry Farm, arranging farmstays, PYO fruit and a variety of family fun.
The extended strawberry season in Victoria runs from October until May.
There’s free entry to the farm, recyclable containers are provided and you’ll pay by the kilogram ($16). But there’s more to keep everyone engaged, like a nine-hole mini-golf course and farmyard animals to meet.
The best time for this is March, which is lambing season.
And added to all this there’s a permaculture garden, trails for bushwalks, a picnic area and a shop stocking farm-fresh produce and homemade jams, liqueurs and sauces.
15. Tatura Irrigation and Wartime Camps Museum
A bit further afield, this museum in the Goulburn Valley town of Tatura approaches two intriguing themes from the town’s past.
In WWII seven prisoner of war and internment camps were established in Tatura’s surroundings, and you can find out all about them, as well as the town’s garrison and military hospital.
Among the museum’s materials are inspiring and poignant firsthand accounts, photographs and preserved arts and crafts by inmates.
The story of one of the largest centres of irrigation in Australia is also compelling, and there are maps, books, archive photos and more to show how the region was made farmable through what was the first irrigation scheme in the state.