Near Wodonga you can visit the largest military museum in the country, and learn how the foundations for modern Australia were laid at the site of the former Bonegilla Migrant Reception and Training Centre.
Around 1 in 20 Australians are descended from immigrants who passed through this centre in the aftermath of the Second World War.
There’s fabulous scenery all around Wodonga, along the Murray River, at the immense Lake Hume reservoir and in the peaks of the nearby Alpine Region.
1. High Country Rail Trail
Between Wodonga and Tallangatta, 35 kilometres away on the eastern tip of Lake Hume there’s a multiuse trail conveying you through an awesome variety of nature.
The route is on the course of the old Cudgewa railway line, linking Wodonga with Cudgewa, 110 kilometres to the east.
The line closed in 1981, and now you can hike, cycle or ride this portion of the line as it bends around the south shore of Lake Hume.
The route will take you along the Murray River floodplain, through the red gum woodland by the Kiewa River and then out onto the lake’s south shore where you can take breaks for a dip in the lake or simply revel in the wonderful views.
Maybe the most memorable stretch is on the 600-metre bridge that spans the Sandy Creek inlet, about halfway along the route.
2. The Army Museum Bandiana
The largest and widest-ranging military museum in the country is on Wodonga’s doorstep.
The Army Museum Bandiana is at the Gaza Ridge Barracks a few minutes out of town and has grown many times in size since it opened in 1972. The collections are drawn from numerous Australian Army units and chart every conflict and period from the First World War to the present.
There are more than 150 vehicles to check out, among them tanks, cars, motorbikes, APCs, Land Rovers and half-tracks.
You can also browse artillery, uniforms, machine guns, heavy equipment, handheld weapons, medals, medical kits and poingnant artefacts retrieved from battlefields.
3. Huon Hill Parklands
Directly east of Wodonga is the grassy peak of Huon Hill, which climbs to 263 metres over the Kiewa and Murray Rivers.
Head up here for breathtaking panoramas, taking in Wodonga, Albury, Lake Hume, the Kiewa and Murray Valleys and the towering peaks of the Alpine Region.
On a clear day you can see as far as the 2,000-metre Mount Bogong, some 100 kilometres to the southeast.
Bring a camera as the views can be captured from scenic lookouts, and there’s plenty of facilities to keep you on the hill for longer.
You can walk trails up to three kilometres long, as well as take advantage of picnic shelters and electric barbecues.
4. Lake Hume
In the 20th century’s interwar period, the Murray River was impounded a short way upriver from Albury-Wodonga, giving rise to the sweeping Lake Hume.
The Hume Dam was a massive undertaking, at 52 metres in height and with a length of 1.6 kilometres.
You can walk along the top, for sparkling views of the reservoir against the outline of the Alpine Region’s summits.
For decades people have flocked to the lush shores of Lake Hume to camp, swim, go waterskiing or boating.
The fishing is great too if you have a Victoria state fishing licence: Murray cod, perch, rainbow trout, carp, brown trout and redfin are all here in large numbers.
5. Bonegilla Migrant Experience
Ten minutes east of Wodonga, on the shore of Lake Hume is the site of the Bonegilla Migrant Reception and Training Centre.
This was set up on what used to be a Second World War training base to take in and train new arrivals to Australia during the post-war immigration boom.
A few of the 300,000 Australians to come through Bonegilla include politician Franca Arena, business executive Arvi Parbo and the parents of actor Eric Bana.
In fact it is thought that one in 20 Australians have ties to the centre, which makes the museum attraction on the site all the more moving.
You’ll get an insight into the hopes and dreams of the country’s post-war immigrants and the foundations of 21st-century Australia as a multicultural society.
Guided tours take place on Saturdays and Sundays at 11:00 and 14:00.
6. Butter Factory Theatre
In between the towns, on the Wodonga bank of the Murray River you’ll come to a theatre housed in a converted dairy building dating back to 1928. This was converted into a serious theatre venue in 1997, and is the main stage for the Hothouse Theatre Company, which puts on a season of fresh, independently-produced plays each year.
The theatre seats 162, while there’s a studio for smaller performances, workshops and classes.
7. Belvoir Park
This park is a few steps from the heart of Wodonga and features mature trees and a sizeable lake ringed with a multiuse trail.
You could while away one of those timeless summer days with a picnic, barbecue or baking your own pizza at the community wood-fired oven.
Belvoir Park also wins a lot of praise for its labyrinthine children’s playground, which comes with climbing nets, slides, a climbing wall, liberty swing and raised platforms and decks.
This is also a park for dog-lovers, with biodegradable waste bags provided for free at the entrance, and two agility runs donated by Mars Petcare.
8. Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk
The Wagirra Trail snakes along the north bank of the Murray River between the South Albury Trail and the Wonga Wetlands in the west.
This is a gorgeous way to get out in the open air without straying too far from Wodonga or Albury.
Two metres wide and paved, the trail meanders through bushland and landscaped parkland.
But things get especially enlightening from Kremur Street on the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk.
For five kilometres the route is enriched with pieces by local Aboriginal artists, explained by interpretive boards or as videos you can watch on your smartphone, detailing local indigenous history and the importance of the Murray River in Aboriginal culture.
9. Murray River Canoeing
The Murray River flows by at a languid pace, which makes it a safe, not to mention relaxing, option for a day out in Wodonga and Albury.
There are two companies based on the opposite bank at Noreuil Park and offering a variety of kayaks and canoes for hire, with equipment, maps and pick-up and drop-off included in the price.
These are Murray River Canoe Hire and Canoe the Murray River, both accommodating anything from 90-minute trips to multiday adventures.
If you have your own means of transport you could also pick up a kayak or canoe here and take it to Lake Hume for a few hours.
10. Wonga Wetlands
Not far up the Murray River on the Albury side there’s an area of lagoons and billabongs taking over what used to be grazing land.
The Wonga Wetlands is 80 hectares all told, and as well as supporting scores of bird species has centuries-old red gums and scar trees.
You can get there in less than 15 minutes from the centre of Wodonga, to walk the trails and see what you can spot from the six bird hides.
The Wiradjuri campsite opens a window on indigenous life and culture down the centuries, while the wetlands’ visitor centre is in an old homestead dating back to the 1890s.
The best time to drop by is probably winter, when the lagoons and billabongs are full and bustling with pelicans and swans.
Then in spring, as the waters recede, wading birds come to peck at the muddy shorelines.
11. BOUNCEinc Wodonga
There’s hours of family fun in store at this huge indoor activity centre.
BOUNCEinc Wodonga has more than 40 connected trampolines, a high ropes course, climbing wall, an air mat for crazy acrobatics, a dodgeball court and a “Supa Slam” arena where you’ll have a little help to make a slam dunk.
For smaller visitors there’s a three-storey jungle-themed playground to scramble through, and if you need to recharge you’ve got the cafe for healthy light meals and sweet treats.
12. Les Stone Park
This verdant outdoor space is only a few blocks from the centre of Wodonga and rests on the banks of House Creek.
On this green corridor you can throw a rug down for a picnic, or make use of the sheltered barbecue facilities.
A walking and cycling trail cuts through Les Stone Park, linking it with a chain of neighbouring parks (Pam Stone, Phill Adams, Gerard Moylan, Carl Fietz), so you could take a long walk in nature while never leaving the confines of the town.
At the top end is a wetland and jetty for fishing, while the sizeable children’s playground is one of the best in Wodonga.
13. Wodonga Creek Miniature Railway
On the third Sunday of the month from February to December kids and parents can hop aboard a miniature train pulled by a steam or diesel locomotive.
With vintage rolling stock, these trains trundle along Wondonga Creek at Diamond Park and are maintained by dedicated enthusiasts.
There’s a playground beside the track, while the ticket office sells hot and cold drinks, treats and souvenirs.
14. Rutherglen Wine
It’s exciting to think that there were vines growing in the Rutherglen Wine Region 170 years ago when the Victorian gold rush was in full flow.
This area is just west of Wodonga, with a continental climate that resembles Rioja, Burgundy, the Jura and Douro.
Rutherglen has picked up a reputation for the high quality of its sticky dessert wines, mainly Muscat and Topaque, but also produces complex reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Durif and Shiraz, and crisp whites from Chardonnay and Marsanne.
Some wineries and cellar doors (tasting rooms) to keep on your radar are Scion Wine, All Saints Estate, Chambers Rosewood Vineyards, Buler Wines, Lake Moodemere Estate, Campbells Wines, while the Rutherglen Wine Experience and Visitor Information Centre is a fine introduction.