Roughly halfway between Sydney and Melbourne, at the junction of the Sturt and Newell Highways in New South Wales, you’ll find Narrandera Shire, an agricultural town rich with more than crops and wool production. Fuelled by the Murrumbidgee River, the region is made even more charming with its tree-lined streets and heritage buildings.
Taking its name from the Narrungdera clan, part of Wiradjuri Nation, it’s a great place to discover the wealth of history here through one of the self-guided walking tours or cemetery walks (grab a map at the local visitor information centre).
GOING TO GRONGY
Narrandera Shire Council’s marketing and tourism team leader Kellie Dissegna says as well as its two caravan parks, and free camping on the water’s edge at Brewery Flat and Murrumbidgee National Park, and Five Mile and Rocky Water Hole along the Bundigerry Creek, the ease of parking and close proximity to shops and amenities are a drawcard, “as is the welcoming village of Grong Grong on the Newell Highway, which offers free hot showers and the opportunity to pick free fresh herbs, fruit, and vegetables from the gardens in the Grong Grong Earth Park.”
Known locally as ‘Grongy,’ the family-friendly community attraction offers natural play areas and plenty of picnic space. There’s also free bicycle hire, cycling paths, a free library, and community pizza oven. The Earth Park is part of a revitalisation of the area’s disused rail corridor and is hugely popular with locals, particularly in the warmer months.
“A visit to a Wiradjuri Elder’s workshop to watch him use the skills passed down to him by his father to make authentic tools and weapons, and maybe listen to a tale or two, is also a great way to immerse yourself in the cultural heritage of the region,” she says.
CAMPING AT THE CORDIAL FACTORY
At Brewery Flat sits the former Oakbank Brewery, which is not just a distinctive red brick building which towers over the Murrumbidgee River, it’s also a camping area with plenty of facilities, swimming, shaded barbecue areas, and a boat ramp.
“Brewery Flat offers a view of the Murrumbidgee River and you’ll also be woken by the abundance of wildlife at the Narrandera Wetlands. The main street is only a short stroll over the Irrigation Canal. You can stock up on supplies, enjoy good coffee, or sample the famous Bee Sting from the bakery.”
In its heyday between the 1890s and mid 1920s, the brewery was a modern production facility employing up to 100 locals and brewing stout, bottled and draught beer, and cordial daily. Sold in 1924 to Tooths of Sydney, the new owners closed down the operation, but the Oakbank Cordial Factory kept operating until 1986. The walls of the red brick tower have been listed on the National Trust as a building of historical significance and the area is a popular spot for fishing, bird and wildlife spotting, and camping.
TAKING IN THE WILDLIFE
People also come to Narrandera for the koalas, says Dissegna. There’s a population of roughly 400. Visitors to the area can go to the Narrandera Visitor Information Centre to ask about recent sightings, so they can be certain to spot a koala or two in the wild.
While you’re visiting, it’s worth the time to investigate the local ship wreck too. The Paddle Steamer Wagga Wagga was the last of the Murrumbidgee River paddle steamers and was run aground on a sandbar in 1918 after it sprung a leak. During the months of July and August, when the Murrumbidgee River water levels are low, travellers can check out the wreck and stretch their legs along the Narrandera bike and hike trails or explore the Narrandera wetlands.
WETLANDS TO WATER ACTIVITIES
While the town offers an abundance of activities year-round, Dissegna says it’s the months surrounding summer that offer the most to visitors.
“On warm days, you can take advantage of all the water activities Narrandera Shire has, paddle a canoe on the still waters of Rocky Water Hole, go for a swim at the Lake Talbot swimming complex, or just throw a line in at the Murrumbidgee River.”
Narrandera prides itself on being an affordable, safe, and friendly place, and has pulled out all the stops for RV travellers to make sure you pull in, and as Dissegna says, “whether your stay in Narrandera Shire is short, or whether you set up for a few weeks, you will find relaxation, adventure, friendship - and certainly some surprises”.