Where do four overworked, over caffeinated, over stressed city slicker gals head to when they are in desperate need of a relaxing getaway? ECHUCA and MOAMA! We took the weekend and headed to the country and boy did this awesome town show us a good time!
The drive from Melbourne was easy and pretty – the bustling freeways slowed down as we passed out of the city and made way for lazy, winding roads with views of rolling green hills and every town we passed through was cute and well spaced for adequate coffee / petrol / toilet breaks. Within 3 hours, we arrived in Echuca, and there really is something to be said about fresh country air and the smell of gum trees… immediately we felt relaxed and eager to explore the town.
Driving down the main road, at first we thought we must have something wrong with our car, because as other drivers passed us, they waved at us. Had we hit something? Were we driving too fast? Too slow?! Nope. The people out here wave simply cos they are friendly! Amazing! What a notion! No horn beeps, no aggressive road rage, just friendly country folk acknowledging other drivers in the nicest way possible. CUTE, GUYS!
If that great first impression wasn’t enough, as we arrived at our accommodation for the weekend – The Riverspa Apartments, we were greeted by the most gorgeous couple – Bob and Gail. Like you want to squeeze them, they are so sweet. Bob, a retired policeman and Gail an ex head of housekeeping, are now the managing caretakers of the resort and are a wealth of knowledge about the region. Gail personally took us to our apartments, gave us a little run down of how everything worked, a tour of the grounds, then left us to settle in.
The accommodation itself was lovely – we occupied two of the 2 bedroom apartments – one with a riverfront view, the other overlooking the onsite pool – they were meticulously clean, well decorated and spacious with high ceilings, plenty of storage, a laundry room, large kitchen, living and dining area, and an outdoor entertaining patio. Each bedroom had its own ensuite bathroom (perfect for us girls getting ready at the same time) and the master bath housed a massive spa bath. There were TV’s in each bedroom and the main living area; and reverse cycle air con / heaters also in each room – meaning each of us could get comfy to our own temperature preference, without any drama.
Every detail had been thought of – chocolates and milk in the fridge; the heater was already turned on so it was warm and cosy for our arrival; complimentary toiletries in the bathrooms; and the self-contained apartments had every appliance, utensil, dish, towel, coat hanger, hairdryer and extra blanket you could possibly need.
Once we had unpacked and settled into Riverspa Apartments, we were ready to head out and see the town… Now, here is a free travel tip for you guys – the smartest thing you can ever do when you first arrive at any new area, is head to the local Visitor Information Centre. They always have pamphlets, brochures and info about everything to see and do, and there is no one better to give you the most accurate and authentic insight into the town, than the locals themselves who work there. Although we wanted to keep our itinerary quite open and spontaneous, we did want to ensure we booked in a few key attractions and activities to get the proper feel of Echuca and Moama. We hit the Echuca Moama Tourism Visitor Centre on Heygarth Street first, got some great inspiration from the ladies inside on what we needed to visit and experience, and then we were off exploring!
During our first foray into town, we stumbled across the most amazing family owned and operated grocery store ‘Forever Fresh Echuca’, with rows and rows of the freshest fruits and vegetables, nuts, loaves of bread, local meats, freshly made salads and ready to cook meals; the antipasto aisle of our dreams, artisan chocolates, crackers, biscuits, juices, herbal teas and whole range of gourmet groceries and produce to appease every organic loving / gluten free / dairy free / vegetarian / vegan / foodie!
We seriously could have spent all day wandering the colourful aisles, but we settled for a basket of fresh fruit and vegies, some sweet treats and a self-poured bottle of delicious kombucha from their onsite chilled tap! Very cool, if you ask us! A visit to this store is an absolute must, and you’ll find it at 178 Annesley Street, Echuca.
Continuing our exploration around town, we spied a very cool heritage building that we just had to stop at… Being a bunch of creatives from the big smoke, we are constantly on the lookout for any instaworthy backdrop for an impromptu photoshoot, and we weren’t disappointed with the building that housed the Cock N Bull Boutique Hotel. Heading inside for a little sticky beak, we found the manager, Dave, and he was more than willing to have a chat and show us around. Dave runs the Cock N Bull Hotel with his wife Summar, and they live with their 3 children within the 140 year old building. Turns out the building has always been an inn or a restaurant, so the fact that it now offers 5 fully self-contained boutique apartments, compliments its history perfectly as a place for people to meet, socialise and rest.
Wandering through the venue, we were pleasantly surprised to find a fully stocked bar, a sunny courtyard and an impressive 11m swimming pool out back. You can either book a room; or the entire hotel for a larger group and enjoy the amenities in private. Dave, a former chef, offers seasonal sharing / tapas style private dinners for up to 40 seated guests, or 80 guests if you want cocktail style; conference facilities and the Campaspe River Walk runs directly alongside the venue. The rooms are fully equipped with everything you need for a comfortable stay, and the overall feel of the hotel is warm, inviting and intimate – mirroring the feel of the town itself.
Taking the advice of the Visitor Information Centre, our first official planned excursion was to visit Tindarra Resort, on Perricoota Road on the Moama side of town. Offering chalet resort style studio, 2 and 3 bedroom accommodation, outdoor play equipment and a massive pool – this place would be perfect for families or large groups to book out and stay together. Our mission for the night however, was to check out the event facilities, and most importantly – have a drink at the bar!
As always for us girls at The Vibe Tribe, a little work comes before a lot of pleasure, so we checked out the function marquee first, which would be perfect for weddings or large events of up to 115 seated guests. We were told by Vanessa, the in-house Events Manager, that the standard feel of an event at Tindarra is relaxed, yet professional and everything is taken care of for the client. It is also located right on the river bank, so imagine arriving to, or departing from your wedding reception via paddle steamer– so gorg! The current marquee is your standard white canvas, but in 2020 it will be replaced with a solid stone barn, which, with its rustic charm will reflect the rest of the current amenities, such as the outdoor bathrooms and the bar, and will fit in better with the natural surrounds of the property.
Fiiinally it was time for a drink, so we moseyed on over to the bar, and it was oh so pretty! The bar was simply gorgeous – classic country and wooden, with twinkling fairy lights, games likes Jenga, and an outdoor fire pit overlooking the Murray River – it was the perfect setting for us to enjoy a drink and watch the sunset. The staff were great and whipped up some yummy cocktails for us, and offered us their BBQ to cook any BYO food on, however we had a slightly better idea for our late lunch!
We enlisted the services of Gusto Grazing to hand deliver us a box of antipasto goodies to enjoy with our drinks… packed full to the brim with crackers, dips, cheese, cured meats, biscuits, fruit, vegetables and sweet treats, we could not wait to dive in and taste everything! We styled up a platter with all the food, and were amazed at not just the quantity of the food – (seriously could easily have fed six people) but the quality was insane! Every morsel was mouth-watering delicious and it was the perfect non-cook, non-fuss option to enjoy in our pristine country setting.
Just as we were relaxing around the fire with full bellies and happy hearts, a surprise arrived for us! Our friend and Echuca local, Sarah Ryan being the lovely soul that she is, wanted to welcome us to her town with a treat. She must know us veeery well, because she had arranged a private wine tasting from local wine producer St Annes Winery. #sospoilt
Sarah who is the marketing executive by day for Echuca Moama Tourism and moonlighting as Murray River Events was the expert who pointed us in the direction of all the local gems.
Trent, one of the wine makers at St Annes Winey, set about educating us about the winery and we tasted their signature range of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Vintage Brut, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Muscat. St Anne’s pride themselves on creating wines to suit every palate, and believes the direct customer experience is just as important as the taste itself, which was evident from how lovely and knowledgeable Trent was. The winery churns through roughly 4000 tonnes of grapes, which makes up to 3 million litres of wine per year! And if they weren’t busy enough, we were informed the family business also makes chocolate, cheese and coffee! What else does a gal need?!
The wines were delish, and thankfully they do deliver to Melbourne, so we can savour their wines again at home. It was such a unique and beautiful experience, and would absolutely recommend St Annes to anyone that loves their wine and wants to dive into some local flavours. If the wine tasting isn’t your thing, then be sure to at least pick up a few bottles from their store, down at the Echuca Port.
So right about now, I bet you’re thinking what else could we possibly fit into our jam packed first day?! Well, it was a girl’s trip! So rather than head to bed, we decided to hit the town and soak up a little more of the wonderful Echuca Moama hospitality… we managed to squeeze in a late night dinner reservation at Monkee and Co – a local favourite modern Asian restaurant, focusing on fresh ingredients and impeccable presentation.
Mark, one of the co-owners took care of our every request and welcomed us in while his sister-in-law Anna creates magic in the kitchen. Rather than order off the menu, we asked Mark and Anna to send out whatever they felt we should try, and we were not disappointed! Dish after dish of delectable, finger licking small plates and salads came out, each one more scrumptious than the last. Highlight of the night, other than the food and the service, was their blended crushed ice drinks – especially the mango, pineapple and orange!
The café restaurant is open from 8.30am – 4.30pm seven days a week; and open late for dinner on Friday nights. It can also be booked for private functions. Be sure to try this place while you are in town – and make sure you don’t miss the old TV show Monkey Magic being projected onto the wall for a nostalgic trip down memory lane!
Day 2 of our girls trip began with a little sleep in, in probably the world’s most comfortable bed (thank you Riverspa Apartments!) and then we were up and out to seize the day!
Now if there is one activity that is an absolute MUST while in Echuca, then it is to travel on a paddle steamer! Iconic and unforgettable, this was something that we wanted to tick off our bucket list as soon as possible, so we booked ourselves onto the P.S Canberra for the 11.30am trip along the Murray River… You can choose the one hour round trip, but we highly recommend what we did – ‘Wharf to Winery’ which is to take the paddle steamer just half an hour down the river, and disembark at Morrison’s Winery for a spot of lunch.
At the winery, we were greeted by the effervescent Harry, who was lovely enough to take us through a wine tasting of the Morrison’s labels – Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Moscato, their signature ‘Hunters Blend’ red, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Aged Tawny Port and Muscat (ask to try their frozen muscat too! Its like a sweet, alcoholic slushie!) and their house project ‘House Brew’ craft beer and ‘My Mates’ cider range. There was a wine to suit each of our taste buds, and just as we were getting a little tipsy from the tasting, we were whisked away to our table to enjoy lunch… #wellplayedHarry+
Now, if we thought the wine was good, the food was even better! Head chef Troy ‘Snappy’ Jarrett has created a menu dedicated to bold, hearty flavours; utilising the very best of local and international produce and the freshest of seasonal ingredients. Standouts were the Lamb Shank Nuggets, and the Canadian Scallops from the Small Plates menu; and the Beef Cheek and Grilled Ocean Trout main dishes – sensational would be an understatement. You can actually see, feel and taste the passion for his craft on the plate.
We were enjoying our lunch so much, we missed our original return trip back on the paddle steamer, but the staff at Morrisons swiftly rebooked us on the later one without any fuss – and that allowed more time for us to indulge in dessert, witness a marriage proposal at the venue (sooo sweet!), wander through the vineyards, and do a spot of wine shopping, before jumping on the Pride of The Murray steamer back to the Port of Echuca.
We needed to walk off our lunch, so the early evening was spent wandering through the shops and boutiques of the town, before we headed back to our accommodation for a cosy night in.
Now, apart from the actual apartments, which we totally felt like royalty in – there were two other major drawcards to staying at the Riverspa Apartments – one being the resident dog, Mister that belonged to the previous owner, but still visits (especially when he smelt us cooking bacon!); and the other, was the location.
Nestled right on the banks of the Murray River, our apartment enjoyed uninterrupted views of the trees and water, but the absolute best view was without a doubt from the fire pit… overlooking a bend in the river, in a corner of the grassed lawn area, the fire pit offered a tranquil space for us to relax on Saturday night and enjoy a quiet night drinking wine, toasting marshmallows and sharing stories around the crackling flames… you can’t get much more country than that!
Day 3 – Our last day in Echuca / Moama and we were determined to not waste a minute of our last few hours in the town.
Sunday morning = proper cooked breakfast, and even though we were away from home, we ensured we didn’t miss out, by organising a breakfast hamper to be sent by Pacdon Park. An assortment of British style thick cut sausages, bacon, eggs, crusty bread, butter and jam was delivered straight to our door and we used the fully equipped kitchen in our apartment to create a scrumptious fry up!
We ate outside, and enjoyed every bit of the breakfast – the sausages were delicious, the bread and eggs were super fresh and we maaaybe snuck a piece of bacon to our new doggo friend, Mister – but that’s our secret, okay?
After breakfast we explored the town some more before heading to our final destination of our trip – The Junction in Moama. All weekend when we had mentioned to anyone that we had a reservation for Sunday lunch at The Junction, we were met with the same response – ‘wow, you’re going to love it there!’ so we didn’t know exactly what to expect, but we had an inkling it was going to be good!
We entered through the newly renovated Moama Bowling Club, and that was lovely on its own, but as we walked toward the back of the complex and arrived at The Junction, it was like entering another world… plush, decadent, glamourous – there aren’t enough words to describe how stunning the décor and interior design of this venue is. Contemporary industrial meets sophisticated, intimate luxury, The Junction was by far, the most stylish and modern of all the places we had visited.
The service was top notch – every server we encountered was friendly, efficient and knew the menu back to front, suggesting menu items and signature cocktails they felt we should try. Again, in our usual style, we asked for the chef to send out whatever they wanted to showcase, and they absolutely blew us away. Plates of Burrata with smoke capsicum relish; Kingfish Ceviche, Deep Sea Scallops and Twice Cooked Quail Breast filled our table for starters, followed by Beetroot Risotto, Sticky Master Stock Pork Hock, and Pan Seared Duck Breast for mains…. Ah-mazing, right?! Well it gets better, cos they then swamped our table with every dessert on their menu.
Everything was so good, we couldn’t pick a favourite dish and we loved that the menu offered was centred around sharing dishes and small plates – adding to the social vibe of the venue. Now, we don’t want to play favourites, but we absolutely left the best til last with The Junction! So impressed!
Slightly needing a wheelchair to roll ourselves out after lunch, it was with a tinge of sadness that we loaded up the car, ready for our drive home. It was bittersweet for us to leave, as we had enjoyed such a great time in Echuca and Moama, but we were also leaving with rejuvenated spirits, happy hearts and whole bucket load of new memories.
Echuca and Moama is absolutely a destination that you need to visit for your next girls weekend away – it offers great food, wine, cheese, coffee, chocolate, cocktails, an array of boutique shopping options, warm and friendly locals, lots of unique experiences and activities to keep you busy, and enough calm country vibes to relax you and make you feel like you have had a proper break from the city.
We absolutely loved every minute of our time in the country, and we are already coordinating schedules to book our next trip back! (um… did someone say Pop and Pour Festival, 24th November…?!)