5 reasons to check out Benalla’s stunning wetlands
But there’s an extra special reason to visit on Saturday, May 14, when a natural amphitheatre at the wetlands will be home to the first Mokoan Music Festival. The wetlands have special significance to the region’s indigenous people, who know this traditional meeting place as Mokoan. With music, entertainment and local food and drink available, all you need is a rug, cushion or camping chair. Get your tickets here (adults $35, children $10, under 5 free). There is also a Flash Tent hotel on Green’s Island until May 23.
Local musician Anita Larkin (right) founded the festival. These are Anita’s top five reasons to visit the wetlands this weekend.
1. Street art
This year I got to witness a lonely old concrete water tank being transformed into a stunning visual tribute to local CFA volunteers during the Wall to Wall Street Art Festival. Internationally renowned artist Guido van Helten spent a weekend at this site on the intersection of Winton North Rd and Boggy Bridge, creating portraits of three local firefighters on the water tank. I love the unexpectedness of it as you drive along and it suddenly appears against a backdrop dead river red gum ghost forest.
2. Spit Walk
One of my favourite places, the Spit Walk epitomises the power and beauty of the Winton Wetlands. The Spit is an isolated, evocative and very culturally significant site for Benalla’s Indigenous people, with ring trees and scar trees still standing. You can tangibly feel the history and deep spirituality of this place – the feeling of being small in nature, and amazing long views stretching out over the Wetlands.
This gorgeous building (on what used to be the Lake Mokoan foreshore) overlooks the Winton Wetlands, housing a café and community hub. It’s a great place to come for a tasty, home-style breakfast or lunch, or to get out of town and spend a lazy afternoon sipping coffee and reading. Kids love it, as they can run free and get messy in nature. There’s also a stargazing platform nearby, frequented by local astronomers. Make sure you take the lovely little walk from the Hub, showcasing modest but beautiful box grassy woodland and layers of red gum renewal.
Winton Wetlands boasts its very own luxury pop up hotel at Green’s Island in the heart of the reserve overlooking the Warby Ranges and Chesney Hills. The Flash Tents are up until May 23, 2016, offering a unique getaway in tranquil surrounds, all under the starry skies with plenty to explore close by. This is the best accommodation option for people attending the Mokoan Music Fest on May 14.
The Winton Wetlands is right on the doorstep of the Glenrowan Wine Region. Your first stop, only 10 minutes’ drive from the Wetlands, is Baileys of Glenrowan. As home to some of the oldest plantings in north east Victoria, Baileys has established a reputation for its powerful red wines and globally acclaimed fortifieds. They also make great wood fired pizzas, grazing platters and desserts at their Old Block Café open on weekends. And that’s just the beginning – if you want to taste and explore further there’s also Auldstone Cellars and Booth’s Taminick Cellars, as well as the Black Dog Brewery.