5 tasty reasons to take a drive to Moama
Melburnians of a certain age might remember the 80s, when busloads of Victorians crossed the Murray River to have a crack at Moama’s one-armed bandits (pokies with handles). Pokies injected millions of bucks into the little town on the NSW side of the Murray. Then Victoria’s ex-premier Jeff Kennett changed all that when he opened the door to pokies south of the Murray, led by the game-changing Crown Casino.
Moama lost the daily flow of buses, but the town continued growing with tree-changers and retirees seeking north-of-the-divide sunshine and delightfully stable weather, not to mention world-class facilities for golf and lawn bowls. Oh… and the beautiful Murray River. It’s also just across the river from Echuca, with its historic port and the world’s biggest fleet of paddle steamers. The region also has a flourishing food and wine industry, giving people plenty of reasons to visit. Here are five reasons you should follow suit.
1. Great food at Junction
Part of the bustling Moama Bowling Club, Junction has given the river township an excellent reason to head out for a meal, or a clever cocktail with shared nibbles. New visitors might be confused by the bowling club entry – a world away from Junction’s fashionably elegant dining room and bar. Have your licence ready to sign in, then walk past the gaming rooms and family dining to the back of the complex, where the bowls club transforms into a cool ski lodge crossed with a funky hotel. It’s a clever design, turning its back on the pokies to create a spacious, relaxed space with big windows overlooking a beautifully landscaped garden.
But the best reason to visit Junction is the head chef Michael Giarrusso (top), who applies a gentle touch to the region’s best produce, letting the bold flavours shine through. Make sure you try Giarrusso’s excellent pork from Bundarra, another Murray River local. The five-course “feed me” menu is great value at $55. Just make sure you wear the stretchy pants. It might be a slice of city design, but Junction has country generosity and hospitality in spades.
2. Glamping at Talo Retreat
Fancy a spot of glamping? Talo Retreat’s self-contained yurts are found in beautiful native bush beside the Murray River, set up for maximum privacy on more than 80ha. Never stayed in a yurt? It’s a spacious tent on floorboards – the ultimate glamping experience. Our weekend yurt had a super-comfy bed (with an electric blanket) and a compact kitchenette with coffee machine. On the deck outside, we lounged on comfy outdoor furniture, cooked local pork snags on our private barbecue and soaked in a two-person spa (even better at night – so many stars in the sky).
Talo Retreat is the grown-up section of the more family friendly Moama on Murray Resort, which means you’re a short walk from two resort pools, tennis courts and a shop for essentials. Guests also have free use of canoes and bikes to explore the mighty Murray. The welcome gift of local cheese and chocolate was a lovely touch.
3. Lunch at Morrisons
2 Merool Lane, Moama, 03 5480 012
Find a table on the long timber verandah and soak in the serenity – every seat has a gorgeous view sweeping from the vineyard to the winery’s private billabong to the mighty Murray River. Friendly service and a tasty menu make this restaurant a great day out, with interesting wines to match each course. A fun way to lunch at Morrisons is via Echuca, where Murray River Paddlesteamers run return paddle steam cruises from the historic port to the winery. The $75 ticket includes the return cruise, a two-course lunch at Morrisons, a glass of beer/wine/soft drink on arrival and a wine tasting.
More than 40 of Australia’s best blues and roots musicians gather at Echuca and Moama in the last week of July, attracting about 20,000 music fans to the river towns. The only down side of this festival is finding accommodation, which sells out fast. Try your best though. This festival is a perfect way to blow away the winter blues.
5. Coffee at Black Pudding
525a High St, Echuca, 03 5482 2244
Black Pudding Delicatessen might be across the river in Echuca, but the coffee is stop-off worthy, along with their house-made macaroons, feather-light with old-school chew (as opposed to the ubiquitous macaron made up of mostly air). The “Snickeroon” was a flavour bomb of peanut/chocolate/salted caramel, while the raspberry/white chocolate version the close runner-up. On a cold Sunday, this cafe was pumping with locals and visitors, and the brekky and lunch dishes looked great.
Wendy Hargreaves visited Moama as a guest of Junction.