Name: Gary Hunt
Position: RACV Cobram Resort manager for past 14 years.
Why he loves it: The town is laid-back but has all the facilities.
Absolute favourite? A twilight cruise on a paddle boat on the Murray.
The area is well known for golf and the Cobram Barooga Golf Club is a must for both social and serious golfers. It has 36 championship-standard holes. The well-regarded Old Course winds through stands of red gums and some holes are next to billabongs or the river.
The West Course is more like a resort course with wider fairways. Kangaroos may well be watching you tee off.
But really you’ll enjoy playing almost any course in the region; it’s amazing the quality of the golf facilities in this part of the country. So also consider Tocumwal Golf Club, Black Bull Golf Club at Yarra-wonga or Numurkah Golf and Bowls Club. golfonthemurray.com.au
There are bike paths along the levee banks by the Murray. It’s a nice ride from the RACV resort (where you can hire a bike) into Cobram-Barooga. You will see lots of wildlife and you can stop at the Barooga Botanical Gardens. The path passes the golf course – another good spot for lunch or a cuppa. The flat 15-kilometre ride is a great distance for families.
It’s a tranquil trip down the Murray on the Cobba paddle boat. People don’t realise we have such beautiful beaches with lovely clear water and white sand. The paddle boat sets out from Thompsons Beach (Australia’s largest inland beach). Cruises last 1-1½ hours. Summer twilight cruises are wonderful. You will always see kangaroos, a snake or two and, sometimes, a koala.
Savour a sip
The Monichino winery in Katunga produces traditional Italian-style wines. The family-run vineyard was started by Carlo Monichino more than 50 years ago. Today his family produces 27 wines but the winery is best known for Italian varietals such as pinot grigio and barbera plus fortified wines. I like to enjoy a glass and share a cheese platter with friends in the cafe or garden.
Byramine Homestead was built in 1842 by explorer Hamilton Hume for his sister-in-law and her nine children after her husband was killed by bushrangers. You can tour the impressive National Trust house, including its unique fortress room, and the surrounding gardens, notable for their historic elm trees. You can have Devonshire tea and there is a brewery and cider house in the grounds.
The good oil
The Vodusek family first planted their olive grove on the banks of the Murray near Yarrawonga in 1997 and today there are 36,000 trees of different varieties. The cafe and store is one of my wife’s favourite destinations; she likes to have lunch and bring home olive oil, dressings and sauces. The olives are harvested and pressed on the same day so the oil is really fresh. richglenoliveoil.com
The pointy end
Cactus Country at Strathmerton is a quirky place. There are 3.2 hectares of mature landscaped gardens with 4000 species, and some of the cactus plants are 50 years old. The colours and are amazing, with examples from South America, North America, Mexico and Africa. You might like to try cactus cake in the cafe. The nursery, of course, sells cactus plants.
A visit to The Big Strawberry at Koonoomoo is a must for families. You can pick your own strawberries in season (usually April-July and October-January). Just fill a basket and pay by weight. November to February is when strawberries are the best value. The cafe has strawberry milkshakes, ice-cream, pancakes and sundaes. For kids, there’s an outdoor playground and an indoor games room, while a new indoor playground and educational area are due soon.
The Cameron family makes artisan cheese on their Boosey Creek farm about 25 kilometres from Cobram. The Warby Red won the best washed rind cheese in the 2015 Australian Grand Dairy Awards. Holstein Friesian cows are milked three times a day; you can watch the milking and later taste the hand-made cheeses.
Kingfisher Cruises’ eco-certified boats glide through the Barmah Wetlands, where there are more than 50 mammal and 230 bird species. You might even see an azure kingfisher. Learn about indigenous life at the Barmah Forest Heritage and Educational Centre, Nathalia.
Interview: Mary O’Brien
Published in RoyalAuto Dec 16/Jan 17