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Name: Domenic Minaudo Position: RACV Mildura Shop manager. Years in Mildura: 25 Why he loves it: Natural beauty, great produce, the mighty Murray. Absolute favourite? “The weather - there’s more daylight, more sunshine.”
Grab a quick breakfast at The Wooden Door cafe (Eighth St) or nearby Irymple (Fifteenth St) to prepare for your visit to one of the most significant cultural/scientific sites in the world. For desert scenery – once the shores of an ancient lake – diverse fossil remains and evidence of a rich Aboriginal heritage dating back nearly 50,000 years, Lake Mungo/Walls of China is an essential. The visitor centre is a great place to start, with the story of some of the oldest human remains found outside Africa. Much of the 110km drive north-east from Mildura is on unsealed roads; you won’t need a four-wheel-drive in dry weather, but this trip is best taken slow and savoured.
A favourite location for film and TV crews for its archetypal beauty, the Perry Sandhills 40km west of Mildura and just out of Wentworth on the old Renmark Rd is a great place for a ramble among twisted trees and shifting sands. The adventurous can even get in touch with their inner six-year-old and roll down the dunes.
Unstoppable food identity and vocal Mildura man Stefano de Pieri has been drawing visitors and locals to his restaurant in the cellars of the Grand Hotel (18 Langtree Ave) for more than 20 years. When they get there they find a warm and intimate environment and quality local ingredients crafted into the rustic dishes from Stefano’s Italian heritage.
The region grows about a fifth of Australia’s citrus, and Orange World is a fun, quirky way to break down the barriers between our food and the producers. Just a few minutes out of Mildura on the NSW side of the river on (Silver City Hwy), there are tours of the orange and avocado farm – blossom season is especially lovely – on a tractor train. Watch the harvest, learn about citrus and load up on orange products to enjoy at home.
Mildura is a major food producer, with almonds, pistachios, olives, carrots and asparagus all relishing the warm, red soil. The Sunraysia Farmers’ Markets, in Mildura every first and third Saturday from 8am-noon, are a great way to enjoy the fruits of their labours. Find it at Jaycee Park on the riverfront.
Fancy a robust Mallee Bull? Or a refreshing Desert Lager? There are six beers in the Mildura Brewery range plus seasonal specials, crafted by Glen Nolen. It’s in the Stefano stable, so the brewery also serves fancy pub fare (20 Langtree Ave) that gets as much attention as the beer.
Mildura is, of course, defined by the Murray River, and a great way to experience the charisma and heritage of this famed waterway is along one of the gentle, accessible walking tracks. Extensive work has been done to create a more harmonious bond between town and river, and a new water park for kids at Nowingi Place is a great addition. If you must get wet, there are river beaches and boats of all shapes and sizes to hire.
Open from noon until late, the Cider Tree (46 Deakin Ave) is an ideal spot for a midday meal or to relax after a day’s sightseeing, and with 18 on-tap beers and ciders and more than 80 different bottled varieties … what’s the hurry?
Paddlesteamers were the commercial lifeblood of the riverside towns more than a century ago, and no visitor to Mildura should miss watching the river slide gently by from the shady decks of the PS Melbourne. Passing through the historic river locks is a highlight and a little bit wonderful for kids.
If you’ve only got time to visit one cellar door … you’re not really trying. But Trentham Estate has a slice of the region’s finest. A vineyard (6531 Sturt Hwy, Trentham Cliffs) began in 1988, although the Murphy family has farmed here for generations. The wine is rated highly, and the restaurant makes the most of the climate and Murray views; for a laid-back lunch, there’s a gourmet barbecue under blue skies. If time’s tight, try Sunraysia Cellar Door (125 Lime Ave), for the region’s best right in town.