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Echuca, hub of The Murray River trade of the 1870s and 80s, remains faithfully intact 100 years on. Here you can re-live the river boat days - days when Echuca was Australia's largest inland port. Bawdy hotels, general stores crammed with supplies and the public buildings of law and order sprung up out of this frantic activity. Two hundred trading boats carrying wool, grain and red gum passed through the port every year.
Today, as then, the Port remains the true heart of Echuca. The River traffic still bustles but this time their cargo is pleasure seekers. The Port area is serviced by Murray Esplanade, a pedestrian walk flanked by fine 19th Century buildings. These have been faithfully restored so visitors can experience the sights sounds and smells of this "step back in time" community.
There is no entry fee to Murray Esplanade. Stroll past the towering red gum wharf, once a kilometre long, which still stands as a lasting monument to the Murray River's major inland port. The wharf was built on three levels to accommodate the rise and fall of the mighty Murray River and is still used to house a collection of some of the world's oldest "still operating" paddlesteamers and barges and other paraphernalia.
The Star Hotel on Murray Esplanade - now the headquarters of the Port of Echuca Authority, a souvenir shop and a Museum - is linked with the wharf by an underground tunnel which allowed the old timers to avoid the police who frequently raided the hotel looking for after hours "drinkers".
Discover the Bridge Hotel, built by the Echuca's founder Henry Hopwood in 1858, furnished in period style. It is a living monument to the many travellers who crossed the river on Hopwood's punt to quench their thirst.
A unique feature of the Esplanade is the only brothel (no longer operating) in Australia which is classified by the National Trust.
The sounds of horse drawn Cobb & Co coaches, the steam whistles of the paddlesteamers, the clang of the blacksmith's hammer and the buzz of the massive saw as it slices through the red gum logs, the laughter from the old time Movie House or the clatter of coins in the Penny Arcade are all part of the living history experience of the Port of Echuca.
At the western end of Murray Esplanade you enter Hopwood Gardens, now referred to as Paddlewheel Park, which sprawl along the river bank. This is the embarkation point for a one hour cruise aboard the PS Pride of the Murray, PS Canberra or MV Mary Ann, or for a one or two night cruise aboard the PS Emmylou which is a fully licensed floating hotel.
Visitors to Echuca can experience the river as Captain of their own "drive yourself" houseboat. The more adventurous can join a guided canoeing safari.
Echuca/Moama is the closest Murray River community to Melbourne, about 206 kilometres, and in addition to Australia's river history, it boasts magnificent sporting facilities. These include the Rich River Golf and Country Club, the first class bowling greens at the Moama bowling Club, croquet, water skiing and fishing.