Free Camping Guide Sydney Murray River Lexton Melbourne
We had the pleasure of a road trip down to Lexton in Victoria January 2016. Lexton is on the Sunraysia Highway, 160 km north west of Melbourne, that’s about 2 hours away. With extra time on our side we left Sydney a few days early to photograph the 19th Rainbow Serpent Festival. Instead of using the high traffic Hume Highway which can make the road trip fairly laborious with mostly only paid or noisy accommodation options it was an easy decision to take the much better option of travelling along part of the mighty Murray River.
This my third road trip along the Murray, the others some years ago when the water levels were much much lower.
January being fairly warm to hot along most of this road trip means a quenching swim in the Murray is never too far away, sometimes just a step or two as you can see in some of the photos.
Besides Lexton’s Rainbow Serpent Festival you could also be heading to Mildura for Murray River International Music Festival on the same weekend and experience the Murray River from Victoria’s High Country and all or most of the way to the desert country, Mallee and Outback. Which I must say is a favourite part of Australia for me to visit.
This post is a diary of our trip from back in mid January 2016, the facts, thoughts and photos. This may assist some people travelling the same route, you assume and make all your own decisions about its suitability for you and your travelling companions. You may have more up to date information from a recent trip, if so please add to the comments section below and it may help others.
Now that the decision has been made to take the best road trip route to Rainbow or Murray River Festivals, read below for some insight into our previous experience travelling this route for a free camping road trip from Sydney along the Murray River to Lexton / Melbourne or Mildura Victoria.
- Once you’ve reached Albury, continue on the highway over the long bridge to Wodonga.
- This post only guides you along the Victorian side of Murray River where it’s more accessible with large sections of Crown Land and Reserves. Whereas the NSW side has long stretches of river front that are inaccessible due to private roads and farmland.
- When your’re off the sealed road it turns to fairly well formed hard packed clay track/s, there are many that will lead you to the rivers edge. Just stay out of the ones that lead to private driveways.
- Standard sedans should be ok unless its been raining heaps but even if it’s been a little wet there’s many ways around the pools and washouts. Your standard courier type van should not have a problem with careful driving.
- Long weekends and school holidays you’ll see a few others, whereas on the way back we had the that section of beach river front to ourselves.
- Your first days highway driving may be a little long, if too long don’t stretch it to Wodonga if its safely not going to happen on the same day.
- If you made an early start you’ll benefit from the long summer days to get you there with plenty of daylight to find a spot and set up camp for the night. This camp ground is only 20km west from the Wadonga Caltex, head towards road B400 until the turn off.
Btw B400 follows the river west fairly closely and this is what will be used most of time.
- There’s good phone reception with a Telstra service so type in your map app “Moss Road, Barnawartha North VIC (B400) or just Click Here https://goo.gl/maps/uwx7Vbr33852
Here you can enjoy the crowd free camping on banks of the Murray river, no facilities just peaceful bush land and the river. This time of year it’s normally very calm near sunset where the water turns to a mirror finish and if there’s a few clouds about the sky lights up in all sorts of spectacular colour.
Now is good time to check on Parks Victoria website for closures or warnings, This Link covers most of the areas on this trip with important information on the Murray River Access (Summer 2016-17) http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/safety/fire,-flood-and-other-closures/flood-affected-parks/murray-river-access-summer-2016-17
After enjoying the overnight silence and camping proximity to the Murray River its time for a good breakfast and sit around planning the day watching the local cattle heard come in for river drink, this was unexpected ! see pic
You’re now heading in a mainly westerly direction, no specific or detailed directions given or required as the road travels back and forth so close to the Murray River you’ll notice there’s lots of places to explore or if you’re less adventures just keep heading towards Tocumwal / Echuca. In distance and time it’s not huge but we spent a day exploring ducking in and out of various reserves.
Final Thoughts and Tips
A few comments as you approach Echuca; there are no peaceful or free campsites right near the town that I can recommend, not on the eastern side at least. There is an area pretty close to town before you get in proper but it looked pretty bleak of a spot and would not recommend it. I suggest staying half hour or so from town center, maybe part way back to Barmah ? Lots of bush camping options along that stretch of the river.
If you want to see where the Goulburn River meets the Murray River, phone map app ‘Looker Rd Echuca’ head north, park nearby and have a look at the junction, it’s got fairly good access for a look and why not while you’re in the neighborhood.
Echuca is a place I look forward to visiting when I’m traveling west along the Murray, it’s got everything you need, one of the main streets is called Hare St. Lots of food options, camping supplies, supermarkets and paddle steamers, check out the museum if you can. If you’re there in February 2017 Echuca has the River Boat Festival with artists Paul Kelly, Hoodoo Gurus and James Reyne to name a few.
Oh btw, did you travel back into NSW for a tiny bit when you visited Tocumwal ? it’s a pretty sweet town, fuel and amenities available.
Simmie and Bangerang Road
Our last night before turning south at Echuca for Lexton was spent near Corner of Simmie and Bangerang Road, Victoria. Type that into your map app and you’ll be close, head north to the Murray River and find a spot. There are very few river beaches on the reserve for an easy walk in for a swim. Most camping spots have a steep descent of 2-3 metres to the waters edge, and with many fallen trees this makes for a very cautious swim, we didn’t and just enjoyed the free camp spot before venturing into Echuca to refuel and head to our final destination to Lexton via Bendigo on the Northern Hwy.
we had a bit of a look around, late lunch and picked up a few more supplies then on to the Beaufort-Lexton Rd to the festival entrance.
RSF Festival Entrance Address – The festival is located at the end of Jack Smiths Lane in Lexton Victoria. The lane comes off the Beaufort-Lexton Highway and is approximately 3.5km south-west of Lexton.
With Melbourne only a couple of hours south east you could head straight there if that was your original plan but we had a photo date with 16 000 happy campers at Rainbow Serpent Festival for 4 days and nights of artful fun.
Map Overview and Trip Notes
- Sydney to Goulburn around 2-3 hours
- Goulburn to Yass 2.5 to 3 hours
- Yass to Albury around 2 hours
- Albury to Tocumwal 1.5 to 2 hours
- Tocumwal to Echuca 1.5 to 2 hours
- Echuca to Lexton 2.5 to 3 hours
Cool Music Video and Message
- Not advisable to start a long trip at night after a day’s work, a big no no. Driving between 10pm and 6am is associated with four times the risk of a fatigue crash than at other times during the day.
- Attempting more than 8 hours in a single day on the road is foolish, unless you can share the driving with someone else and you’ve had a big nights sleep the night before. Start fresh straight after a light breakfast, drive for 2 hours tops, stop for brunch. As I wrote above, Goulburn may be within 2 hours reach of Sydney for you. Same in the afternoon, stop for an afternoon rest. Explore the little town you’ve never stopped at before, you’ll be pleasantly surprised if you look around with an open mind.
- Do not drive after your first drowsy spell, the next will come quick, and if you survive that without a huge scare or worse, the next one will hit you even quicker.
Song about Road Safety produced by Kamahi Djordon King and Jason Wanambi during the Gatjirrk Milingimbi Festival 2016. Produced by ALPA, with funding from NT Government, Artback NT, Australian Government – Catalyst Australian Arts and Culture Fund, Australian Government Regional Arts Fund. And to Milingimbi Community Education Centre.