Part of our desire to travel Australia long term was for the opportunity to really explore some of our regional areas. Our three months living in Dimboola allowed us to do just that. Within an hour or so’s drive we visited Silo Art, explored National Parks and visited some amazing small towns and villages. We had the best time exploring the Wimmera Mallee region of Victoria.
The small town of Nhill was one of our favourite finds in this area. Nhill dates back to the late 1800’s and some historic buildings from that time, including the Post Office still remain. Around the town there is plenty to see and do.
The main street of Nhill features a lovely park right down its centre and this was a great spot to sit and enjoy lunch before strolling around the main street. The local bakery does a great pie. The local chemist has the most incredible stained glass in it’s front window as well as a pressed metal ceiling in the awning over the footpath.
A lovely shop to have a browse in is Jennifer Meek Giftware that stocked a really good range of clothing, shoes and gift type items. The building itself dates back to 1902.
A little further down the road you will find Lowana Cottage Crafts where you can pick up some locally grown produce, fresh eggs, a home made cake or some biscuits or like I did an edged hand towel for the kitchen.
Just a short walk from the main street you will find Nhill Lake, a shady, permanent water source where you can enjoy bird watching or maybe even catch a fish or two. It is also open to water skiers and swimmers. There is a picnic area and also a boardwalk that takes you along the edge of the lake.
NHILL PINBALL MUSEUM
If you have ever played a Pinball machine, then you must check out the Australian Pinball Museum. With about 50 pinball machines on display, and various other arcade machines, you are welcome to play them all. While we were there the building was being renovated to make more room.
The machines range from early models from many years ago, to current model pinballs. There is also a huge amount of pinball memorabilia hanging on all the walls, wherever you look. If you have never seen inside a pinball before, then you can do that as well. We could’ve stayed in there for hours.
The Australian Pinball Museum is located next to the Oasis Motel, on the highway, East of the town centre. Admission is free to the museum, but it does cost to play the machines. A great way to waste a couple of hours.
NHILL AVIATION HERITAGE MUSEUM
During World War II Nhill was home to a RAAF Training Base. The No. 2 Air Navigation Base was established in 1941 and was mainly used to train pilots in night navigation. An Air Armament and Gas School was also established on the base with a bombing range in what is now part of the Little Desert National Park. During it’s period of operation around 12, 000 men and women were trained at Nhill.
The Nhill Aviation Heritage Museum was established as a tribute to those men and women as well as Nhill’s aviation history. Opened in 2008 and staffed by volunteers, who are both friendly and knowledgeable, it is well worth a visit.
The Aviation centre houses an interesting collection of memorabilia including an Avro Anson W2364, a Wirraway A20-722 which is fully restored and also a Link Instrument Trainer – an early version of a Flight Sim.
The Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre is open on Saturdays and Sundays and Public Holidays from 10am to 4pm. Entry is just $5 for adults.
If you are looking for somewhere to camp when visiting Nhill then the Heritage Centre has you covered there too. The area is also a donation camp and the perfect spot to stay a night or two.
LITTLE DESERT NATIONAL PARK
Just out of Nhill you can access the western section of the Little Desert National Park. We found it to be such a diverse landscape and enjoyed the drive through it. The deep sandy tracks that criss-cross it, we will save for next time.
The tiny town of Jeparit is not much more than a speck on the map but it has a surprising link to our history. It is here that arguably our best known Prime Minister was born – Sir Robert Gordon Menzies. In the centre of town you will find Menzies Square which is a lovely park area with lots of interesting information about Menzies.
Just out of town you will find Lake Hindmarsh – the largest freshwater lake in Victoria. This is a great spot for fishing, camping and boating. There are also 13 kilometres of walking tracks that run along the banks of the Wimmera River.
Hopetoun is another lovely little town that is well worth a visit. Especially if you happen to like awesome free camps. Just on the edge of town you will find Lake Lascelles. This pretty lake is the perfect spot to camp for a few days or maybe drop a fishing line in.
If you are looking for somewhere a little bit different to stay then defintely check out the Mallee Bush Retreat which has some very unique accommodation, including two silos. There are also powered sites available. Mallee Bush Retreat is community run so you know your are supporting the locals when you stay there. It is also the perfect example of paid and unpaid options existing and working side by side!
Warracknabeal is a pretty town located in the heart of the Wimmera Mallee region. Situated on the banks of the Yarriambiack Creek, you will find walking tracks and plenty of bird life. The main street has a couple of interesting second hand shops worth browsing through and some historic buildings.
You will also find a sheep and Kelpie dog sculpture in the main street – a tribute the areas early settlers.
Minyip is another small town but is probably best known as being the location for the old television series ‘The Flying Doctors’. Around town you will find a supermarket, pub, cafe and an awesome butcher shop that I know supplies meat to the Victoria Hotel at Dimboola. If you are just stopping in town to stretch your legs, the public amenities were some of the cleanest I have found anywhere.
If you decide to stay awhile the Minyip Wetlands and Caravan Park is a great spot with walking tracks, fitness equipment, fishing and BBQ equipment close at hand.
This quaint little town is probably best known for it’s Silo Art but there is lots more to it than just that. Running through the centre of town is a wide nature strip and here you will find some fabulous wood sculptures. So cleverly done. There is also a lovely mural on the local fire station wall of a firefighter.
In town you will find a pub, supermarket, cafe and a couple of lovely homewares and gift stores that are worth a browse through. Just on the outskirts of town you can see the remains of an old flour mill.
Murtoa is yet another town that has so much to offer the visitor. Meaning ‘Home of the Lizard’, Murtoa was settled in the 1840’s. On our first visit I was pleasantly surprised to find a delightful coffee shop in the main street – Cafe Marma. Obviously the locals agree because it was a busy little spot with great coffee and a good menu.
If you want to stay awhile in Murtoa there is a tidy looking caravan park located right on the edge of Lake Marma, the towns recreation reserve.
But without a doubt the biggest attraction is the Murtoa Stick Shed. Constructed in 1941, it was built to hold the glut of wheat that was caused by both a bumper wheat crop in the area and the fact that nothing could be exported overseas due to World War II.
The stick shed has been listed on the Australian Heritage Register and is an absolute must see when in the area. It is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 12.30pm and Sundays from 10am to 2pm. Entry is $10 per adult or $5 for children under 16.
We can both say that the Stick Shed is one of the most remarkable buildings that we have ever been in. We were fascinated by the height of the poles and the fact that it was built in just four months and without the aid of the modern equipment we have today.
As you can see there are lots of great little towns to visit when exploring the Wimmera Mallee region. Each one is unique in its own right and has something different to offer the visitor. All in all, it’s a fabulous part of Victoria to visit.