By Alan and Beth Millis (Club Wyndham South Pacific Owners)
On a misty Tuesday in Melbourne, 14 strangers (seven couples) gathered for the Travel Club’s Ballarat and Murray River Club Tour. After introductions, we boarded the bus and headed to our first destination, Club Wyndham Ballarat.
Our guide, Andrew shared many insights as we arrived at the historic manor, formally known as Blythewood Grange. We were welcomed by resort manager Phillip and his assistant James, who treated us to a faultless display of penny-farthing riding and a tour of the heritage-listed property. Built in 1878, it was once a family home and later an orphanage. Now refurbished into a comfortable resort, it exudes charm.
Our first day focused on Ballarat’s gold mining history. Andrew’s illuminating commentary covered both geology and gold discoveries. We had lunch by Lake Wendouree, then visited the Eureka Centre to learn about the gold miners’ rebellion in 1854. Sovereign Hill, an impressive reconstruction of the 1850s Ballarat goldfields, offered an authentic experience with mine tours and the chance to pan for gold. The next day, we set off for the Pyrenees wine region for wine tasting, and a delightful lunch. Returning to Ballarat, we gathered at the historic Craig’s Royal Hotel for dinner.
Our journey continued as we traveled via Bendigo to Echuca, where we boarded the paddle steamer Emmy Lou to embark on a three-day adventure. We visited the Great Aussie Beer Shed, a museum featuring beer can collections and historical curios. We toured Echuca’s river on a modern cruiser, learning about the rich history of the wharf and paddle steamers. Back on Emmy Lou, our Murray River cruise allowed us to appreciate the river’s beauty and its contribution to the country’s development.
Evening activities included riverbank dinners and campfire sing-alongs and our last night spent at Torrumbarry Weir, we relished a Captain’s Dinner. With fond memories, we bid farewell to our guides and journeyed back to Melbourne.
This trip was all at once educational, edifying, and enjoyable. Our seven sets of perfect strangers had evolved into a happy group of travellers, all with stories to tell. Our thanks to the Travel Club for organising it.