Sometimes the most interesting tourist attractions pop up in the most unlikely places. The rural township of Strathmerton in northern Victoria only has around a thousand residents and is home to a Bega Cheese factory and not too much else, but on its outskirts is the amazing Cactus Country.
How did it end up here? Well, local farmer Jim Hall really loves cacti, so he sectioned off a huge chunk of his 130-acre veggie farm to create something truly unique – the biggest collection of cacti in Australia (12 acres and growing).
Pulling off the Murray Valley Highway into a long driveway with quirky signs advertising the attraction, we’re still not quite sure what to expect here. The photos on Instagram are what’s brought us here though, so we know it’s something beautiful.
We pay our entry and grab a plant guide from the front desk, then force the kids to pose for a cheesy photo wearing a sombrero before we set off to explore the eight walking trails, each one themed with specimens from a different part of South America, North America or South Africa. The trails are relatively flat and wide, so we’re not talking anything terribly strenuous here – much more of a garden stroll than a trek (though it does feel a bit like a desert trek on a hot day like today). It’s very different from the many hikes I write about on The Bushwalking Blog, especially with its quirky signs and statues scattered around the place.
We take our time exploring and within an hour and a half we’ve walked every metre of the trails. We’ve enjoyed the experience so far but now we’re hot and thirsty, so our time at Cactus Country isn’t over. Cactus Country is more than just a garden of cacti – there’s a restaurant attached too, and they serve the most delectable Margarita slushies you can imagine.
The staff assure me that the Margaritas are only about one standard drink each, so we grab a margarita slushy for us and an (obviously non-alcoholic) raspberry slushy for the kids and sit in the air-conditioning to cool off. The restaurant has all the South American desert charm of an eatery in San Pedro de Atacama, and is decorated with interesting artwork and knickknacks.
We have other dinner plans so we don’t partake in the rest of the menu but they serve a selection of nachos with different toppings, as well as sweets like cactus cake and cactus ice-cream. Once we finish our drinks, we explore the cactus nursery accompanied by a nice little buzz, and we’re on our merry way, happy we took the time to pay Cactus Country a visit.
Getting to Cactus Country
Cactus Country is at 4986 Murray Valley Highway, Strathmerton, Victoria.
Since Strathmerton is around three hours from Melbourne, this is one to visit while you’re staying somewhere in the area. We were staying in Cobram, so Cactus Country was only 15 minutes west on the Murray Valley Highway, but you might be camping in Barmah National Park on the Murray River or having a weekend away in Yarrawonga or Echuca. Google Maps is your friend here.
What’s the entry fee for Cactus Country?
A family pass to Cactus Country will set you back $50 (which covers two adults and up to three children). Other than that, you’re looking at $17.50 per adult ($15 for seniors) and $7.50 for 5 to 15-year-olds.
Discounts are available for large groups, and sunset tours of the garden also run on Saturday evenings for $40 per person (including burrito for dinner).
When’s the best time to visit Cactus Country?
Me pretending to be a cactus
There are definitely elements of craptacular tourist attraction here but it’s worth it, I promise.
Have you been to Cactus Country? Got any questions, comments, updates or corrections? Let us know by commenting below.
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