Is it just me or have the last couple of winters in Victoria been ridiculously freezing?
Sometimes winter inspires the adventurer in me, and I sit at work fantasising about snowshoeing and ice-climbing. These last couple of years though, this hasn’t been the case. Maybe I’m just getting old.
With the kidlets up in Sydney visiting their grandparents over the recent school holidays, Lori and I found ourselves free as birds. But rather than snowshoeing or ice-climbing, we went with much more warming activities like indoor rock-climbing, more sedate walks in local parks, and a night away in the lovely town of Shepparton.
Two hours in the car goes quickly when you’re kid-free (and not listening to Gangnam Style or Let It Go on repeat). Before we know it, we’re checking in to our room at Shepparton’s Parklake Hotel. The queen bed, TV, and bath are incredibly tempting in this weather, but our room looks over the gorgeous Victoria Park Lake. It’s calling us to start exploring but first we’ll need some food, so we head to Parklake’s Restaurant and Bar.
Having grown up in another north-east Victorian town, I can’t believe the quality of the service and food here. It has the feel of an expensive city restaurant, but without the tiny meals to match – they’re huge. As we feast on Bruschetta, incredible Wagyu Beef Cheeseburgers, and a couple of glasses of red, we talk and talk. There’s so much to say when you’re not interrupted every 30 seconds with “Mu-uuuuhhhhm!”
When it’s time to walk off some of this food, we stroll across the road and around the lake to the suspension bridge, where we find our first geocache for the afternoon. Geocaching is Lori’s latest obsession (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out this video) and she’s got me a bit hooked on it too.
This is part of the Goulburn / Broken River Geocaching Trail, a series of 21 caches that lie near the Yanha Gurtji Shared Path Network. We decide to spend a few hours finding a handful of the easier ones, so we set off south alongside the Goulburn and then Broken Rivers for a little over 3 km. I’m hopeless at geocaching and often miss them even when staring straight at them, so my day is made when I find my first ever cache. Not long after, we head back along the same path to warm up at the hotel before we go out for dinner (on foot of course, there’s not much need to drive anywhere from The Parklake).
As an aside for the geocachers, after dinner we head to Monash Reserve and spend an hour looking for another cache. All reports are that this is one of the most cleverly hidden caches around, and it doesn’t disappoint. I won’t give anything away, but you should definitely check it out.
After the most amazing sleep, in what’s possibly the most comfortable bed we’ve ever experienced, we unfortunately wake to the sound of power tools. It’s 8am and we’d have liked to sleep for another hour or so before checking out. It seems they’re renovating some of the other rooms, so we’ve come at a slightly unfortunate time (don’t let that deter you though, renovations finish in August). We crawl out of bed and get ready for another day of exploring, reminding ourselves that if this is our only complaint about the place then we’re doing well.
We bid the tradesmen farewell, and set off into the foggy morning to do a quick bushwalk before we make our way back towards Melbourne. This time we decide on the Aboriginal History Walk, which is just across the river in Moroopna.
Starting in Chinaman’s Garden Reserve, we follow a shared pathway to an area called The Flats where we turn onto a dirt track on the right, starting the circuit. As would be the case in any populated area, there are more signs of human interference than we’d like. Invasive plant species have all but taken over sections of the remnant woodland and local teenagers have littered parts of it with bottles and cans, but it’s still a very pretty spot for a stroll, especially with the fog hanging so low amongst the trees.
Signs along the path tell the story of an aboriginal community that once inhabited The Flats, and of the Cummeragunja Walk Off, a strike at a nearby mission which lead to them living here. It’s an interesting story, but unfortunately there are no remnants here of the tough life they must have lived.
We make it back to the car without losing any fingers or toes to frostbite and take our time getting back to Melbourne, stopping for geocaches and food along the way. We feel lucky to have this time to get away by ourselves, but look forward to the return of the kidlets (that kind of sounds like a horror movie, hey?).
Need to know
Shepparton is two hours north of Melbourne, via the Hume and Goulburn Valley Highways. The Parklake Hotel is on Wyndham Street, which is a continuation of the Goulburn Valley Highway.
We stayed at the Parklake Hotel (481 Wyndham St, Shepparton / 03 5821 5822). I’ve never stayed in Shepparton before, so I can’t speak for any other hotels in the area, but I can definitely recommend this one. If you’re worried about cost, don’t be. I was impressed with the hotel in general, but even more impressive is their promise to match any rate on a similar room in Shepparton. I’ve never heard of a hotel doing that before.
Goulburn / Broken River Geocaching Trail
Length (km): 6.5 km
Time (hrs/min): 3 hrs
Return / Circuit / One-Way / Partial Circuit: Return
Closest Town: Shepparton
Maps & Further Info: The Geocaching smartphone app is the best place to find this trail, but it follows parts of the Yanha Gurtji Shared Path Network which is covered in Walk in Greater Shepparton (on page 24 – the large fold-out map).
Aboriginal History Walk
Length (km): 4.3 km
Time (hrs/min): 1.5 hrs
Return / Circuit / One-Way / Partial Circuit: Partial Circuit
Park: Shepparton Flora & Fauna Reserve
Closest Town: Moroopna
Maps & Further Info: This walk is listed in Discover Shepparton’s brochure, Walk in Greater Shepparton (page 12).
We were guests of Parklake Hotel on this trip. However, this has in no way influenced the opinions I’ve expressed here.
Have you visited Shepparton? Got anything to add? Stories to share? Let us know by commenting below.