Barmah is considered to be the gateway to the magnificent Barmah State Forest but is essentially a small Murray River town. This town, which is 236 km from Melbourne and about 30 km from Echuca was once the heartland of Yorta Yorta people, prior to English settlements.
To get in a little bit of history about this place, there was a State school that was set up here in 1876 when the population of the city was about a 100 people. The next year, St Michael's Catholic Church was built here while the well known Moira Lakes Wine Palace also called the Barmah East Wine Palace was built around the 1880s.Though the city of Echuca is popular, this city too has been gaining in popularity over the past few years amongst caravanners.
The Barmah state forest is the largest redgum forest in the world and when this town was set up as its gateway in the 1850s, it was largely to supply fish to gold mining cities. Later, there were two sawmills that were built here and this resulted in prosperity for the entire community.
Barmah State Forest
Barmah State Forest is on the plains of the Murray River and was once inhabited by aborigines. The Barmah State Forest along with the Moira State Park form the largest redgum forest cover across the globe, having been listed as a world heritage site. There are trees that are estimated to be over 300 years and have grown to be a whopping 40 metres tall.
About 206 species of birds make this forest their home, as winter results in flooding, thereby creating a wetland biosphere. The sheer diversity in bird species attracts birdwatchers who revel in the beauty of these birds. Other activities that are sought after here include a boat ride that lets you watch birds swoop down to catch fish, and if you want to join the birds, then you can fish too!
The Murray river is about 2,700 kilometres long and it starts from the mountains of the Great Dividing Range in Victoria to nearly all the way up to Adelaide. This mountain stream meanders into a river marked with red gum forests. A ride on this river will open your horizons about the biodiversity along the way, the culture of the Aboriginal civilisation that depended on this river and about its significance as the source of nourishment for the food bowl of Victoria.
The banks of the river was home to aboriginal settlements while European settlers used the river to travel and for trading. During the last leg of 1800s, the river was a major trading route for carrying supplies and wool.
You can travel down the path that these settlers did many years ago, using houseboats which will let you move at your pace or by renting a boat for fishing. There are canoe trails also available for the more adventurous while water skiing facilities will fascinate the sporty kind.
Apart from boating and fishing, camping and picnics are some of the other attractive things to do that never fail to impress. Some of the animals that you could come across are wild horses, reptiles, kangaroo, emus and certain amphibia.
Barmah State Park
Certain parts of this forest, the ones to the extreme east and west have been designated as 'Barmah State Park'. There is access to the western part of the Barmah state park from Moira Lakes road and which is big enough for a 2 wheel drive. Look out for a side road that should come up on the left as you cross the Broken Creek on Rices bridge. When you take that road, you will enter a clearing which is the visitor area and which includes a picnic area, fireplace, boat access and toilets.
Camping area: If you go ahead from the visitor’s area, you will find the sand ridge track which takes you to the camping area. This is where you set up tents and take comfort in being one with the natural elements. Another side track takes you to the Dharnya Aboriginal Centre, a place where you learn more about the life of the Yorta Yorta Aboriginal community, and their association with this forest. Don’t forget to find out more about a forest drive and access to walking tracks, if you do so wish to take these up.
Forest Drive to the Barmah Island
There is a small island situated between the Murray river and the Barmah creek, called the Barmah Island, which you can drive to. You are allowed to camp anywhere along the way.
Kingfisher Wetland Cruises
Every monday, wednesday, thursday and sunday, there are two hours interpretive cruises that just off Moira Lakes Rd, highlighting on the ecology, aboriginal history, habitat and birdlife of the forest.
Moira Lakes Wine Palace
Mr Joseph Rice was the first permanent white settler and he set up ‘Murray fishing company’ that supplied fish to gold miners in Bendigo as well as to fish markets in Melbourne. Rice also set up a wine palace here, which is an interesting place to visit today.
Barmah is a wonderful place to go camping, as it opens the door to a whole new world of adventure.