Pine Hill Walking Trail
The Pine Hill Walking Trail in town was developed to enable tourists to enjoy the unique scenery and bush of the Mallee. The trail commences near the Whistle Stop Craft Shop and leads north over the railway line. The trail is flat and sandy and not too difficult walking. Allow two hours to complete the 4 km trail and about one hour for the short 1.5 km walk. The Pine Hill Walking Trail is a unique unspoiled example of the Mallee environment and it takes in an abundance of native flora and birdlife.
Cowangie & Kow Plains Homestead
Cowangie is located just off the highway approximately 19 km to the east of Murrayville and it is this area which is known as Kow Plains. The Kow Plains Homestead is slightly to the south-east of the town and is one of the few surviving colonial homesteads in the Mallee. It is a rough-hewn vernacular building which can be viewed from the highway (there is an identifying sign on the property gate). It has recently been restored and also won an international award for heritage. It is thought to date from around 1867 and may have been built by two Swedish sailors who jumped ship in Adelaide then headed overland in search of work or another theory is that two Chinese were responsible.
A gypsum mine to the north, established in 1920, is still operating today. There is a picnic area next to the tennis courts in Lewis Street Park and toilets up the road a little further at the local hall. The stone building next to the Uniting Church (c.1918) was originally one of Victoria’s first Bush Nursing Centre’s, and the only one still standing.
For further information go to their site: www.kowplains.com
Big Desert Wilderness Park
The Big Desert is Victoria’s first declared wilderness area. It is a vast park of 113,500 hectares and adjoins large conservation areas in South Australia. It offers visitors an opportunity to experience a landscape which has remained unaffected by human beings and provides a challenge for the experienced hiker – walk through a true wilderness. Big Desert Wilderness Park is an arid area of sandstone ridges, sand dunes, mallee scrub and heath.
The infertility of the terrain has ensured that it has not been substantially altered by Europeans. Nonetheless there is wildlife aplenty – lizards, snakes, birds, the pygmy possum, the hopping mouse and other small mammal species. The heath and mallee scrub contain a wide variety of shrubs such as desert banksia, scrub cypress pine, grass tree, she-oak, tea-trees and heaths.
Access is by the Murrayville-Nhill Rd which runs parallel to, but 5 km east of the park boundary. It is only suitable for two-wheel drives in dry weather (check road conditions before departing) and, as there is no vehicular access within the park, this is as close as you get. You will have to walk from the road through a strip of public land into Big Desert.
There are no real facilities of any kind within the park, however, there are two camping areas with washing water (not for drinking) on the Murrayville-Nhill Rd. The Big Billy Bore is 35 km south of Murrayville and Broken Bucket Tank Reserve is 87 km south. The latter has pit toilets, an information shelter, picnic and barbecue facilities.
Supplies can be obtained in Murrayville if you are going camping and you must carry your own water and just remember that the temperatures during summer are far too high for safe and comfortable walking. Leave the park as you find it.
Murray-Sunset National Park
To the north of Murrayville is the Murray-Sunset National Park which covers approximately 633,000 hectares. The state’s second-largest, it was proclaimed in 1991 to protect local fauna and flora which had been severely affected by the clearing of nearly 65% of the mallee scrub. A few million years ago the area was a sea inlet and when this retreated, the large sand ridges and dunes were left. It is one of the few remaining semi-arid regions in the world where the environment is relatively untouched. With its wide open landscapes, plenitude of wildlife, array of colourful wildflowers in spring, breathtaking sunsets and starry nights, its vastness and isolation, the park is not the place for a day trip – longer stays are recommended. The Park has a variety of camping facilities; the main being on the southern shore of Lake Crosbie at Pink Lakes. Remote campgrounds with basic facilities can be found at Mopoke Hut, Underbool Tank and Mt Crozier.
The park is home to more than seventy significant plant species including Victoria’s largest flower, the Murray Lily, the restricted Silvery Emu-bush and the Blue-leafed Mallee. Grasslands, saltbush, buloke, porcupine grass and mallee eucalypts dominate the flat, expansive landscape with pockets of native cypress-pine and Belah woodlands scattered throughout. Murray-Sunset National Park is one of the few regions in Victoria where the red kangaroos can be seen in their numbers. The park is home to a number of threatened species – they include the Paucident Planigale, a small carnivorous marsupial, the slender yellow and green Regent Parrot, and the Millewa Skink. Other notable birdlife include Mallee Fowl, Pink Cockatoos and White-browed Tree creepers. On a warm afternoon Bearded and Mallee Dragons may also be seen. All plants, animals, archaeological and historic sites are protected. The park is arid and fairly inaccessible. However, some 4WD tracks enter the park from the Murrayville area. The Panitya North Rd takes you to the Bellbird and Boltons Bore area where you will find ‘the Rockholes’, dug out of solid rock by the Aboriginal people, in order to collect water. Another departure point from the Mallee Highway is the Sunset Track which commences just east of Cowangie. These entry points intersect with other 4WD tracks which enable a thorough exploration of the park, including the Pink Lakes. The park’s pastoral past is evident in the fences and stockyards of Birthday and Sunset Plains where emus and kangaroos graze.
Take care as, if you get lost or your vehicle breaks down, there is no water, no passing traffic and few distinguishing features in the landscape. Temperatures can be extreme in summer and there is the risk of wildfires. Take a map, compass and water, tell someone you are going and check on road conditions before you set off. Please note that Vehicles are prohibited in ‘wilderness’ zones and ‘remote’ and ‘natural’ areas.