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ALBURY Charismatic Albury in NSW is the largest city along the Murray River and, with easy access from Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra, it's often regarded as the gateway to the Murray. Albury still manages to retain that provincial country town feel while providing all the things that make a great holiday – family fun, community events, eclectic shopping and great food and wine. The area was inhabited by the Wairadjuri indigenous tribe for thousands of years. Early explorers Hamilton Hume and William Hovell were the first to record the Murray, passing through here in 1824 and naming it the Hume (after Hamilton's father). You can still see the tree that William Hovell carved his name into almost 200 years ago in Hovell Tree Park. A star attraction here is the range of outdoor activities and water-based recreation adventures, either on the river or the enormous Lake Hume, created when the Hume Dam was built from 1919 to 1936. You can go fishing or boating on the lake, or paddle the three hours or so by canoe or kayak from Mungabareena Reser ve to Noreuil Park – two of the city's favourite parks. The Albur y Botanic Gardens are a wonderful place for an easy afternoon stroll, while Wonga Wetlands, on the Murray River floodplain provide a sanctuar y for birdlife and a haven for bushwalkers. Naturally, golfers are spoilt for choice here: the Commercial Golf Resor t Albur y is an award-winning course, while the Peter Thomson-designed Thurgoona Countr y Club Resor t is a world-class gem. Take some time out at the gorgeous 130-year-old Albury Botanic Gardens, home to more than 1000 native and exotic plant species. Enjoy the many kilometres of safe walking and cycling trails, including the Murray River Trail, Gateway Island Track and Wonga Wetlands. Join the locals cooking up pizza or damper at Albury's Community Wood Fired Oven every second Sunday in Hovell Tree Park. HIDDEN GEMS 30

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