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SWAN HILL REGION Basking on the banks of the Murray and Marraboor (Little Murray) rivers, Swan Hill is a vibrant town with a few legends of its own. Intrepid explorer Major Thomas Mitchell camped here in 1836 and named the area after noisy swans kept him up at night. Burke and Wills stopped here 24 years later on their ill-fated north-south expedition; legend has it they planted a Moreton Bay fig tree which still stands on Curlewis Street and is one of the largest such trees in the southern hemisphere. Swan Hill was a staging port for riverboat traffic in the 19th century, a bygone time you can relive at the Pioneer Settlement. Today it's a languid and friendly riverside town at the heart of a bountiful region of stone-fruit orchards, wineries, top-notch fishing – for Murray cod, of course – and cool riverside camping spots. A good place to start the day is the historic area along the Marraboor River where the Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery features a comprehensive collection of Australian Naïve art and changing exhibitions. The 5km river walk is a great way to take in the Murray River at a leisurely pace. Allow at least a few hours to explore the Pioneer Settlement, where the streets, shops, homesteads and community buildings of a 19th-century port town come to life, and costumed characters greet you from behind shop counters. It's a step back in time with a genuine sense of fun but also of the hardships of the early days. For kids there are horse- Take the car on the Speewa Punt, 15km north of Swan Hill, where you drive onto the punt and float across the Murray River to the NSW side. Pick up a copy of the Discovery Drive CD from the Swan Hill Region Information Centre and listen to stories of local culture and history as you drive through the region. Visit the Swan Hill Region Food & Wine Festival in March and take a regional food and wine journey to remember. HIDDEN GEMS 42

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