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MILDURA WENTWORTH Gateway to the outback but bursting with fruity goodness, Mildura- Wentworth is a true oasis, with rows of orchards and vineyards, lush golf courses and a blue-sky Mediterranean climate, where the mighty Murray and Darling rivers converge. Historic 19th-century irrigation techniques introduced by the Canadian Chaffey brothers transformed the Mildura- Wentworth region into the fertile food bowl of southeast Australia and today it's a vibrant, prosperous and thoroughly rewarding riverside community. Mildura retains a strong sense of history. Follow the Chaffey Trail, visiting the original Old Mildura Homestead, the Psyche Bend Pumping Station and the superbly preserved Queen Anne-style Rio Vista, built by William Chaffey in 1889. Wentworth, 30km west and named after explorer William Wentworth, prospered as a river port from the 1850s and still has many 19th-century heritage buildings. Paddlesteamers still ply the river at Mildura; PS Melbourne steams out from the Mildura Wharf daily. On the Darling, Wentworth River Cruises take you to the confluence of where Australia's two largest rivers meet - the two rivers are distinctly different colours. Look out for the locks and weirs that regulate river flow and allow boats to move up and down stream. The Murray-Darling provides a wonderful outlet for swimming, boating, fishing, kayaking and houseboating. Apex Beach is a popular sandy stretch with boat hire, or take a sunset guided tour on Kings Billabong, a calm wetland area and wildlife reserve. Mildura has a remarkably cosmopolitan and artistic feel, partly due to the regular influx of harvest workers and backpackers, but also thanks to a diverse and cultured local community that counts among its annual events the Mildura Wentworth Arts Play a round of golf at one of Mildura-Wentworth's outstanding championship courses. Visit the Australian Inland Botanic Gardens, the first semi-arid botanic gardens in the Southern Hemisphere set among 48 landscaped hectares. Go sandboarding or just admire the sunset view at Perry Sandhills in Wentworth - in places up to 12 metres high. HIDDEN GEMS 44

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