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Albury, NSW

Substantial rural service centre on the Murray River.

Albury and Wodonga, a modern study of sprawling urban development in a relatively large rural centre, lie on either side of the Murray River and are separated by the border between New South Wales and Victoria. There was a time when Albury-Wodonga, as it was commonly called, was seen as the future of rural decentralisation in Australia. It was to become a major rural centre with all the advantages of both a country town and a modern city. Not only was going to develop as a vital transport hub between Sydney and Melbourne but it would also be an administrative, educational and economic hub with a well-developed manufacturing sector and a centre for the surrounding agricultural, dairying and pastoral industries. The city's attraction for visitors and travellers lies in its exceptionally beautiful and historic Botanic Gardens; its elegant city centre; and its charming, peaceful location beside the Murray River.

Location

Located 553 km south-west of Sydney via the Hume Highway and 326 km north-east of Melbourne, Albury is 183 m above sea-level.

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Origin of Name

The first European settler in the area was Robert Brown who, in 1838, built a slab hut which operated as a general store.  When a mail service was established from Yass to Port Phillip a townsite on the northern bank of the Murray River was surveyed and named 'Bungambrewatah', a Wiradjuri term meaning 'the crossing place'. The name was changed to Aldbury. The following year it was gazetted as Albury, after a village near Guildford in Surrey, England.

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Things to See and Do

Albury CBD Historic Building Walking Tour
The central business district of Albury is characterised by impressive public and private buildings particularly in Dean Street, Kiewa Street and Olive Street. There is an app which can be downloaded (http://www.visitalburywodonga.com/tour/albury-cbd-historic-building-walking-tour-1) which identifies 21 places of interest in the city centre. It is assisted by silver bollards which mark the places of interest. A section of the brochure is available at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=air.com.visitalburywodonga.WalkingTour and it is available from the Albury Visitor Centre. The tour takes two hours and includes:

Court House
The elegant "Classical Revival" Court House in Dean Street, built in 1860, is one of the few remaining buildings designed by colonial architect Alexander Dawson. It is classified by the National Trust. The Palladian facade is of local grey granite. It retains an iron-railed dock, painted coat of arms above the bench and a Press gallery on which journalists have traditionally carved their names.
Post Office
Located in Dean Street, the large and imposing two-storey Post Office (1875) was built by local builder, Alexander Frew. It features arch work buttressed by a colonnade and a clock tower with cupola and weather vane which was added in the 1920s. The clock tower is built of timber disguised as masonry.
Telegraph Office
This largely unaltered Classical building now houses the Murray Conservatorium. It was formerly the Telegraph Office (1885). It is a National Trust building and the facade was restored in 1994.
Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Building
The Colonial Mutual Life Assurance building has a five-storey clock tower with four clocks and a curved copper roof. Located at the corner of Dean and Olive Streets it was built in 1925 to a design by Nahum Barnet. It is an impressive, commercial part of the main street.
T&G Building
The T & G Building, dating from the mid-1930s, is a fine example of Art Deco. The notable highlights of the building include the five-storey tower with extremely long, thin vertical window recesses and a ziggurat summit.

Murray Art Museum Albury (MAMA)
The Murray Art Museum Albury (MAMA) at 546 Dean Street exists as part of an elegant, ornate and virtually unaltered Edwardian Town Hall (1907) with cupolas and extravagant stucco. The style of the building is known as Federation Free Classical. It has an impressive collection including works by one-time local resident Sir Russell Drysdale, a permanent exhibition of Wiradjuri art and a Circus exhibition reflecting the work of the Albury-based Flying Fruit Fly Circus. It is open daily (Monday - Friday 10.00 am - 5.00 pm, Thursday 10.00 am - 7.00 pm, Saturday and Sunday 10.00 am - 4.00 pm), Tel: (02) 6043 5800. MAMA recently underwent a $10.5 million upgrade. It now includes a cafe and a range of travelling exhibitions designed to make it the centre of Albury's cultural life. For more details check out http://www.mamalbury.com.au. Next to the new Town Hall is a hall from the original 1860 house of assembly.

St Matthew's Anglican Church
The foundation stone of St Matthew's Anglican Church at 514 Kiewa Street was laid in 1857. The original Norman design, by noted Colonial Architect Edmund Blacket (he designed the quadrangle at Sydney University), was never completed. While the nave, choir vestry, west wall and campanile belong to Blacket, the contrasting Gothic elements, notably the chancel, vestries and transepts were designed by William Boles and added around 1876. The church was built of local stone but had to be rebuilt after being gutted by fire in 1991. The architect of the redesign was Ian O'Connor.

Albury Railway Station
There is probably no more grand rural railway station (it is more than 300 metres long) than this Italianate red-and-white brick railway station (1881) which has a 22 metre high clock tower, original cedar joinery and a cast-iron platform with fluted columns. It is the third-longest platform in Australia and the longest undercover platform in the southern hemisphere. The station master's residence, now the town's Visitor Information Centre, is also worth visiting. It has attractive gardens. Albury railway station is important in the history of both New South Wales and Victoria. As the two states developed, they opted for different railway gauges which meant that from 1886 through to 1962 all passengers and freight had to be transferred from one state's railway system to the other state's at Albury. Everyone and everything had to change. The station had two clocks, one for Albury time and one for Wodonga time as there was 25 minutes difference between New South Wales and Victoria before Eastern Standard Time was introduced.

Albury Library Museum
The Albury Library Museum is located on the corner of Kiewa and Swift Street and is open from 10.00 am - 5.00 pm. Tel: (02) 6023 8333. It was opened in 2007 and has become an ideal starting point for anyone wanting to learn about the history of the city. The Library Museum's permanent exhibition "Crossing Place: A Story of Albury" tells the story of the district from the time when it was occupied by Wiradjuri people through to the modern day. The building is particularly impressive and the exhibitions are interactive and state of the art.

Parks in the area
On the northern bank of the Murray River, off Wodonga Place, there are a series of pleasant parks - Oddies Creek Park, Noreuil Park, Hovell Tree Park, the Botanic Gardens, Mates Park and Padman Park. They are ideal recreation areas. Of particular interest is the Hovell Tree Park.
Hovell Tree
Marked by Captain William Hovell in 1824 it is the first evidence of the presence of Europeans in the Albury area. Captain William Hovell and Hamilton Hume were Europeans to see the Murray River. The Hovell Tree, marked by the explorer on November 17, 1824, was flanked by another tree marked by Hamilton Hume which was destroyed by fire in the 1840's. Hume and Hovell travelled from the Yass area and after crossing the Murray River where Lake Hume now is, they crossed the Mitta Mitta River and proceeded to Corio Bay, Westernport. Hovell's original carved inscription has disappeared beneath new growth but a bronze plaque contains a facsimile.

Botanical Gardens
The Botanical Gardens date from 1871 (they were officially opened in 1877) and are recognised as some of the finest gardens in rural Australia. Personally I think they are the best. There are over 1,000 native and exotic plants including such rarities (in Albury) as a 46 m Queensland kauri; several river red gums which have been grown from the seeds of the Hovell Tree; a pine which grew from a seed taken at Lone Pine in Gallipoli and there is an outstanding children's garden. A highlight of the gardens is the Hume Monument - the tribute to Hamilton Hume, the first European through the area - which was built in America and originally erected in 1858 in the place of the Hume Tree which had been destroyed.  The monument was moved to the gardens in 1884 and the band stand was built in 1890. Check out http://www.visitalburywodonga.com/attraction/albury-botanic-gardens for more details. It, rather poetically, notes: "Over the years, the gardens have won many prizes for layout, design, plant selection and annual planting designs. Explore the 1,000 plus native and exotic plant species while walking along the curved paths and rounded shrub beds. Instead you may choose to walk cross country over the lush lawns to find a favourite spot in the garden. They recommend that this is completed barefoot for the full experience!"

Monument Hill Lookout and Albury and District War Memorial
Few cities can boast a more impressive lookout and panorama than Albury where Monument Hill looks straight down Dean Street and across the Murray River Valley. It is known as Monument Hill due to the 30 metre war cenotaph. Rising 90 m above the city, the hill offers views to Wodonga, the Victorian Alps, the Snowy Mountains and the Hume Dam. There are a number of walking tracks around the hill as well as a straight path to the centre of the city. The Monument itself was designed by architect Louis Harrison in 1923 and erected in 1924 at a cost of £3,000. In 1925 on Anzac Day the Memorial was dedicated to the men and women who served in World War I.

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Other Attractions in the Area

The Hume Dam
Located 15 km east of Albury, the Hume Dam was built between 1919 and 1936 with the specific aim of storing the spring, snow waters for use during the dry summer months. It was a response to the droughts of the 1890s and resulted from the River Murray Water Agreement. It was officially opened in December, 1936. At the time it was the largest dam in the southern hemisphere and one of the world's largest. It was subsequently enlarged between 1950 and 1961. Its surface area is 20,190 ha, its total length 1.6 km, its capacity nearly three million megalitres and it covers 343 km of shoreline. The catchment is about 16,000 square kilometres. There are 29 regulating gates, each 6 x 8 m, and a 50 megawatt hydro-electric station has been established to best utilise the volume.  There is a very detailed history of the dam at http://www.mdba.gov.au/what-we-do/managing-rivers/river-murray-system/dams-weirs/hume-dam. Lake Hume is used for swimming, sailing, water skiing, paragliding, fishing, sailboarding, jet skiing and canoeing. There are picnic, barbecue and children's play facilities, scenic countryside, swimming beaches, boat ramps, stores, canoe hire and camping. For more information check out http://www.lakehume.org.au.

Walking and Cycling Tracks
There are more than 40 km of interlinked trails around Albury. There is a brochure which provides detailed information, as well as clear and useful maps, to the nine trails around the city.
Wagirra Trail
A delightful walk along the Murray River. It is 5.6 km, flat and easy. It links up with a number of other tracks and is described as a "two metre wide shared pathway which meanders through the riverside parks (Noreuil, Australia, and Hovell Tree), past the Adventure Playspace at Oddies Creek, Albury Swim Centre, through Padman Park and west of Kremur Street to Horseshoe Lagoon." The track also includes the:
Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk
The Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk is, as the Albury City website explains, "Eleven sculptures created by local Aboriginal artists have been installed along the five kilometres of Wagirra trail between Kremur Street and Wonga Wetlands. The sculptures are accompanied by interpretative panels and videos via smartphone which tell the story of Aboriginal history and the cultural significance of the Murray River. There is an excellent collection of photographs at https://www.flickr.com/photos/alburycollection/sets/72157649487718779 depicting most of the sculptures.
Bungambrawatha Creek Trail
A walk through the centre of Albury which runs for 6.3 km (flat) from Lavington in the north to the Murray River in the south. It is described as "winding through Heathwood Park, Fredericks Park Regional Playground and the Albury Skate Bowl, leading you past the beautiful Albury Botanic Gardens and Albury Swim Centre, before joining the Wagirra Trail."
West Albury Trail
A short 2.1 km walk from Banksia Street to the Murray River where it joins up with the Wagirra Trail. It moves "between Haydon Park and Bonnie Doon Oval before crossing Pemberton Street. Attractions enroute include Bonnie Doon Reserve, the Haydon Park multipurpose sports courts and the West Albury Skate Park. The path continues off the road through Patricia Gould Reserve and links with a sealed path from Padman Drive, alongside Kremur Street." It connects with the Wagirra Trail.
South Albury Trail
This trail links the Wagirra Trail with the Albury-Thurgoona Trail. It is only 1.5 km from the Railway Station through to the Murray River past Browns Lagoon and across the Union Bridge to Oddies Creek Park.
East Albury Trail
A pleasant 5 km walk from the Albury-Thurgoona Trail to the Mungabareena Reserve.
Albury-Thurgoona Trail
A long, straight 9.4 km trail from the Railway Station to Thurgoona where it can "can join other trails to link to Mungabareena Reserve, the riverside parks and Horseshoe Lagoon, making this a wonderful cycling or walking experience for people of all ages."
Thurgoona Trail
A 6.6 km trail which connects the Albury-Thurgoona Trail with Woolshed Creek.
Nail Can Hill Trail
A 6.5 km trail through the regional crown reserve to the west of the city. "The area features a network of trails used for bushwalking, running and mountain bike riding ...As the terrain is very steep in places, the trail is not recommended for beginners ... This trail has many spectacular views however as the area is a haven for some of the region’s rare flora and fauna."
Wonga Wetlands Trail
There are three trails around seven lagoons at the Wonga Wetlands Trail. "About 3 kilometres of walking paths allows visitors to experience these beautiful wetlands which are home to around 150 species of birds. You can also see ancient river red gums and a traditional Wiradjuri campsite. Wonga Wetlands is located on the Riverina Highway, 6 km west of Albury. A self-guided tour map is available from the car park area."
Hume and Hovell Walking Track
The Hume and Hovell track stretches for 440 km from Gunning through to Albury. The last section is from Table Top through Albury to the Murray River. This is the first sector from Cooma Cottage (Yass) to Fitzpatrick Trackhead (Wee Jasper). There is a useful, downloadable brochure available at http://www.lpma.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/70602/Hume__and__hovell_DL.pdf and detailed information at http://www.lpma.nsw.gov.au/about_recreation/walking_tracks/hume_and_hovell_walking_track/track_and_walks. The route from Tunnel Road to Albury is 73 km and is defined as easy/moderate/hard. The brochure explains "From Tunnel Road, walk through 9 km of walking track in timbered country, mostly through the Woomargama State Forest. You then enter private property before coming onto Wymah Road and onto Fowlers Swamp Creek, which you cross by bridge to enter the Ten Chain Stock Reserve. Continue to the Hume Highway and cross the Hume Reservoir, through an area which is a mix of farmland, residential development and open space, arriving at the Riverina Highway, leading to the Mungabareena Reserve on the northern banks of the Murray River. A foot track leaves the reserve to climb to the top of Eastern Hill for an excellent view of the whole region, before walking the final two kilometres to the Hovell Tree and the southern end of the Hume & Hovell Walking Track."

High Country Rail Trail
There is a 30 km cycling trail which links Wodonga via Bonegilla to Old Tallangatta, following the historic railway line alongside Lake Hume. It offers beautiful views and attractive picnic spots. Check out http://www.highcountryrailtrail.org.au for extensive information about the route.

Bonegilla Migrant Experience
Located at 82 Bonegilla Road, Bonegilla, 18 km south-east of Albury, Bonegilla was a hugely important migrant camp. Check out http://www.bonegilla.org.au for detailed information. The website explains that "Between 1947 and 1971, over 300,000 migrants from more than 50 countries called Bonegilla their first 'Aussie home.' They arrived by train to Bonegilla railway siding where they were met, in the early days, by army personnel who provided transport, security and catering services.  Because the migrant centre was initially run by the army, the military character of the buildings and routines remained long after the army left in 1949. The first migrants to arrive at the migrant centre were displaced persons who had lived in refugee camps in Europe. About half of the 170,000 displaced people coming to Australia between 1947 and 1951 lived at Bonegilla, many of them in Block 19. Most of them stayed for about a month while they learnt to speak English and the way of life here. Then they were moved to work in areas where there was a labour shortage. From 1951 to 1971, Bonegilla started to receive assisted migrants rather than displaced people. They came from a variety of countries including Germany, the Netherlands, Britain, Austria, Italy, Greece, Hungary and Germany, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Spain, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. They came to Australia looking for secure employment and hoping for a better life." Today, one in 20 Australians have links to Bonegilla through parents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts or grandparents. The Bonegilla Migrant Experience brings to life the stories and experiences of these people, and their family's contribution to the formation of our multicultural society. Bonegilla Migrant Experience is a hugely important part of Australia's history. For more information tel: (02) 6020 6912 or check out http://www.visitalburywodonga.com/attraction/bonegilla-migrant-experience.

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History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was inhabited by the Wiradjuri Aborigines.

* On 16 November, 1824 explorers Hamilton Hume and William Hovell reached the future site of Albury. They carved some observations into the trunks of two trees. Hume's tree was destroyed in the 1840s by a teamsters' campfire but Hovell's still stands. They named the river the Hume after Hamilton Hume's father.

* In 1838 Charles Sturt passed through the area and renamed the Hume River, the Murray River.

* The first land in the area was settled in 1835 when William Wyse established the Mungabareena station for Charles Ebden on the northern side of the river.

* In 1836 Ebden crossed the river and opened a station at Bonegilla and then at Thurgoona with William Wyse as his stockman.

* In 1837 Paul Huon established the Wodonga station.

* The settlement was located at a spot where the river could be easily crossed. It was known as The Crossing Place and became a popular resting place for drovers and stockmen headed for Port Phillip.

* In 1838 Robert Brown built a slab hut which he developed as a store near Hovell's Tree.

* By the end of the 1830s the journey between Sydney and Port Phillip was becoming so popular that the New South Wales government prepared a plan for a 'road' from Gundagai to Port Phillip. It was a rough bush track following the route taken by Hume and Hovell.

* By 1840 a mail service from Yass to Port Phillip was passing through the town. A town site on the northern bank of the Murray was surveyed as 'Bungambrewatah', a Wiradjuri term meaning 'the crossing place'.

* In 1841 the population of Albury was said to be seven.

* In 1842 Robert Brown opened the Hume River Inn.

* A house was built by James Wyse in 1843.

* Robert Brown established a log punt across the river in 1844 to help foot passengers and sheep.  It was, reputedly, too expensive and too slow.

* In 1845 the first Albury Races, and the Albury Cup, were run. A clergyman observed that the Albury races had been established before anybody had built a church.

* By 1852 Wodonga, which was gazetted as a town named Belvoir, became an important river port servicing the Ovens goldfield.

* When Victoria separated from New South Wales in 1851 Albury and Wodonga became customs posts enforcing state-based tariffs.

* The Albury Border Post newspaper was established in 1856.

* Albury became a municipality in 1859.

* The first toll bridge was erected across the river in 1861.

* The first river steamer, the Albury, arrived in 1855.

* Wodonga was connected to Melbourne by rail in 1873.

* Belvoir was renamed Wodonga in 1874.

* The train from Sydney reached Albury in 1881.

* A temporary wooden railway bridge joined the two sides of the river in 1883.

* From 1886 passengers and freight had to change trains at Albury.

* During the 1890s Albury was seriously considered as a future capital of Australia.

* During the influenza pandemic of 1919, the border was sealed and guarded at gunpoint. People could not pass from Albury to Wodonga.

* Army camps were established at Bandiana and Bonegilla, east of Wodonga, during the Second World War.

* Albury was proclaimed a city in 1946.

* An important migration camp was established at Bonegilla in 1947.

* In 1962 the railway gauges in Victoria and New South Wales were standardised and passengers no longer had to change trains.

* In the early 1970s Albury-Wodonga was the focus of a political commitment to decentralisation.

* Wodonga was proclaimed the first 'rural city' in Australia in 1973.

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Visitor Information

Albury Visitor Information Centre, Railway Place, cnr Smollett and Young Streets, Albury, tel: 1300 252 879.

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Useful Websites

The city's official website can be found at http://www.visitalburywodonga.com. It has useful information about food, accommodation and places to explore in the area.

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Got something to add?

Have we missed something or got a top tip for this town? Have your say below.

2 suggestions
  • You missed Heckendorf Drive, and Heckendorf Retirement Home, named after my landholding Ancestor!

    Arthur Heckendorf.
  • Re PS Cumberoona – the vessel was sold to the Knowles family, who have faithfully restored it and now cruise it on Lake Mulwala, approx 100km away. Note that the link in the article to Albury City website is no longer operational.

    Pat Hamilton-Smith