Echuca (// ə-CHOO-kə) is a town on the banks of the Murray River and Campaspe River in Victoria, Australia. The border town of Moama is adjacent on the northern side of the Murray River in New South Wales. Echuca is the administrative centre and largest settlement in the Shire of Campaspe. As at June 2018 Echuca had a population of 14,934, and the population of the combined Echuca and Moama townships was 21,242 at the same time.
Echuca lies within traditional Yorta Yorta country. The town's name is an Aboriginal word meaning "meeting of the waters". Echuca is close to the junction of the Goulburn, Campaspe, and Murray Rivers. Its position at the closest point of the Murray to Melbourne contributed to its development as a thriving river port city during the 19th century.
Echuca was founded by one of the most enterprising figures of the early colonial period, an ex-convict named Henry Hopwood. In 1850 he purchased a small punt to ferry people and goods across the Murray River near the Campaspe junction. As the relatively small settlement known as Hopwood's Ferry grew, it became the town of Echuca. The Hopwood's Punt Post Office opened around 1854 and was renamed Echuca Post Office on 1 January 1855.
While the settlers at Echuca treated the local Indigenous Australians with relative kindness, their way of life was irrevocably changed by their relationship with the Europeans. Smallpox threatened their well-being in the late 1820s to the 1850s. They were relegated to the role of fringe-dwellers, living on the banks of the Murray River, and occasionally entering into the European economy as fishermen and farm labourers, and by selling the possum rugs which they crafted.
Australia's inland port
By the 1870s Echuca had risen to prominence as Australia's largest inland port. Being the point of shortest distance between the Murray River and the major city of Melbourne, Echuca was both a key river port and railway junction. Steam-driven paddleboats would arrive at the 400-metre long redgum Echuca Wharf, which were unloaded and the goods transported by rail to Melbourne. Wool, wheat, other grains, livestock and timber were the most common cargoes. The wharf has been listed as a Heritage Place on the Australian National Heritage List.
This industrial boom led to a rapidly expanding population, at one stage in excess of 15,000, with more than a hundred pubs/hotels rumoured to exist in the Echuca district at one time. An iron bridge was constructed over the Murray River in 1878 by the NSW Railways Department.
The expansion of the railways from Melbourne to most parts of Victoria, as well as improvements to roads and fickle river conditions all combined to lessen Echuca's importance, and by the 1890s the paddlesteamer fleet was in decline. An economic depression and the collapse of several banks virtually ended Echuca's role as a major economic centre, and its population began to disperse.
According to the 2016 census of Population, there were 12,906 people in Echuca..
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people made up 3.5% of the population.
- 84.7% of people were born in Australia. The next most common countries of birth were England 1.8% and New Zealand 1.0%.
- 89.7% of people spoke only English at home.
- The most common responses for religion were No Religion 30.7%, Catholic 24.2% and Anglican 16.8%
Echuca has a semi-arid climate (BSk).
|Climate data for Echuca RSL|
|Record high °C (°F)||45.3
|Average high °C (°F)||31.1
|Average low °C (°F)||15.0
|Record low °C (°F)||5.0
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||27.5
|Average precipitation days||3.9||3.7||4.6||5.9||8.3||10.3||11.5||11.4||9.5||8.3||6.0||5.1||88.5|
At state level, Echuca is represented by the Electoral district of Murray Plains.
At federal level, Echuca is represented by the Division of Murray.
The main industry in Echuca is tourism. Tourism earns about $250 million a year for the Echuca economy. Visitors are attracted to the town by its warm climate, the Murray River, recreational attractions, and historical features, some of which have come to public awareness by the Nancy Cato novel All the Rivers Run which was made into a TV miniseries. These include the Port of Echuca which has the world's largest fleet of operating paddle steamers.
Echuca is also a major regional service economy.
Agriculture is very important to the region and dairy, wheat, sheep, pig, and cattle farms are all within close proximity.
The port is home to the largest paddle steamer collection in the world, which includes the world's oldest operating wooden hulled paddle steamer, the PS Adelaide built in 1866. There are several historic vessels operating out of Echuca on a daily commercial basis such as PS Pevensey (built 1911), PS Alexander Arbuthnot (built 1923), PS Adelaide (built 1866) operating from the wharf and the PS Emmylou (built 1980 with a steam engine in use from 1906), PS Canberra (built 1913) and PV Pride of the Murray (built 1924 as a logging barge C24) operating from Riverboat Dock, a short distance downstream from the main wharf. These vessels conduct between 4-6 1hour cruises daily, while the PS Emmylou offers lunch, dinner and scenic cruises. There are also a number of privately owned paddle steamers in Echuca, including the PS Hero, PS Henry Charles and the former Church of England mission steamer, PS Etona. As well as the paddle steamers there are numerous houseboats, many of which can be hired. The MV Mary Ann (built 1981) operates as a cruising restaurant all year round.
Events and festivals
Annual events held in Echuca include the Southern 80 waterski race, the largest waterski race in the world (February), the Riverboats Music Festival (February) , the Echuca-Moama Weddings Expo (May) , the Echuca Rotary Steam, Horse and Vintage Rally (Queens Birthday weekend in June) and WinterBlues Festival (July)  .
In popular culture
In 1984, the Australian television mini-series, All the Rivers Run, based on a novel by Nancy Cato and starring Sigrid Thornton and John Waters, was filmed in and around Echuca. The local paddle steamers PS Pevensey and PS Emmylou featured in the mini-series as the PS Philadelphia and PS Providence, respectively. The airing of this series around Australia and internationally revitalised Echuca's tourism economy.
In the TV series Glitch, Vic, the district supervisor for the police forces of Echuca, the fictional Yoorana, and surrounding communities, is based in Echuca.
The ABC aired an episode of Get Krack!n on 6 February 2019 satirising morning television segments about regional food and wine tourism. There was some concern locally about how the episode depicted the town and its effect on tourism, although the intent of the segment was to "[poke] fun at commercial morning breakfast shows and their often-condescending portrayal of rural and regional areas" .
Restaurants and dining
A major dining attraction in Echuca was the well known wharf-side restaurant Oscar W's.  It held a reputation for fine dining and was awarded a Chef's Hat in the 2013 Australian Good Food and Travel Guide  and had previously been awarded a hat by The Age Good Food Guide.  It closed in 2014.  A protracted dispute over the redevelopment of the site, including expensive repairs to a damaged retaining wall  and the lease of the historical wharf site being put out for tender  both played a part in the controversial closure.
Echuca is connected over the Murray River to Moama by the Echuca-Moama Road Rail Bridge. This historically significant bridge has riveted iron spans supported on cast iron pillars. Trains no longer run on this bridge; a dedicated rail bridge has been constructed next to the old bridge, which now only carries road vehicles.
A second Murray River crossing is currently being constructed. The project is due to be completed in 2022 .
Echuca-Moama Transit runs three bus services hourly to Echuca East, Echuca South and Moama. The terminus is the Old Echuca Post Office on Hare Street. V/Line operates the Echuca line rail service from the local station to Melbourne via Bendigo. Echuca Airport is also located nearby .
Community radio station EMFM broadcasts in Echuca on the frequency of 104.7FM, at a power of 1 kW.
Echuca has many large retail chains, such as Big W, Coles, Liquorland, Safeway Supermarket and Liquor (now Woolworths, and BWS), Coles Express, Caltex Woolworths, Aldi, Target Country, Dan Murphy's, Cotton On, The Reject Shop, and Bunnings Warehouse.
Good-quality produce and gourmet groceries can be found at Forever Fresh .
Two book shops exist: Read Heeler and a small Collins bookshop on Hare Street.
Echuca is served by several primary schools: Echuca Primary School, Echuca East Primary School, Echuca Specialist School, St. Mary's Primary School and the newly constructed Twin Rivers Primary School (opened in 2018). Twin Rivers was formed by merging the former Echuca West and Echuca South Primary schools, and will eventually incorporate the Specialist School.
Echuca has two high schools. Echuca College, a state secondary college, was formed in 2006 by the amalgamation of Echuca Technical College and Echuca High School. St. Joseph's, a Catholic co-ed secondary college occupies a former Brigidine convent opened in 1886. Moama Anglican Grammar School, just over the border in NSW also attracts students from Echuca.
Bendigo TAFE has a campus in Echuca, offering tertiary education up to Diploma level in various fields.
Golfers play at the Echuca Back Nine Golf Course on Eyre and McKenzie Streets.
- Swimming: Echuca Swimming Club. 50 meter indoor pool. YMCA Echuca War Memorial Aquatic Centre.
- Canoeing: Echuca-Moama Canoe Club and Inland Outriggers.
- Waterskiing: The Southern 80 Ski Race held in February finishing line is in Echuca, starting at the Torrumbarry Weir. Established over 50 years ago the race is held by the Moama Water Sports Club. The Southern 80 has become iconic with the 2 day event attracting more than 80,000 visitors to the area.
In 2006 the Inaugural Barry Beehag race was established in honour of Barry Beehag, a founding and life member of the Moama Water Sports Club.
- Henry Hopwood (1813-1869), founder of Echuca, was born in Bolton, Lancashire, England.
- Hugh McKenzie (1853-1942), Politician and stock station agent.
- In 1970, Echuca resident Leith Ratten was convicted of murdering his wife. His case became one of the most controversial in Victorian legal history.
- Actor/Model Travis Fimmel.
- AFL footballer Andrew Walker (Carlton).
- AFL footballer Daniel Connors (Richmond).
- AFL footballer Sam Sheldon (Brisbane).
- AFL footballer (Hawthorn).
- AFL footballer Ollie Wines (Port Adelaide).
- AFL footballer Jack Viney (Melbourne).
- AFL footballer Clayton Oliver (Melbourne).
- AFL footballer Aidyn Johnson (Port Adelaide).
- Australian women's basketballer Donna Burns.
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- "Proud past". Official website. Shire of Campaspe. Retrieved 19 April 2018.
- Premier Postal History, Post Office List, retrieved 11 April 2008
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- Echuca Moama Tourism
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Media related to Echuca at Wikimedia Commons