I had read the classical Australian novel, All The Rivers Run, by Nancy Cato, several times as a young teen. Whilst it was a wonderful, historical love story, it was the vivid descriptions of life on the Murray that captivated my imagination. For years I had wanted to visit Echuca, but I imagined it to be a run down old town and never bothered. Years later I finally had the chance to visit, so I took it.
I drove from the Central West in NSW down to the NSW/Victoria border to visit the historical town of Echuca. Echuca is on the Murray River, and for many years paddlesteamers cruised the mighty Murray delivering food and supplies. It’s become a great tourist stop, with fancy stores, restaurants, galleries, and paddle steamer cruises on offer. The town is incredibly pretty— a lot of detail has gone into its upkeep, and the river itself has parks and beautiful grounds to attract tourists.
Unfortunately, the weekend I was due to visit Echuca was also a long weekend. As a result, all of the hotels were fully booked. That forced me to choose a town on the NSW side of the border, and I stumbled across a pretty looking B&B. Hmmm … but I like my privacy, so what should I do? There was no choice, nothing else nice was available so I booked a room at Langford House B&B in Tocumwal, about 120 km from Echuca.
Langford House is stunning. So much care has gone into the property and the hosts were generous and welcoming. The room I booked was enormous, with a private bathroom and a fireplace. Upon arrival I was ushered out to the courtyard where refreshments were served by the pool. With a glass of wine in hand and the long drive behind me, I found it really enjoyable to sit and chat with the other guests. What I imagined would be awkward was actually really pleasant. A middle-aged couple visiting from Europe were lovely to talk to, and we all had a great laugh.
I walked to the local pub for dinner at the recommendation of my hosts, and then curled up on the lounge with a book until I was too tired to read anymore. I was surprised that I had the lounge room to myself, and found that I missed the company of the other guests. That was very unexpected!
The next morning after a run through town, then showering and changing, I made my way into the kitchen. I thought I’d be preparing my own breakfast but instead, I was greeted by my hosts who made me coffee and had me sit comfortably in the kitchen whilst they cooked me breakfast. We all chatted while the gourmet breakfast comprised of local produce was being cooked, and I loved how much a part of the household they made me feel.
Echuca was also surprising in the fact that it was so beautifully maintained, and not run down like I’d been expecting. I walked along the river, bought little trinkets in the stores, visited a gallery, and had a delicious lunch in a cafe. I didn’t take a ride on a paddlesteamer, but I did catch the markets near the river and I gleefully watched as the paddlesteamers tried to recreate their old travels to delighted tourists. After a full day I headed home, relaxed and happy.
Since that visit to Langford House B&B back in 2016, I’ve become quite the fan of Bed and Breakfasts. I’ve visited quite a few since that time, and I’ve found that there is no awkwardness in staying in someone else’s home, and instead, I open myself to meeting amazing people from all over the world. I am definitely an introvert, but there’s something special about meeting new people over breakfast or afternoon tea in a B&B. B&B’s are generally much more affordable than a hotel, you get to learn more about the area through people who actually live there, and you have home comforts you just wouldn’t get at a hotel. Added to that, every B&B I’ve stayed in goes to great lengths to provide really good, local foods, and the bedrooms are painstakingly maintained and furnished. My stay in Langford House enhanced my visit to Echuca as the owners gave me so much local information. I knew where to go, what to avoid, and how to find hidden gems.
If you’ve never stayed in a Bed and Breakfast, can I encourage you to give it a go? Pick a historic style house in a quaint town, and have a truly local experience. Not only will you be treated like royalty, but you might just make friends for life!