There’s a lot going on in the regional Victorian city of Shepparton.
Situated at the heart of what’s known, deliciously, as the ‘Goulburn Valley food bowl’, this is first and foremost an agricultural town and best known for its fruit growing and dairy industries. But let’s get to the good bits for visitors. From a brand new art gallery, several museums and a rich cultural diversity, to boutique wine and cider production, and a surprisingly multicultural dining scene, Shepparton has plenty to offer roving Aussies out to explore their own backyard. And it’s all within easy reach of Melbourne (drive time: 2.15 hours).
Here are ten of the best things to do in Shepparton.
In the early 2000s, a growing herd of life-size fibreglass cows began roaming Shepparton’s streets and parks in quirky homage to the region’s dairy industry. The Moooving Art project is now one of the city’s most popular attractions. There are around 90 of these colourful bovine canvases, each decorated by an established or emerging artist. Snap a selfie with your favourite moo and pop it on Insta (#mooovingart).
A rich vein of Indigenous culture runs through Greater Shepparton, which is situated on the traditional lands of the Yorta Yorta people. The city is home to the largest number of Aboriginal people in regional Victoria, and significant elders of the past (all now deceased) are honoured in the Aboriginal Street Art Project. Three murals by renowned street artist Adnate portray Uncle William Cooper and Pastor Sir Douglas Nicholls; Aunty Margaret Tucker and Nora ‘Nanny’ Charles; and Aunty Geraldine Briggs and Aunty Elizabeth Morgan. There’s also a portrait of WWI Private Daniel Cooper (who died on the battlefield in 1917) by Cam Scale, which pays tribute to Aboriginal people in the Australian military.
The buzz in Shepparton is all about the new Shepparton Art Museum — to be known as SAM — which will open its doors in October 2021. It’s going to be big. The spectacular newly costructed building sits by a lake that teems with birdlife, and will be home to a significant collection of ceramics and Indigenous art. Part of the new centre is occupied by Kaiela Arts — a resource centre for local Indigenous artists, whose work typically represents their country in a linear style of painting. Kaiela Arts has already moved in and is open to the public. Their gallery also serves as a storefront, and visitors have the opportunity to purchase original pieces at very affordable prices. And you get a sneak peek inside SAM!
Greater Shepparton is a true multicultural melting pot. Around 15 per cent of the city’s residents were born overseas, and in recent years migrants from India, Italy, Afghanistan, the Middle East and Africa have added to the city’s cultural diversity — and its array of restaurants. We couldn’t go past the deliciously aromatic Indian Lounge. The truly epic menu of Punjabi delights goes on for pages. It’s also very good value for money (a generously-sized main course will set you back around just $15). Try the beef Madras with its melt-in-the mouth morsels of beef in coconut curry sauce, or the tasty chicken saag with succulent chicken in a creamy spinach and ginger sauce.
Winemakers were drawn to the fertile soils of the Goulburn Valley in the late 1800s, and today the region is dotted with boutique wineries. Located in Dookie (30 minutes’ drive east of Shepparton), family-run Tallis Wines produces small quantities of handcrafted shiraz, nebbiolo, merlot, viognier and riesling. The bold Silent Showman Shiraz Viognier presents a palate of red cherry, plum and spices, while the late harvest riesling will please those with a bit of a sweet tooth. Enjoy an informative tasting at the cellar door, then pick a bottle and settle in to graze on a hearty tasting platter of local cheeses, meats and dips; all while drinking in the panoramic scenery.
Back in town, there’s an easy way to sample wines from across northern Victoria. Visit Phillips Cellars and Regional Wine Centre, where around 50 of the region’s wines are available.
Back in 2014, the third-generation fruit growing Morey family was looking for a way to use leftover apples from their harvests. They decided to give cider-making a go and the Cheeky Grog Co was born. Today they produce around 30 different varieties of cider from their home-grown fruit. You can buy direct from the characterful cidery at Bunbartha — just a short drive north of Shepparton. The champagne-inspired Grannies That Pop or the light and refreshing Perry Pear are highlights. Order a tasting paddle and you be the judge. A chilled cider goes down very well with the scrumptious woodfired pizzas on the Cheeky Eats menu.
Shepparton’s agricultural and social history is showcased at the Shepparton Heritage Centre, which occupies the oldest surviving building in the city. Don’t be fooled by the tiny exterior of this TARDIS-like museum. Inside, there are six exhibition rooms packed with a vast collection of vehicles, machinery, farming equipment and military artefacts from the city’s past. One of the most popular exhibits is the original clock from the town’s 1882 post office. Plans are afoot to build a replica of the post office, and reinstate the clock in its original spot.
In what is a truly inspiring example of land regeneration, the Greater Shepparton City Council is gradually transforming a former landfill site south of the city into a stunning native botanic garden. The Australian Botanic Gardens Shepparton was first established in 2011 and will only get more beautiful over time. The 22-hectare gardens showcase a wide variety of native Australian plants, including the silver banksia/honeysuckle (native to the region). The developing gardens are helping to protect some rare and threatened Australian plant species, while also providing a habitat for birdlife. A recent bird count recorded more than one hundred different species in the gardens.
Road transport is the backbone of agriculture in the Goulburn Valley, and the region’s motoring history has previously been on display at the popular Shepparton Motor Museum. Currently closed for renovation and the building of a major extension, the facility will re-open in mid to late 2021 as the Museum of Vehicle Evolution (M-O-V-E) — and there’s no doubt its collection of classic cars and trucks will continue to pull the crowds. But the new museum won’t just be for motoring enthusiasts. It will also exhibit the Loel Thomson vintage clothing collection, which consists of nearly 10,000 items (some dating as far back as the First Fleet). This one-of-a-kind cache of garments has been gathered over more than 40 years and provides a fascinating rear view of Australian fashion trends.
Fruit picking has long been one of this region’s major enterprises, and you can have a go at the Belstack Strawberry Farm in Kialla — just a short drive from the centre of Shepparton. Grab a basket and head for the organic strawberry patches to fossick for fresh, juicy berries. You pay by weight and take home what you pick. Refuel at the onsite cafe with a strawberry sundae or milkshake, or layer home-made strawberry jam over fresh scones as you down a yummy Devonshire tea.
Quality Hotel Parklake Shepparton is situated in the heart of Shepparton, directly opposite picturesque Victoria Park and its namesake lake. The hotel boasts a wide range of modern, comfortable room types, all of which come with a large flat-screen TV and free Wi-Fi. With options ranging from standard double and twin rooms, to suites, family rooms and luxury apartments, there’s sure to be an accommodation option to suit your needs. The hotel’s restaurant and bar are open seven days a week from breakfast until late, and the fitness centre will help you stay in shape while on the road.
For more information, visit www.visitshepparton.com.au.
Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the best things to do in Shepparton? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
Louise Reynolds made up her mind at the age of about four that she would one day travel the world — and has so far visited around 30 countries across five continents and the Pacific. A hopeless Francophile, she has a particular love for France, its language and pretty much all things French. Louise’s favourite way to see the world is on foot and her boots have taken her walking on famous trails in Europe, South America and New Zealand. She also has a passion for her home state of Victoria and loves exploring its diverse regions.