Culture, creativity and country cool: that’s Albury-Wodonga for you. These days it’s far removed from just a Hume Highway stopover on the way to somewhere else, with many attractions enticing visitors to linger.
Straddling the meandering Murray River, on the border of NSW and Victoria, the twin cities of Albury-Wodonga are a gourmet goldmine, cultural hub and water lovers’ playground, with wineries and snowfields nearby.
The energy-charged Flying Fruit Fly Circus, where ordinary kids do extraordinary things, HotHouse Theatre – which stages dynamic productions – and the impressive Murray Art Museum Albury (MAMA) call it home.
For a look back in time, the Bonegilla Migrant Experience provides an evocative interpretation of what camp life was like for the 300,000 migrants who lived there between 1947 and 1971.
Love the water? Then head to Lake Hume or the Murray for fun water sports activities, and make sure you pack your bike or hire one to discover the 50km of cycling trails. Albury-Wodonga is a perfect country escape.
Best hotels: Albury-Wodonga
When it comes to bunkering down there is plenty of choice for accomodation in Albury, with more than 60 hotels, motels, cabins, apartments, rural escapes and B&Bs.
Hotels include the Atura Albury, which boasts an urban-warehouse look and an eclectic art collection. It’s a short stroll from Albury Botanic Gardens and within reach of many gourmet gems. Bike hire is complimentary, and there are 50km of trails around Albury to explore.
Quest Albury on Townsend is centrally located in the historic Farmers & Graziers Woolstore, and has 74 self-catering apartments, plus a gym and a pantry shopping service. Sister property Quest Albury on Kiewa Street has 104 rooms, studios and apartments. Sink into a Chesterfield at Q Manhattans Restaurant & Tapas Bar on the ground floor for a Mrs French Martini and tapas to share. Across in Wodonga’s Huon Hill, Quest Wodonga also has 79 serviced apartments.
Mantra Albury Hotel
Mantra Albury Hotel has 146 spacious rooms and suites, a restaurant and bar, executive lounge and gym.
Prefer B&Bs? Check out the Stone Cottage, a comfortable, heritage-listed cottage built by the Frauenfelder family in the 1850s. Alternatively, Waverley Bed & Breakfast is a stately Victorian home that retains the charm of yesteryear.
Best restaurants: Albury-Wodonga
The River Deck
Dining is an adventure in Albury-Wodonga, with a vibrant food scene on both sides of the border. Albury’s The River Deck on the Murray at Noreuil Park is where Belgian-born restaurateur Alex Smit and Mauritian head chef Ludo Baulacky serve regional produce with an interesting spin.
Tim Tehan’s Canvas Eatery at the rear of Albury’s MAMA Art Museum serves leisurely breakfast, lunch, dinner and cocktails on the terrace – the Canvas Cosmo is a hit!
Bistro Selle on Olive Street is one of the best restaurants in Albury; an intimate European-style bistro, it’s owned by Matthew Fuller, with great tastes created by head chef Tara Davis.
Miss Amelie located in Wodonga’s old railway station has an intriguing story that inspired its name: owner and chef David Kapay once met a whimsical Amelie on a French-Swiss train, and paid tribute to her. He wows diners with a modern contemporary take on European classics, while his signature lemon souffle is legendary.
For amazing street food head to Andiamo at Junction Place Wodonga, where Farrah Reid and Andrea Burgio tempt tastebuds with Italian and Mexican-inspired nibbles, as well as making great gelato.
Best bars and cafés: Albury-Wodonga
At Albury Brewhouse, 618 Dean Street, the Monument Hill Lager and Murray Gold are standouts.
Piccolo Pod Coffee
In Albury, drop into Piccolo Pod Coffee at 548 Stanley Street, where you’ll find freshly roasted brews at a big city pace. Wodonga’s Piccolo Pod at Junction Place, a busy open-air complex that’s fast becoming the hub of Wodonga, also has a great reputation in the coffee stakes.
Brothers Cup at 6/39 Union Road, North Albury, is another coffee lovers’ paradise – the home-made jelly slice also has lots of fans. Ebden & Olive is great spot for a caffeine hit and a delicious treat any time of day.
Two Fingers Gentlemen’s Barbershop & Bar
For a sip of a different kind, venture to Two Fingers Gentlemen’s Barbershop & Bar at 464 Smollett Street, Albury. Coffee and cake are served during the day plus haircuts and beard trims, while at night it’s all about whisky.
Wodonga’s Goods Shed Craft Beer Café
Beer lovers are spoilt at Wodonga’s Goods Shed Craft Beer Café, which is housed in a former railway shed built in the 1870s. Beers range from clean and fresh pilsners through to dark, chocolatey stouts.
For Scandinavian treats, try Ebden Street’s Nord Bakery, where Thor Sonnichsen and Filippa Nilsson serve delicious Danish pastries, Swedish cinnamon scrolls, almond croissants and sourdoughs, made with Nordic love.