The Bridge Hotel
Many people don't realize that there are a lot of hotels and country pubs in Australia that offer free or low-cost camping on or near their property. The Bridge Hotel in Jingellic is one of them. Jingellic is a small country town nestled on the New South Wales side of the Murray River and at the foot of the Snowy Mountains. The campground itself is positioned nicely between the mighty Murray and The Bridge Hotel. It is grassy and well maintained. It is easy to get caravans and camper trailers in and out and plenty of room for tents. The local Border Collie dog, Misty, is generally around to give you a warm welcome when you arrive. She is owned by the hotel license holder Ian Clarkson (or Clarky as he is affectionately called by the locals). They provide bins and there is a small boat ramp there. You are allowed to have campfires but before lighting one check with the bar staff to make sure it's okay, there are different fire rules in different seasons. There are toilets that are open 24 hours a day and if you pay $4 at the bar you will receive a token for a hot shower. Your $4 token will give you around 4 minutes of hot water. This is a pet-friendly camp area and they even let you bring your pets into the outdoor seating area of the pub. For those of you who are used to camping on the Murray in the Northern Victorian regions of Cobram, Yarrawonga, Echuca and surrounds you will be very interested in how different the river looks when it is freshly running off the mountains in Jingellic. The Murray's water in Northern Victoria is wider, muddier and has a lot more clay. In Jingellic the water is fresh and cold, it is almost crystal clear and the riverbed is lined with sand and rocks. There are rapids and deep branches of water and you can still go fishing and catch a good sized Murray cod or a yellow-belly. There is a gate in the corner of the campground that gives you access to shallower parts of the river and fishing spots, there are cows in the paddock behind this gate so be careful if you are taking your dog with you. Farmers do not appreciate their stock being chased by dogs. It is absolutely free to camp at Jingellic but most people will find themselves spending money at the bar, buying a meal or paying for a shower. We look at it this way, we could pay to stay in a caravan park but we like visiting pubs so we would probably go looking for the nearest pub anyway or we could free camp at a pub and spend the money we would have spent on park fees at the bar. At least this way we are helping support the local businesses and community. Another positive is that it is only a short walk down the hill back to your camp from the hotel, so there is no need for a designated driver. If you want to experience a true Aussie country pub and a real small Snowy Mountain town then this is the place to go.
Attractions Around Jingellic
The town of Jingellic is really pretty but hasn't got much to offer besides the river. It has the hotel of course and also a nice general store. The nearest town of Walwa also has a pub and a unique general store, which is worth stopping at if you are hungry.
Paddy's River Falls
Paddy's River Falls are about 50 minutes from Jingellic and are worth driving out to. The road there is an easy drive and it is a very short walk from the car park to the viewing area. The Paddy's River region also offers some of the best free camp sites we have seen, they are well maintained and have running water, barbecue areas, bins and clean toilets.
To get to Paddy's River you need to drive through the main town of Tumbarumba (affectionately called 'Tumba' by the locals). Tumba is a town with character and its spunk made me smile the instant that I saw it. It offers a couple of good pubs, a supermarket, a laundromat, a camping store, a petrol station and almost any other item you might want you would find there. There is a nice winery just outside Tumba that is open for wine tasting on the weekends.
Bluff Falls is also really lovely but the drive there and the walk to see the falls is a little more treacherous than it is at Paddy's River. If you're not into four-wheel driving then I suggest you follow the main road to the falls. For those of you who like the bumps, the four-wheel drive tracks are fun but are not well maintained so make sure you are prepared for real four-wheel driving before you go that way. We ended up with our big stick through side step. Upon arriving at Bluff Falls there is a bit of a track to walk before you'll see them. In the Summer months, you may find only a small amount of water there but if there has been some recent rain they are brilliant. You can walk into the icy, clean waters but the rocky bottom can be hard to navigate so I'd only suggest this for fit and agile people. The surrounding rocky cliffs and lush forest is a welcome sight.
Corryong is on the Victorian side of the river and if you are a Man From Snowy River fan then this is the town to visit. This small town was the home of the man who they claim was the 'real' Man From Snowy River, Jack Riley. There is a museum there which is run by volunteers and costs $5 per head for entry, it gives some interesting information on the story of Jack Riley and tells the history of the mountain men, Corryong and The Snowy Mountains. Jack Riley's grave lies in the cemetery at Corryong and there are a few interesting shops and cafes there. If you want a Man From Snowy River style leather stockman's hat or belt or a printed story on Jack Riley then head to the information center. They are very helpful there.
Be polite and respect the locals, in country towns like this they respect people who respect them and their local area. Keep your campsite clean and don't make trouble. They are more than happy to have tourists there and will be interested in hearing your travel stories when you get there. The best place to meet the other campers and the locals is in the bar at The Bridge Hotel. Jingellic and surrounds gets very, very cold in winter so if you go at that time of year take plenty of warm clothing and take some dry firewood with you. During Summer, it is sunny and warm but cooler at night. Respect the Murray River for all of its beauty and glory but be careful, if you swim in any part of this river remember that there are many who have lost their lives in its strong currents or been caught by the hidden underwater snags. If you are going fishing know your seasons and size limits for our native fish, only take what you are allowed and if you are not going to eat it release it. If you go for a drive through the Snowy Mountain roads look out for wildlife especially wild horses (or brumbies). Brumbies still roam the bush and the mountains and many travelers have come to grief by hitting or trying to avoid hitting a brumby. They are large, heavy animals and it never ends well when they come in contact with cars. The road is long so top up your fuel before you leave, in Winter expect snow and ice on the roads and be prepared for long windy roads and thick bushland. It was one of the most scenic drives we have been on so far. You know a place is special when you have been traveling around Australia for four months and you tell almost every fellow traveler you meet about this great camp spot you've been to. For us, Jingellic is one of those places. Check it out.