11 Fun Things To Do In Swan Hill, Victoria

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Going on a Swan Hill trip and want to know all the fun things to do in Swan Hill, Victoria? We have you covered! Below you will find our guide to all the best tourist attractions in Swan Hill, Victoria to plan your ultimate trip.

Swan Hill is a fun, tourist-friendly city on the banks of the Murray River just under four hours drive from Melbourne. It’s not as well known or popular as Echuca or Mildura which means it was one of the last Murray River towns I visited. However, just because it took me awhile to come here, doesn’t mean it’s not worth a visit.

The population of this charming town sits around 10,000 making it a perfect spot for those looking for a relaxed, rural atmosphere.

There is a lot to like about Swan Hill. There’s a great open-air museum at the Pioneer Settlement and a reasonable range of attractions and fun things to do in the area. Swan Hill is also a wine region with chardonnay, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon being particularly popular.

But what really makes Swan Hill stand out as a tourist destination is its rich history and culture. The town has a deep connection to the Murray River, and visitors can learn about the area’s Indigenous history at the Swan Hill Regional Arts Centre. Or you can explore the Pioneer Settlement, a living museum where you can experience the lifestyle and culture of early settlers.

Swan Hill
Swan Hill

For families, there are also some great Big4 accommodation options which make holidays tons of fun. We had a great stay here with our kids.

When it comes to weather, Swan Hill enjoys hot summers and mild winters, making it a great destination year-round. The warm climate is ideal for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and enjoy the great outdoors. Whether it’s fishing, boating or just lounging by the river, there’s plenty to do and enjoy, although note that in the middle of summer, it can be HOT.

Overall, Swan Hill is a hidden gem in Victoria, perfect for those looking to get away from it all and experience a different way of life. Whether you’re interested in history, nature, or just some peace and quiet, you’ll find it all here.

Below, you will find everything you need to know about all the best Swan Hill things to do including exactly what to do in Swan Hill, Victoria as well as where to stay in Swan Hill, how to get there, information about visiting Swan Hill with kids and more for your ultimate holiday!


Top 11 Fun Things To Do In Swan Hill, Victoria

Here are the best things to do around Swan Hill. Read through and select the ones that fit your interests and timeframe.

Live The Past At The Pioneer Settlement

Pioneer Settlement from Gem paddle steamer
Pioneer Settlement from Gem paddle steamer

The Pioneer Settlement is the number one must visit attraction in Swan Hill. It’s the perfect way to learn the history of the area while having fun.

It is a re-creation of a typical 19th-century Murray River town during the paddle-steamer era (1830 to 1930) when Swan Hill was at its peak. The buildings and exhibits have been carefully restored to give visitors a sense of what life was like during the early days of European settlement in the area.

It’s fun to walk around and explore with a collection of original and replica buildings including a church, a schoolhouse, bakery and a blacksmith shop. The buildings have been furnished with authentic period pieces giving visitors an accurate and in-depth look at the lifestyle of early settlers.

They also have demonstrations to show how things were done. It’s interesting and engaging. Of course, a favourite of ours was definitely the old fashioned general store and the kids loved experiencing the old classroom. You can shop at a couple of the stores.

There are also many displays and exhibits including farm machinery, old carriages and buggies and the restored PS Gem riverboat. This riverboat was my favourite part. It was cool to be able to walk onboard and explore it especially as it seemed like most people didn’t realise it was there so we had it to ourselves.

Pioneer Settlement Swan Hill
Pioneer Settlement

To add to the experience, The Pioneer Settlement also has a collection of costumed guides who are knowledgeable and willing to answer questions. They also organise activities, events and demonstrations throughout the year including school programs, music festivals and even 19th-century weddings.

We also all loved the demonstrations. The wood turning and blacksmith was particularly a hit. The blacksmith made each of the kids a nail which they strangely treasure and they can’t wait until they are older to do wood work and metal work at high school now!

I recommend you take a look at the latest activity schedule before you visit so you can plan your visit accordingly.

There are also included rides in old cars or in a horse carriage. We went in both which were fun, although I had expected some information while touring which there wasn’t.

Overall, the Pioneer Settlement is an incredible place to visit, not just for history buffs, but for anyone interested in experiencing a different way of life. The museum provides a unique and immersive look at the past and is a great way to learn about the history and culture of the Murray River region. 

The way it is set out and all the different things to see and do also make it great for kids. I highly recommend a visit to this unique and fascinating museum to anyone looking for things to see in Swan Hill.

There is an entry fee and you can buy tickets on arrival. They last for two days. More ticket information is here.

We spent a few hours here. We arrived around 12pm which wasn’t the best timing as things shut down over lunch. By 1pm, everything was ramped up though. There is a cafe on-site for lunch if you are here then.

See The Spectacular Heartbeat of the Murray

Heartbeat of the Murray theatre
Heartbeat of the Murray theatre

Most evenings at dusk, the Heartbeat of the Murray (soon to be changed to a new show), a 360-degree multimedia show, is shown on the banks of the Murray River in the Pioneer Settlement’s purpose-built theatre. It uses state of the art technology with water, light, laser, sound and special effects to tell the history and story of this area from 30 million years ago to today.

Between the nine metre high water screen, the original soundtrack, the lasers, lights and everything, it’s an incredibly engaging way to learn more about this area that we thoroughly enjoyed.

Because we were here in summer, the show was quite late for my six year old, but I am glad we made the effort as he loved it.

Booking ahead is essential and you can buy tickets at the Pioneer Settlement with more information in the link above. There are discounts if you buy tickets to both this and the Pioneer Settlement or this and the cruise coming up. It’s definitely one of the top things to do at Swan Hill, and I highly recommend you attend this show.

Hop On A Murray River Cruise Via PS Pyap

PS Pyap
PS Pyap

The PS Pyap is a fully restored paddle steamer that takes you on a journey along the Murray River from the Pioneer Settlement. It’s the perfect way to see more of the area while experiencing the paddle steaming past of the Swan Hill area.

The PS Pyap has a long history having been built at Mannum in South Australia in 1896. She is nearly 30 metres long by 4.8 metres wide but can float in less than a metre of water.

She started life as a floating general store in the lower Murray River travelling around 500 kilometres a week while stopping at small towns and farm stations with the crew sleeping on the top deck.

Today, you can take a one hour cruise on this beauty. It departs daily on weekdays and twice daily on weekends and in school holidays. In February, it is not available as maintenance takes place. Booking ahead is recommended. Snacks and drinks are available on board.

Explore Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery

Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery
Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery

Moments from the Pioneer Settlement, this gallery is one of the Swan Hill tourist activities you won’t want to miss. 

It started life in 1966 and moved into its current home in 1987. It’s home to an impressive collection of art including works by local, national and international artists with a focus on local and contemporary artists. There are always new and exciting exhibitions on display, featuring a variety of mediums such as paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings. 

You’ll also find a great collection of Indigenous art, showcasing the rich cultural heritage of the region among the 300 permanent pieces of the collection. There are also many temporary exhibits throughout the year.

It’s especially known for naive art, having Australia’s most comprehensive collection.

In addition to the art itself, it seems like there is always something on at this gallery. There are guided tours, school holiday programs, workshops, artist talks and more. We attended a school holiday workshop when we were here which was lots of fun for the kids.

Find more information on their website.

Take A Swan Hill River Walk

Swan Hill River Walk
Swan Hill River Walk

This one of the Swan Hill things to see is a scenic trail that runs along the Murray and Little Murray Rivers for 4.5 kilometres. It’s a great way to experience the natural beauty of the region while taking in the sights and sounds of the local wildlife and getting some exercise.

It’s an easy walk, well maintained and offers information boards along the way so you can learn more about the local flora, fauna, fish and the pioneer history of this area as well as its 13,000 year indigenous past with the Wati-Wati and Wemba-Wemba people.

A particularly interesting point along the way is the Lift Bridge which dates back to 1896. It was designed so that it could be raised when paddle steamers needed to go through. It was the first of its kind on the Murray.

It starts at Milloo Street Wetlands and runs down to Pental Island Bridge and you can access it anywhere along the way. Riverside Park in the middle can be a good access point.

There are picnic and BBQ areas including in Riverside Park. This park has some great playgrounds if you are travelling with kids. We had a great time taking this walk and playing in the park.

Take A Snap Of The Giant Murray Cod

Murray Cod Swan Hill

If you love taking photos of Australia’s never ending collection of BIG things, you’ll want to stop by the Giant Murray Cod.

This large sculpture of a Murray Cod fish is made from fibreglass and stands at approximately 6 meters tall and 11 meters long. It’s the symbol of the region and is definitely worth adding to your list of things to do in Swan Hill Australia. It’ll only take a moment to enjoy it and snap a photo.

The giant Murray Cod is designed to represent the iconic Murray River and its historical significance to the local area including to the local indigenous populations who have a deep spiritual connection to the river and its fish. 

The Murray Cod is an important species of fish that is native to the Murray River and is a symbolic animal of the area.

The giant Murray Cod is located in the town’s main street and is near many other landmarks, shops, and eateries, making it an easy destination to add to your itinerary when you’re visiting Swan Hill. 

Visit The Swan Hill Town Hall

Swan Hill Town Hall
Swan Hill Town Hall

The Swan Hill Town Hall is a beautiful and historic building in the heart of Swan Hill. Opened in 1935, this building has wonderful art deco designs throughout including a beautiful staircase, theatre and a ballroom.

It underwent a major renovation in the 1990s and today is solely dedicated to the performing arts. You can easily attend a show when you’re in town or you can book a guided tour to take a look around.

There is more information on their website.

Camp At Nyah-Vinifera Park

About 32 kilometres northwest of town is Nyah-Vinifera Park. This is the perfect place to add to your what to do in Swan Hill Vic list if you love nature and want to get away from it all. 

The forests here cover 1,000 hectares along the Murray River with lagoons, billabongs and old red gums adding to the ambience. It’s perfect for nature lovers and birdwatchers.

It’s a popular camping spot with many of the campsites offering views of the Murray. There’s also some great fishing and key indigenous historical sites of the Wadi Wadi people including burial grounds and middens. Look out for wildlife as you walk around.

There are trails and some great picnic spots as well as a boat ramp, toilets, showers, fire pits and a camp kitchen. Families will love the playground. A small general store is also on site for essentials.

Overall, Nyah-Vinifera Park is a great place to visit for campers or day trippers who want to enjoy the beauty of the Murray River and the surrounding bushland. The park offers a range of activities and facilities, making it a perfect spot for families, couples, friends or solo travelers.

Have A Picnic At Lake Boga

Lake Boga
Lake Boga

Once you’ve visited the things to do Swan Hill offers, it’s time to visit Lake Boga, about 15 kilometres southwest.

This popular freshwater lake offers camping, fishing and other water activities. There is a small town here, although it’s likely the lake itself (and the upcoming museum) are what you’ll want to experience.

There are some nice picnic areas, a trail around the lake and the Cannie Ridge Steam Pump to check out. Ducks, pelicans and other water birds are common here.

If you are in Swan Hill for more than a couple of days, definitely add Lake Boga to your list of things to do in Swan Hill and surrounds or you can also visit it on your way into or out of town if you are heading from/to Melbourne/Bendigo area as you’ll drive straight past it.

Check Out The Flying Boat Museum

Flying Boat Museum at Lake Boga near Swan Hill
Flying Boat Museum

Perhaps the most compelling reason to visit Lake Boga is its interesting history which you can discover at the Flying Boat Museum. This is both a memorial to those who worked on and with Catalina Flying Boats in WWII and also a museum to tell this part of the region’s history. It’s a very engaging museum.

This area was home to the secret No.1 Flying Boat Repair Depot at Lake Boga during World War II from 1941 to 1947. Today, this museum has over 500 artefacts related to this time. This includes the rebuilt A24-30 aircraft on display as well as the Communications Bunker. This was painstakingly restored by the local Lions Club using original plans and photographs so we can see what it was like during wartime.

In this museum, you’ll learn about the history of the Catalina flying boats and their role in the war. This includes detailed information about their design, construction and operation. On entry, there is an introduction video as to why this site came into being, what happened here and more which is well worth watching before exploring the rest of the museum. When we visited, the staff also gave us an introduction to everything.

There are also photographs and personal stories that provide a deeper understanding of the history of these amazing aircraft and what went on at Lake Boga at this time. You also can take a glimpse inside the restored A24-30 aircraft. Kids will love the chance to try on some military outfits and sit in a jeep.

Just outside, you can enter the Communications bunker and learn more about this side of the site. My kids also enjoyed writing and tapping out their own moarse code messages here.

The Flying Boat Museum is a great destination for history buffs, aviation enthusiasts and anyone interested in learning more about the role that flying boats played in World War II. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the past that you won’t find anywhere else, and I found this smaller museum very well presented. The staff are also helpful and great.

I highly recommend visiting the Flying Boat Museum when you’re in Lake Boga or the Swan Hill area.

Inside the Flying Boat Museum at Lake Boga
Inside the Flying Boat Museum

Taste Wine At Andrew Pearce

About 40 kilometres northwest of Swan Hill is Andrew Pearce Wines. Open weekdays and Saturday afternoons, you can easily visit to taste some of the best wines this region has to offer.

Their wines have won many awards and can be very affordable. There are sparking, white, rose and red options so you are sure to find something you’ll like.

It’s one of Australia’s largest family owned wineries crushing around 43,000 tonnes of grapes per year. In fact, it’s one of Australia’s biggest wine exporters.

The best part about this is that they are committed to sustainability. They re-use all their water, have solar energy and plant many trees on their property.

You can find out more information on their website.

Swan Hill Attractions Map

You can find all the things to do in Swan Hill Vic on the map below including the accommodation options coming up.

Things To Do In Swan Hill map
Clicking the map will open this map in Google Maps where you can get exact directions to each location in this article.

Best Place To Stay In Swan Hill

When it comes to where to stay in Swan Hill, there is a decent range of motels in the city centre as well as caravan parks, although it is lacking some really great options. No matter what your budget, your holiday style or who you are travelling with, you’ll easily find a good place to stay.  

Below I’ve listed a few different places to consider including a value, mid-range and the best option.

BEST – Burke And Wills Motor Inn Swan Hill Review

Located a short walk from Pioneer Settlement and the Giant Murray Cod, the location of this motel is fantastic. It’s easy to access all the shops, cafes and restaurants. But it’s also far enough away that it’s nice and quiet at night, so you can get a good night’s sleep.

When it comes to the rooms, there are a variety of options available. There are twin and king rooms as well as one bedroom apartments for those who like to self-cater. Families will love the family options that cater for up to five people. Rooms are clean, comfortable and come with everything you could need including a small fridge, flat-screen TV and tea and coffee making facilities. 

There is also a two-bedroom house option with a yard for a real home-away-from-home experience.

One of the things that I like most about the Burke and Wills Motor Inn are the facilities. There’s a pool, which is perfect for a refreshing dip on a hot day, and a bar and breakfast service. The reception staff are also really friendly and helpful. The only thing missing is access to a washing machine.

Overall, the Burke and Wills Motor Inn is a solid 4-star option in Swan Hill great for anyone visiting Swan Hill. The location is perfect, the rooms are comfortable and the facilities are great.

Click here for the latest prices.

MID-RANGE – Travellers Rest Motor Inn Swan Hill Review

The Travellers Rest Motor Inn is a very easy place to stay. Located a quick and easy walk from the Town Hall, you can be at all the main attractions in Swan Hill within minutes and there are plenty of restaurants nearby. However, the location is also its downside and it can be noisy here from the main road and a nearby pub.

When it comes to the rooms, there are a variety of options available including twin, queen, king and a family option. The rooms are clean and comfortable, albeit a little outdated. They come with a small fridge, tea and coffee making facilities and guest toiletries. The rooms also have flatscreen TVs with a good selection of channels to watch. You can also choose to book a room with a spa bath.

For a cheaper option, it’s great that the Travellers Rest Motor Inn has a lovely saltwater pool which is perfect for a refreshing dip on a hot day and it can be quite hot in Swan Hill. There is also a BBQ area which is great for some yummy self-catering. They also have free Wi-Fi and parking.

Overall, the location is great, the rooms are comfortable and the facilities help make this a great place to stay. The only downside is the noise from the pub on weekends.

Click here for the latest prices.

VALUE – BIG4 Swan Hill Review

Big4 Swan Hill is a great option for people who love great value when they travel or have a couple of kids in tow. We have stayed here with our kids and it makes for a great family holiday.

It’s located about two kilometres from the centre of town so it’s not as central as the other options here, but it’s also very quick and easy to get everywhere. 

When it comes to the accommodation options, there is a great range available. The cabins range from studios to three bedrooms for up to eight people. We stayed in a two bedroom villa which had everything we needed from a fully equipped kitchen to bedding for up to six people. The air conditioning was great in the hot summer. The downside was that the kitchen wasn’t as clean as I would like and the toilet seat was broken. Next time, I’ll pay more for a better cabin.

They also have powered and unpowered sites for tents, motorhomes and caravans. They have options for those looking for luxury like spa cabins or for family accommodation like deluxe family cabins.

One of the things that I liked most about the Big4 Swan Hill was the facilities. They have a great swimming pool, a Splash Park which is basically a water playground for preschoolers, a playground, toddler playroom, games room, bike track, a camp kitchen and a BBQ area. There are also many other facilities (like mini golf) so you are sure to have a good time here. In the school holidays, there’s also an activity program.

Overall, we had a fantastic stay at Big4 Swan Hill and I’d definitely recommend it to any families visiting the area. There was just so much to do right on site and we had so much fun.

Click here for the latest prices or here to read our full review.

Pioneer Settlement Swan Hill
Pioneer Settlement

How To Get To Swan Hill

It’s easy to get to Swan Hill by train or car. If you have your own car, great! You are good to go. This is the best way to get here as you’ll want a car to explore once you arrive. It takes just under four hours (depending on traffic) from the centre of Melbourne.

You can hire a car to get you there by clicking here.

It’s also possible to take a train to Swan Hill via Bendigo. It’s nice and easy but takes around 4.75 hours. You can find timetables here.

Swan Hill With Kids

Enjoying a Chinese lantern making class at the Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery
Enjoying a Chinese lantern making class at the Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery

If you are visiting Swan Hill with kids, great! This is a fabulous destination for families with plenty of fun, low-key things to do.

My list above may have been specifically written for adults but it could just as easy be a things to do in Swan Hill for kids list as I visited all these attractions with my kids.

They particularly enjoyed the Spectacular Heartbeat of the Murray show and we went to a great school holiday workshop at the Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery. Make sure you check out what is on before you go as that was a lot of fun.

They also loved Big4 Swan Hill and could have spent all day at the pool. Riverside Park is also a hit with a very cool slide and flying foxes.

Pool area at Big4 Swan Hill
Pool area at Big4 Swan Hill

Final Words

Swan Hill is a great place to visit an easy drive from Melbourne. It has a good range of attractions and accommodation which makes a stay here easy, and we had a lot of fun.

While it doesn’t have the star factor of Echuca, it is a great place to visit and I’m sure we’ll be back.

Travelling along the Murray? Check out our guides to Mildura here and Echuca here. You can also read more guides to popular places in Victoria here.

By Anne Sutherland-Smith

Anne Sutherland-Smith is the founder of the Pretraveller and Everywhere Australia blogs which focus on travel planning. Anne has extensively explored her home country of Australia. As a result, she writes from personal experience to help others plan their Australian trips.