For anyone considering an Australian road-trip, the first thing you’ll discover is that driving from Melbourne to Sydney or vice versa makes for a very long day.
The drive is nearly nine hours of dodging kangaroos on the road and literally counting sheep (to fall asleep if you’re a passenger, or, if you’re the one driving, to keep yourself entertained!).
Though thankfully, there is an easy way to avoid driver fatigue.
The solution is Albury.
To our surprise, for a city known as a convenient overnight stay, Albury proved to be far more than the quick stopover point we thought it was.
What we found was a city where the great Australian bush and meets modern urban sophistication. Where we stayed was the stunning Mantra Albury Hotel.
Mantra Albury Hotel: A Sophisticated Stop Between Melbourne and Sydney
Albury very well could have become Australia’s capital: perfectly located nearly halfway between Melbourne and Sydney, straddling the border of Victoria and NSW where they meet at the Murray River.
Why Australia went ahead and built a new city from scratch (Canberra) is a very good question, especially when you had a perfectly good city in Albury. When the idea was floated of making Albury the capital it sadly only received the support of a single member of parliament.
Ironically, we ourselves were traveling from Melbourne to Canberra, a destination that would have never existed had Albury seen more support back in the day. We decided to take a closer look at Albury and its twin city located just across the Murray River.
Not only would this break up the long drive, but would also allow us to see why this once small town has been receiving a lot of attention lately.
Mantra Albury Hotel
One of the freshest things to hit Albury in years, we chose the Mantra Albury Hotel due to its location: from the front door you’re literally just steps away from Albury’s top attractions such as Monument Hill, the Botanic Gardens, and Murray Art Museum Albury (MAMA).
The visually appealing hotel is hard to miss as you come into town, just off the Hume Highway less than 2km once you cross over the Murray River into NSW from Victoria.
Australian capital city class meets small town hospitality and charm at the Mantra Albury. The only thing that outshines the crisp, classy exterior and interior decor is the extremely helpful and welcoming staff.
We found this level of warmth throughout our time in Albury, which must be a sign of how content the residents are.
Whether you’re a solo business traveler or enjoying a small family getaway, the hotel easily accommodates with a range of studio rooms and suites.
We found ourselves in one of the suites which offered ample space to spread out and a lovely kitchenette that would come in handy for extended stays. There are plenty of great restaurants nearby including the onsite La Tierra Restaurant, but it’s always nice to prepare or heat up a quick snack or lunch right from your room.
The floor to ceiling windows allow you to take advantage of great views of the Victorian Alps. The bathroom was faultless, with a walk in shower and freestanding bath. I quickly fell in love with the tiles, and the overall impression reminded me of a luxury spa.
I give credit to the hotel’s interior designer in terms of furnishings and chosen colours, as everything just seems to work. It’s one of those rooms that just feels clean form the moment you step in, making you feel as though you should immediately take your shoes off before settling.
After a brief rest from driving it was on to check out the rest of the hotel and then onto the streets of the city for a lovely evening walk.
Photos of the Rooms
You have the option of paying a reasonable fee for secure undercover parking (note that this is limited), otherwise there is a public car park next door that is free of charge overnight.
Conference rooms can cater up to 200, making this the region’s premier corporate hotel in addition to an ultra-stylish leisure hotel. The hotel even offers a top floor Sky Lounge (for selected guests) with comfortable seating, skylights, and light refreshments.
The onsite restaurant La Tierra focuses on the Mediterranean migrant ancestry of the region, serving up dishes made with fresh produce sourced from the Albury/Wodonga region.
Meat lovers should try the incredible flame grilled lamb or rump steak cooked in a Spanish charcoal oven. Vegetarians can opt for the lovely fattoush (a Lebanese bread salad) or the elies me portokali (olive and orange salad). Of course they had me with the calamari.
Feel free to eat yourself through the menu, as the hotel offers a fully equipped gym to work off the guilt later.
Many of Albury’s best attractions can be found outdoors and all within easy reach of the hotel.
Head to the Murray River Precinct to enjoy a picnic beneath the gum trees in Noreuil Park, watching or joining paddle boarders, swimmers, and kayakers having fun in the river. Rent a bike and take to the Wagirra Trail that follows the river.
If you’re feeling hungry afterwards, you can check out The River Deck cafe which offers some of the best river views in the city. Nearby Lake Hume is a boating and fishing paradise where you can land stocked golden perch and rainbow trout.
Walk the trails around the lagoons of the Wonga Wetlands to seek out local wildlife which includes a wide variety of birds that can be spotted via the park’s bird hides. Further nature exploring can be done at Nail Can Hill or by walking up to the War Memorial located on Monument Hill.
If simply relaxing in nature is more your thing, head to the lovely Albury Botanic Gardens which offers a fun dinosaur themed playground for children along with fragrant blooms that attract all kinds of birds.
Museums and Art
Albury offers a large art scene as well as unique museums. A must visit is MAMA (Murray Art Museum Albury), which offers a large collection of contemporary art that includes paintings, sculptures, photography, and more.
The beautiful architecture of the Albury Library Museum is enough to entice you in where you will find a small museum that showcases artefacts relating to the area’s history.
Tennis legend Margaret Court grew up in Albury and artefacts from her career can be seen at the museum. Court has won more major titles than any other player in history and Melbourne’s Margaret Court Arena is of course named after her.
Learn Aboriginal history and the cultural significance of the Murray River with the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk which runs along the Murray on the Wagirra Trail. You can even purchase Aboriginal artwork at the Burraja Gallery, the only dedicated Aboriginal Arts gallery in the border region.
Immerse yourself further in Indigenous culture by visiting the Burraja Indigenous Cultural and Environmental Discovery Centre where you can learn the art of knapping (crafting stone tools), boomerang throwing, and how Aboriginals survived off the land.
Albury also offers great theatre performances and the famous Flying Fruit Fly Circus, a National Circus for young ages.
Markets and Festivals
Spring brings out the monthly QEII Twilight Markets in Albury which offers locally crafted goods, fresh local produce, delicious street food, and live music.
Select the best organic produce and freshly baked goods at the Albury Wodonga Farmers Market very Saturday which alternates its location each week between Hovell Tree Park and Gateway Village.
Get a taste of India each March with the festival of colour and love known as Holi Festival. Also in March is the annual Albury Gold Cup horseracing event.
The Botanic Gardens offer free outdoor concerts several times a year and there are always public holiday events such as Carols by Candlelight and grand New Year’s Eve celebrations.
More Than a Short Stopover
Albury definitely isn’t simply the quick stopover point we thought it was.
The sheer amount of enjoyable activities certainly warrants a return visit where we can further explore the city’s food and nightlife scene as well as take in more of the region’s vast network of hiking/biking trails.
Overall, Albury is quite a beautiful city that’s easy to navigate and stress free.
For more information on Mantra Albury Hotel (or to book) visit mantra.com.au
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