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Published June 10th 2017
How very spiny
In sunny far Northern Victoria, just off the Murray Valley Highway in Strathmerton, you can find one of the State's more unusual tourist attractions. Cactus Country is an amazing tribute to some of the thornier forms of earth's flora.
While there is a sign on the road, the cacti gardens are down a lane off the highway and we might have passed by had I not been reading about them in the Farm Gate Trail brochure. Ten acres of cacti certainly seemed to promise an unusual experience so we stopped to have a look.
Formerly a peach orchard, after 30 years the collection is quite staggering in its scale and the sheer variety of cacti on display.
Inside there are several Mexican/South American themed function areas and a café. Armed with a folder on the history and a map I set off to explore what must be one of the more surreal landscapes in the area. There are eight trails which are colour coded and set out by country of origin. Being set back from the highway it's eerily quiet amongst some of the towering forests.
I'm sure I'm not the first person to think that the stark landscapes would make a terrific backdrop for a movie and I have since read that the garden has featured in magazines and television productions.
It would be a totally offbeat place to have a wedding. Certainly there are plenty of scenes to delight the photographer.
I didn't have time to stop and sample the cactus ice cream and cactus cake after walking around the gardens but I would very much have liked to as they are reportedly delicious. Also on the menu are a variety of Mexican foods and a range of beverages from coffee to margaritas.
Strathmerton is approximately three hours drive from Melbourne so while you could visit for a day trip, an overnight or weekend trip would be more relaxing and allow you visit some of the other attractions around the area. The Murray River is nearby as is the Barmah National Park. Cobram, Echuca and Yarrawonga are not far away and the other spots on the Farm Gate Trail offer a range of farms to visit with varying produce such as fruits, garlic, wine and beer.
I found Cactus Country a rather unique and fascinating place to explore and experience some landscapes that I don't think you'd find anywhere else in Australia.