For New Year’s Eve 2013, my friends and I set out to Tocumwal, a three-hour drive north of Melbourne. Toks is on the Victorian/New South Wales border. The rural town is on the bank of the mighty Murray River.
The main attraction is of course, the river. Camping on the river is free. And river sports including jet skiing, fishing and motor boating are popular. For those who prefer land-based activities, there is bush walking, mountain biking, golfing and lawn bowling. The option of doing nothing is also appealing for Toks boasts a number of river beaches. All of this is truly excellent, in theory.
In practice however, every man and his boat is here too. And they have been here for weeks, maybe even months. Decked out with fully-equipped kitchens and even couches (!), they will be eating prawns as you eat your Tasty Bites and dehydrated peas. You will be camping bumper to bumper if you want a riverside spot. Forget sleep as groups of p-platers blast out tunes from their car radios at all hours of the night. This is not just on New Year’s Eve by the way; it’s any random night during the holiday period.
On the night of the 30th, there was a competition for public nuisance of the year. Multiple groups participated. There was a mix of doof doof music, cheesy karaoke and simply the radio blaring from all directions. It got louder as the night went on. At 2am, the random fireworks started. At 3am, we politely asked our closest offending neighbour to turn it down. They did so but the music didn’t stop, merging into the sounds of birds singing, babies crying and unmuffled V8s revving. By morning, we were not sure if we slept at all.
Luckily if you’re looking for a different kind of serenity, you don’t have to rule out Toks completely. Toks is a pretty town with lots of cultural and historic sites. Its inactive train station (now a small museum) is picture perfect and could be a set for a period drama. There are a few nice pubs with beer gardens. All the locals we met (from the bakery, the butchers and the visitor centre) were all very friendly. Try staying at a B&B or a caravan park in town during non-peak holiday periods. It’s close enough to the river and will hopefully filter out the undesirables.