As the chill of winter gives way to spring, you’ll find plenty to do in one of our favourite regions – the Riverland.
Taking in the arts If you’re in Renmark, take in a show at the Chaffey Theatre, or join art lovers in one of the region’s galleries, including the remarkable Frank Harding collection. Rocky’s Hall of Fame Pioneer’s Museum in Barmera is a treasure trove of country music memorabilia. The 35m long guitar-shaped garden is decorated with 193 smaller cement guitars, all sporting handprints of country music stars like Slim Dusty, Troy Cassar-Daley, Ted Egan, Kasey Chambers and Beccy Cole.
Camping Keen bird-watchers can head for Gluepot Reserve, about 64km north of Waikerie. Operated by Birdlife Australia, there have been 187 species of bird recorded here, including 17 that are nationally threatened. Bush camping sites, bird hides and walking trails add to the adventure. Closer to the Murray River there are dozens of riverside camping spots among the red gums. If you prefer a few extra luxuries then pull in to one of the Riverland’s well-appointed riverfront caravan parks.
Walking Take a short stroll along the boardwalk through the reeds or head off on the full 8km circuit of Banrock Station’s rehabilitated wetland. Then enjoy a meal on the deck overlooking the whole show. For a leisurely amble along the river, try the Renmark Riverfront Town Heritage Walk. To explore the region’s Aboriginal heritage, European history, geological past and natural environment, follow one of the walking trails that start from the historic Overland Corner Hotel.
Tasting Pull in to a roadside stall for the freshest of oranges, or head for the weekly Riverland Farmers’ Market at Berri for locally produced vegetables, sauces, smallgoods, nuts and lavender products. Chocolate fans can visit Havenhand Chocolates at Waikerie where Janet and Dean Grosse use only high-quality Belgian chocolate in their range of fruit-and-nut filled delights. Sample a stout or ale on the deck at Wilkadene Woolshed Brewery via Paringa, overlooking the river. Drop in for a tasting at the award-winning 919 Wines at Berri, or warm up with a cab-sav, fortified shiraz or tawny at the Riverland’s oldest winery, Angove Family Winemakers. Top up the home cellar at the largest winery in the Southern Hemisphere, Berri Estates
Golfing With six courses, the Riverland has long been a destination for golfers. Thread a drive between the trees on Renmark’s tight fairways, take on the Brian Crafter designed greens at Loxton and hone your approach shot at Berri’s bunker flanked eighth hole. Complete your golfing getaway with rounds at the picturesque Waikerie and Barmera courses, and enjoy the Morgan-Cadell bush and scrapes course.
Paddling Take a self-guided or organised tour with Canoe the Riverland, or perhaps even paddle off on an overnight camping trip. Explore the winding waterways, billabongs and backwaters where larger boats can’t go. Embrace the serenity as you drift quietly past flocks of ducks, black swans and curious pelicans.
With so many glorious picnic spots, visitors to the Riverland are spoilt for choice. The Waikerie Riverfront Park is a picnicker’s dream with sprawling lawns, individual barbecue enclosures, an impressive sheltered playground and a communal area for family get-togethers. The modern Barmera Playspace in Sedunary Park, near Lake Bonney, is perfect for keeping the kids busy while the sausages sizzle. And if we’re talking playgrounds, the legendary Monash Adventure Park and barbecue area is king.
Touring the river with a local is the best way to get the most out of your trip. Carl Doubikin’s MV Loch Luna departs from Kingston-on-Murray for informative small group tours of the river’s nooks and crannies. The paddle steamer, PS Industry, began its career in 1911 clearing snags from the river. It was retired in the late 1960s but has since been restored and now toots along the Murray on the first Sunday of the month. Also heading out for short day trips is Rivergum Cruises, based in Waikerie. For longer journeys try River Lady Eco Cruises, departing from Renmark.
Equipped with everything and the kitchen sink, a houseboat is a great way to explore the Murray. Leave the hubbub far behind and cruise off to find your own secluded stretch of river. Throw in a line, take an invigorating dip or just soak up the views. And as the cool of night sets in, enjoy a barbie on the riverbank or slip into your on-board spa beneath a starry sky. Most Riverland towns offer public moorings, so you can head off to explore the shops, or take a taxi to a winery cellar door or golf course.
Visiting the past With its mix of original and replica buildings decked out with historic artefacts, The Village at Loxton recalls a past before Twitter and Snapchat. Morgan was the first Murray River town in SA to be connected by rail and it soon became one of the river’s busiest paddle steamer ports. Explore its restored wharf area and visit the museum in the old Landseer store. At Loveday, some evidence still remains of the internment camps where German, Italian and Japanese born residents of Australia were imprisoned during the Second World War. For an insight into this almost-forgotten chapter of SA’s history, check out the photos, artefacts and information panels at the Barmera Visitor Information Centre, and at the Cobdogla Irrigation and Steam Museum.