Here’s just one way to spend a week exploring the diversity of the mighty River Murray.
Drive south from Adelaide across Fleurieu Peninsula and in just under an hour you’ll reach Goolwa. The closest town to the mouth of the Murray is also the gateway to the Coorong National Park, a series of freshwater and saline lagoons spread over 130 kilometres that is best explored from the water, either by kayak or cruise boat.
Skirt the giant freshwater Lake Alexandrina and head to Tailem Bend, where several highways intersect on a clifftop overlooking the Murray. Explore the region’s pioneer history at Old Tailem Town then hop in the passenger seat for a few hot laps around The Bend Motorsport Park. Just up the road, Murray Bridge is home to an excellent regional gallery, the smallest cathedral in the world and an iconic hydraulic bunyip that has been thrilling kids with its roar for generations
As you head upstream, set the clock to river time and you’ll be in the right mindset for Mannum.Visit the Museum of River History then see the river aboard a restored paddle steamer, a luxurious houseboat or a kayak. Make sure you get rid of any fresh fruit and vegetables before reaching Blanchetown, which marks the official start of the Riverland. The important agricultural area is a fruit fly free zone.
Continue north past stunning limestone cliffs and stately river red gums to Morgan, where numerous warehouses and a 12 metre high wharf stand as reminders that this historic riverport was once the busiest in South Australia. Broad river frontage on a great bend in the Murray and a new playground with a replica paddle steamer make it a great place to stop for a break.
The area around Waikerie is home to a vast array of wildlife, and the town works hard to keep it that way. Get a taste on the birdwatcher’s trail through Gluepot Reserve, which is home to 22 nationally endangered bird species. On the 60 kilometre drive to Berri, look out either window and you’ll notice a sea of vines. Across the Riverland wine region, more than 100 grape growers produce about a quarter of Australia’s total harvest and there are plenty of boutique cellar doors close to the highway.
With a population of just under 5000, Renmark is the largest town in the region, and has enough to keep you occupied for days. The surrounding land is home to a range of wineries and distilleries as well as plenty of farmers growing fruit, vegetables, wheat and nuts. It has one of the best public river frontages of any town along the Murray and is the perfect place to rent a houseboat, with options to suit every budget.
Follow the river upstream to Customs House, a small town just before the Victorian border that was once an important toll collection point. The old customs house is now a general store and this isolated section of the Murray is known for its abundant wildlife. The Riverland is ideal for outdoor activities, but Loxton locals value time spent outdoors more than most. Follow their lead and go fishing, canoeing, boating and walking before the 250 kilometre drive back to Adelaide.