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Murray locks and weirs keep attractions afloat for touring in South Australia, NSW and Victoria

July 05, 2007
Murray locks and weirs keep attractions afloat for touring in South Australia, NSW and Victoria

Despite huge drought pressures on the Murray in South Australia houseboats and paddle steamers cruise from Mannum to Swan Reach.

The Murray lock system and weirs built in the 1920's make the difference in keeping the Murray's attractions afloat and centres like Blanchetown in the Riverland Region 133km northeast of Adelaide is still bobbing along.

SA's guaranteed minimum entitlement flow ensures the river stays attractive for recreational purposes (and provides Adelaide's water supply). Some of Australias most dramatic scenery is found along the Murraylands/Riverland stretches of the Murray.

At Renmark the Murray is at normal pool levels and fish catches are up since professional fishing was abolished. The SA Government has committed to maintain normal pool levels in the upper Riverland.

The Murray makes its way through what are wetlands in normal years, vineyards, orchards and quiet riverside townships to Lake Alexandrina and the sea near historic riverport Goolwa.

On Sundays and holidays steam trains like the Cockle Train roll in and out on the coastal route to Victor Harbour as they have since 1887.

Steam Ranger 08 8231 4366 is the source of steam train wisdom around Goolwa, Victor Harbour and Port Elliott.The section of line between Goolwa and Port Elliot was the first steel railway to be built in Australia.

Geographically situated near the borders of New South Wales and Victoria and just under two hours drive from Adelaide, the Riverland region has year-round sunshine.

It is a reliable spot for outdoor and water-based activities such as house boating, fishing, golfing, bushwalking, canoeing and skiing. Or lazy days can be spent cruising the Murray, bird watching, exploring museums and galleries or visiting cellar doors and local produce outlets.

The Murray locks and weirs system keeps pool levels high courtesy Captain Cook Cruises
The Murray locks and weirs system keeps pool levels high courtesy Captain Cook Cruises

The adjoining Murraylands region, centred on Mannum, is one of South Australias most popular houseboat holiday destinations and offers one of the best ways to enjoy and explore the Murray.

Mannum Dock Museum is home port to the historic PS Marion and the luxury floating hotel, the 1500 tonnes, 67m Murray Princess cruises this section of the Murray.

Its accommodation includes 60 staterooms and cabins. The elegant three-deck stern-wheeler launched in Goolwa in 1986 is the biggest paddlewheeler ever built in Australia. River water levels have not impacted on its operation.

Its cruise intinerary takes it upstream to Swan Reach and downstream to Murray Bridge where its height stops it sailing under the bridge.

The Riverland is famous for its production of great, affordable wines and some of Australias best citrus, stone fruits and nuts. It is Australias biggest wine producing region with nearly half of the countrys wine grape yield ripening on the regions broad-acre vineyards.

Citrus, stone fruit and nuts thrive in the Riverland. Orchards and dried and glazed fruit can be bought at factory outlets and fresh fruit is available from roadside stalls. Get a taste of the Riverland by travelling the Wine and Food Trail and visit some of the many cellar doors and harvest food outlets.

Untouched nature can be found at the regions numerous conservation areas, particularly Bookmark Biosphere Reserve, one of only 12 UNESCO reserves in Australia.

If you are keen to do some bush camping and bird watching, Birds Australia Gluepot Reserve isa gooddestination. This 52,300-hectare reserve is home to more than 180 bird species, including six endangered birds. The Reserve also provides the opportunity to view extensive wildlife, which is interpreted at the on-site visitor centre.

The region also offers more than 27 walking, bike, canoe and drive trails to be explored, many with riverside camping facilities.

The Riverland is one of South Australias premier ecotourism destinations. Accredited ecotourism operators can take visitors on a journey exploring the regions nature-based experiences by boat, dinghy, canoe or on land.

Murray Princess gangplank down hugs the riverbank as passengers meet Aboriginal culture
Murray Princess gangplank down hugs the riverbank as passengers meet Aboriginal culture

Sunshine also brings the golfers out all along the Murray in SA, Victoria and NSW. There are of the first-class golf courses at Berri, Renmark, Barmera, Waikerie and Loxton. Fairways areholding against the drought through dams, council assistance and careful water management.

For a taste of local history, take the time to visit the various museums. Loxton Historical Village is a replica town that tells the story of the regions settlement and agricultural history; complete with a schoolhouse, bakery, blacksmiths and bank that takes visitors back in time.

Morgan, once one of the busiest ports in South Australia, has preserved its history with a large timber wharf that dates back to the heyday of riverboat trading.

The PS Mayflower is moored at Morgan and the Railway Station museum and the Landseer Building both tell stories of the early days.

The Old Customs House, 30km east of Paringa, off the Sturt Highway on Murtho Road is one of the oldest buildings in the Riverland.

Camping sites, walking trails and natural river beauty, make it well worth a visit. Houseboats and canoes are also available for hire.

Dont forget to stop off at Headings Cliff lookout along the way to see some spectacular views of the river.

The imaginative, pioneering Chaffey brothers, George and William, established Australias first irrigation settlement at Renmark.

Irrigation really changed the region, opening up unlimited agricultural possibilities. Visit Olivewood Homestead where irrigation pioneers, the Chaffey brothers once lived.

Golf is a religion on the Murray Photographer Jon Armstrong & Tourism Victoria
Golf is a religion on the Murray Photographer Jon Armstrong Tourism Victoria

The Chaffeys went on to create the Murray fed Mildura irrigation scheme in Victoria. The Water into Gold result with vines, fruit trees and vegetables extends into NSW in centres like Wentworth, Gol Gol, Buronga, Trentham Cliffs and Robinvale

The Cobdogla Irrigation and Steam Museum also reveals the regions irrigation triumphs housing the impressive Humphrey pump, the only working model of its kind in the world.

It is illegal to take fruit or vegetables into the Riverland and fines apply. Travellers on route to Mildura (Victoria) need to go through a border checkpoint at Yamba.

Signs along the highway warn of the Fruit Fly Exclusion Zone and disposal bins are supplied. Full Fruit Fly information is available on this web site.

Please click Links on the left of the Home Page and select the fruit fly information for travellers

Berri is the business and administrative centre of the Riverland. It was originally part of Cobdogla Sheep Station and a mooring place for paddle steamers in the early days of settlement. This popular riverside town and its surrounds have a host of big attractions including Berri Estates, the largest winery in Australia, to the notable Big Orange.

The Big Orange on the Sturt Highway is a popular juice bar and caf and offers a fine view of the region from its top level. For a different view of the region visit the Lookout Tower located off the main street in Berri.

Notable produce outlets such as Angas Park and Berri Limited are located on the outskirts of the town offering an opportunity to purchase local produce.

There is a wide a choice of dining in and around Berri. The multi-award winning Mallee Fowl Restaurant is a rare experience: good food is served in an old shearing shed filled with an eclectic array of memorabilia and Australiana.

The Red Gum Caf offers informal riverfront decking alfresco dining and the Berri Resort Hotel has good bistro and pub meals.

There is a good selection of accommodation available with caravan parks, houseboats, hotels and motels, Katarapko National Park and Martins Bend offer great riverside camping opportunities.

Vineyards sweep in summer green patterns courtesy Captain Cook Cruises
Vineyards sweep in summer green patterns courtesy Captain Cook Cruises

A walking trail follows the river for about two kilometres from the Berri Visitor Information centre to Martins Bend Reserve, a camping area that is also ideal for picnics, fishing and water-skiing.

An audiovisual history of the Riverland at Berri Ltd, famous makers of fruit juices, tells the story of the local fruit industry. This is also a local produce outlet.

The free Monash Adventure Park is one of South Australias much-loved family destinations. About 12km from Berri and open most days, it is a great place for young families. There is a giant maze, leaning climbing towers, flying foxes, Burmese rope bridge, basketball and unusual childrens play equipment, as well as lawns and a free barbecue area.

A landscaped lake, waterfall, running streams and fountain make Monash an adventure. Dont forget to call into the chocolate factory across the road.

Loxton lights up for the Christmas season from late November each year, with hundreds of Christmas characters, nativity scenes, lights and decorations.

For golfers, the Loxton Golf Course is rated among the top 10 in South Australia, while the regions pioneering past is captured at the towns leading attraction Loxton Historical Village with 35 replica buildings on display.

The Tree of Knowledge in the Lions Park carries a posted message on the flood heights the Murray has reached since the flood of 1931. This gives a fascinating insight into the water levels throughout the years, some that you will hardly be able to believe particulary in the context of the current drought.

Water-skiers favour the stretch of river from Kingston-On-Murray to Loxton.

Loxton offers a choice of accommodation ranging from Caravan Park, Bed Breakfast, Hotel and backpacker lodge.

Barmera is central to the Riverland region, with Renmark, Berri, Loxton and Waikerie all within half an hours drive. Barmera is linked to the towns of Cobdogla, Kingston-on-Murray and Overland Corner.

The town on the shores of Lake Bonney is one of the most popular watersport playgrounds in South Australia.

Murray River barbecue courtesy Captain Cook Cruises
Murray River barbecue courtesy Captain Cook Cruises

This aquatic freshwater playground offers, great fishing, sightseeing and boating. It is also popular with water-skiers, windsurfers and Jet Ski enthusiasts and has an excellent safe swimming area separated from the boating. Canoeists can visit the adjoining wetlands, which abound with wildlife.

In addition to watersport, Barmera hosts other recreational facilities including an excellent 18-hole golf course.

Country music is another major attraction in the town, with the SA Country Music Festival in June drawing many devotees. It includes 10 days worth of family fun and live entertainment.

Now owned by the National Trust, the Overland Corner Hotel (est.1859) was the first hotel in the area and was once a major staging post for drovers. It is now both a pub and museum, and well worth a stop. You may even meet the local ghost (be sure to check out the photos on the wall). Take a stroll on the Overland Corner Historic Walk and discover fossils in the quarry.

Cobdogla is agreat location with a family caravan park. The Cobdogla Irrigation and Steam Museum houses the Humphrey Pump, a gas-driven water pump fed by water from Joiners Lagoon near the site of the original Cobdogla Station Homestead. This offers a unique opportunity to see a working historic pump.

Kingston-on-Murray is now the site of two of South Australias most successful wineries: Kingston Estate and Banrock Station Wine and Wetlands Centre. It also offers great houseboating and an eco-cruise on the MV Loch Luna departing from the riverbank daily by appointment.

At Banrock Station Wine and Wetland Centre, wander out to the viewing platform, tasting glass in hand and gaze over the managed wetlands. Take a stroll on one of the self guided walking trails, featuring a series of story centres, information huts and bird hides which allow you to get close to the spectacular wetlands and wildlife.

Waikeries perch atop limestone cliffs, gives it a birds eye view of the river and countryside. The Aboriginal translation of the towns name is many wings, which is apt as the Harts Lagoon Bird Hide gives enthusiasts a world-class vantage point of the many species in the area.

Gliding is another popular way to get a birds-eye view of the town at the world class Waikerie Soaring Club. Joy flights give unequalled views of the river, orchards and vineyards.

The big houseboat fleet on the waterfront is a pleasant way to take it easy and the free ferry which links the town to Taylorville is a unique way to enjoy the river.

The floating motel the Murray River Queen, offers fine restaurant dining, boutique wine tastings and fantastic views. If you are looking for something a little more relaxed visit the Back Deck Caf or the Top Deck Entertainment area featuring a bar and gourmet barbecue. With over 52 cabins for all budgets, this offers an experience with a difference.

Morgan was once ranked as a great river port. The restored Port of Morgan wharf area and museum reconstructs this riverboat heyday, bringing to life the stories of the paddle-steamer era. PS Mayflower, at over 100 years old is the oldest operating paddle steamer in South Australia and permanently moored here.

The Landseer Building, once a shipping agent storehouse, is filled with remarkable collection of old engines, wagons and memorabilia. The historic railway station has been transformed into a museum of river and rail history, with a selection of fascinating historic photos.

About 18km east of Morgan call into the Mallyons on the Murray Bush Caf and Gallery. This 1850s barn, on a 20-acre organic fruit and vegetable property, serves organic meals and offers magnificent river views.

If you are looking for a little more adventure maybe a camel trek, 4WD adventure or Boat Safari is on the cards.

Caravan park, houseboats motel, hotel and bed breakfast accommodation is available in Morgan.

Blanchetown is only 133km to the north east of Adelaide and the first in a chain of locks that were constructed along the Murray to help navigation, by regulating water levels on the river.

Lock one and its spillway was completed in 1922. The locks extend along the Murray. The lock at Wentworth (NSW) holds back the junction waters of the Darling and the Murray. At Mildura, Lock 11 is linked to its own island and weir.

In Brookfield Conservation Park, discover a breeding ground for the hairy-nosed wombat.

Blanchetown offers a variety of accommodation options from Caravan parks to houseboats, Bed and Breakfasts, cottages and a working farm at Bindmurra.

Dotted with restaurants, cruise boats moored along the wharves, waterside parks, caravan parks and hotels; Renmark riverfront is a Mecca for visitors. Begin your stay with a cruise on a boat old or new. See the river from a different angle on the paddle steamer PS Industry, a floating museum. Or take a stroll through 50,000 rose bushes at Rustons Roses Gardens. (Closed July through September).

For action seekers, learn to ski or wakeboard, or get up close and personal with a massive python at Bredls Wonder World of Wildlife.

Accommodation in Renmark includes caravan parks, hotels, motels, bed and breakfast and self-contained cabins. Houseboats are also available for hire. Just out of Renmark in part of the Bookmark Biosphere at Chowilla, you can stay in an old riverside shearers quarters, steeped in history.

Must see and do

Golfers should head to any of the regions five first-class golf courses Berri, Renmark, Barmera, Waikerie and Loxton.

Nature in its original state can be found at the regions numerous conservation areas, notably Bookmark Biosphere Reserve. Walk, canoe, ride or drive the 27 trails.

At Banrock Station Wine and Wetland Centre, wander out to the viewing platform, tasting glass in hand and gaze over the wetlands.

See the Murray from a different angle aboard the paddlesteamer Industry.

For a taste of local history, visit Loxton Historical Village complete with schoolhouse, bakery, blacksmith and bank.

Visit Olivewood Homestead where irrigation pioneers the Chaffey brothers once lived.

Call at Overland Corner Hotel (est.1859) that was once a major staging post for drovers. You may even see the local ghost

Visit the Old Customs House, 30km east of Paringa, one of the oldest buildings in the Riverland.

Get a photographic view of the river at Headings Lookout.

Take the kids to Monash Adventure Park with a giant maze, leaning climbing towers, flying foxes, tree house, Burmese rope bridge, basketball and quirky childrens play equipment.

Hire a houseboat and enjoy a pleasant way to take it easy.

Discover the Riverland produce by visiting the 23 cellar and harvest outlets on the Riverland Wine and Food Trail.

Takes a birds eye view from the air in a glider.

See rare bird species at Gluepot Reserve

Experience a unique night on farm or shearers quarters.

Birdwatching goes into high gear in August on the Murray courtesy Capt Cook Cruises
Birdwatching goes into high gear in August on the Murray courtesy Capt Cook Cruises

Just over the South Australian border is Victoria and Mildura the Murray Outback region.

This is not only Victorian northern-most destination it is a hub for touring from Sydney, Melbourne Adelaide and Canberra.

Mildura is about the journey through landscapes that range from the arid Mallee, with its subtle beauty, through the greenery of verdant Mildura and its satellite towns, to colonial Swan Hill and riverport Echuca.

The Sunraysia, Calder and Murray Valley Highways are a travel trifecta that offers real variety in the touring experience.

North of Mildura in NSW the Outback stretches from Wentworth to Broken Hill and includes the ancient Dreaming of Lake Mungo.

Hot air  balloon at Irymple near Mildura Photographer David Scaletti & Tourism Victoria
Hot air balloon at Irymple near Mildura Photographer David Scaletti Tourism Victoria

The region stretches along Australias greatest river, the Murray, which borders Victoria and New South Wales, and is a desert irrigated oasis before the northern banks give way to the arid vastness of the continental interior of Australia.

It is an area where arid desert ochres, saltbush grey and white, pink lakes and sun bleached olive mallee scrub border the radiant green of irrigated grapevines and laden fruit trees in good seasons.

As the Mallee meets the garden region of Mildura, there is the rich smell of deep red loam and citrus, brought to life in a transformation, which is truly water, turned to gold.

Great River Red Gums border the Murray and Darling Rivers which meet in a junction at Wentworth in NSW the Red Gums giving way to River Box on the flats and then scrub and desert.

Beyond Wentworth in NSW, where the Murray and the Darling Rivers meet the Outback, vastness extends the horizon into a shimmering summer haze.

The clear desert light is constantly changing like a kaleidoscope. White in summer in the heat of noon. Knife sharp under skies, which extend sunlit hours year round into processions of blue days.

Sunset and sunrise flame the sky in an explosion of colour.

Mildura, 550km north of Melbourne, and 394km northeast of Adelaide is the the product of great vision and hard work.

The brothers George and W.B. Chaffey bought a defunct Australian pastoral lease in 1887 after a meeting in California with the then Australian Cabinet Minister Alfred Deakin.

Deakin liked their Californian model irrigation settlement and the Chaffeys were impressed with Deakins vision of the irrigation potential of the Murray River.

Mungo National Park courtesy Tourism Victoria
Mungo National Park courtesy Tourism Victoria

The result was the Mildura Irrigation Colony with a transformation of a dry arid region into one of the worlds most productive fruit and wine growing areas.

Mildura is famous for its food, fresh produce, and diversity of cuisine and delectable varieties of wine. Its climate, culture and lifestyle are equally famous.

Mildura offers some of the best in whites, reds, fortified wines, ports and muscats.

The area is known for its outstanding fresh and dried fruits, but not so well known is the quality of local almonds and pistachio nuts. There are also a wide variety of avocados to be sampled, and local asparagus is to die for and who could forget those oranges or mandarins.

Mildura has a theatrette showing videos on the region and the history of the Chaffey brothers at The Alfred Deakin Visitor Information Centre, 180 - 190 Deakin Ave.

Leisure on the Murray includes houseboats, river cruises, water-skiing, fishing and swimming.

Milduras festivals are year round. In spring and summer the offerings include Country Music, Jazz Food and Wine, Oasis Rose, Riverboat and Ferguson Tractor Rally.

Lock 11 Mildura Photographer Jon Armstrong & Tourism Victoria
Lock 11 Mildura Photographer Jon Armstrong Tourism Victoria

Heritage experiences flourish in the Swan Hill Region.

Home to the first open air museum in Australia, the Pioneer Settlement Museum holds a collection of over 20,000 items that relate to rural life in the Mallee and Riverine Regions.

There are numerous historic buildings, shops and machinery on display. The Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery located directly opposite the Pioneer Settlement reflects the unique nature of the region and dynamic changing exhibition program.

The Tyntynder Homestead located 16kms north of Swan Hill was built in 1846 and classified as the first brick veneer in Australia. Tours are by appointment only.

River cruises are an ideal way to experience the qualities of Australias greatest river. There are a number of ways to experience the tranquility of the Murray around the Swan Hill Region.

Clydesdale museum ride Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement
Clydesdale museum ride Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement

Experience a morning or afternoon cruise on the paddlesteamer Pyap, or soak up the fresh air and sunshine over a luncheon cruise on the MV Kookaburra.

Celebrate the distinctive flavours of the regional food and wine by visiting the diverse and attractions of the Swan Hill Region. Travelling through this region you will see vast orchards, citrus and olive groves and hundreds of hectares of vineyards, vegetable plantings and grain fields.

Olsons Pheasant Farm about 25min from Swan Hill is a rare opportunity to visit a game bird farm in operation. There are thousands of colourful pheasants and aviary birds.

There are numerous wineries in the region that produce some wonderful crisp whites and full-bodied reds.

For the more adventurous Lake Boga is renowned for activities such as swimming, sailing, water skiing, fishing, or just enjoying the glistening water.

The 110 year old (2007) Pyap paddle steamer
The 110 year old (2007) Pyap paddle steamer

The Flying Boat museum on the lake foreshore has a Catalina flying boat on display and the bunker of the WW2 RAAF Repair Depot houses memorabilia.

Golf courses include the Murray Downs Golf and Country Club. Tennis and bowls are also among the leisure activities.

At Robinvale, about 140km to the northeast are McWilliams Wines and organic Robinvale Winery.

In Mildura the Grand Hotel is woven into the fabric of the desert city. It started life as the Mildura Coffee Palace on April 8, 1891.

The local Sunraysia Daily newspaper hailed the hotel as a thing of beauty.

Among the original directors of the hotel were Mr W.B. Chaffey and Mr Henry Williams, who later became the first Mildura Shire President.

In order to attract decent, God-fearing settlers to the town, the Chaffeys made it a prohibition area.

So the Grand, like the elaborate coffee palaces built in marvellous - wowserish Melbourne - served only tea, coffee and soft drinks.

The drought was broken when sisters Annie and Mary Williams were granted a wine licence in 1904. The daughters of the Chaffeys co-director, Henry Williams, successfully ran the hotel for more than 20 years, obtaining a full licence in 1919.

They expanded the hotel to absorb the Chaffey brothers original Mildura office building and in the 1920s, two new wings were constructed. Further additions were made in the 1950s, including an outdoor pool.

Now the reincarnated Mildura Grand Hotel captures the best in the character and style of country Australia.

Mungo National Park, about 110km north of Mildura, is an ancient place now part of the World Heritage list. Here, 60,000 years of Aboriginal life are recorded in campsites and campfires exposed in the sandscape of the remarkable Walls of China.It is a place where mighty wombats, as big as a rhino and a giant kangaroo wandered.

The lake teemed with fish and the bones of what is said to be a Tasmanian Tiger lie, unprotected in the course of a washaway from the sand dunes. There is a visitors centre near the park entrance and rangers provide guided tours during school holidays.

The famous Mungo woolshed is testament to the pioneering spirit in a hard land. Lake Mungo is the site of the oldest Aboriginal civilisation yet discovered. The landscape is lunar, with a strange beauty, which is best appreciated in the company of a guide who understands and respects the significance of this place and its history.

It is possible to see little or nothing through city eyes. Insight comes from knowledge and outback experience.

Try taking your shoes and socks off, and walking the sand dunes as the first people who lived here did. Take time for yourself, and absorb the space of this ancient land. See the sky in every direction as far as your eyes can see.

Talk to Aboriginal people about their heritage. They will help you appreciate not only the wonder of Mungo, but help educate city sightseers in spotting the abundant wildlife and identifying bush foods.

Be practical, this is the Outback. Wear a broad hat, and suitable clothing. Take sunscreen and sunglasses. Yes there are flies. Repellents help, but a fly veil is better. Nights can be cold, very cold, particularly in winter. In summer, be prepared for clear desert heat.

If you are not with a commercial tour group, water, fuel, food and spares for your vehicle are essential. Outback roads in the area are authentic. Drive for the conditions and you will arrive safely.

Must See and Do

Explore World Heritage listed Mungo National Park. Human remains dated at more than 60,000 years have been discovered at Mungo.

Skipper a houseboat on the Murray River.

Cruise the river aboard a paddle steamer.

Try one of the regions quality golf courses.

Ask Mildura Visitor Information Centre, 180-190 Deakin Ave about places of significance to Aboriginal people.

Taste the quality and diversity of the regions food and wine.

Lunch by the river.

Tour the cellar doors and sample award winning wines.

Here ( below) are some more pictures from our touring in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales and courtesy of Tourism Victoria

Editor's Note: Also See -

Memorial to the Catalina repair  base at Lake Boga
Memorial to the Catalina repair base at Lake Boga
Adelaide. We loved  it
Adelaide. We loved it
Aliner Swan Hill Riverside Top Tourist Caravan Park
Aliner Swan Hill Riverside Top Tourist Caravan Park
Houseboat Photographer David Scaletti & Tourism Victoria
Houseboat Photographer David Scaletti Tourism Victoria
Mildura Homestead Mildura Photographer David Scaletti & Tourism Victoria
Mildura Homestead Mildura Photographer David Scaletti Tourism Victoria
Newton Williams took six year to conserve the unique Saunderson tractor at Pioneer Settlement Museum Swan Hill
Newton Williams took six year to conserve the unique Saunderson tractor at Pioneer Settlement Museum Swan Hill
Perry Sandhills near Wentworth NSW Photographer David Scaletti & Tourism Victoria
Perry Sandhills near Wentworth NSW Photographer David Scaletti Tourism Victoria