From paddle-steamers to houseboats, and pioneer towns to luxury stays, the Murray’s mighty waters are an adventure playground for all.
It evokes childhood holidays. It screams summer getaways. It’s where we go for long, lazy weekends. Yes, the marvellous Murray River is where we seek relaxation, but there is also a gamut of thrilling activities that hail from each side of its New South Wales, Victorian and South Australian banks. So, now released from the tethers of lockdown, it’s time for us to return for some fun on the Murray.
Take a step back in time
Waltz back to yesteryear at Old Tailem Town Pioneer Village in South Australia. Harking back to the days of early European settlement when the railway was the lifeblood of this old Aussie town, explore the dusty rustic streets of warehouses, emporiums, parlours and drapers. See the schoolhouse, the bakery and the clockmakers. If you’ve seen the movie Twin River, you’ll excite, recognising some of the period-dressed buildings. Brave the graveyard. Hang around for long enough, and dare to catch its spirit-lifting ghost tour or the hair-raising paranormal investigation tour. Go on, do it!
Welcome to Cactus Country
Know your pilocereus from your oreocereus? Cactus Country, at Strathmerton in Victoria, is a world of pricks, thorns, spears and spikes. The spectacular gardens are a skyline of cacti rising like monuments of all girths and loftiness. A one-time peach orchard, the soils have been sewn by the Hall family, into an oasis of no less than 4,000 species of succulents and cacti: Australia’s largest collection. Follow the sandy desert-like trails admiring the plants from various regions of the world, before braving a cactus cake in the café — homemade from the prickly pear cactus harvested directly from the garden.
Murray River cruises – All aboard the PS Murray Princess
Fit for royalty, the PS Murray Princess is an ornate mahogany-dressed, balustrade-bedecked Mississippi-style paddle-wheeler that has been churning the waters of the Murray for 35 years. Departing from Mannum in SA, choose from an all-inclusive 3, 4 or 7-night cruise that will immerse you into typical Murray River life. Learn about the early paddle-steamer captains. Dine on lamb marinated with locally foraged saltbush. Enjoy a guided tour of Ngaut Ngaut Aboriginal Reserve. From the top deck, observe the river’s wealth of birdlife. And stay up late. From your cabin window, become utterly spellbound by pelicans in their dozens, circling while snoozing at night.
Indigenous Art Trails on the Murray River
Aboriginal art decorates the riverbanks and wetland lagoons of Albury in NSW. Follow the 5km Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk through Wiradjuri country. Comprising 11 sculptures along the Wagirra Trail, admire Reconciliation Shield by Tamara Murray: a touching visualisation of a two-tone human figure. Downstream, Wiradjuri Woman by Leonie McIntosh is a carved spirit emerging from the stump of a 400-year-old iron bark tree. And striking is the tree that features hundreds of stainless steel moths. Bogong Moth Migration by Ruth Davys celebrates the annual moth feast festival. The entire trail is a feast for the eyes – and mind.
Murray River Houseboats
Up for some fishing, canoeing, and marshmallows over bonfires on the shore? For the perfect houseboat holiday, the Murray River Trails team runs the Murray River Escapes offering, where you are set up with a houseboat (up to 10 guests) in SA’s beautiful Riverland, to cruise the Murray with customisable itineraries to boot. Explore the river’s sinuous bends, its soaring limestone cliffs and its forested bushwalks. Let a local guide show you around. Have a private chef aboard to cook up a banquet of Murraylands produce. Or simply moor, allowing river life to fly, ski or paddle-wheel by until an emblazoned sunset turns you into your bed on your floating holiday home. Sounds dreamy, right?
Must-visit Farmers Market on the Murray River
Every Saturday morning, Albury Wodonga Farmers Market is where the region’s meats, eggs, fruits, vegetables, breads, olive oils, nuts, honeys, jams and chocolates come together in their kitchen recipe wholeness. Straddling the NSW-Victoria border, stalls marinate with Beechworth Berries, Australian Pumpkin Seed Company, Milawa Bread: artisan bakers that slow-ferment, and other local farm-to-trestle-table finds. And Willowbank Farm, feeding beef to locals for over a century, offers their playful ‘traffic lights with chefs hats’ (beef, capsicum and mushroom skewers).
Also on the grounds is Albury Wodonga Woodcrafters Inc. These skilful woodcrafters have been chiselling and scroll-sawing since 1986. On sale in their cottage gallery are red gum, ironbark and jacaranda-sculpted animals and ornaments (I buy the wombat carved before me by Tom Gorring). Particularly stirring are the trinket boxes fashioned from salvaged bushfire wood. Their green and red resin wounds have been treated and sealed back to their beautiful pre-fire state.
Exploring Coorong National Park
Breathtakingly beautiful Coorong National Park is a South Australian paradise of international acclaim. Forming one of the sandy jaws of the Murray Mouth (after the river has journeyed more than 2,500 kilometres from the Australian Alps), the oasis is home to a biodiverse wilderness of wading birds, dune plants and protected midden sites of the Ngarrindjeri people. The Coorong also became the location of the much-loved Storm Boy movies. The 6-hour Spirit of the Coorong Adventure Cruise from Goolwa immerses you into migratory and wading birdlife, and includes lunch, as well as an interpretive guided walk through the vast dune system to the laundering surf of the Southern Ocean.
Luxury Murray River accommodation
It’s luxe. It’s 6-star. And it’s a must for that romantic stay when in Paringa in SA. Part of the elite Unique Boutique Collection, The Frames is a trio of sophisticated cliff-perched retreats absorbing sublime river views of unadulterated privacy. The Pastiche Retreat comes with a sunken spa and waterfall feature. The Montage Retreat will seduce you into its outdoor hydrotherapy bath and infrared sauna. And accommodating two couples, the Collage Retreat offers a rain-shower waterfall and lap pool. In-retreat massage, wildlife-watching gondola experiences at sunset, and food and wine safaris can be added onto your stay. Did someone say gin masterclass? It’s all here at The Frames, complete with charging point for Tesla wheels.
Looking for more accommodation options? Have a browse here.