River Country, SA
Situated just 84 kilometres from Adelaide, Mannum is the birthplace of the famous Murray River paddle-steamers, with this historic town retaining strong links to its romantic river past.
Today Mannum boasts a bustling main street full of antique, craft, bric-a-brac and general retail outlets. There’s also a huge range of eating options from a scrumptious bakery to cafes, hotels and numerous restaurants. Accommodation choices include a motel, houseboats, caravan parks, farm-stays, bed and breakfast and river camping grounds.
While touring the area visit Mannum Falls, only six kilometres from Mannum on the Murray Bridge Road. This area is a popular bushwalking destination, with easy to moderate tracks, featuring a winter flowing waterfall, an abundance of wildlife and fascinating geology.
Mannum owes much to brothers John and David Shearer, blacksmiths who established a farm machinery factory in the town. John Shearer is famous for inventing the differential, while David Shearer built the world’s first steam car in South Australia in 1894. A talented family! The Shearer workshop site is now the Mannum Bowling Club, which is located in the main street next to the Pretoria Hotel.
A thriving hub and the largest South Australian town on the Murray River, Murray Bridge is 80 kilometres east of Adelaide on the South Eastern Freeway. This bustling river city is less than an hours drive from Adelaide and a similar distance from the Barossa Valley and Fleurieu Peninsula.
Murray Bridge offers a regional shopping centre, hotels, motels, guesthouses, bed and breakfasts, farm-stays, fine restaurants and excellent sporting facilities. Attractions include river cruises, a wildlife park, historic buildings, adventure playground and more.
The Captain’s Cottage Museum captures the history of Murray Bridge with an extensive array of photos and memorabilia. Its quiet garden setting is the perfect place to picnic with the family, while also stepping back in time.
Water sports, boating, fishing, skiing, or just relaxing on the riverfront are keen pastimes with visitors, and several reserves offer excellent boating facilities. Other popular pursuits include the 18-hole golf course and, for horseracing enthusiasts, the regular race meetings at the Murray Bridge Racing Club.
A great place for travellers to stop and enjoy some good old-fashioned Murraylands hospitality when driving between the Barossa and Riverland. A visit to the hotel is a must, with sweeping views of the mighty Murray River from its prominent location perched on top of golden cliffs.
There were huge floods in this region in 1917 and 1931, with the most devastating occurring in 1956, which saw most of the businesses in the main street of Swan Reach washed away. Since then the town has been proudly rebuilt. The Swan Reach Museum details the history of floods in the area.
Here the river is sheltered by high cliffs and is excellent for water sports of all kinds. Water birds are abundant here, in particular in the backwaters and billabongs fed by the river. An ideal location to relax and enjoy.
Spectacular scenery can be found at Big Bend; it boasts the tallest cliffs anywhere along the entire length of the Murray River. This area is a rich source of fossils, flora and fauna, and up to 20 million years old. It conceals many archaeological secrets and botanical marvels, with the majestic cliffs formed from the seabed laid down tens of thousands of years ago.
When touring through this area, take the opportunity to see the Southern Hairy-nosed Wombats that are abundant on the limestone plains of the Old Devon Downs and Kooloola Stations.
The nearby town of Nildottie boasts great panoramic views of one of the most pristine stretches of water on the Murray, so ensure you have film in the camera!
Ngaut Ngaut boardwalk is at nearby Kroehn’s Landing. The archaeological site is Australia’s first archaeological dig, whose rich secrets triggered the 1929 discovery of a 7000-year-old skeleton of a young boy in a rock. In the rock with the boy’s skeleton were implements unlike any known Aboriginal tools or weapons and leavings of his meals which showed he had eaten a species of mussel, long extinct. Guided tours are available by appointment.
On the banks of the Murray River, 100 kilometres from Adelaide, the township of Tailem Bend is a major road and rail junction with three highways – the Dukes, the Princes and the Mallee – all converging east of this busy township.
The nearby Coorong National Park is one of South Australia’s most spectacular, covering 47,000 hectares of pristine wilderness. It lies adjacent to the mouth of the Murray River and features a long, shallow saline lagoon more than 100km long, separated from the Southern Ocean by the sand-dunes of the Younghusband Peninsula.
Scenic views can be enjoyed from many vantage points along the Coorong, with a number of handy tracks allowing conventional vehicles easy access to many major features on the mainland side.
Meanwhile, avid four-wheel drive enthusiasts are in for a treat with clear access to the Southern Ocean. More than 200 species of birds have been recorded, making this area a bird-watching paradise. It also has major international significance as a summering area for migratory birds from as far away as Siberia.
Narrung, near Meningie, lies between Lake Albert and Lake Alexandrina, with a ferry providing a link to the highway through ‘the narrows’.
Sitting at the junction of the Murray River and Lake Alexandrina, Wellington boasts one of the oldest working hotels in South Australia – licensed in 1848 – with the dining room offering a divine, panoramic view of the river. Wellington’s heritage courthouse was rebuilt in 1864 and has since been fully restored to house a museum.
By the late 1890s Wellington was almost swallowed up by sand! Tens of thousands of grazing animals passing through on the droving route from the south coast exposed the sand dunes that began to drift into the town. East Wellington, on the approach to the ferry from the Princes Highway, still has ruins of buildings from early settler days. These offer a telling contrast with the architecture of the more recently built, modern marina homes.
Good views of Lake Alexandrina can be found by visiting the Wellington mini-mart or service station.
The small town of Jervois is located on the main Wellington to Murray Bridge road and is home to a thriving dairy industry. This scenic area gives the visitor an insight into dairy farming. Please note that care is needed when driving along this road in the early morning or mid-afternoon, as cows crossing the road are a common sight. The free, 24-hour vehicle ferry operates at both Wellington and Jervois, and is the only means to cross the river.
In 1846 the first ferry on the Murray River was established at Wellington. When gold was discovered in Victoria, Wellington became the gateway for many thousands of South Australians bitten by the gold bug. It was by way of ferry that the Gold Escort brought nearly $4 million worth of precious metal to South Australia. By 1914 the first power-driven ferry was established at Wellington.
Murray Bridge magic
The fifth-longest river in the world, the Murray flows from the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales past the wharves of old riverboat towns to the Southern Ocean near Adelaide.
In the 19th century, paddlewheel steamers chugged up and down between river settlements and it seemed as though the Murray might become Australia’s Mississippi. Then railways eclipsed riverboats. Nowadays, the river offers all sorts of lazy diversions. Families can set up camp by a billabong (river lagoon), boil the billy, drop in a fishing line and generally laze around on a great rustic holiday.
The town of Murray Bridge is an easy one hour drive from Adelaide along the South Eastern Freeway. Visit Pomberuk Cultural Centre to explore the arts, food and culture of the local Ngarrindjeru community. Charter a houseboat, ranging from a two-berth budget model to a 12-berth luxury cruiser. Or just hire a canoe.
Modern-day explorers encounter abundant wildlife, historic towns, rich vineyards and orchards. Captain Cook Cruises runs Murray Princess, Australia’s largest paddlewheeler, on the river. Perhaps fish for yabbies (freshwater crayfish) or cod, or birdwatch – the Murray is a haven for over 350 species of bird.
Apart from the river, attractions in the South Australia’s Murray River region include wildlife sanctuaries (crocodile feeding and snake handling); Monarto Zoo and its open-range habitat for exotic species including giraffe and lions; Banrock Station Wine and Wetland Centre; great golf courses; and cellar doors selling everything from wine and oranges to chocolates and almonds.
The Murray stretches more than 2500 kilometres across one third of the Australian continent. Water can take three months to travel from the source to the mouth, through the ingenious system of locks that keeps much of the river navigable.
About River Country
- State: South Australia