It’s time to find your way back to your most loved natural places in the Murray River, Lakes and Coorong – or take the time to discover new favourites and make memories with your loved ones.
How long do you have? There’s enough outdoor activities to keep you away from home for a good couple of weeks – or at least, enough to keep coming back time and time again to tick them off your bucket list.
To help you plan your next adventure, we’ve pinned down some of our favourite natural sights and experiences to whisk you away from the city and to feast your eyes on our dark skies, relax along our riverside and get lost in the magic of our untouched Coorong.
Are you ready to look up and see some of the darkest skies and brightest stars in the world? Right now (during winter) is the best time to visit the River Murray International Dark Sky Reserve – the first of its kind in Australia.
Spanning a 2,300 square km section of the night sky, it’s darker than many other accredited regions from across the globe, giving you the ultimate reason to come for a visit and stay past sundown to see it for yourself.
You can find a map of the area here, including the best spots to visit and how to access them.
Above: Sunset isn't the only sky show you can look forward to at the end of the day - stop and look up at our dark sky. Image: @joeymcquadephotography.
If you’re not sure where to start, lock in a down-to-earth, nocturnal tour in the bush with the Big Bend by Night team. Bring your camera and sense of adventure, because you’ll be hopping in one of their open-top carts and taken to the Swan Reach Conservation Park which is the centre of the Dark Sky Reserve. From here you’ll have access to telescopes and binoculars to take in the bright twinkling lights and views of the Milky Way in all its glory.
Although if you’re looking for something more luxe, sign up for one of Juggle House Experiences’ stargazing tours. You and a group of friends will be chauffeured across the Mid Murray in style to see the best local attractions from sunset with complimentary champagne along the way, before your final stop in the Dark Sky Reserve.
Both tour operators offer overnight packages if you’re keen to pack as much stargazing into your visit as possible – better throw in your thermals and beanie!
Our other favourite natural wonders in the area are:
Above: Pack up the 4WD and head to our Coorong National Park for a weekend of outdoor fun. Image: Michael Ellem (SATC).
Pack your GoPro – here’s one place you’ll want to capture plenty of adventures. The Coorong National Park is undeniably one of the BEST places to spread out and get back to the simple things. And just like the classic film and novel, you can get your ‘Storm Boy’ on too.
You could easily spend a couple days exploring each side of the dunes, from the lagoons to the salt lakes and shoreline, trying to fit in all the outdoor activities under the sun.
Above: Take to the water. There's plenty of opportunties for a paddle - the Coorong lagoons, Murray Mouth and more. Image: @unforgettableadventures.
Some of our favourite things to do here are paddling the waters via kayak, barefoot beach walks through the dunes, fishing for Coorong Mullet or Mulloway, or coming across local wildlife while taking a scenic trail (see our blog on water/land trails here).
The Jack Point Pelican Observatory is worth a stop to see one of Australia’s biggest pelican breeding colonies from a platform deck.
Above: Views from the Jack Point Pelican Observatory (between the Coorong National Park and Salt Creek). Image: @emmajanewarren.
While there are plenty of campsites available throughout the park (we LOVE the one at 42 Mile Crossing), you don’t have to commit to ‘roughing it’ if that’s not your style. Just see what Coorong Cabins, Coorong Realty or the Meningie Lakefront Caravan Park have on offer.
Other nearby must-visit places and experiences:
Above: Take the winding boardwalk over the wetland. Here, you can see and hear lots of native animals. Image: Glenn Power.
If you’ve spent some time exploring Murray Bridge (or tuned into our latest blogs), you’d know there’s an abundance of wetland walks and riverside trails spread out across both sides of the river. There is one in particular that is loved by locals for being a quiet, hidden gem that lets you take a step into nature without having to travel too far from the township.
In fact, if you’ve travelled to and from the direction of Tailem Bend, you might not have even noticed the wetlands before – and that’s why it’s so great. It doesn’t get crowded so you can take your time discovering the area.
Just off the SE Freeway beside the Frank Jackman Lookout and underneath the Swanport bridge is the Swanport Wetlands, nestled on the river’s edge. This 1.2km return trail is made accessible for people of all abilities, with easy, flat terrain on the main path and boardwalks through the reeds and over the water.
This wetland is nationally significant for the Murray River, being home to a wide range of native plant and animal species. So for the nature lovers, you’re in for a treat.
It’s a beautiful spot for birdwatching, with a bird hide you can climb up (similar to a cubby house) – both kids and adults love this. The boardwalk over the lagoon has a bench if you want to stop to sit down and take in the peaceful views (while the frogs croak in the background and birds play in the water).
Above: Climb up the birdhide and see what you can spy! Image: Glenn Power.
There’s even a rotunda that gives you views over the wetland, so you can sit down for a picnic lunch and read the information boards that tell you about the native fauna and flora here.
Other walks nearby:
Above: Set up for the arvo along Goolwa Beach - just around the corner is the iconic Murray Mouth. Image: @ozploring.
One of the most iconic stretches of freshwater and saltwater in SA – is the Murray Mouth. There’s nothing else quiet like it, as it connects Australia’s greatest waterway (the Murray River) with the Lower Lakes and Southern Ocean.
Just like the neighbouring Coorong, it’s easy to spend some quality time down here. Pack a picnic, hop in your 4WD and take to the sand (just remember to drop your tyre PSI and check the tides beforehand) to set up for the arvo.
Along the beach you might come across people digging through the sand for Pipis (also known as cockles). They are a local delicacy, served up in numerous tasty ways – visit Kuti Shack and try it for yourself.
Take a trip over the bridge to Hindmarsh Island where you’ll find the Coorong Café at Sugars Beach. They’ll whip you up some of the best local fish and chips you’ll come across, along with burgers, ice cream and coffees too – so you can kick back and polish off brekky or lunch with a view of the water.
While you’re here you can launch a kayak or small boat from the boat ramp and explore the Mouth and Coorong Channels. Around here you can try to catch Coorong Mullet, Mulloway, Bream and Salmon Trout.
Above: Calm waters at Sugars Beach. Image: Coorong Cafe.
A couple of other nature-based experiences around here:
Now that we’ve given you some great ideas to explore the outdoors, start planning your next getaway with your friends or family, and take a drive to our backyard. We’re less than an hour from the Adelaide Tollgate (along the SE Freeway).
**COVID-19: As restrictions being to ease around South Australia, please ensure that you check with operators and appropriate authorities before you travel. If you are feeling sick, please stay home and travel again when you're well.