It’s time to drop tools and escape.
Let’s be honest, we all need a break from reality right now. The daily grind of work, compounded with months of being stuck at home tending to our isolation-induced veggie patches is starting to wear a bit thin.
Well, good news. We’re here to tell you that your work, your garden and your household chores, can all survive a few days without you while you get away from it all along the Murray River, Lakes and Coorong.
But before you take off – ask yourself this: Do you want an action-packed, adrenaline-fuelled holiday, or something where you can slow down, chill out and enjoy the peace and quiet?
Or if you’re like me, perhaps a bit of both?
We have it all here. And we’ve mapped out the fast and slow for you below. Choose your path and come play…
If you love cars, try this:
Fast: Spend a day, night or whole weekend tearing up the track at The Bend Motorsport Park. These guys have just released a tonne of packages for singles, couples and small groups to ensure there’s something for everyone at the world’s best motorsport facility.
Above: At The Bend you can get behind the wheel of one of Australia's fastest karts.
And while hotlaps in supreme supercars are some of their more popular experiences at The Bend, it’s far more than just cars you can play with out there. Their world-class karting experience is the perfect opportunity for competitive and fun-loving groups to race around – and are open to people anywhere from 5 years and older! Or you can ride on the back of a superbike too (just be prepared to lose your breath a few times around the corners).
Seriously though, if you’ve never been for a look, you have to go for a drive out to The Bend for a sticky beak (only an hour from the Adelaide tollgate). Grab yourself lunch at the Fuel Restaurant and Bar or Apex Lounge (their burgers are sensational), and if you want to stay the night – you can grab a room at the on-site Rydges Pit Lane Hotel or spend the night at their Big4 Holiday Park (there’s even a five bedroom cabin there for a group getaway, or a couple of motorsport-mad families).
Slow: Motorsport is not just for those who love the fast-lane though, and if cruising is more your thing, then why not follow the Mighty Murray Way at your own leisure, stopping to soak up the view of the magnificent Murray River, Lower Lakes and Coorong stretches. Depending on which end of the region you start in, you might want to take one of the Wheels’ top road trips in Australia and head from Angaston on to Swan Reach. Stop and laze in the beer garden at the historic Murray River pub when you get there, overlooking the ferry as it glides from bank-to-bank. There’s also plenty of great holiday rentals to stay in over at Swan Reach too (check out River Shack Rentals). The added bonus is that if you stay just outside of town on the river, you’ll likely be somewhere very close to Australia’s first ever River Murray International Dark Sky Reserve – and trust us, this evening view will be worth the roadtrip!
Above: A glimpse of our dark skies in the Mid Murray. Taken by @blntpencil in Mannum.
Just pack your binoculars and look up!
If you want to make a weekend out of it, swing home via Big Bend, where you can take in some of the most magnificent views the Murray River has on offer. This is a popular spot for photographers and instagrammers, so make sure you pack some sort of lens to capture the moment!
From here, meander your way back via the Bowhill General Store for lunch on the new river’s edge deck, and then drop in to historic Mannum for a coffee before you head home (and if the sun is shining, we’d suggest that coffee might want to be sitting out the front of the Pretoria Hotel, with its magnificent lawns and redgums only making way for views of the water and passing houseboats.
If you love the water, try this:
Fast: Freedom Boat Hire in Murray Bridge has just launched its jet ski tours, and people are keen to get on the water even in winter! The 90 minute tours provide the perfect mix of adrenaline and adventure, allowing you to reach speeds to get the heart racing, while also taking the throttle off to explore some of the gems of the Murray River waterways. You can even pop two people onto a jetski (just try not to knock your passenger off, because that water is seriously chilly!).
Above: Get hands on with a jetski tour with Freedom Boat Hire.
These guys also have speedboats for hire as well, so if taking a long (fast) cruise along the Murray with your friends or family is more your style, then make sure you add this to your weekend package. If you’re game enough, pack the thermal wetsuit and get out on the water for a ski too – the river is often at it’s glassiest during this time of year, and our local skiiers and wakeboards only took a short hiatus for COVID before getting back into action.
Slow: If a slower river pace is more your style, then why not try a kayak tour with Freedom Boat Hire or Canoe the Coorong instead? Even the little ones can join you on a paddle (on an adult’s lap), as you slowly paddle to some of the places boats can’t get to.
Or, if you want to paddle your own way, pack or hire a kayak (or paddle board) and head for the new Lower Murray Canoe Trail in Tailem Bend. This beautiful trail is even graded, so you can measure you own capability and pick the trail that suits your skills and fitness best.
Another great little paddling spot if just off Long Island Reserve, because behind the river island itself is completely closed off to motorised vehicles – so other than the Murray Bridge rowing club and other avid paddlers, you’re out there with only yourself and the birdlife. It’s one of the most peaceful places we’ve ever spent time.
But if you really want to leave the work to others, then why not jump climb aboard a short cruise with the crew from Four Knots or the historic PW Mayflower in Mannum. The team from Four Knots will reopen again for groups of up to 20 (minimum of 12) from 1 July, and the Mayflower is kicking off its cruises from the June long weekend!
Above: Discover the beauty of the Murray River with Four Knots.
Further south towards the Coorong, you can also take a boat trip through the globally renowned Coorong. Jump on board with the crew from Spirit of the Coorong (Goolwa) - *bookings essential.
If you love to ride
Fast: Strap the mountain bike on to the back of the car and head for Kinchina Conservation Park. This place is becoming more and more popular each week with the big-tyres, and trails are constantly being upgraded to ensure a fantastic ride in pristine parkland.
Above: Kinchina Conservation Park is fast being a popular spot for mountain bikers.
If you want to make a weekend of it, why not stay the night at a holiday house on the river, or local caravan park, and head out for a trail run or ride in the Monarto Woodlands or Mannum Waterfalls (the team from Murraylands Multisports are always up to speed on the best spots to visit – follow them on Facebook here).
Slow: If you’re up for more a smooth cruise in lycra (or even with the kids-in-tow), then why not hit up the Mannum to Kia Marina cycling/walking trail. Most of this path is off the road, sealed, and even includes a free ferry crossing!! And if you don’t have bikes, don’t fear, you can hire them from the local Mannum Visitor Information Centre.
The local bike club does this ride most weekends, and locals love to walk along it as well.
Our best advice is to stay the night in Mannum and wake up early for a ride. Start in the main street of town, before heading across one of Australia’s only Murray River dual ferries, and then follow the sealed path past Haythorpe Reserve, along the levy banks and onwards through Cowirra to East Front Road. This magnificent path will take you all the way to Kia Marina, past lush riverside environs. (And keep your ear out for frog sounds in the morning, or later in the afternoon, they’ll be calling out to you.)
If you love nature, then pack your binoculars and head out to the Herman Gass Reserve and bird hide at the end of the day. This beautiful spot on sunset is the perfect dose of nature that we can all do with right now.
Above: The Encounter Bikeway trail gives you maximum river views as you walk/cycle.
Otherwise, our other favourite is the Encounter Bikeway which starts in Goolwa along the river. You can take this one as far or slow as you like (and there’s plenty of coffee spots along the way!).
A few of our other favourite slow AND fast-paced experiences are mapped out below, so choose your journey and come see us soon!
Above: Drop in to Langhorne Creek with SA Skydiving.
(And a bit bumpy) Self-drive 4WD and camping trips through the Coorong
Experiencing the adrenalin of the Lions 360 at Monarto Safari Park (*reopening date TBC)
SA Skydiving – over Lake Alexandrina and Goolwa (*reopening soon, check website)
Cycling tours through Langhorne Creek wineries
Dark Sky Tours with Big Bend By Night
A houseboat holiday with Unforgettable in Mannum
Small bus tours with Juggle House Experiences (to wineries, dark skies or other Murray River icons)
Book your stay, and come and play.
**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.