Monarto Safari Park is open again – and we’re hearing the collective joyous roar from SA families ready to make their way back to their favourite spot. Whether it’s the giraffe platform, meerkat manor or the cheeky chimp exhibit, we know you and the kids are ready and raring to go.
We’re so lucky to have this African-inspired park right on our doorstep. In less than an hour’s drive from Adelaide we can be feeding lions, talking to baby meerkats, watching chimps swing from high ropes, walking with rock wallabies and admiring the elegance of one of the world’s largest giraffe herds. The best bit is that we can finish it up with lunch and coffee on the deck while the kids go crazy on the park’s new nature playground (REJOICE!).
Above: You don't have to travel to Africa to have these wild animal experiences.
So while you’re making the booking for the fam-bam to get back out to Monarto, you should stop and consider if you want to extend that trip our way, because we’re telling you, this little patch of paradise we have along the Murray River, is PERFECT for families who love to explore in the great outdoors.
Important note: Ensure you book for your Monarto visit here while COVID-19 restrictions remain in place.
Seriously, why not pack a picnic for an extended day trip, or even book an overnighter. Here’s just a few of the reasons why it’s a good idea with the kids:
There’s a giant undercover playground at Murray Bridge’s main riverfront Reserve (Sturt Reserve). Here you’ll find a big paddle steamer boat for the kids to climb on, along with slides, swings and spinning things. Nearby, you’ll also find a newly upgraded skate park (reported to be one of the best in regional SA, and great for little ones too), plus a pump track and rage cage for basketball, soccer and cricket. AND – if you’re game, you can pop over to the River and watch Bertha the Bunyip rise from the deep.
Or if nature play is more your thing, there’s a new little nature play space - with waterplay in a creek, giant slide, swing ropes, sandpits, balancing logs and climbing trees. You’ll find this along Mannum Road, nearby Diamond Park in Murray Bridge. (This is also a stone’s throw from grabbing a coffee or all-day brunch at Acre & Ash, one of the most child-friendly cafes you’ll come across. It includes indoor play baskets, chalk boards, kids kitchen, slides and even a kids grazing plate and healthy smoothies!).
Above: Trade screen time for some nature play. Image: Rural City of Murray Bridge
If you’re up for a little drive, head on out to the Tailem Bend playground too. This spot doesn’t have the most modern playground facilities, but it DOES have this brilliant mix of play features for kids of all ages – it even has sculptures for the kids to climb on of the colourful sheep from Mem Fox’s Where is the Green Sheep. This playground also has colourful hopping mounds, an old railway carriage, a giant slide built in to the hill, ladders, swings, climbing challenges, balance beams and more. It’s also got a weird and wonderful little artistic native animal display alongside of it, where the kids can peer through the mesh at the numbered animals and guess which ones they know!
(This is also across the road from Little Local Co – serving up possibly the best coffee outside of Adelaide and one of the most delectable dessert fridges you’ve ever seen!).
Swanport Wetlands sits almost directly under the Swanport Bridge that crosses the mighty Murray River on the South Eastern Freeway. It’s a hidden gem for our locals, but is starting to gain interest amongst nature-lovers, bushwalkers and families.
Above: The Swanport Wetlands is an easy walk, with plenty of native flora and fauna for the kids to explore see along the way.
This beautiful little spot has boardwalks that take you through lush river lagoons and over the top of still water. It includes bird hides for the kids to stop and spot the local wildlife, plus science facts covering signs at every corner. It’s like a giant nature maze for families!
Above: Peek through to watch birdlife on the water.
Another of our favourites just outside of Murray Bridge is Kinchina Conservation Park. This place has looping trails ranging from 2 – 20kms, and your kids will love it, because you can see something new around every corner. There are some old ruins to explore, kangaroos greeting you along the track, tee-pees made with branches throughout (from previous families) and rocks to climb and jump from.
Or, if you’re up for the drive, head out to Mowantjie Willauwar Reserve trail. Meaning ‘forest of the pines’ this reserve is home to 143 hectares of Southern Cyprus Pine Forest, over 40 bird special and 23 plant species. The 4km linear trail is ideal for walking, mountain bike riding and some sections are even pram friendly!
If you head in the other direction towards Mannum, then consider a family walk along the Murray Coorong Trail from the township towards Cowirra. Here you can pop the kids on one of the ferries to cross the river (for free). It’s a hoot if you’ve never been, and the kids will probably just want to stay on there for a few return trips (so grab a coffee before you board). Once you’re across the river you can walk/ride/scoot along a shared pathway past Haythorpe Reserve, along a levy bank and on to a riverside (closed to traffic) road.
If your kids love to press buttons, have interactive play and make-believe they’re the ship’s captain, then you need to add the Mannum Dock Museum to your day-trip (or weekend) list. It’s actually not that far from Monarto either if you take the back roads (follow the signs).
Above: The Mannum Dock Museum's interactive displays make learning about our river history fun.
At the museum you can take a trip down memory lane, while the kids explore the brilliant replicas of paddlesteamers from years gone by, and play with the interactive exhibits lovingly created by local volunteers!
If you’re super keen, you can even take the kids on a history boat trip on board the PW Mayflower – but make sure you check booking times and book ahead.
Keen to stay?
Check out the holiday houses in Murray Bridge, Mannum, Wellington and Tailem Bend on Airbnb or Home Away. Otherwise, for some local advice, contact Dave from River Shack Rentals or Kerry from Coorong Realty for advice on what might be best for your family's size and budget.
There's also some great local caravan and cabin parks too. Something to suit all budgets!
Remember, Monarto is only the start of your amazing family experience here in the Murray River, Lakes and Coorong.
**COVID-19: As restrictions begin 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.