Tired of the monotony of winter sports? While it may be getting colder, that’s no reason to stay at home. We’re perfectly okay with the cooler months here in the Murray River, Lakes and Coorong, because it brings with it a new style of adventures on our doorstep, that are guaranteed to keep life exciting when the weather feels a little dull.
Test out a few of these:
One of the most iconic sights here on the Murray River is the Murray Princess. Unopposed as the grandest of them all, if you haven’t stepped on board the Princess, now is the time. And what better way to experience the Princess than celebrating with Christmas in July.
Break out the bubbly, puddings and Yuletide treats as the Murray Princess crew brings the best of Northern Hemisphere winter culture. Take your pick of 3, 4 or 7 night cruises, snuggle up on the warm cosy lounges, and watch the world go by. Enjoy the stunning scenery and sunsets, Big Bend cliffs, and abundant bird life. Or step-on-shore and explore, from the birthplace of the Murray River paddle steamer at Mannum, to the roar of the Murray Bridge bunyip. All this plus food glorious food, with a chef preparing a Christmas menu with all the trimmings, you’ll never go hungry.
Image: Jillian Nickolls
If nature is your thing, then you’ll love some time connecting back with the environment at the Ngarkat Conservation Park. Have you ever seen 270,000 hectares of vegetated sand dunes? Park and take a look. Or pop in your sneakers and take a stroll on the many walking trails which get you up close and personal with the iconic Mallee landscape.
Rest those tired feet at the Motel on Becker at Tintinara, in the newly renovated and refurbished rooms along the Dukes Highway. But don’t you dare drive past SA’s most delectable waffles at Waffles & Jaffles without stopping. These beauties are served fresh from a quaint hole-in-the-wall road-side shack at Coonalpyn and are world famous! And while the maple syrup still runs down your chin, you’ll have time to appreciate the well-known giant silo art, painted by Guido van Helten, which sits just across the road.
Journey to one of the earth’s darkest places, described as a “stargazer’s delight”. Winter conditions are just perfect for this bespoke tour experience. Picture yourself perched on top of the cliffs of the Murray River, be guided through the internationally accredited River Murray International Dark Sky Reserve, discovering a new appreciation for the 130-million-year-old natural night sky. Oh – and we nearly forgot – you’ll get dinner at the Swan Reach Hotel or the Bowhill General Store – two iconic local venues with views straight on to the water.
Just down the road and once known for its cattle and sheep, Langhorne Creek is now much-loved for its award-winning wine and beautiful cellar doors. With the number of winemakers increasing, some of Australia’s best red and white wines are being produced here.
There’s plenty of cellar door options for all styles of winey days too. Bremerton Wines continues to impress with up to 18 wines on the market (and plenty of tasting too). You’ll be stunned by the award-winning cellar door at Kimbolton Wines, with its building made from re-purposed shipping containers.
Ever stayed at the best hotel in regional Australia? Well now is your chance. Visit Murray Bridge’s newly renovated and refurbished hotel, with the best view in town. Spending more than $45 million on the transformation in recent years, the Bridgeport is the perfect place to eat, drink, play and stay. Enjoy foggy morning views over the Murray River, swim in the heated infinity pool, and choose from menus that feature the very best SA produce.
While you’re there, why not attend one of Murray Bridge Racing Club’s winter meets, with two dates set for both June and July. The Racing Club is still fresh from its move to Gifford Hill, making it an easy 50-minute drive from Adelaide, just off the freeway.
Fancy a stroll of a different kind? More than 10 kilometres of walking tracks wind their way around the park, taking in hundreds of native birds, flora and fauna. Not to mention, the odd white rhino, cheetah, or lion. This is a great trek - even with kids in tow, as most tracks are suitable for robust pushers. Monarto Safari Park keeps getting bigger and better too, recently opening a new Visitor Centre, providing a first-class facility to buy tickets, snacks, or even cuddle a baby animal. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure style of experience at Monarto, and we’re 100% here for it!
Believe it or not, winter is actually the best time for kayaking on the Murray River. Most days the conditions are smooth and calm without the hustle and bustle of the summer speedboats. River Shack Rentals is a family-owned and operated business, specialising in local accommodation – so if you love to paddle, this is the ideal mid-winter getaway for you! In fact, even if you just love relaxing, reading and looking at the water (while maybe throwing a line in) then this is equally perfect.
With a long list of riverside holiday homes, you can pick which best suits you and your family, all the way from an old school family shack, to a deluxe and modern river home.
Venture into Storm Boy country and take a walk on the wild side. Skipper Glen can take you on a variety of tours, and if it were us - we’d pick his signature tour of visiting the seabirds and seals. The picturesque half-day trip from Long Point jetty to Tauwitchere Barrage traverses where the freshwater lakes separate from the salt water of the Coorong. Plus, with more than 30 years’ fishing experience, Glen is more than qualified to captain you on a scenic boat ride, complete with gourmet morning tea at the foot of remarkable sandhills. If you’re lucky enough, you might even get to taste some of his delicious catch of the day as well.
Where the river meets the sea, you can take your pick from a vast selection of tours and experiences with the Spirit of the Coorong. The Murray Mouth Cruise gives a unique insight into the wharf area, cruising downstream from Goolwa. Meandering along the waterways of the Coorong, the short 90-minute cruise is the perfect introduction into the region.
For those who feel the ‘need for speed’ you can’t get any more adventurous than what’s on offer at The Bend Motorsport Park. The custom-built racing track offers so many experiences for the racing novice, from hot laps with an experienced driver, to being behind the wheel of one of Australia’s fastest go-karts. When you’re done, stay on site at Rydges Pit Lane Hotel, with rooms overlooking the main motor racing circuit. Or if you’ve got the family, try the BIG4 at The Bend, keeping everyone busy in the heated pool and on the jumping pillow.
Whatever winter escape you’re looking for, you’re guaranteed to find something to suit you right here. Pick your favourite and book it in now (or if there’s a few here that look good, then book a few and extend your stay!)