Ask any local, and they’ll tell you that Autumn is one of the best times to be on the Murray River. Between the magic of the morning fog rising off the water, and waterside campfires – through to the reflections of still waters and clear skies making for starry nights, it’s the perfect place to visit and escape the city.
While some areas of the Mid Murray are still recovering from the flood, there’s plenty of ways you can enjoy the river this autumn.
The iconic PS Marion is back on the water and creating waves of excitement. The fully restored heritage vessel is a favourite, paying homage to the days gone by as one of the world’s only operational steam-driven, wood-fired steamers still operating. It’s kicking into gear this Mother’s Day weekend with a high tea on the water, including a few special treats. Complete with a free glass of bubbles on arrival and prizes for ‘best hat’, why don’t you indulge yourself, or give this fantastic gift to your mum. Please note advance bookings are required (www.psmarion.com or call the Mannum Visitor Centre 8569 1303). Passengers will board half an hour before cruise departures, from Mary Ann Reserve Mannum.
The PW Mayflower is back regularly cruising the Murray each Wednesday in April, and then every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from May. Book online (www.psmarion.com or call the Mannum Visitor Centre 8569 1303).
[Important note: The PW Mayflower is usually docked at the historic Mannum Dock Discovery Centre. Passengers need to report to the temporary Visitor Information Centre at Shop 4, 67 Adelaide Road, during April and will be transported to a temporary departure location. Cruise departures from the Mannum Dock are expected to resume from May.]
While you’re in the area, you must take a look up on a clear night – at our brilliantly Dark Sky. The River Murray International Dark Sky Reserve, just out of Mannum, is an Australian first. It joins an elite group of remarkably dark places around the world, which protect and preserve dark and unpolluted night skies.
Consisting of some 80 kilometres of Murray River, small townships, farmland and some of the darkest skies on the plant, you are literally meeting the stars of the region when you revel amongst it. You can even throw a swag or tent down overnight (this really brings a new meaning to sleeping under the stars), or you can book a few nights in local accommodation with the likes of River Shack Rentals, Unforgettable Houseboats, Reedy Creek Retreat, the Mannum Caravan Park or the Mannum Motel.
Also returning to cruising is the majestic PS Murray Princess, which has roared back to life after patiently being moored at Mannum for the past four months. The largest inland paddle-wheeler in the Southern Hemisphere, the Princess is an absolute icon of river cruising. It’s return to the water allows visitors to see the impact of the floods first-hand, including the regeneration of the flood plains.
With a range of different packages to cater for all styles (from three to seven-night cruises) relax in one of the two lounges, hang out on the sun deck, and enjoy the onboard entertainment.
To celebrate its return, additional departure dates have been scheduled for May, June and July 2023 (check them out here).
Whether you’re up for casual sightseeing, a tasting tour or celebrating a special occasion, Four Knots Murray River Cruises has you covered. Its flexible itinerary options let you enjoy the river’s beauty any day of the week, from morning to sunset.
The most popular cruises include a grazing tour, sunset cruise, raptor feeding and a birthday/special event package.
Still in Mannum, is the Pretoria Hotel, a grand old pub more than 100 years old. While it had to shut its doors for some time during the floods, the ‘Pret’ is open and giving out its usual river vibes. The beautiful spot on the riverbank is second to none, with views amassing our Murray River. Catering for all, with a front bar, restaurant, function room, bottle shop, and old pub-style accommodation, it’s a popular go-to for many locals and visitors alike.
Otherwise, the Mannum Hotel (or known to locals as the ‘bottom pub’ is always ready for new visitors, with a full bar and 7-day dining menu.
Upriver, the Swan Reach Hotel is also a favourite with river-goers. The ‘Swanny’ boasts uninterrupted, 180-degree panoramic views of the mighty Murray, and has provided a great vantage point for views throughout the past few months of floods and recovery. Offering the ultimate in country hospitality, the warm, friendly pub atmosphere will leave you wanting to come back, time and time again.
Whether you’re looking to unwind with a good book, or connect with loved ones, Reedy Creek Retreat offers the perfect atmosphere to do so. With no distractions and only the soothing sounds of nature to keep you company, you’ll feel rejuvenated and refreshed after your stay. Glamping at its finest, while they may be off grid, they have not compromised on quality, with a first-class ecofriendly experience.
Join Spirit of the Coorong on a journey into the Coorong where the river meets the sea. Visit ancient sites, hear stories of the riverboat days, and learn more about the area immortalised by Colin Thiele’s Storm Boy novel and movie.
Also down at Goolwa, try and catch the South Australian Wooden Boat Festival between April 28 to 30. This year’s festival will be sailing into new territory, with Coorong Quays hosting this unique event at Alexandrina Cove, Hindmarsh Island. With works underway at the Goolwa Wharf, this festival will be a tad different, with a smaller, but no less impressive, gathering of wooden boats, boaties, builders and wooden boat enthusiasts.
Fancy floating overnight on the river, try Bill’s Boathouse, a beautiful, sustainable boathouse moored permanently on the Murray River. Located at Riverglen Marina Reserve, not far from Murray Bridge, this offers the perfect place for a romantic getaway or creative working stay. The self-contained, modern floating eco pod is definitely a unique way to get on and appreciate the river.
If luxury floating homes are your thing, Ark-imedes (known as The Ark) is another option, offering the unique combination of serenity, relaxation and nature. Also built for two adults, The Ark is designed for the ultimate selfcare indulgence, right on the river.
Nearby at White Sands, have a ‘wow factor’ holiday with Wow Houseboats. One of the best 12-berth, self-drive houseboats – it boasts two levels of luxury with all the mod cons. This houseboat has an excellent reputation, so why don’t you be your own captain and go with the flow!
Proud Mary Cruises is another way to traverse the river, in a paddle steamer that helped shape river cruising as it is today. Cruise options leave from Murray Bridge, with two and five-night itineraries, and 2-hour lunch cruises. Each cruise is serviced by a crew of ‘river locals’, with chefs who are passionate about local seasonal produce.
Wherever you decide to stay, grab some equipment from Freedom Boat Hire, or take a tour with experts on a kayak or jetski. Or, not for the faint hearted, try a chartered ski or wakeboard boat package, and carve the day away.
Got a River Revival Voucher? Bookings are now open to redeem your voucher, thanks to the State Government’s Rise Up for our River campaign.
There is an extensive list of experience and accommodation available in the Mid Murray area, including:
BIG4 Breeze Holiday Park Mannum
Four Knots Murray River Cruises
Mannum Aboriginal Community Association Inc (Nguaght Ngaught)
Mannum Dock Discovery Centre (PW Mayflower Cruises)
33 Shell Hills – River Shack Rentals
66 Riverlane – River Shack Rentals
For those who missed out on a voucher this round, be the first to know about Round 2 by subscribing here.