There’s nothing better than fresh country air, clear blue skies and the beauty of undisturbed natural bushland to dial down the stress levels.
You might have travelled through it on a road trip before, but if you’ve never stopped in the Mallee, then you’ve definitely been missing out.
Far from the noise and crowds of the city or busier holiday spots, this quiet corner of the Murray River, Lakes and Coorong has so much to offer – minus the queues and traffic.
Whether you love art or adventure, exploring nature or relaxing over a leisurely burger and brew, chasing the kids around a playground or learning more about our country’s history – the Mallee has it all.
So if you’re passing through – or looking for somewhere off the beaten track to stay a night or two – mark Karoonda, Pinnaroo and Lameroo on your map.
Read on for more of our favourite places to see, things to do and spots to stay for a memorable Mallee escape.
Right on the main highway linking the Riverland with the Murraylands is Karoonda – an historic farming town that’s still an agricultural powerhouse today.
But did you know Karoonda also has a reputation as an arts hub? The town’s main street is home to some incredible art installations – all within walking distance of each other along the Karoonda Art and Sculpture Trail.
Start with the vibrant Geofacts 1-4 by talented sculptor Tom Borgas for a vibrant representation of geological specimens inspired by the famous Karoonda Meteorite. The Karoonda Shuffle Screens are a fun, large-scale display that create the illusion of movement as you walk, run or drive past this visual depiction of the grain growing season, from seeding to harvest.
The centrepiece of Karoonda’s arts scene is the day and night silo art. By day, a huge mural by street artist Heesco depicts country life and the town’s heritage (complete with steam train). You’ll want to stick around after dark when the silos become one giant canvas for illuminated artwork projections – and the artist changes every month, so there’s always something new to see.
Staying for the night artwork? The three new eco-cabins at the Karoonda Tourist Park offer a serene setting on the edge of town, a short walk from the silos. The park also offers other cabins and powered sites, while the Karoonda Hotel has comfortable rooms and great meals.
With its local cafes, friendly shops and great hospitality, the town’s main street is a great place to stop for a bite to eat – and to stretch your legs. Little travellers will love the new space-themed playground featuring a giant rocket with slides and their very own moon rover vehicle. And no trip to Karoonda would be complete without meeting the Big Ram.
Step back in time at Karoonda’s Pioneer Park and discover what life was like for the district’s early pioneers. The historical buildings house impressive collections of memorabilia, and there’s also old machinery, rolling stock, carriages and more on display. Take the 1km Nature Trail and Bushwalk and discover more historic items along with the Mallee’s unique flora.
Want a real taste of country life? Put the Karoonda Farm Fair and Show in your calendar. Set for March 31 and April 1, 2023, this popular event boasts everything country – from sheep shearing and yard dog trials, to home cooking and even a scarecrow contest.
Situated right at the gateway to SA from Victoria and New South Wales, Pinnaroo makes an ideal stop for travellers.
First up – coffee. If you need to refuel after a long driving stint, The Groundsman is a must-visit. These guys have a well-earned reputation for their exceptional coffee from travellers more used to sipping brews from some of the best cafes in the Eastern States. They’re also a short stroll from the Pinnaroo Village Green – the town’s central park that’s undergone a substantial redevelopment to add a caravan and RV rest area, new playground, shared-use paths and more. It’s the perfect place for a picnic, bike ride or play with the kids.
The Mallee Tourist and Heritage Centre is well worth a visit, with its impressive collection of engines, farm memorabilia, and the Letterpress Printing Museum even has historic working printing presses. There’s even a grain collection with over 1000 varieties!
For a real adventure, get off the beaten track at the Ngarkat Conservation Park. Head south from Pinnaroo and there’s plenty to explore here among 270,000 hectares of unspoilt natural habitat, with a great network of tracks ideal for some 4WDing, as well as campgrounds right in the heart of the bush. Don’t have a 4WD? No problem – there are plenty of accessible picnic sites and walking trails within the park too.
If you’re travelling in summer, cool off with a dip at the Pinnaroo Swimming Pool, which is open from November through to April.
With its lush green lawns, Lameroo greets travellers like an oasis. Head into the town centre and discover a revitalised heart of the Mallee with a new playground, pump track and dog park, along with plenty of grassy picnic areas to relax.
Take one of the four self-guided heritage walks to discover more of the town and the picturesque Lake Roberts.
Dolly’s Golden Rain Tree Crafts and Heritage is a one-stop-shop – it houses the Lameroo Craft Shop (where you can find local crafts, art and produce) and the District Historical Society Museum and Visitor Information Centre. Browse the historic displays then indulge in some true country hospitality with a Devonshire tea.
From November until April, the Lameroo Swimming Pool is a popular spot to relax.
If you’re looking to break up the road trip, the Lameroo Hotel Motel and Lakeside Caravan Park offer a range of quiet, comfortable accommodation options that will have you feeling well-rested and back on track ready for your next adventure.
If you’re staying for a while, why not extend your stay in the Coorong district and explore the beauty of the Lower Lakes and Coorong National Park. Or if you’re in Karoonda, venture towards the river for a meal at the famous Swan Reach pub – perched directly above the river ferry and offering a view over the flooded river system right now.