If you’re planning a big car trip this school holidays, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve put together the perfect guide to help break up the journey and allow the kids – and adults – to not only stretch their legs but enjoy the break.
The main street is the best attraction. We suggest you start at ‘Shuffles’ and head up to the ‘Big Ram’.
Shuffles, for those who aren’t familiar, is the new art installation, made up of six cylindrical steel screens that look like heads of wheat ‘shuffling’ in the wind. Located at the southern end of the main street, the sheer size of the Karoonda Shuffles is awe-inspiring, the more you walk or drive around the artwork, the more real it becomes. Recently lit, the tribute to one of the major industries in the area – wheat – is now even better at night, with the green gum trees also on display, making for an amazing tourist attraction.
Once you’ve finished taking in the shuffles, head up the walkway to find the Big Ram – which is exactly that, a statue of a big ram. Another tribute to its rich livestock history, a photo with the Big Ram is a must.
Off to the playground next, from the farmyard to outer space. Based on the Karoonda Meteorite, the playground boasts a three-level summit tower, complete with ‘black hole’ slides, a ‘space tether’ flying fox, orbiting carousel and much more.
By now you’ll have worked up a thirst. Stop in at Cathie’s Café, the best family-friendly place to eat in town – just ask any of the locals. Well-known for its milkshakes, coffee, and frappes. You could also drop-in to the Karoonda Community Craft Shop, with lots of arts, crafts and knick-knicks for sale, all made by locals.
Next is the silos, which aren’t just any silos – part of the Australian Silo Art Trail, these aren’t to be missed. Combining a unique mix of a large-scale mural by day, and colourful art projections by night, this is the perfect depiction of Karoonda’s rural lifestyle. Painted by Australian street artist Heesco, animals are the key feature of this mural, starring locals Diamond the sheep and Whiskey the Kelpie. The night projections are an ever-changing digital display, with a mix of SA artists having their art splashed across the huge space every month of the year.
Lastly, the recently renovated Pioneer Park, with a display a historical items and buildings, including a church, old machinery, and the kids’ favourite – trains.
Soon, your experience of Karoonda will be unlike any other you’ve had before. District Council of Karoonda East Murray’s partnership with the Storytowns podcast (coming soon) will allow you to tune in and hear meaningful, immersive stories of the attractions you’re seeing while you wander through the town.
How can we talk about school holidays without mentioning our favourite escape for wild animal encounters, the Monarto Safari Park. Complete with a new Visitor Centre, you’ll now enter the park at 63 Monarto Road, stepping into a spacious area where you can buy tickets, snacks, discover the park’s history and explore the network of outdoor trails meandering the park.
For the first time ever, guests will have access to the café area, including playground and amazing views of the park, without having to buy a ticket. Perfect for the road-tripper, looking to stretch their legs while taking the South Eastern Freeway near Murray Bridge. But, with more than 50 species of native and African animals, you may be persuaded to stay a little longer!
If you’re heading out towards Mannum, take a short detour to Mypolonga’s cosy new café, Lot 23. It has quickly become a family favourite hangout for locals and travellers.
Kelly Johnson of Woodlane Orchard has recently renovated this old stone church to create a casual space for people to come together, and to showcase a fantastic range of local produce, including her own much-loved Woodlane Orchard dehydrated meals, snacks and garnishes, Bakehouse Farm’s honey, Rio Vista Olives, and more. Don’t forget to take a few home with you so you’ll be able to taste the magic long after you’ve hit the road!
After you’ve had a browse, it’ll be time for a caffeine hit. Wrap your hands around a perfectly frothed latte (a roadtrip essential), send the kids off with a babyccino, and fill your bellies with a sweet treat from the fridge or a freshly made toastie to top it off.
While a winery may not be the most obvious of school holiday drop in choices, Kimbolton is a winery with a difference.
The cellar door provides the perfect environment for the kids, with a large selection of lawn games like croquet and totem tennis. Plus, kids can grab their own flight served with cordial, kabana, cheese, chocolate and a packet of colouring pencils, actively booklet and bubbles. This allows parents to put up their feet, and enjoy a wine or two under the towering gum trees at Langhorne Creek.
Full of river history, the Mannum Dock Museum is located on the pristine banks of the Murray River and is a great add-on activity while visiting Mannum. The fully restored and operational PS Marion is one of the last steam-driven, wood-fired paddle steamers to exist and you can experience it in action on a short cruise (see dates here). You can also head upstairs of the museum and play with the interactive displays to learn more about how river boats operate.
But it’s not all just paddle steamers, take a look at the geographical displays of rare fossils, Ngarrindjeri Aboriginal display, collection of small boats, a wool press and historic milling and baking equipment – the perfect history lesson for the holidays.
While Mum and Dad might want a rest from behind the wheel, The Bend is perfect location to swap places with the kids. The Bend Motorsport Park’s state-of-the-art motorsport facility located on the Duke’s Highway (at Tailem Bend) not only offers fantastic spectator events, but adrenaline-filled experiences and unique accommodation.
Have a go on the Kartdrome – an exhilarating outdoor track, reaching speeds of up to 70km/h on one of three circuit configurations.
If on-track experiences aren’t your thing, browse the gallery of unique cars displayed in the Welcome Centre, race The Bend’s circuit virtually on the racing simulators, grab some branded merchandise at the gift shop, enjoy a meal or drink overlooking Pit Lane, or even stay the night at the Rydges Pit Lane Hotel or the BIG4 The Bend Holiday Park.
While you’re in Tailem Bend, find your way over to Regional Profile Cutters and take home an iconic piece of our region. This creative Tailem Bend team produce a range of eye-catching metal art like pelicans, kookaburras, emus, kangaroos, and much more. You’ll also have the opportunity to have a custom piece created to remember your family trip.
Whether the Murray River, Lakes and Coorong is your destination for the school holidays or a place to stop during a road trip break, make sure you stick around a little longer and tick off some of these must-dos.
Travellers within South Australia have long been familiar with the ‘bring a receipt’ rule when travelling into the Riverland – previously if you could show appropriate proof of purchase for your fruit and veg you could take it in with you.
To further protect Riverland growers, new changes are now in effect meaning the ‘bring a receipt’ rule is no longer recognised. These changes were made to protect South Australia’s internationally recognised Pest Free Area in the Riverland.
This change will help protect the local horticulture industry, the value and cost of premium export trade and local jobs. If you are found travelling into the Riverland with certain fruit and vegetables, you may be fined. Buy local produce when you arrive.
Find out what fruit and vegetables can travel with you as well as travel snack ideas at fruitfly.sa.gov.au
Before you head off on your roadtrip over Easter, remember to start your drive well-rested, plan a break at least every two hours, share the driving where possible and avoid driving when you’d usually be sleeping.
There will be Driver Reviver pop up sites across South Australia with volunteers providing a free cuppa and biscuit. In our region, you’ll be able to find one along the Princes Highway between Murray Bridge and Tailem Bend, and on the lakefront in Meningie. More info here.