The Murray is one of the world's longest navigable rivers. It flows 2700 kilometres from the Great Dividing Range in Victoria's north-east to Adelaide in South Australia. In its upper reaches it is a mountain stream which grows into a wide and magnificent river. It supports mammals, reptiles, fish and 350 varieties of birds.
The river forms the border between New South Wales and Victoria and weaves its way for 300 kilometres through South Australia's Riverland.
Riverland is home to some of Australia's most beautiful river scenery. There are limestone cliffs, pretty towns, meandering lagoons and enormous red gums, home to countless birds. The area produces two-thirds of South Australia's wine grapes, there are roadside stalls stacked with vegetables, fruit and nuts and several nature sanctuaries doing wonderful work.
Our crew began the journey in Waikerie and headed to the South Australian/Victorian border. They crossed the river by car ferry and set off to Banrock Station.
Banrock Station, at the junction of Banrock Creek and the Murray, is an historic 1750 hectare property. 250 hectares grow Shiraz, Cabernet, Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Semillon grapes. The remaining land, including river frontage, wetland and floodplain, has been returned to its natural state. For over fifteen years the owners have taken up the Wetland Care Australia's challenge to restore wetlands and woodlands. They are eradicating the effects of a century of sheep and cattle grazing and vegetable growing.
A percentage of Banrock's wine sales is donated to Landcare Australia and Wetland Care Australia for domestic conservation projects. Visitors to the property see how an eco-system and vineyard enterprise can happily co-exist.
Gone are the days when wetlands were thought of as bogs or lowly swamps. The importance of wetlands as plant and animal nurseries and their vital roles in the food chain have been scientifically realised. These gifts of nature should be treasured.
Banrock Station has replanted native vegetation to provide food and shelter for kangaroos, emus and wombats. They have erected ten kilometres of fencing to keep out foxes and feral cats.
Visitors can enjoy delicious food and wine on Banrock's deck while soaking in the beautiful landscape.
The crew met up with Sid Villis, a local with loads of knowledge of the area. He remembers too well the 1956 floods that engulfed his stone house. He was forced to leave in an old wash tub, and as much as he loves the Murray, he knows it has a dark side. He still has the tub!
Next stop was Loxton Historical Village. It takes you back to the late 1890s, its development period, and highlights the struggle of early settlers. The project began in 1970 with the building of a pine and pug hut by the National Trust. It is similar to Loxton's first building, occupied by Charles Loxton who was a boundary rider on Bookpurnong Station. A pepper tree planted by him in around 1880 still stands.
Buildings in the likeness of original structures include a pine slab shearing shed, stables and a mallee stump barn. There is a 1920s style garage, a fully equipped blacksmith shop, stone Pioneer Memorial Chapel, a bank, general store and school and a railway station with a TX engine. All were rebuilt at the Village.
A charming place to stay is Thiele's Majestic Holiday House. The solid sandstone house is in an elevated and peaceful setting, is spacious and has loads of sophistication. It has many classic features large rooms, high ceilings, wide hallways with arches, ceiling roses, chandeliers and leadlight panels.
The house accommodates up to twelve and is a marvellous place to have fun with a group of friends. If you love a good dinner party, the Majestic Holiday House has an American oak kitchen and a formal dining room.
The crew had a hearty breakfast at Redgum Café & Bar on the bank of the Murray River. The café offers alfresco dining on the riverfront decking or in air-conditioned comfort, every day of the week. On Sundays they serve an all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast until noon, they have a take-away menu for travellers, stock a large selection of boutique wines and sell packages of their famous coffee.
Berri Factory Outlet is an outlet with a difference. They don't sell clothes or shoes or bed linen but they do sell wonderful produce from local areas. You can stock up on juices, condiments, olives, almonds, citrus and stone fruits at very good prices.
It's almost a must to be on the Murray, so the crew went to the 1880 Customs House to rent a houseboat from Alura Customs House Houseboats. Just twenty minutes from Renmark, the small business operates the marina and general store and is the only houseboat company operating within that very secluded section of the River.
Alura has just eight houseboats and that number allows them to maintain a high standard of maintenance and customer service, on and off the boats. They accommodate between 8 and 12 passengers for some comfortable cruising and sightseeing.