I’ve been adding a few pics of our little River spot to my Insta, and a bunch of you have been asking for the tour! So, here it is.
I won’t go into huge detail about the location and the inside of the place because my in-laws actually live here… but this should be enough for you to see what I’m talking about. And if you’re sold on it, there are lots of cool B&Bs, motels, camping spots and beach houses for hire so you can experience the river lifestyle for yourself.
It’s pretty cold up here right now (19C / 66F) – I know, I know, not that cold but definitely not swimming weather. Even though it’s sunny, it still looks cold in the pictures – no idea how that works. So I promise to do a follow up in Summer when we’re out on the boat.
Where are we?
For the non-Australians in the house, the Murray is Australia’s biggest river. I think it ranks at 7th in the world in terms of length. It’s about 2500 kilometres (1500 miles) long and runs from the Australian Alps in the East down to the Mouth at Goolwa, which is about a 1.5-hour drive south of Adelaide.
Our spot on the River Murray is about 90 minutes from Adelaide – about 20 minutes on from Mannum which is a cute little country town of about 2,000 people (think people with mullets). It’s sleepy in the Winter but in Summer the whole Riverland comes to life. Boats everywhere – wakeboarding, kneeboarding, water-skiing, tubing – with people playing music, having barbecues, and merry faces everywhere.
The water is brown, which has been known to turn people off if they’re not used to it, but it’s just silt. Unfortunately, there are millions of carp – an introduced species – dredging up the silt at the bottom. My parents remember the water being a lot clearer when they were kids and the carp weren’t a problem. There have been considerable efforts to reduce the carp population recently. The water is starting to get clearer, but there’s a long way to go. It doesn’t matter to me though, because that colour is what I know. It matches the impressive sandstone cliffs and earthy hills that surround the river.
Life on the water
In the winter the spa pool (that’s a hot tub for you Americans) is up and running. There’s no better feeling than sitting in the spa after a long day hiking, fishing, playing sport and socialising. Because I come up here a lot to get work done in the peace and quiet, the spa is the part of the day where I get to sit and relax and reward myself for some hard work.
Houseboats are really popular all the way down the river, especially near us. People hire them all through the year but they’re especially popular in Summer of course. Picture a whole house on a barge and that’s exactly what you get when you hire a houseboat. They’re great fun; some even come with a small boat (“tinny”) or jetskis. It’s like hiring a holiday house with your mates only your view changes every day.
There’s a big paddle steamer called the Murray Princess that makes its way up and down the river. It’s old-fashioned in style and looks so sweet – like something out of the 1800s. Sometimes it passes at night and the lights twinkle as it goes.
There are so many trails around the river to hike, and not far from Mannum is the Mannum Waterfalls. They’re not huge, but it’s a really pretty walk.
Where my in-laws live is in a sort of gated community/holiday association. There’s a road that comes down the hill and around a big backwater to get to all the houses, which are directly on the river. Each house has a private jetty and a balcony overlooking the river. We always used to get up in the morning and go for a long walk around the backwater, which takes about an hour. It’s a gorgeous walk that’s flat but still a little bit of a challenge because only part of it is by road. It’s an awesome opportunity to encounter wildlife – kangaroos, birds, echidnas and even the odd wombat!
Recently, though, there have been some changes to the road which mean it’s no longer pedestrian-friendly. This makes it really difficult to walk up to the entrance gate and then around the backwater. So, everyone in the community has been busy forging a new trail East, rather than South to the backwater. Yesterday was my first opportunity to take this new trail and honestly, wow.
It’s just scrub at first, and Leroy, our Australian Shepherd, kind of hated it because the path isn’t established yet so he kept getting thorns in his paws. But once you get through the scrub and into the clearing next to the road, you can see a path that leads up a hill. The hill doesn’t look overly steep, but it takes a little bend behind a tree and then get’s really steep – definitely harder going than I expected! But once up the top of the hill, another trail leads you round past an almond grove, right up to a ledge where you realise you’re actually right on the edge of the cliff face!
So, I never used to be but these days I’m a bit scared of heights (part of growing up maybe?). It’s not a problem when I’m in a plane or anything, just in open spaces where there’s real potential of falling. So not really a fear, more like extreme caution I guess. Anyway in order to take the picture below, I had to climb out onto a ledge that looked like a separate boulder, not part of the cliff face itself. I was shitting myself honestly. But here it is, me in all my active-wear glory, feeling like I’m going t fall to my death:
To be honest it doesn’t even look that high here, but I promise it is!
Here’s the view from the top:
Food and drink
Look, the river is fun to fish in because it’s full of carp, and carp are the stupidest fish alive. You’ll always catch something because once they’re hooked they kind of just flop around like idiots rather than trying to release themselves. That said, I don’t know if you’d eat one, but I definitely wouldn’t. Because there’s so many, the populations of other fish have been depleted so it’s unlikely you’ll catch any edible fish.
The Riverland has some charming country pubs and many of them have casual restaurants or pub meal options. I think that’s one of the things I love about the River so much – it’s so casual. Pretty dresses or shorts and a cute tee in Summer, jeans in winter. There’s no need to dress up and be fancy – it’s without pretense.
My in-laws are really into growing their own food and making their own produce. They’ve even started making their own wine lately! Which is absolutely perfect because I cannot think of a better picnic spot. Sitting on the balcony in the morning with a hot cup of coffee, or in the evening with a glass of wine, is one of my favourite moments.
Also, I’m well aware that, as in the photo below, my tips have gone mega-brassy. It’s gross. But I have two kids so that’s kind of what happens sometimes. I will head to my twice-yearly hair appointment next month (insert facepalm emoji here!)
So, obviously, these photos were taken in the colder weather. I can’t wait for it to get warmer so I can show you what it’s like in summer!
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