The wide expanse of the Murray River flows past sedately, lazily making its way to the ocean. The setting sun reflects orange off its still surface, broken only by the fishing line and float that you have thrown out in hope of catching an elusive Murray cod. Across the bank a substantial group of migratory waders preen themselves in the shallow water, and upstream a large house boat drifts slowly into view. Except for the sounds of nature the evening is quiet, and while you sip on your sundowner you think how infectious this tranquility is.
This may all sound like some sort of daydream, but in the Murraylands this is the reality of life- a reality that attracts thousands of tourists each year who come to recharge their batteries and enjoy the peace of the Murray River environment. The powerful river breathes vitality into the dry Mallee region, creating stark contrasts in landscapes which highlights the lushness of the areas directly around the Murray. Just an hours drive from Adelaide, the Murraylands are easily accessible and the perfect option for a weekend away. Visitors flying into Adelaide just need to pick up a hirecar at the airport, and in no time at all they can be relaxing on the green banks of the Murray!
The ultimate way of seeing the Murraylands is from the water, and it is no surprise that a houseboat holiday is the premier vacation idea for the region. There are over 80 houseboats operating in the Murray and most of them come equipped with all the luxury fittings to make your stay on them a pleasure. No special license is required to hire one, you just need to be above 18 and to hold a valid driving license. Training and tuition as to how to drive them, the river conditions and mooring spots is provided before you leave for your trip. Of course you do not have to commit to taking out a houseboat to get onto the water, there are shorter cruises too. Some of these go for a day and some just for a few hours, but all of them give you the same relaxing satisfaction of being out on the water.
The towns of the Murray share the laid back and relaxed feel that is so typical of this region, and wherever you choose to stay you will be welcomed with open arms. Murray Bridge is the largest town on the river, and has everything the tourist may need or want. A range of accommodation options is complemented by shopping centres, restaurants and sporting facilities, and there are attractions such as the Dundee Wildlife Park, the Avoca Dell Mini Golf and the Sturt Bunyip Reserve which help make it a great retreat for the whole family. Along the river shore there are numerous leafy parks and barbeque areas where you can appreciate the quiet serenity of the river from.
With so much water around its no surprise to learn that one of the primary recreation pursuits in the Murraylands is fishing. Expect to hear plenty of 'the one that got away' stories when it comes to the Murray Cod. This elusive freshwater fish grows to over 100 kilograms and is notoriously difficult to catch, which makes it quite the talking point amongst local fishermen. It makes great eating, which adds to its appeal. Dont let its phantom nature put you off fishing however, because there are lots of species that are just as tasty that roam the river such as the yellow bellied callop. Its always a good idea to befriend a couple of locals and pick their minds for the best fishing spots and techniques whenever fishing in a strange area.
Just when you think you have seen and done everything in the Murraylands you hear about the Monarto Zoological Park. This 100 ha sanctuary combines the concepts of zoo and wilderness to create a an open range area where numerous exotic species roam. Expect to see herds of giraffe, zebra, ostrich and zebra wandering through the natural bush setting. Its like your very own African safari! Located at the town of Monarto which is the gateway to the Murraylands, the park is an important breeding program and a great place to bring the kids.
Whether its for a love of the great outdoors, a bit of fun and adventure or just a relaxing and rejuvenating break, your reasons for visiting the Murraylands are bound to be satisfied. The vast river system and the historical towns are easily explored in a rental car, and the diversity of the region ensures that whatever your age or your interests, you will find something in the Murraylands to make your holiday special.
Gavin Wyatt is a journalist with a passion for travel. originally from Zambia he has traveled around the world to end up on the sunny shores of Australia. For more of his articles visit South Australian Car Hire