The Magnificent Murray
By Michael Osborne
South Australia has so much to offer. The capital city of Adelaide features in Lonely Planet’s top ten must visit cities and is described as “effortlessly chic and like a perfectly cellared red is ready to be uncorked and sampled”.
South Australia is synonymous with wine country where the regions offer a drop to suit all palates. Experience the state’s finest wines, feast on fresh produce cooked by acclaimed chefs, and savour the flavours of South Australia.
Beyond the plate explore the state’s diverse natural landscapes and experience native wildlife in their habitat. The pristine coastline and rugged beauty of Kangaroo Island is the perfect contrast to the untouched bush of the Flinders Ranges and Outback. Lazy days can be spent cruising on the Murray River or adventure-seekers can get the adrenaline pumping with shark cage diving in Port Lincoln. No matter what kind of traveller you are, South Australia is sure to surprise and inspire you.
But for this adventure, we returned to the Murray River at Mannum for a luxury houseboat experience.
Having sailed the Murray on the riverboats Murray Princess and Proud Mary, the chance to captain your own houseboat has been on ‘my list’ for some time.
From Adelaide we used the services of the brilliantly named ‘Life is a Cabernet Tours’ (www.lifeisacabernet.com.au ). This allowed a relaxed and informative way to pass the few hours’ drive to Mannum, passing through the Adelaide Hills and beautiful towns and villages.
For lunch we called into the magnificent Pike & Joyce Cellar Door at Lenswood ( www.pikeandjoyce.com.au ). The wine tasting was enlightening, as I had never tried their wines before, which led us to a delicious lunch overlooking the vine covered valleys of their vineyard.
Next call was the office of Unforgettable Houseboats for our introduction and briefing on their luxury floating mansions. www.unforgettablehouseboats.com.au
To say that all has been thought of in the fitting out and set-up of these boats is almost an understatement. These boats offer such facilities as queen and king size bedrooms, fully tiled bathrooms with ensuite facilities, spacious lounge and dining areas complete with cocktail bars and fully equipped gourmet kitchens, sunken spa baths and heated jacuzzis.
You don’t even have to bring your own food and liquid refreshments, they will organise it for you, if required.
My apprehension of skippering a $1,000,000 houseboat was soon dismissed as Mark took us on an introductory cruise. All you need is a Driver’s License and some common sense.
As evening was approaching, we pulled into the river bank and tied up for the night. Each of our group offered to do various tasks to organise sunset drinks and a BBQ to follow.
Sitting on the aft upper deck, listening to the sounds of the flocks of birds and watching a splendid sunset – does it get any better?
The provided river maps are easy to read and offer great information as to where to moor and the history and attractions of the villages along the river.
Do as much or as little as you please. As our media group only had three nights, we chose to cruise along and see as much as possible.
Living heritage and pioneering history
Two different Aboriginal groups lived along the Murray River and today you can still find "canoe trees" that were used to make eucalyptus bark fishing boats. Visit Ngaut Ngaut Aboriginal site, where local guides take visitors to the birthplace of the Black Duck dreaming and Australia’s first archaeological dig.
At Camp Coorong, just out of Meningie, learn the art of basket weaving or join a nature walk with Aboriginal elders.
A tribute to the early pioneering days can be seen at the Mannum Dock Museum: home to the PS Marion, which was built in 1897. It's one of the last operational wood-fired, steam-driven, overnight passenger carrying, side paddle steamers in the world.
Back on dry land, Old Tailem Town Pioneer Village boasts 12 streets of memories and more than 90 buildings that will take you back “to the old days”.
Images by Michael Osborne.
Michael Osborne was a guest of South Australian Tourism www.southaustralia.com Unforgettable Houseboats and Life is a Cabernet.