From slow food to high-speed adventure, a houseboat holiday down Australia’s mighty Murray River has something for everyone. Kids and captains alike will love discovering the Murray, which winds between New South Wales and Victoria, then through South Australia to the ocean. Moor at secluded beaches or at historic riverside towns such as Echuca-Moama, Mildura, Swan Hill, Renmark and Loxton. Enjoy leisurely indulgence at the restaurants, wineries and golf courses. Or embrace one of the Murray’s many natural adventures. Learn to water ski, canoe the lagoons, bird-watch in the wetlands and bushwalk through the red gum forests.
A holiday and journey in one, houseboating is ideal for families and groups of friends. You can savour the sunshine and scenery, while enjoying all the conveniences of a fully-equipped home. Someone from the hire company will give you a driving lesson on arrival, and all you need is an international drivers or motorbike licence. You can hire houseboats from most of the bigger towns along the Murray River, all accessible from either Melbourne or Adelaide.
It’s a two hour drive from Melbourne to the vibrant port of Echuca-Moama and three hours to Yarrawonga-Mulwala, two of the many twin towns along the river’s border between NSW and Victoria. Paddle steamers began unloading wool and cargo on Echuca wharf in 1865. Today you can cruise the river in a gracious original steamer and watch shipwrights restoring the old fleet. Take the kids for a ride in a horse-drawn carriage, visit the museum or lunch in a pub which has an underground bar and escape tunnel. East in Yarrawonga-Mulwala, you can water-ski on huge Lake Mulwala and play golf on Australia’s largest public access course. Swim from the sandy beaches, fish for Murray cod or pick your own fruit at a local farm.
As the Murray meanders north-west towards the South Australian border, you can moor at pretty Swan Hill or the outback oasis of Mildura. Imagine early life in Swan Hill’s squatter shacks and recreated pioneer town. Or cruise through the nearby Barmah Wetlands, where birds abound amidst the world’s largest red gum forest. The Murray is famed for its lush produce, and you’ll find many cellar doors and gourmet outlets scattered around Swan Hill and the established foodie destination of Mildura. Just past Mildura’s green riverbanks is the outback and Mungo National Park, with its stark, crinkled sand dunes and prehistoric Aboriginal burial site.
In South Australia, the Murray’s banks are lined with vineyards and orchards, limestone canyons and UNESCO-protected wetlands and national parks. Stroll through Australia’s largest rose garden and along the riverfront in pretty Renmark. Meander through Berri’s vineyards and stock up on multi-coloured produce at the Riverland Farmers Markets. A little further west, Barmera on Lake Bonney is a hub for water-skiing, windsurfing, jet-skiing and jubilant weekly yacht races. Do the lovely cliff-top walk in Waikerie or soar over the river, town and surrounding citrus groves on a glider. Let the kids run wild at Monash Adventure Park, wander Loxton’s, beautifully-maintained gardens and combine fine wine with wildlife-rich wetlands at Banrock Station.
Travel with family or friends and do a little or a lot. On a houseboating holiday down the Murray, you’ll always be lulled by the relaxing rhythm of the river.
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