By Amy Cooper
South Australia's Riverland boasts an array of food, adventure and luxury options on the banks of the Murray.
Lap up luxury at The Frames
These three clifftop retreats perched high above the Murray River set man-made luxury against a backdrop of priceless natural beauty.
The meticulously designed villas are overflowing with indulgences: secluded balconies, heated pools, a hydrotherapy spa and sauna, electric king-sized beds with massage and tilt functions and a private chef on hand to whip up a bespoke gourmet feast.
If you can bear to emerge from such a blissful bubble, The Frames offers tinnie tours through surrounding river estuaries rich with native wildlife, and sunset cruises in a restored 1929 wooden gondola.
Bunker down on the banks
The Murray’s rugged banks are made for caravanning and camping, offering endless scenic spots to park and play.
If you prefer not to BYO your accommodation, at Big4’s three Riverlands holiday parks you’ll find comfy – even luxe – cabins hugging the waterside among the sites for tents, motorhomes and caravans.
Thrills and frills on a kilometre of absolute waterfront at Big4 Renmark Riverfront Holiday Park include a resort pool, water park and adventure playground. Blanchetown Riverside Holiday Park has expansive lawns bordering stretches of riverbank beach. Loxton Riverfront Holiday Park is a fishing and birdwatching paradise with excellent watersport facilities.
Tread lightly in an eco villa
Pike River Luxury Villas go heavy on the pampering but light on the environment.
They’re powered by Australia’s first privately owned solar farm, and prove that green can be glam with myriad creature comforts, from sunken deck spas to sumptuous bed linens – all accompanied by soul-soothing Pike River views.
The development also houses the Woolshed, a self-contained retreat for up to 10 people.
Sip a craft ale at Woolshed Brewery
The century-old woolshed houses the brewery, where tastings and tours can introduce you to the range of ales, ciders and even an alcoholic lemonade.
Fresh produce platters and a seat on the tranquil deck complete the enticing picture. Like so many Riverland enterprises, the brewery takes care of its precious location with a zero waste policy.
Taste wine at the water's edge
Caudo Vineyard’s cellar door is just metres from the Murray River, and boat trippers regularly tie up and hop out to sample delicious drops.
The vineyard was once a rose farm, and the floral heritage lives on today in wines named for the rose varieties.
Lovingly preserved historical features include the original 1889 dwelling, former farm buildings and the Sentinels – three stately old riverside red gums where paddle-steamers once moored and flood levels have been recorded over the decades.
Camp with a canoe
The Murray River’s maze of backwaters, creeks, swamps and lagoons offers its richest rewards to kayakers. Your quiet approach increases the likelihood of spotting the wetlands’ shyer native aquatic birds and animals, and you may encounter goannas, tortoises, emu, kangaroos and a vast variety of water birds.
Canoe Adventures operates out of Berri, offering canoe hire, guided tours, plus the most immersive wilderness adventure: canoe camping.
For one night, or as many as you like, you can pitch your tent in a secluded spot, either accompanied by guides or independently with a map of the routes and sites. Equipment is supplied, so all you have to do is paddle.
Walk by day, float by night
The Murray River Walk takes you deep into wetland wilderness on foot and aboard the quintessential Murray transport: a houseboat.
Over four days and three nights, you’re guided from Paringa through waterways around Headings Cliffs and Chowilla Creek.
After each day’s trekking through geological formations, red gum forests, rejuvenated wetlands, dunes and floodplains, your houseboat awaits, complete with a spa, comfortable rooms and a nightly three-course dinner of fresh local fare rustled up by a renowned native foods chef.
Discover chocolate heaven at Havenhand
It’s an irresistible recipe: take the Riverland’s bounty of fresh fruit, blend it with handcrafted chocolate from a Belgian chocolatier, and serve up the resulting delicacies in an idyllic riverside garden.
The temptations at Waikerie’s Havenhand Chocolates include chocolates made with local wild lime, raisin, orange, passionfruit and cherry, as well as morning and afternoon teas, chocolate drinks and coffee in the Chocolate Café.
Don’t miss Havenhand’s signature treat, the Apricot Gem – one is never enough.
Sip sustainably at Banrock Station
To understand the connection between the wine at Banrock Station and the 1357-hectare swathe of wetland surrounding it, take a self-guided walk along the eight kilometres of boardwalks.
Threatened species such as the southern bell frog and regent parrot enjoy this haven of thousands of native trees and shrubs.
The winery’s sales have been funding the Wetland Centre’s conservation projects since 1994. There’s never been a better reason to buy a bottle or two, and the wines taste even better for their compassionate purpose.
Meander along the Murray
The Riverland flanks about 375 kilometres of the mighty Murray, Australia’s own Mississippi. Its winding path through pristine wetlands, lush vineyards and historic ports recalls an unhurried era when paddle-steamers plied the river.
You can glimpse this gentle past on a cruise aboard the 1897-built paddle-steamer PS Marion, a grand old dame still running on steam and based at the Mannum Dock Museum of River History.
Several times a year she hosts the Rockford Steam Powered Dinners, a floating wine and food weekend experience with Australia’s best chefs cooking up a storm while you paddle along the Murray.
Virgin Australia flies to Adelaide from all major Australian cities. Most major hire car companies are at Adelaide Airport.