See Australia: The bucket-list worthy walking track
The Murray River Walk is a four-day guided walk that combines hiking and houseboating along a 40-kilometre stretch of the Murray River between Renmark in South Australia and the Victorian border. While you’re wandering along river banks, across flood plains and through forests of red gums, a houseboat named Desire motors upriver to meet you with chilled wine and canapés at the end of each day. It’s a luxurious way to walk the walk, with hot showers, a top-deck spa and water views at every turn, including the five double bedrooms and two bathrooms, spacious lounge and dining area.
The food is a highlight, a showcase of local produce and native ingredients – Murray River scallops, kangaroo, yabbies, Riverland beef and lamb, quandong desserts and salads of samphire and native greens foraged during the day, as well as platters of emu pâté, olives, cheeses, chutneys, nuts and sundried fruits. Evening meals are presented degustation-style, with matched Riverland wines.
Walking is easy, more of a stroll than a trek along mostly level ground, covering between 10 and 15 kilometres each day. There are frequent stops as your guides show you the scars on trees where canoes, shields, woomeras and coolamons were cut from the bark by the Erawirung people, point out middens and cutting tools scattered in the undergrowth and the charcoal remains of ancient cooking hearths. There are plenty of stories of the paddle-steamer days, too, when hundreds of boats and barges plied the river, ferrying wool and supplies to the stations and ports along the waterway, with rusting relics and half-submerged wrecks. You’ll also learn how irrigation and water management has changed the landscape along one of our most highly regulated rivers with its system of dams, locks and weirs
The route meanders across two historic properties, Calperum and Bunyip Reach stations; the Murray River Walk has exclusive access, so you won’t see any other walkers. You will see plenty of kangaroos, skinks and, if you’re lucky, a shy echidna or two. Pelicans are constant companions, as are elegant egrets and slightly goofy spoonbills perched in treetops, cormorants and darters drying their wings on half-drowned branches and whistling kites riding the thermals. Ducks patrol the shallows and emus flounce across the floodplains, feathered skirts fluttering.
You’ll spend almost as much time on the river as you do on land, exploring anabranches and backwaters in an aluminium cruiser, negotiating locks and stickybeaking at historic customs houses and old shearing sheds, including a barbecue lunch and beer stop at Wilkadene Woolshed Brewery on the last day. As far as walking holidays go, it’s pretty cruisy.
WHERE IS IT?
The walk begins and ends in Renmark, 256km east of Adelaide, around a 3-hour drive east of Adelaide.
Cruising and gourmet food.
WHEN TO GO?
Walking season is May to the end of September.
This is an edited extract from Australia’s Best Nature Escapes by Lee Atkinson published by Hardie Grant Books [39.99] and is available in stores nationally.
Photographer: © Lee Atkinson