Can you hear that? They’re sulphur-crested cockatoos and if they’re awake, so are you. Listen closely for the hoot of an owl or a kookaburra’s cackling laughter.
Open your eyes to foraging teal ducks, majestic pelicans and crazy swamp hens see-sawing on spindly willow branches.
Good morning, and welcome to your Murray River Houseboat adventure!
The Murray River Pilot’s first edition was published in 1964 by Baker-Reschke as a guide to navigating the mighty Murray from Goolwa to the New South Wales border.
Updated every 4 years, this handy guide keeps you on track with mooring sites, where to stop for supplies and which areas to avoid. A little history takes you back to the Dreamtime and early white settlement.
Kilometre markers on the port (left) bank travelling upstream, and mile markers on the starboard (right), help monitor your progress.
At each ferry crossing, your single long horn blast notifies the operators to flash green lights when you’re safe to cross. Yellow markers indicate where to wait and the green lights will only flash when the ferry reaches the shore.
Exploring Mannum is a must!
Whether it’s at the beginning or end of your journey, exploring Mannum is a must.
PS Murray Princess docks at Mary Ann Reserve between its 3, 4 and 7-day cruises. This authentic inland paddle steamer is propelled by its huge stern wheel and claims the position of largest in the southern hemisphere.
If she’s not in town, you’ll encounter her on the river. (Read more about PS Murray Princess and her cruises from this article in Travel Pass Magazine.)
Just south of the ferry, visit PS Marion, Mannum Dry Dock Museum and Mannum Visitor Information Centre. Here the history of the paddle steamer Marion is told while touring the vessel. View interactive displays of river life through the ages and general information of the area.
Upstream, past the Caravan Park on the river’s western bank, the HG Gass Bird Sanctuary is home to what is believed to be the largest Willow tree on the Murray River. Twitchers, keep your binoculars handy, the birdlife is abundant.
Pellering Reach & Lake Carlet.
Pellering Reach is the stretch of river beginning at the stranded steamboat “Tarella” (now a holiday home) to the southern end of Lake Carlet. It’s here you’ll be most exposed to winds.
Whitecaps are common and explorer Captain Charles Sturt learnt the hard way while navigating these waters and ended up stranded on the banks for some days.
Once the right-hand bend in the river is reached, a series of cliffs provide shelter from the winds and calm prevails.
The entrance to Lake Carlet is between the 172 and 174-kilometre marks. Although not possible for houseboats, kayaks and small tenders are able to explore this sizable lake. (6 miles long x 1 mile wide)
Lake Carlet is home to bird and wildlife and, as the sun rises and sets, extraordinary photographic opportunities.
Younghusband to Devon Downs.
Along the hundred of Younghusband, you’ll find perfect moorings. Be respectful of private property especially at pump sites where hidden water pipes are marked.
“Canoe trees” are easily recognised by the single canoe shape cut into huge gums. Aborigines used these large bark pieces to navigate the river, lagoons and backwaters.
Under new management, the Bow Hill General Store is recuperating after a fire destroyed the old shop. While there’s a new shop underway, they’re still managing to knock up some great burgers and other takeaway food in their temporary shed.
Competitive beer, wine and spirit prices are reason enough to highlight Bow Hill on your map.
Another ferry crossing is approaching at Purnong so remember that single long horn blast and wait for the flashing green lights. The original punt crossing was moved to Purnong from Craignook at the top of Chucka Bend.
Purnong was a large station with equally large influence.
Caurnamont or “high cliffs” to the Aborigines is where Kris and Andrew from White Houseboats have settled in their“Love Shack”. This idyllic river community is perfect for a weekend “shack” or permanent residence.
Stop in for supplies at Walker Flat. Walker Flat General Store has everything from bait to booze. Try their chicken or lamb yiros and don’t be frightened of Wally, he’s a bit of a galah, but very welcoming.
On the top of the picturesque lime and sandstone cliffs, early settlers established crops. You’ll see windmills along the cliff and farmers today still make the precarious cliff face descent to attend to pump maintenance.
In 1929 at Tartanga Island, near the Devon Downs homestead (6km before reaching Nildottie), the skeleton of an aboriginal boy was found.
In the rock with the boy’s skeleton were tools/ weapons and the remains of his last meal of mussels long extinct. Radiocarbon dating put the boy of 12’s skeleton at 6-7000 years old.
Ngaut Ngaut to Nildottie.
Opposite Devon Downs, Ngaut Ngaut Conservation Park was developed by Richard Hunter, former chairperson of the Mannum Aboriginal Community Association.
Hunter’s development of Ngaut Ngaut as a cultural tourism site was to “educate non-indigenous Australia and the world about the deep and dynamic culture of indigenous Australians”.
Contact the Mannum Aboriginal Community Association (+61 488 052 370) 2-3 days in advance to arrange a guided tour to view fossils, rock carvings and paintings depicting stories from the Dreamtime.
Early morning and late afternoon are perfect for kayaking here with inlets to lagoons and backwaters. Glide through quiet waters observing pelicans, cormorants, and giant carp.
While floating in the backwaters a deep sense of calm resonates only broken by the intermittent pop of fish claiming their prey.
At Nildottie, there’s a chance to replenish supplies. Stick to the signposted path to avoid trespassing, the shop is a distance from the river.
Rounding Big Bend and the final stretch.
The Mighty Murray doesn’t disappoint with her striking beauty and Big Bend’s broad sweeping arc of towering cliffs is no exception.
Mooring here is spectacular with the cliffs as a backdrop and the sky changing colour with the setting of the sun.
Caves at Punyelroo have been central to Aboriginal and white settler legends. Said to be interconnected, one story has a stranger taking a fancy to an Overland Corner tribesman’s wife and took off with her.
Instead of chasing by water, the tribesman navigated the caves and headed off the wife-stealer at Swan Reach where he reclaimed his bride.
Swan Reach is about as far as you’ll get on a 7-day houseboat adventure from Mannum. This calls for an outing and where better to go than the Swan Reach Hotel? A convenient houseboat mooring is right below the pub.
Grab a table overlooking the river. The bistro menu satisfies all your pub favourites along with a couple of surprising offers, squid schnitzel anyone?
The meals are generous and perfectly cooked while the staff, led by publicans – Peggy and Derek Gibson, are relaxed, friendly and efficient.
We’ll leave you here to enjoy your return journey and discover more about the magnificent Mighty Murray!
7 days on a Murray River houseboat adventure: it’s a thing we love….
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