When I travel, I love to scope out local experiences. I also love to scope out free things to do and today I want to help you find the best free things to do in the Riverland!
Some of the best things are life in free, but generally there will be an initial or ongoing incidental cost. Snuggling my dogs is free, but I did have to purchase them (they were bargains though) but they do cost me on a monthly basis (they are always so hungry!). Going fishing in my tinny (affectionately called ‘Rex’) is also free…if there is already petrol in it and worms in our worm farm to use as bait.
Although some of the suggested free things to do might require you to have already purchased a car, a picnic blanket or clothes (lets face it, they are an essential these days), on the day you chose to do said activity, it will be free. Unless of course your car breaks down, someone steals all your clothes and also your lunch. In which case it could be an expensive, not to mention embarrassing day out.
Special note: Wine tasting is usually free in the Riverland…it’s your choice if you wish to walk away with a case of wine and make it a not so free day out.
Wanna go on a Picnic?
Alpaca lunch! Ba ha ha!! I couldn’t help myself!
Back to it, Bert Dix Park just next to the Bridge at Paringa has lush green lawns, big old red gum trees and picture perfect views of the Murray River and the Paringa Bridge. If you plan your picnic to be around 9:30am or 2:30pm, you will see a section of the bridge lift to allow river traffic through. The bridge was opened in 1927 and is one of four that span the entire length of the River. It is also similar in colour to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, perfect for that stunning photo or two. The stark rust orange a beautiful contrast to the green backdrop of the Murray River’s trees.
There are many other perfectly manicured lawns around the region well suited for picnics and lunch time rendezvous. Why not try the riverfront in Waikerie, Martin Bend at Berri, near the tree of knowledge at Loxton or the lakefront at Barmera and the riverfront at Morgan (which, by the way, has a really cool looking paddle steamer playground being built)!
Taste some different wine varieties
Wine tasting isn’t exclusive to Clare Valley, Barossa and the Adelaide Hills. You can also go wine tasting in the Riverland! Well I’ll be! Although our cellar doors require you to drive a little further between tastings, Riverland wineries hold all the charm and character you come to expect with boutique cellar doors and regional vineyards. Some of them also have something the others don’t, a River view, and all of them produce particularly great alternative varieties.
To visit the Riverland’s first winery, drop in at Angove Family Winemakers and try a Grenache
Take a walk
There are some great trails around the Riverland and they all make it on the free things to do list! Some you will find the best views from and others will take you through black box forests and majestic River red gums. Read about some of my favourite trails here.
One not listed in a previous post is the one at National Trust property, ‘Wilabalangaloo‘ (or ‘Wila’ as the locals call it). The nature trail‘s 3 routes are 2.5km when walked together and will take you along the River and its burnt orange cliffs and through classic Riverland Mallee scrub. Be sure to drop in and have a chat to a friendly Berri Barmera Landcare officer if they are around to learn more about the property before setting out for a trek.
Walking is free, relaxing and good for the body and soul. It also make a cheap alternative to traditional coffee and cake with the girls or even a work meeting.
Like I mentioned earlier, some of these free things to do may have some initial costs. Fishing is one of my ‘sort of’ free things to do. Especially if you don’t already have the tackle, bait, boat, car, petrol whatever else you need. But if you have all of that ready to go, then packing up the boat for a morning trawl, can be pretty cheap and if you catch dinner it’s an added bonus!
The opportunities for capturing incredible images is endless in the Riverland. Cliffs, the River, backwaters and creeks and hundreds of species of birds can all been captured, forever to be in that moment of time. You just have to remember to stop what your doing and capture the moment.
Lake Bonney has to be one of the most photographed locations in the Riverland. There is little wonder why when you see the sky change from blue to scarlett, and the twisted shapes of the dead gums-or stags as I like to call them, are silhouetted against mirror like water.
I’d almost go as far to say that Lake Bonney is the Riverland what Remarkable Rocks are to Kangaroo Island.
Cross the River 4 times
If you have to use a ferry to cross the River on a regular basis, this may not be on your ‘free things to do’ list! Crossing the ferry everyday, twice a day, can become quite annoying, especially when you miss it by a whisker! For those of you however, who haven’t used a ferry to glide your car across water, it is quite the milestone!
There are 4 ferries in the Riverland and for those of us that live on the ‘otherside’ of the River, they are an absolute necessity as much as they are an annoyance. But they are a great way to get a different perspective of the River, and have a break if you have been driving for a while.
Cross the River by ferry at Morgan, Cadell, Waikerie and Lyrup. Plan your route right and you will zig zag through the Riverland, popping in an out of towns seeing how vast the region really is.
Check out some art
I love gazing at art, whether it’s painted, sculptured or captured on camera. I am in awe of those talented individuals that can picture something in their mind and create it with their hands. I personally enjoy browsing Paul White‘s gallery in Waikerie and love the artist hub in Renmark Square (was the Renmark Plaza). Each Riverland town has a designated gallery, like the Rain Moth Gallery in Waikerie and visitor information centres showcase local art like the Loxton Visitor Information Centre does.
If you are travelling on the Sturt Highway, Riverglen View Art Studio and Gallery just out of Waikerie is worth the detour. By appointment only (but also free), the Frankel’s gallery has interesting glass pieces and Gary Duncan creations. You can even pick up a copy of the famous and funny children’s book, starring a loveable wombat, Hairy Nose Itchy Butt.
Click here to find some more places to get your art fix!
See what holds all the water in
Way back in the 1920-30’s locks and weirs were constructed along the Murray River to essentially hold the water in and maintain water supply. I wont get into a full history of the locks but feel free to fill your brain with knowledge here.
There are six locks along the River from Blanchetown to the SA/VIC border and if you are travelling on the River by boat, definitely go through one. It is by no means an adrenaline experience, but it is one that is interesting and that most people don’t even consider when they think of the Riverland. If you aren’t cruising along the River in a boat, you can still drop in by road to have a look. The sheer size of the lock and the noise of the water flowing through is remarkable. Even more so to think about their construction all those years ago.
The riverfront at Renmark is just as famous for possums as Barcelona is for pick pockets! As the sun starts to set, the possums begin to stir and the parade begins. Scurrying from tree to tree, they are quick to gather some tucker and stay out of your sight. The kids will love it, so take a picnic blanket and see how many you can count. Unlike getting pick pocketed in Barcelona, watching the possums at dust wont leave you without a passport and is completely free!
The richest experiences and memories are often born from a bit of imagination and resourcefulness. Enjoy some of my suggested free things to do this weekend.