Angove is the inventor of the goonbag

Towns in the Riverland

The Riverland is located right on the border of SA, NSW and VIC.  The Murray River weaves through it, creating creeks, lagoons and wetlands that are perfect for canoeists, bird watchers and water skiers.  The region has a population of 30,000 and 90% of South Australia’s citrus and stone fruits are grown there, as well as about half of the state’s grapes.  Ruins of internment camps that used to hold Japanese, German or Italian people during World War 2 are located in Loveday, which is just south of Barmera.

 

 

The week we were there, the weather was ridiculous.  It was disgustingly hot with a torturous sun beating down and cooking the Riverland to the mid-40s.  Everytime we commented on the heat to a local, they’d guffaw and say, “You think this is hot! Try 55 degrees! It’s not uncommon this time of year.”  We spent as much time as possible wearing as little as possible.

 

The car would heat up and be very toasty for the rest of the day, and into the night.  The two nights that we slept in the Troopy at Plushs Bend and Martin’s Bend, we tossed and turned in puddles of our own sweat.

 

Barmera

A sleepy little town with the Pioneer Museum that never seems to be open.  The bins are shaped like oranges, and there is a great shoreside park right next to Lake Bonney.  The Woolworths is decorated with a long-legged jetty over the entrance, complete with pelicans, birds and barrels.

 

 

Banrock Station

A beautiful winery just outside of Barmera near Kingston on Murray.  They have been operational for over ten years and take pride in producing great, value-for-money wines and promoting conservation.  Their balcony overlooks restored wetlands and they donate money to environmental projects every time you purchase a Banrock Station wine.  They also use recycled cardboard for their goon boxes.

 

We had a great tasting session while we gazed out of the giant windows over the wetlands.  Here are the notes for our favourites:

 

  • 2012 White Shiraz – a pretty pink wine that smelt of strawberry and citrus but was smooth and creamy on entry yet still refreshing and clean to finish.  We loved it and bought a cask.
  • Frizzante – a pale straw wine with tropical fruits and lots of refreshing fizz.  It was sweet with lychee and deliciously refreshing.
  • Crimson Cabernet – a beautiful crimson magenta with the sweet scent of raspberries and currants.  It was sweet with a slight dryness which makes it perfect with cheeses and Asian food.  It had a long sweet finish and while we wanted to buy a bottle of this as well, we had the strength to walk away.

 

Loveday 4×4 Adventure Park

A haven for 4WD enthusists and offroad addicts, Loveday 4×4 Adventure Park offers a playground, tour track, tavern and riverside camping.  Check out our post on Loveday 4×4 Adventure Park.

 

Berri

Berri Visitor Information Centre – Riverview Drive, 08 8582 5511

 

Berri started off as a fueling stop for paddle steamers and was officially named a town in 1911.  The name of the town is taken from the Aboriginal word beri beri, which means bend in the river.  It is the home of Berri Juices, with plenty of surrounding orchards, and there are heaps of fresh fruit outlets on the side of the road, offering a box of nectarines for only $6 or melons for 99 cents each.

 

Berri Estate

We thought this was the birthplace of the goon bag, but while they are possibly the biggest winery in Australia, they weren’t the first to think of the goon.  We had a lovely chat with the host while she poured wine for tasting.  Here are our favourites:

 

  • 2012 Haughtons Chardonnay – a pale yellow wine with tinges of green, it had a slight buttery smell that was matched with a creamy entry enlivened with citrus.  The warm finish was ripe with almonds, peach, apricot and coconut.
  • 2012 Hardys R&R Shiraz – a rich garnet wine with ruby red, there were dark berries and plum on the nose.  A medium bodied wine with hints of oak that were soft on the mouth.

 

 

Monash Adventure Park

A huge playground with an interesting history.  It was built by a local guy called Grant Telfer back in the 1960s, but after a kid broke their arm in 1992 and he got sued, the playground was shut and torn down.  It was reopened in 1996 sporting new equipment that was ‘less dangerous’ but everyone keeps talking about how good the ‘old’ playground was.

 

Entry is free and it’s open between 10am – 5pm.  There’s a wood fence maze, Burmese Rope Bridge, giant swings, BBQ facilities, two leaning towers and BBQ/picnic facilities – great family fun.

 

The Big Orange

While this Big Thing is currently closed, it is still visible from the road.  Check out our post on the Big Orange.

 

Renmark

Renmark Paringa Visitor Centre – 84 Murray Avenue, 1300 661 704

 

A very neat town with manicured parks and pristine riverside, but we found the people there to be suspicious and unhelpful. We wanted to go to the library to do some blogging, but there were no power-points available for use – they had all been covered up! We had to drive back to Berri to finish our work. One of the good things about Renmark is the dump point. It has a potable water tap, just in case you needed to prevent yourself from shrivelling up in the heat.

 

Renmark started as a settlement in 1887 and is the oldest irrigation settlement in the Riverland.  The name comes from the Aboriginal word that means ‘red mud’ and it was found that combining irrigation with the red soil produced conditions similar to California.  Renmark officially became a town in 1904.

 

 

Angove Wine

Angove wines have been about since 1886,  when Dr William Angove established a winery in Tea Tree Gully, northeast of Adelaide.  By the time of his death in 1912, winemaking had become a family business and his son took the family winemaking tradition to the Riverland.

 

Angoves is the inventor of the cask wine, the home of St Agnes Brandy and they also produce Stone’s Green Ginger Wine.  After a great tasting session, five drops were our favourites:

 

  • Long Row Pinot Grigio – gentle champagne yellow with a sweet floral and fruity smell.  It has a smooth entry that was rounded and finished with toasty apple.
  • 2011 Organic Chardonnay – pale yellow that smelt savoury, like bread and cheese.  It was smooth and creamy with spice, lemon and cantaloupe.
  • 2012 Long Row Merlot – ruby and purple hues with a cherry and current aroma, it was rich with forest fruits and cedar.  A full-bodied wine that smooths out to a butter finish.
  • Bookmark Crème All Uovo – formally known as Marsala, it was rich golden brown with a stewed apple and cinnamon aroma.  It was smooth and delicious with lots of warm apple.  Absolutely beautiful – we got a bottle!
  • Reserve Tones Green Ginger Wine – caramel gold with the scent of ginger, it was smooth and thick like honey but still biting and spicy of vibrant ginger.

 

Mallee Estate

This young winery was established in 1969 by Greek winemakers to came to Australia in search of a better life.  The Mallee Estate Wine label was created in 1998 and since then, they have had lots of success in China with numerous awards.

 

We had a quick session and enjoyed two wines in particular:

 

  • 2008 Tempranillo – with a subtle smell of American oak, it was warm with dark plums and cherries with a honey nut finish that was smooth and sweet and long lasting.
  • 2007 Shiraz – aged in a new barrel, it had warm wooded characteristics with a smooth entry and clean finish.  It was very light without any abrasive spices or tannins.

 

Accommodation

BIG4 Renmark Riverfront Holiday Park – Sturt Hwy, 08 8586 6315

 

The Big Orange 2013-01-14 002

Big Things : The Big Orange, Berri

While we were in the Riverland, we went to go and see the Big Orange, a ‘closed’ Big Thing just north of Berri.  It is the biggest fruit in Australia, standing 15 metres high and 12 metres in diameter.

 

The Big Orange

 

It opened in 1980 and has changed hands many times over the years.  With an unsuccessful auction in 2008, the property was eventually sold to a local businessmen.  The Big Orange is currently closed, but is still visible from the fence, and there are plans to one day open it up to the public again.

Pink skies @ Loveday 4x4 Adventure Park

Camping in the Riverland

There are heaps of places to camp along the Murray River in the Riverland Region, whether it’s within a national park or a free site along the river.  Parks that require a permit include Murray River National Park, Danggali Conservation Reserve, Chowilla Game Reserve and Loch Luna Game Reserve.  These are available via Parks SA.

 

Loveday 4×4 Adventure Park

This privately owned 4×4 playground is located right on the Murray River and offers secluded camping, yabbying, fishing and 4×4 driving practice on their excellent touring track.  There is also a pair of lakes that are joined by a small creek, causing them to look like a pair of spectacles – hence the name Spectacle Lake.

 

 

There is a fee for this campground.  Check out our post on Loveday 4×4 Adventure Park.

Website: http://www.loveday4x4adventures.com

 

Maize Island Lagoon Conservation Park

Along the river are a series of lagoons that birds love to hang about in.  You have the choice of setting up camp right on the river or next to one of the idyllic lagoons.  At sunrise, watch the cliffs along the Murray burn gold and orange, casting beautiful reflections on the water.

 

 

Plushs Bend Campground, Renmark

A quick drive outside of town is Plushs Bend, a great camping spot right on the Murray, with toilets, shade and phone reception.  We met some nice people sitting along the banks and having a few drinks.  There was also a solo traveller that looked like he had pissed some people off in the past because he was missing quite a few teeth.  He got a bit clingy so we escaped early the next morning, knowing that he’d still be in bed with a god-awful hangover.  Of course, this annoyance can happen anywhere, not just at Plushs Bend, so please don’t be discouraged about our experience.  The campground is beautiful.

 

 

Martins Bend Campground, Berri

Another free camping area next to the Murray which is just outside of town.  No camping is allowed on the lawn between the river and the driveway, but there is plenty of space on the other side of the driveway to find a nook.  There are toilets, a dump point, a caretaker, BBQs and picnic areas, as well as phone reception.

 

 

YEEHAW!!!! @ Loveday 4x4 Adventure Park

Experience : Loveday 4×4 Adventure Park

Imagine a place where you can take your beloved 4WD and put it to the test on a variety of landscapes, from rocks and steep inclines to muddy pits and soft sand.  A 4×4 utopia where you can have a beer with your mates after a long, dusty day touring the Riverland scrub.  An off-road dreamland that offers great bush camping next to the Murray River.

 

Well… you don’t need to dream about this place because it’s waiting for you at Loveday 4×4 Adventure Park!  This unique feature of the Riverland is run and owned by Tony Whateley and consists of 8000 acres of privately owned land that has been manipulated into a 4×4 playground for off-road enthusiasts. Pitch a tent next to the Murray River, and fill your day with 4WDing pleasure on their practice playground and touring track.

 

 

It all started in 2006 with an idea to take backpackers around the property and entertain them with bullshit stories about drop bears, hoop snakes and other imaginary Australian creatures.  The idea evolved and eventually steered Tony to look into the 4WDing scene.  With the philosophy of, “If you build it, they will come”, he created an amazing 4WD track, held a competition, and the rest is history.

 

The park has also been visited by 4WDTV Simon Christie, who gave it a big thumbs up of approval!

 

Playground

This is where the practice happens.  It has a variety of terrains from rocks, bumps, hills, dips, tyre mounds, sand and mud puddles. We were a little apprehensive at first but after a few confidence boosts, the Troopy was roaring over the obstacles.

 

 

Tour Track & Sandhills

At the top end of the property is the tour track, a series of 4WD tracks of varying terrain and difficulty that snake through the dry scrub.  It is designed to give the impression of isolation, with the option of winching yourself out if required.

 

  • The Boob Shaker track has sections of little bumps that certainly get the titties wiggling.  The name comes from Tony’s nanna, who jovially cried, “Oh it’s making my boobies shake… haha!”
  • The Rollercoaster has an apt name – there are ups and downs and heart-stopping tilts.  The terrain changes from smooth and sloping to rigid and bumpy.  This track was heaps of fun.
  • 150 Bumps is self explanatory – a never-ending road of crests and dips dug so close to one another that the Troopy’s bum would scrap at nearly every one.  It’s also known as the spew track for anyone who gets a little seasick.
  • The Divorce Track got its name from countless wives screaming, “if you go through it, I’ll divorce you!”  Dave and I breezed through the track and passed the obstacles that were outside of the Troopy’s limits, thinking that the only reason why anyone would divorce over this track is because the passenger would realise that they married the driver, who is a fuckhead that does stupid shit.

 


Near the riverside camping are the Sandhills, an area of soft sand dunes.  Driving over this landscape is a great learning experience and allows you to feel how the car’s course is influenced by the soft sand.  We also did some target practice shooting arrows at bullseyes drawn in the sand.

 

Race Track

Built for competitions only, such as the Riverland 4×4 Challenge, this track sits out the front of the Loveday Tavern and includes several jumps and hairpin corners, as well as an area for stunts.

 

 

The person who holds the record for the fastest lap is Tony’s teenage son, Toby.  He completed the track in 107 second.  To be perfectly honest – the kid is a whiz!  He can fix any bunged up 4WD you give him, he taught himself to drive a car on two wheels in an hour, and he can catch rabbits with his bare hands, trick ski, wake board and do car stunts.  We were lucky enough to be taken for a quick lap around the track and got airbourne a few times.  What a thrill!

 

 

Camping

There are several sites on the property where you can camp right next to the Murray River.  Fishing is good if you want to catch carp, or you can chuck the net in and nab some yabbies.  The skies were filled with pelicans, whistling kites and wedge tail eagles.

 

 

We camped at Old Shady Campground but often visited the site next door, The Hills, to find and chase bunnies.

 

 

The Essentials

If you are only going to visit for the day, 4×4 self drive day trips are $40 per vehicle.  Camping by the river and use of the 4×4 track is $60 for the first night, then $10 for each additional night.  Dogs are allowed, as well as camp fires, provided it’s not a Total Fire Ban Day.

 

To make a booking, call Tony on 0418839787. When you get to Barmera, get your map to Loveday 4×4 Adventure Park from the United Petrol Station on the Sturt Highway.

Website: http://www.loveday4x4adventures.com