Cruising the Murray River on a Houseboat
13 November 2007

The Murray River is Australia’s second longest river at 3750 kilometres in length starting in the Australian Alps and winding through three separate States to end in South Australia.


A group of 12 couples from New Zealand and Australia hired the 2 largest luxury houseboats from the tourist award winning company “Unforgettable Houseboats” for a 7 day experience on this great river. Organised by our “First Sea Lord” (Margaret), the group boarded the boats at Mannum complete with enough food supplies and “liquid assets” to feed and water a small army.



These houseboats are bigger than the average sized home, with 3 levels of luxury accommodation which include queen sized beds, shared en suite bathrooms, kitchen and bar facilities with all the mod cons, dining table seating 12, modern entertainment systems, a spa pool, BBQ and of course air conditioning etc; (not that we needed it on this trip but the heater was handy!!)


The 200 kilometre round trip from Mannum to Swan Reach and return travelled through spectacular scenery of golden limestone cliffs lined with gums trees, willows and an abundance of wildlife including pelicans, cormorants, galahs, cockatoos, Pacific ducks, swans, the odd kingfisher and whistling kites etc. There is also a busy life on the river with a multitude of different sized houseboats, a large paddle steamer (Murray Princess) and several river car ferries on cables, so the various helmsmen of the houseboats had to be ever vigilant.


This area, like most of Australia, had been experiencing a prolonged period without rain. But our tour party soon broke the drought and we had our fair share of rain, wind and cool weather, though a couple of spectacular dawns and sunsets set the scene for some beautiful landscapes in golden light, intermingled with rainbows and dramatic cloudscapes.  


After a brief orientation course by the “Unforgettable” boat experts to familiarise our two captains and our crews on the boats various systems, we were soon away to explore the river, with daily travelling times of up to 6 hours at a modest 8 knots, powered by the twin 135 HP Honda outboards.  It took a while to get used to the 30 second delay from turning the wheel at the helm until the boats actually changed direction but “most” helmsmen mastered the steering technique without panic from backseat passengers. Sometimes the high winds made for exciting sailing but at the end of each day we soon became experts at securing the boats to the 4 necessary gums trees for the overnight stay at the edge of the river.


Of course there were fun and games between both boat’s crews but most pirate expeditions were repulsed and returned. Each couple on each boat was allocated the task of preparing at least one banquet evening meal to feed the rest of the crew, which was aptly downed with generous quantities of wine to keep the spirits alive. Night games included singing around a camp fire; DVD’s of old bands like the Rolling Stones and the old fashioned art of conversation, song and of course the odd joke or two. The crew members with the best voices entertained us superbly with old folk (and bawdy) songs but the male singers were the supreme winners of the gender challenge of rhyming words!!


During the week, several off river excursions were taken to visit the Barossa Valley for wine tasting, Banrock Station and Wetlands and The Big Bend Dinner and night excursion after sunset on an open wagon to view wild life such as kangaroos and at least one wombat feeding on the native grass lands.  These excursions seemed to be enjoyed immensely by all participants.


The 7 days on the Mighty Murray soon passed and if a successful trip can be measured by the “extra weight” that most crew members gained over the week, it was a grand success of fun, fellowship and comradeship.


I especially remember one of the last witty comments from the other boat when the sun finally came out on the very last morning: “we have plenty of sunscreen left if you want it!!  That would be the understatement of the week!


A special thank you to the “Unforgettable” people for an unforgettable experience and thanks to all the ancillary people who ran us around; especially to Dennis of C & D tours for his untiring minibus services.


Until NEXT time!!




Also see more photos on from the Murray River trip on the SOUTH AUSTRALIA gallery.


Copyright 2007: Bruce Burgess Photography