SA’s underrated Riverland region: we show you what you’ve been missing

Taking ‘escape’ to a new blissful level

South Australia’s Riverland runs on its own time. River time. Here in the depths of rural South Australia, the river flows slowly and the air provokes a sense of laziness. It’s a good kind of laziness though. Laziness in the Riverland means hammocks under the gums, bare-foot fishing on the jetty and allowing time to aimlessly observe kookaburras.

Pic credit: SATC/Sealink Travel Group

And how does one know when they’ve reached this new time zone? Haunting, leafless trees with their trunks firmly rooted in the riverbed, and rocky red cliff faces lining the water symbolise the gateway to the Riverland. Descend from the rolling hills which encapsulate Adelaide, and you’ll notice a sudden change in colour palette, from grassy greens to warm oranges. Often, you’ll find blue skies here, leaving behind clouds sat heavy upon the hills. You may have only driven two hours from Adelaide, but you’re entering a new world as you enter South Australia’s Riverland region.

A killer combination

At night in the Riverland, the sky is so dark, stars are so bright and the silence so deafening, you’d be forgiven for thinking someone had placed you in the middle of the desert. Throughout the day, the water is so flat and atmosphere so peaceful, whilst canoeing down the Murray, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were alone. Across the untouched national parks, the feeling of wilderness is so strong, it’s as if no one has ever been here before.

Lake Bonney / Pic credit: Ben Goode

However, rid yourself of the idea that the Riverland is only about riverside family barbecues and slow moving paddleboats. The quintessentially Australian landscape through which the torpid Murray River slices, is not only a region of enchantingly wild natural beauty. Less known than its wine and food-rich neighbours, the Riverland is a secret oasis of food, drink, leisure and epicurean delights.

Most importantly, the region screams authenticity. More chic and less old-fashioned than you might be quick to assume, a great deal of  Riverland spots are Barossa standard with Clare Valley intimacy boasting otherworldly views. Sleek distilleries oozing with passion craft the highest-quality spirits here, whilst family-owned wineries pour their hearts into their wines, and restaurants proudly serve up tasty local produce with dreamy riverside views.

Haven’t visit the Riverland for a while? We think it’s time you headed back. Whilst you’ve been escaping to well-known South Australian destinations, here’s what you’ve been missing in the Riverland.

23rd Street Distillery / Pic credit: SATC

Distilleries

When you think distilleries, it’s unlikely the Riverland springs to mind. Yet the region is home to a few fantastic spots which might just surprise you with their chic architecture and high-quality products. Twenty Third Street  is a must-visit distillery in the Riverland. Built in 1914, the historic building has been completely renovated and turned into something very striking. Copper and industrial elements paired with modern design makes this place absolutely gorgeous to look at. Their quirky products with colourful labels bring all kinds of smooth, sweet and bright flavours to your palette. Drop by for a tasting and see the Riverland region in a whole new light.

St Agnes Distillery / Pic credit: St Agnes Distillery

Don’t forget to drop by St Agnes Distillery – found at Angoves Cellar Door – and sample their exquisite brandies aged to perfection in oak barrels. Ninety years of distilling here has resulted in master distillers, perfect quality and a number of awards. With an ethos like, ‘Do one thing brilliantly’ it’s no wonder St Anges is such a celebrated brand. Take a group tour or choose a private viewing at their distillery in Renmark.

Caudo Vineyards / Pic credit: SATC

Wineries

“All major wineries in Australia have vines in the Riverland and all major Australian wine brands use grapes from the region in their wines”. Despite this, some argue that the wine region hasn’t been able to make enough of a name for itself, due to its famous neighbours. The Riverland was made to produce wine, with all kinds of varietals and with wineries of all shapes and sizes spread across the region. Here are only a few of our favourites.

During a trip to the Riverland, it would be a mistake to pass by the chance to sample some local wine. 919 Wines is a gorgeous example of a family-owned winery with its vines firmly rooted in the Riverland. Purity, integrity and sustainability summarise the mission statement here, and their approach to viticulture is warming, wholesome and in tune with the land.

Drop into Mallee Estate Wines in Renmark and discover a vineyard established in 1969 by a Greek family. Heading to Australia in search of a prosperous new life, the family fell in love with the sunburnt Riverland region and created their own vineyard – starting with three acres of Shiraz. Today, this is still part of their vineyard, which has grown in size over the years. Add to your list of things to do in the Riverland, a trip to Banrock Station. Boasting breathtaking riverside views, when you’re standing on the property here nestled in nature, you feel completely shut off from the outside world in the best way. Stop here for wine tasting, a stunning modern restaurant and Riverland views to die for.

Wilkadene Woolshed Brewery / Pic credit: South Australian Tourism Commission/Adam Bruzzone

Breweries

Tucked away in an adorable 100 year old shearing shed, the Wilkadene Woolshed Brewery is a true Riverland gem. Only established in 2009, the Riverland brewery is popular with locals and tourists alike. Head here for a leisurely tasting on a hot summer’s day, surrounded by typical Riverland views, or take a guided tour to learn more about the brewing process. This is the Riverland’s first brewery, and should absolutely not be missed.

Banrock Station / Pic credit: South Australian Tourism Commission/Adam Bruzzone

Restaurants and cafes

Banrock Station comes highly recommended if you’re looking for a fabulous Riverland restaurant. A wooden deck which surrounds the building, and endless outback views are enough to entice anyone. Tasty breakfasts, a selection of wholesome mains comprised of local produce and gorgeous desserts can all be found here. Mallee Fowl is a fun and totally unique Riverland restaurant, perfect for families and couples alike. Dubbed one of Australia’s best ‘themed’ restaurants in a number of travel shows, this place is really special. Set on eleven acres of bushland, the Riverland restaurant looks like an early settlement dwelling an serves up Aussie country-style meals.

Some great taverns, pubs and casual spots are also very easily found across the Riverland region. In Berri, the Big River Tavern offers hearty meals topped off with friendly staff and golf course views, whilst the Berri Hotel serves a bistro-style menu in its modern restaurant and is ideal for families.

Canoe Adventures / Pic credit: Canoe Adventures

River activities

Alongside a range of historic sites of interests, attractions, museums and galleries, the Riverland’s main pull factor is the River Murray itself. In particular, getting yourself into any kind of boat, cruise or kayak and floating down the might Murray is encouraged if you’re looking the ultimate Riverland experience. Canoe Adventures is a perfect place to start. Hire a kayak, or even better book onto a sunset tour and immerse yourself in the beauty of the Murray whilst the sky shines oranges upon the smooth surface of the water.

Where should I stay during my Weekend Escape to the Riverland?

The Riverland offers a killer combination of haunting riverside beauty and modern epicurean gems. We think it’s time you head to the Riverland and explore the part of the region you’ve never seen before. Accommodation in the Riverland is easily come by and there are a lot of options, however we recommend two options. Found in Berri, the following Riverland accommodations will see you based in the heart of the beautiful region:

  • Berri Hotel – Sat in the heart of friendly Berri, the Berri Hotel is modern, intimate and in close proximity to the water. Stay here for tasty bistro meals, a great bar and an outdoor pool.
  • Big River Golf and Country Club – Also in Berri, this is a wonderful place for those seeking some space, an outdoor pool and perhaps a round of golf. The onsite Tavern offers a tasty menu and a wooden deck allows for golf course views whilst you eat.

Find more information regarding things to do in the Riverland, in our Ultimate Guide.