Rebecca Morse’s top 5 reasons to bring the family to the Riverland
It can sometimes feel difficult to strike the right balance on holidays when you’ve got all ages on board – especially for parents who love their food and wine. But Riverland establishments are now catering for kids better than ever before.
Thanks to the growing number of family-friendly experiences in this iconic Murray River region, it’s now emerging as one of South Australia’s favourite places for an extended family (or group of families) to stay. Whether you’re looking for fun on the water, kid-friendly eateries, exploring in nature, parks, playgrounds or perfect places to stay – the Riverland has it all.
So who better to test it out than one of South Australia’s much-loved media personalities, travel-lover and mother of three Rebecca Morse?
Rebecca and her husband James, along with their kids and family friends, spent two nights on board the deluxe Boats and Bedzzz houseboat Moving Waters in Renmark this month to scope out how the Riverland was shaping up for the spring and summer school holidays.
And their consensus?
The family explored some of the best family-friendly experiences in the Riverland –Wilkadene Woolshed Brewery, Banrock Station Wine and Wetland Centre, Mallee Estate Wines, Renmark Club, Murray River Queen… and a whole lot more.
Take a read on what Rebecca and her family thought of their weekend exploring this beautiful Murray River area, and Rebecca’s Top 5 reasons for families to visit.
ONE: The Houseboat experience
“We loved our stay on Moving Waters, the Boats and Bedzzz houseboat. It sleeps 10, so we took another family with us to keep the kids company. The kayaks were a big hit and Frankie and James even kayaked down to the Renmark Club and moored them there while we ate breakfast. We also packed an inflatable ring which we tied to the back of the boat and lazed around on in the sun. We tried to keep the kids off screens as much as possible but there is wifi for when you lose the battle. We had never stayed on a houseboat before so waking up on the river was a novelty for all of us.”
Boats and Bedzzz is based in Renmark and has two beautiful holiday houses for rent (including one with a swimming pool) right on the riverfront. They also have two houseboats – Moving Waters and the Murray Dream – so plenty of accommodation options to choose from. Rebecca and her family also added two kayaks to their houseboat weekend, and had the perfect spring weather, so the whole family managed to explore Renmark on the water with a paddle and swim!
The sunset off the back of the houseboat on their first night was also a highlight – and topped off by eating Jimmy’s Thai takeaway, and drinking local wines and beers thanks to Salena Estate, Sixty Eight Roses and Wilkadene Woolshed Brewery. They also spent time on board enjoying local produce thanks to a HUGE deluxe rainbow grazing platter from award-winning gourmet foods producer Singing Magpie Produce – one of the many great new tastes of the Riverland.
Other recommendable family accommodation options are the local caravan parks (including the popular Riverbend Caravan Park and Big4 Renmark Riverfront), the Murray River Queen, Templeton on Murray, and Riverfun Houseboats to name a few.
“We started our visit to Banrock Station with a walk along the boardwalk through the spectacular wetlands. The kids were fascinated by all the wildlife we saw along the way and loved spotting all the different species you can see from the bird hide. Once we had worked up an appetite we returned for lunch and a wine tasting. There’s a kid’s menu but the salt and pepper squid with some seasoned chips from the main menu was in high demand. They even do a kid’s tasting paddle so they feel included while Mum and Dad try the wines. (Good pink bubbles FYI).”
Rebecca and her group took part in a guided wetland walk and tasting at Banrock Station. This experience includes a 90-minute tour and house made food/drinks and of course – a guided wine tasting perched on their beautiful deck overlooking the magnificent wetlands.
Based at Kingston-on-Murray, this ecologically-sensitive site is perfect for the whole family, and includes the wetlands walks, cellar door, restaurant/café, providore and more.
Find out more about other all-ages Banrock experiences here.
“When you arrive at a winery and there’s a giant Connect Four game on the front lawn you know the kids are going to be ok! There were plenty of activities to keep the children entertained while the grown-ups have (another) wine tasting. A chess and darts tournament were well underway when it was time to order dinner.
The food! Everyone is still talking about the Greek feast we were served up, especially the dessert. We thought we had over-ordered but it disappeared very quickly.”
Renmark’s family-owned Mallee Estate Cellar Door now includes Eleni’s Greek Restaurant, and this food is receiving rave reviews from everyone who sits down to a feast (reiterated by the regular awards these guys take home for the work of their chefs, menu and hospitality!).
The Cellar Door and Restaurant has also just opened up a new ‘whisky room’ out the back, which includes vintage lounges, dart board, chess, a big screen TV and more. It’s the perfect cosy and private place to spend an evening with close friends and kids soaking up some of SA’s best authentic Greek food and Riverland wine.
While Rebecca and her family visited, they were treated to all the best bits of Mallee Estate, including games on the open lawns with the kids, a tour of the winery with the winemaker (including sunset wine tastings on the rooftop!), the full Greek restaurant spread and a tipple in the whisky room to end the night.
Find out more about Mallee Estate here.
“What an incredible location! Set right on the river the kids loved watching people arrive by boat for lunch. There’s a huge expanse of grass for the kids to run around on, while the parents try a tasting paddle. The (hard) lemonade is definitely not kid-friendly by the way, but was very popular with the adults! Food-wise there was a pizza truck on site the day we visited and a make-your-own cheese platter.”
Wilkadene really does have one of the most epic views of any brewery in the world. Situated literally on the edge of the Murray River at Murtho, this place is perfect for groups and families keen to spend time along the water – and you can arrive by car, or by boat!
There are open lawns for bigger kids to run around, and a small nature play area for the little ones. There are of course, all of the favourite Woolshed Brewery beers to taste-test, plus a range of other drinks on offer for those who prefer other tastes.
On weekends, these guys bring in food trucks for lunch (including Pete’s woodfired pizzas, who were there during Rebecca’s visit), or others cooking up authentic Italian, Greek, Asian, gourmet pies, seafood, street food and more. They also have a fridge full of local produce so you can create your own picnic on the waterfront. (If you’re lucky, you might even get the treat of live music too – check their Facebook and Instagram pages for updates).
If you’re heading out from Renmark (or any other Riverland accommodation town), jump on board the Amazon Run buses to get to Wilkadene. These guys transport people all weekend from place-to-place and are family friendly too!
The other great Riverland transport service is Express X – and these guys have a fleet of small buses and cars that can move you from place-to-place.
FIVE: Loving local food
“We did not have a bad meal during our stay so it’s lucky we did lots of walking and kayaking! Can recommend Jimmy’s Thai takeaway for a family feast. We had two breakfasts on the river with incredible views. The Renmark Club pancakes were popular, closely followed by the smashed avo. The kids wandered down to the jetty while the parents indulged in a Bloody Mary to kickstart the day. The waffles and milkshakes at the Murray River Queen's Kings on Queen Cafe also got the thumbs up.”
Some of the best brekky spots in Renmark are at the local waterfront Renmark Club, on board the Murray River Queen, and at Arrosto Coffee (for their famous bacon and egg burger). One thing is for sure – families are welcome and spoiled for choice in the Riverland.
The best part about a brekky in Renmark, is that you can walk the main street or the riverfront afterwards to stretch out from a big feed! If it’s a warm day, take the kids for a refreshing splash through the new riverfront Taylor Waterpark Precinct – which has flowing water totems for them to play in. Otherwise, stroll the main streets and pop in to local boutiques before you plan the day ahead.
A few other favourite family activities for those visiting the Riverland, include:
- The Monash Playground
- Playing on the banks of Lake Bonney
- A meal at the Historic Overland Corner Hotel (which even has kids activities/events during school holidays!)
- Walking trails including the Paringa Paddocks Trail, Martin’s Bend, Wilabalangaloo Trail, Bookmark Creek cycling and running trail, Renmark riverfront Matulick Trail, and more.
- Exploring the Loxton Historical Village.
- Skate parks at Loxton, Barmera, Waikerie and Renmark.
- Mini Golf at the Berri Riverside Holiday Park (open to both the public and guests)
- Enjoy a movie (P or PG-rated) at the outdoor movie theatre at Big4 Renmark (guests only).
Big4 Renmark Riverfront - Outdoor Movies
Berri Riverside Holiday Park - Mini Golf
Find out more about family-friendly activities, accommodation and food here.