The Mighty Murray
Adelaide sits near the coast and has some beautiful beaches, so you could be forgiven for thinking that all of the city’s water-based activities were on the ocean. However, just over an hour from the city, you will also find the River Murray, a South Australian favourite for recreation and an important part of the local environment and agriculture.
Fondly called “The Might Murray”, it is Australia’s longest river, and the third-longest navigable river in the world. Starting in the New South Wales Snowy Mountains and finishing in South Australia’s Encounter Bay, it flows 2,530 km (1,570 miles). It is largely considered the lifeblood of the area. Water-based activities include spending several nights on a houseboat, water skiing, fishing, canoeing and experiencing some of the river’s history on a paddle boat or paddle steamer. According to the Visit the Murray website, the river has the largest fleet of paddle steamers and houseboats in the world.
Last weekend, we spent a few hours on the river aboard the paddle boat Captain Proud for a 3-hour lunch cruise. It is a great way to spend a winter afternoon and experience some of the scenery from the river, including some of the amazing limestone and sandstone cliffs. The river can get quite busy during the warmer months, so it was nice to pretty much have it to ourselves this weekend.
Captain Proud is three decks high and is fitted out in slightly period red decor, including dark red drapes around the windows. There was plenty of room in the main dining room for our group of 50, and there were a few tables on the patio. There was also a bar in the main dining area, lounge and toilets downstairs, an outside front deck, and an upper deck. From the sink of the ladies toilets, you can see the paddle wheel turning. The view of the wheel and the gentle movement of the boat lets you know that it really is the wheels pushing you through the water.
We boarded the boat from the wharf in Murray Bridge and after a short safety briefing headed north on the river. The lunch menu had two main options and two dessert options and the friendly staff took our orders shortly after we departed. After we had been served the main course, the boat turned and we headed south on the river and past Murray Bridge for a bit while we had dessert, before turning around one more time and heading back to our cars.
The food was tasty and fresh – certainly better than some pubs I’ve been too – and the staff very friendly. I was pleased to note that boat seemed heated and the patio had cafe blinds down to keep guests warm.
During one part of the trip, I stepped out from the dining room and realised that the captain was giving us commentary on the area we were passing through, however we were unable to hear it over our groups chatter. If you are really interested in learning about the history, make sure you are seated near a speaker. Or, head up to the top deck and speak to the captain in the wheel house.
Old Princes Highway
To get to Murray Bridge, we drove up the M1/Princes Highway from Adelaide to Mount Barker. The M1 is the main highway from Adelaide to Melbourne. While it has some scenic spots, it cuts through some of the landscape as well.
From Mount Barker, we continued on Old Princes Highway, a two-lane road that weaves along the rolling hills in the area allowing you to really take in the scenery and hills’ natural peaks and troughs. While it mostly follows the M1, it does go through a few small towns and past Monarto Zoo as well. Old Princes Highway does take a few minutes longer to get to Murray Bridge, but it is worth it in at least one direction if you have the time.
From Adelaide the best way to the wharf on Wharf Road in Murray Bridge is by car on the M1 or Old Princes Highway. Alternatively, there are buses that operate between Adelaide and Murray Bridge:
- LinkSA operates a Murraylands service
- Firefly Express stops in Murray Bridge on the way to Melbourne
Captain Proud Options
There are several options to experience the paddle boat. The main one seems to be the lunch cruise.
There are lunch cruises seven days a week, currently departing at 11:00 am. The cruises include a three-hour cruise and two-course meal for $64.90 per adult (although group discounts might be available). Cheap Tuesday lunch cruises available for the discounted price of $42.90 per adult.
Saturday evenings the boat operates a three-hour dinner cruise for $50 per adult. It includes a two-course meal and live music. The dinner cruise departs at 5:00 pm between September and April.
Sunday mornings there is also a breakfast cruise. This is a shorter, two-hour cruise with cooked breakfast for $62 per adult. The breakfast cruise departs at 9:00 am.
The Captain Proud website also shows a few package options including wine tours and pick up. To check the website out for more details, click here.