We were picked up by a courtesy bus from the hotel early morning and taken to the bus station in Grote Street to meet up with our tour bus. Sealink operate several tours along the Murray, but the one we opted for was the River Murray Highlights Tour which consisted of a lunchtime cruise aboard the paddle-steamer Proud Mary.
The tour bus was air-conditioned and comfortable. The driver [I have forgotten his name] was knowledgeable of the area and extremely amiable making the nice trip into a very memorable one. The only disappointment was the weather: it was overcast, with light showers and was slightly chilly; however it didn’t dampen the day.
From the heart of the City we motored down the South Eastern Freeway [M1] until the turn off for Monarto taking us past the edges of the zoological gardens. The Monarto Zoo covers an area of one thousand hectares and provides for the conservation of Australian and exotic international wildlife. http://www.zoossa.com.au/monarto-zoo
We arrived at the historic river town of Mannum late morning – a small place with not much to see. The visitor’s centre had the usual selection of maps, brochures and souvenirs; and there were a mix of shops, cafes and hotels – nothing new! This we visited after our river cruise when some free time was made available specifically for it. However immediately upon arrival we were taken to meet up with the paddle steamer.
Once on board we were invited to the dining room for coffee and cake, thus allowing the crew to get us underway. The wood-panelled room was well-appointed with beautiful lounge chairs, dining and occasional tables. A bar was available which also sold a few souvenirs.
Having had a coffee and a couple of biscuits my wife and I headed for the upper deck to enjoy the views the Murray had on offer. Despite the bleak weather we weren’t to be disappointed.
As a onetime lover of anything geological I was rewarded with some exceptional ancient limestone and colourful sandstone cliffs and bluffs; the strata clearly visible and intermingled with conglomerates.
The banks are graced by a vast mixture of flora, mostly gums and weeping willows with their long curtain of branches dipping into the water providing hiding places and a protected habitat for the numerous varieties of birds, such as cormorants, pelicans, herons, gulls, to name but a few of the ones we spotted. This place would be a “twitchers” paradise.
Lunch was an all-you-can-eat buffet with a fantastic selection of meats, vegetables, pasta and rice salads, green salads, prawns, cheeses and fruit. With our appetites sated we returned on deck to enjoy the return journey savouring the views and locking them to memory. As Proud Mary tied up next to the magnificent Murray Princess we prepared to disembark and continue with the rest of our tour.
After being taken into the town for a wander for around thirty minutes or so we left Mannum. We were taken to view the Mannum Waters Marina development which is envisaged to provide some 600 allotments on a 750 hectare site. The development will provide 156 berths for houseboats and there is to be a variety of retail outlets, cafes, and residential properties on the foreshore. It certainly was impressive, and the beauty of such a development an hour or so outside Adelaide must be an inviting proposition for those who would rather live outside the city but be within striking distance of it.
The views of The Murray from the heights above Mannum are superb and we were happy to have had the opportunity of having taken this tour especially after the not-so-nice trip to Murray Bridge.
Our return to the city took us through the Adelaide Hills via Mt. Torrens and stopping at the toy factory at Gumeracha on the Torrens Valley Road [B10] for afternoon tea [at our own expense]. Well worth a visit especially if you have children: http://thetoyfactory.com.au/
We returned to Adelaide at around 5pm. It had been a nice day and well worth the cost.
RLB – Tomewriter