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DESTINATION: The Murray River

By JOHN ROZENTALS

TRAVEL: 23 FEBRUARY 2017

JOHN ROZENTALS spends four days on the Murray ... and gets an inkling for what this mighty Australian river is all about

It may not be quite as broad as the Mississippi, but the mighty Murray is Australia’s greatest waterway and everyone should aim to negotiate at least a small section of it as part of their life’s experience.

I’ve crossed it numerous times at Albury/Wodonga, of course, I’ve swum in it near Tom Groggin on the eastern boundary between NSW and Victoria, and I’ve stayed a couple of nights in Echuca, where the Murray dips south for a bit and comes its closest to Melbourne.

But I really didn’t fully appreciate the full power — both physical and emotional — of this huge stretch of water until I spent four days and three nights cruising it on board the Murray Princess, on the stretch between Murray Bridge and Fromms Landing in South Australia, not all that far from the river’s mouth at Lake Alexandrina.

There’s plenty to see along the river — huge, orange-coloured cliffs; bright green banks lined with grass, reeds and willow trees; and abundant birdlife ranging from pelicans and eagle-like kites, through cockatoos, cormorants, darters and ducks, down to tiny fairy martins.

And that’s not to mention the man-made input — things such as sidings, riverboats, and settlements ranging from one or two abodes to substantial, historic towns such as Murray Bridge and Mannum.

Both the latter are worth exploring and the Murray Princess’s itinerary offers plenty of time for that.

And then there’s the boat itself.

The 120-passenger Murray Princess is a classic paddle-wheel-propelled riverboat offering comfortable cabin accommodation and well appointed public areas.

Three meals a day are included in the fare and served by eager and competent staff in the Sturt Dining Room. Drinks are extra but quite reasonably priced, especially if you buy wine by the bottle and have it stored at the bar with your cabin number clearly marked on the label.

Most of the excursions are free, too, and mostly they’re well worth tagging along for, whether it be to towns such as Mannum or a small-boat journey at River View Lodge for an informative wildlife tour.

The entertainment is fun — the sort of stuff that lets you just sit back and relax to a couple of John Williamson covers, or get completely competitive over a cryptic quiz or game of bocce.

Complimentary wifi is available on request and works smartly on most sections of the cruise, though you will have to generally access the service from public areas.

The Murray Princess operates itineraries of between three and seven nights, with prices starting at $787 per person twin-share.

There are also options that include visits to Kangaroo Island and/or the Barossa Valley.

And finally, an intriguing question. Just how do the organisers manage to put together such compatible groups for dining? Go Table 7. We weren’t at all competitive, but we did manage to win most of the medals and get on together like a house on fire.

Above: The Murray Princess at River View Lodge … a peaceful, beautiful stop. All images: John Rozentals.

IF YOU GO

Captain Cook Murray Princess, phone 1300 729 938, visit https://www.murrayprincess.com.au/

The Sturt Dining Room … a popular venue … for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

A touch of luxury … provided in this case by a Murray Princess stateroom.

Lots of green … a typical landscape on the Murray River shoreline.

An experienced hand at the helm … Captain Ray Weedon against a backdrop of orange-coloured cliffs.

Mannum … a charming South Australian riverside town.

The Murray Princess docked in Murray Bridge … a riverside town well worth exploring.