South Australia

The Riverland is the long irrigated strip on either side of the three-hundred kilometre meander of the Murray River from Blanchetown to Renmark near the Victorian border. The Canadian Chaffey brothers had already developed successful irrigation settlements in California when they were invited to Australia to look into possibilities for the Murray, establishing an irrigation colony at Renmark in 1887. 
The Riverland’s deep red-orange alluvial soil – helped by this extensive irrigation – is very fertile, making the area the state’s major supplier of oranges, stone fruit and grapes. Fruit stalls along the roadsides add to the impression of a year-long harvest, and if you’re after fruit-picking work it’s an excellent place to start. The area is also Australia’s major wine-producing region, though the technologically advanced wineries with huge production bases make mainly mass-produced wines for casks and export. Many are open to visitors, but their scale and commercialism make them less enjoyable for a wine-tasting trawl than, say, the Southern Vales.

From Waikerie to Renmark all the towns feel pretty much the same, with a raw edge, little charm or sophistication, and an undercurrent of violence most apparent on a drunken Friday night. Time here is best spent on or around the river, with the towns considered as departure points for river cruises, and places to eat and stay. Each town has only one hotel – even Berri and Renmark, with their 7000-strong populations. These huge and mostly graceless community hotels are a feature of the Riverland: owned and run by the town, their profits are ploughed back into the hotel or channelled into the community, generally into sporting groups.

The Sturt Highway, the major route between Adelaide and Sydney, passes straight through the Riverland. Leaving Adelaide, it bypasses Gawler and cuts across the northern end of the Barossa Valley, reaching the Murray at Blanchetown, about 130km from the city. Stateliner runs a daily service along the highway from Adelaide to Renmark via Blanchetown and Waikerie, and also goes daily (except Tues) to Loxton. Greyhound Pioneer drops off and picks up at the Riverland towns on their interstate routes.

The Riverland climate can largely be described as warm to temperate, it needs to be remembered that much of the land around it is semi arid, or desert country. Consequently, the region is prone to hot spells in summer. Winters tend to be mild. Locals claim the Riverland boasts more days of sunshine per year than the Gold Coast.

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