The town of Berri in South Australia takes its name from the Aboriginal word ‘bery bery’, meaning ‘bend in the river’. Today the Murray River is still an important feature, and a big reason why travellers enjoy visiting this town around 250 kilometres northeast of Adelaide.
The area was established as a major citrus and stone fruit growing region for South Australia in the late 1800s and vineyards and orchards still surround the town today with the Riverland region representing around a third of the national citrus crop.
A good way to get an overview of the town is to make the climb to the top of the Water Tower Lookout which is open every day from 9am to 5pm. A staircase winds around the exterior of the disused tower, but just before the vertigo starts to set in, you continue the climb inside the tower and finish at the 360 degree viewing platform overlooking the town and the Murray River in the distance.
The water tower isn’t far from the centre of town, where there are plenty of places to dine and shop and where you can find some vivid wall murals, including a colourful river scene with a turtle on the public toilet block. It was painted by Adelaide artist Sarah Boese and a second of her bright pieces, created in collaboration with local artist Suzanne Macpherson, can be found in a nearby street. If you continue walking down towards the river you will come to the riverfront walking trail which leads to more discoveries.
A walk along the banks gives another perspective of the wide river, and if you head towards the bridge that crosses the Murray, there is more artwork under the bridge and a cutout metal mural of an Aboriginal dreaming story. The mural is of Ngurunderi and the huge Murray River cod called Ponde, and depicts the creation of the Murray River, lower lakes and Coorong area.
Retracing your steps along the riverfront and heading in the opposite direction takes you past the visitor centre, riverfront café and mooring facility for boats. Continuing past the grassy riverside park area you come to a small bush park setting and a special memorial tribute for Jimmy James. This local Aboriginal man was highly respected for his legendary tracking work with the South Australian Police. Using his unique gift for reading the bush, he helped with the capture of 40 criminals and the rescue of ten people over a 37 year period. He was awarded an Order of Australia Medal amongst other recognitions, before he passed away in 1991.
The memorial features a granite boulder carved with various animal figures and is surrounded by smaller boulders with animal, human, and even car tracks etched in them, referring to his ability to spot the details in his surroundings. The memorial also features a bronze image of Jimmy in the familiar kneeling pose he adopted when tracking.
A short distance further along the river is the Berri Riverside Holiday Park or if you want more of a bush camping experience you can drive around five kilometres out of town to a low cost campground and reserve at Martin Bend. You can choose a site to suit your set up, as there are no designated spots and the cost is $5 per night with toilets and a dump point at the edge of the campground. The camping area is separated from the river by an entry road and a reserve of wide green grass along the riverbank, which has a large sheltered picnic area, barbecues and bench seating.
The reserve is a popular fishing and recreation spot for locals and travellers, and from here you can also follow a walking trail called the ‘Lion Allan Thurmer Recreational Trail’. The trail leads all the way into the town or you can take a loop walk around the wetland. The loop is a little over three kilometres long and passes through woodland and wetland lagoons. There are many different species of birds to spot amongst the black box, river red gums and flowering shrubs as you go and if you’re lucky you may see western grey kangaroos.
For iconic scenery in this part of the Riverland though, a visit to the nearby town of Barmera is a must. Barmera is around 15 kilometres west of Berri and is situated on the shores of Lake Bonney, a freshwater lake fed by the Murray River. As well as attracting water sport enthusiasts, it’s also popular with photographers because of the birdlife and, believe it or not, dead trees.
The unfortunate result of past droughts and rising salinity levels has made these trees and their reflected shapes a sought after subject that regularly draws photographers to the area. The lake has many vantage points for photographers to capture interesting shots of the silhouetted stands of old river red gums at sunset, and there is a caravan park located right on the lake which makes it a convenient place to stay and capture sunrise shots too.