If you’re after a low-cost, nature-based adventure in South Australia, look no further than the abundant camping areas dotted along the Murray River. Here’s seven of the best to get you started.
1. Plush’s Bend, Renmark (Free)
This free camp area is a short drive from the town centre and has designated sites for self-contained vehicles. There is a separate area for tents and another spacious area for vans to park near a toilet block which has two flushing toilets. You can find plenty of sites right on the banks of the river and can literally step out of the caravan door and throw a line in the water.
There is a boat ramp, rubbish bins, camp fires are permitted and dogs on leads are welcome. This camping area has shade trees or open spaces where all size rigs can find a spot to park and it’s totally free for stays of up to 72 hours in a 14 day period. A great spot for catching a spectacular Riverland sunrise with lots of pelicans and a quiet backwater to explore by kayak. Kangaroos also frequent the area.
2. Martins Bend, Berri ($5 per night)
While this camping ground is not directly on the river, there is a large grassed recreation area on the riverfront with picnic tables, BBQs and shelters all within walking distance from your campsite. There is an honesty box with a self-registration system next to a caretaker’s house and stays cost $5 per night in non-designated sites, so you can choose shaded or sunny positions.
There are flushing toilets at the edge of the campground as well as a dump point and rubbish bins. This campground borders a walking trail, which you can follow all the way into the town of Berri or you can walk a loop circuit around the wetland area. The maximum stay in this campground is 21 days.
3. Overland Corner – Heron Bend (Free)
Overland Corner is a great free camping area to stay with a group. You can find sites on the river or a backwater of the Murray but with only a couple of long drop toilets this is one perhaps better suited for the self-contained caravanner, as some of the camping areas are quite a distance from the toilets. There is a boat ramp and rubbish bins but the main reason for this spot’s popularity is that it is set behind the Overland Corner Hotel.
This popular historic pub has a huge beer garden, and is a living museum containing historic pieces which are on display throughout the hotel, and it’s within walking distance of most of the campsites. There are also a number of walking trails to take starting from the hotel which take you past historic sites and around the wetland. Because this is a wetland recovery area, some camping spots are accessible over a bridge which crosses a floodplain, this does mean that if there has been a lot of rain, access can be closed.
4. Swamp Hen Reserve, Walker Flat (Free)
Located at the end of a no through road, this is a very peaceful spot on the river with a couple of flushing toilets and a boat ramp. This is another spot where you can pull up your van next to the river and wet a line or just relax and watch the river traffic cruise by.
This camping area is totally free and campfires are allowed. There is a kiosk next to a ferry crossing nearby where you can get a few basic grocery supplies and there’s an abundance of birdlife at this spot with swamp hens, whistling kites, blue wrens and pelicans around and kookaburras make their presence known at dusk and dawn.
5. Hettner Landing, Walker Flat (Free)
This campground has sites along the river as well as toilets and a dump point located at a waste station which is also used by houseboats. There is a communal BBQ and shelter with some sites having their own picnic tables and benches, and campfires are permitted. It’s also very close to a small general store which has a liquor store, groceries, hardware, bait & tackle, fuel and takeaway food.
6. Haythorpe Reserve, Mannum ($10 per night)
This camp area sits across the river from the town of Mannum and is only a short stroll on a walking track to the ferry which you can drive or walk on to explore this popular river town. It costs $10 per 24 hours to stay at Haythorpe Reserve with a maximum five day stay. A ticket machine on site takes gold coins or credit cards for payment. For this you get a couple of clean flushing toilets, concrete fire pits to use, a dump point, easy access into town and non-designated camping spots on the river. A reasonably busy road runs directly behind this reserve but doesn’t disturb the serenity too much.
7. Bolto Reserve, Mannum ($10 per night)
This camp is also opposite the town of Mannum and sits at the end of a no through road so is fairly quiet. Facilities here include a toilet block, boat ramp and concrete fire pits. As with Haythorpe Reserve there is a ticket machine to pay for your stay. Some sites are on the river and others are set back in designated parking spots. This stretch of the Murray River is very busy so there is always something to watch with speedboats, houseboats and paddle wheelers cruising by.