A visit to Overland Corner in South Australia satisfies a number of reasons why caravan and campers love the great outdoors. At this free camping area on the Murray River you can relax by the water, take some interesting walks and get a dose of history and hospitality at a country hotel. This locality was once a place for overland drovers to camp and refresh on a coach route between New South Wales and Adelaide, and today it still provides a restful place for travellers.
Overland Corner is around 250 kilometres from Adelaide, just off the Goyder Highway running between the Riverland towns of Morgan and Renmark, and is a destination that is easy to spend a few days in. The free camping options are suitable for tents all the way up to big rigs, and they are easily accessible by a dirt road that leads down to the river from behind the Overland Corner Hotel. Passing through a gate, you enter this biosphere reserve which takes in a 300 hectare conservation area created to protect threatened bird and frog species, and to conserve the mallee vegetation and wetlands.
There are a number of areas you can set up to camp by the river, with Heron Bend Reserve to the right and other camping areas to the left where you drive over the floodplain via a bridge to some more camping spots and basic drop toilets. Heron Bend Reserve has no facilities except rubbish bins and a boat ramp nearby. Campfires are permitted but occasionally the camp sites may be closed if wet weather has caused access to become too boggy.
You’ll notice that there are quite a few dead river red gums about, which is due to the effect of floods and droughts over the years, but the trees still play an important role in the ecosystem with birds frequently using the hollows for shelter. Attached to some of the river red gums along the river you can also spot numbered tags which indicate a score given to categorise the trees according to their condition. The system has been implemented to record the status of these trees and monitor the effect of interventions that have been put in place to conserve them and the wetland. The numbered trees and their locations are recorded with a GPS and repeat surveys can check on conservation efforts.
A bonus of camping along the river at Overland Corner is that most of the camp sites are within easy walking distance to the historic hotel where you not only get a great pub meal, but can wander through rooms full of historical artifacts and stories. The hotel is the oldest building in the Riverland, built in 1859 on the Cobdogla cattle station and was constructed from fossilised limestone cut from a nearby cliff quarry and also has unique river red gum flooring.
The hotel has a colourful history including a visit by outlawed bushranger ‘Captain Moonlight’, where it is said he stopped for a drink at the bar while still on horseback, after he imprisoned the Overland Corner police constable in the station cells and used Government supplies to shoe his horse. The hotel was also the local mail exchange and the memorabilia inside includes many original pieces from the time. The licence of the hotel ended in 1897 but the building remained a general store and post office for many years afterwards. In 1965 the building was bought by the National Trust of South Australia, underwent restoration and was re-licenced as a hotel in 1987.
To get more of an appreciation for the history of the area you can also take three different walking trails, each of which take around 90 minutes to complete. The Heritage walk, amongst other features, includes the quarry where ocean fossils have been found, the original cemetery and an Aboriginal ochre mine. The floodplain walk takes you around an area of swamp land and lagoon and Heron’s Bend walk takes you past the river and the old police station (now a private residence), and the stables.
After completing the walks you can refresh yourself with the local beer, Overland Corner Gold, and have a hearty pub meal in the hotel’s beer garden. There are small dining areas inside the hotel but the expansive beer garden under the shade of gum trees is the place to be.
From the hotel it’s only a short walk back to your campsite where for the rest of your stay you can enjoy some fishing, a leisurely kayak in the river and backwater, or simply enjoy the surroundings and watch the plentiful birdlife. At night you can take in the serenity of this quiet and peaceful spot under an expansive starry sky as you sit by the campfire.