The South Australian town of Renmark is a place that no grey nomad should pass through without stopping to explore for a few days or longer.
Perched on the banks of the River Murray, about 250 kilometres northeast of Adelaide, the elegant Riverland community boasts spectacularly wide streets, a fascinating history, and a myriad of attractions including the region’s only restored paddle steamer.
In the late 19th century, the introduction of an innovative irrigation scheme turned the region into a veritable oasis. Today, the area is filled with orchards, vineyards and farms where everything from limes, olives and almonds to grapes, garlic and roses blossom. Indeed, one of the town’s most popular events is the Renmark Rose Festival held every October.
Probably the biggest attraction though is the Murray River Queen, which is moored permanently at the wharf and is now a stylish floating hotel/ bar/hotel. The vessel was built between 1972 and 1974 in the tradition of the many paddle steamers that hauled freight and passengers up and down the Murray between the 1850s and 1930s.
The P.S. Industry is another historic vessel well worth a look. Built in 1911, it spent most of its working life removing snags from the river. It was re-commissioned in 1995 and now ventures out on short trips on the first Sunday of each month.
The Renmark Hotel which was established in 1897 is apparently one of the most haunted locations in South Australia and is also the pub into which Harry ‘Breaker’ Morant, who once worked at nearby Paringa Station, famously rode his horse.
Also, of interest are Harding’s Folklore Gallery which is built around a massive mural depicting Australian colonial life, and the National Heritage-listed Olivewood Estate which looks like a Canadian log cabin and is the former home of the Canadian-born ‘Chaffey brothers’ who are known as the founders of Renmark.
The best way to get to grips with the town is to take the five-kilometre Renmark Riverfront Town Heritage Walk, and do not miss the amazing Ruston’s Rose Garden which contains more than 50,000 rose bushes.
There are some superb wineries in the immediate vicinity, and the Twenty Third Street Distillery – where whisky, rum, gin, brandy and vodka – are made in a century-old still is also not to be missed.
Originally built in 1914, the distillery was re-opened in 2016 and it offers guided tours, as well as a tipple. Similarly, a visit to Almondco Almond Hut offers visitors a chance to learn how almonds are grown and harvested … and to sample the product!
Renmark boasts several very good caravan parks, and Renmark Paringa Council also offers a number of camping options including at Plush’s Bend in Renmark, and SS Ellen Park in the nearby village of Lyrup.