Inducted into the Tourism Industry Council Hall of Fame in 2019, Proud Mary presents the best of the River Murray to both local and interstate visitors. Multi-night cruises aboard this 36-passenger riverboat leave Murray Bridge with enjoyable itineraries on Fridays and Sundays throughout the year. We were offered an extremely good price and therefore could not help but book ourselves in for their longer indulgence cruise.
Twin share ensuite cabin
On Sunday evening, we made our way to the Clark Street car park for a 7pm embarkation. Secure parking is available if you decide to drive there. Otherwise, coach transport can be arranged from Adelaide Central Bus Station. Additional fees apply, of course.
Sunset at supper
After being welcomed aboard, we were served a two-course supper as we cruised to Woodlane. Our twin share ensuite cabin on the river deck was contemporary and comfortable with tea/coffee making facilities provided. As floodlights illuminated the river, we got to enjoy night views from our cabin. Do be mindful though that some cabins are noisier than others, so if necessary, you can request for specific cabin numbers by paying a little extra per night.
Our cruise continued upstream the next day arriving in Mannum after a hearty bacon-and-eggs breakfast. Once moored, we boarded the Proud Mary coach for an informative tour of the township.
Permanent berths at Mannum Waters
The tour brought us to Mannum Waters, the lookout and museum. Can you imagine living riverside on your own houseboat all year round? Well, permanent berths are being sold or leased at Mannum Waters. Waterfront land alongside the banks of the river is available for sale too.
View from lookout
Interestingly quirky homes were also pointed out by the tour guide. With one of them, Trev and Pam did not want a lawn but would still like some colour in their front yard, hence the result! Check it out in the photo below.
Home of Trev and Pam
After a restful afternoon, our exquisite Australiana dinner was served. It featured classic campfire bread, subtle gamey kangaroo, iconic River Murray fish and quandong lamington cake - all perfectly glorious to my taste. Menus are fixed at every meal, however, special dietary requirements can be catered for. Just remember to advise them when booking.
Dinner was then followed by a nocturnal coach tour in search of the southern hairy-nosed wombat. Despite a slow start, we did finally have some success trying to find these cute little creatures in the wild. This experience was a rare one for me and I really enjoyed it. I also learned that southern hairy-nosed wombats are the fauna emblem of South Australia.
Departing Walker Flat, we continued upstream cruising through the soaring cliffs of Big Bend. This isn't my first time here but the magnificent scenery never stops to amaze me and Proud Mary's sun deck provided a great view.
By late morning, we'd arrived at Swan Reach and boarded the coach once again. Michael, our guide, drove us around the historic town stopping at its museum for a visit. Please be aware that you'll need a gold coin for entry. An almond farm is located nearby too, so we had the opportunity to see that as well. Costa Brothers grows and packs raw natural almonds which, if you're keen, can be purchased from the museum. Cash only though.
We then returned to the riverboat for a delicious crusted lamb cutlet lunch while cruising towards Blanchetown. Unfortunately, the tiramisu wasn't to my liking this time, unlike their other desserts.
Blanchetown is the site of the first weir and lock to be built along the river and we got to walk there with our young cruise director Jemma. It was also nice to watch birdlife feeding in the water. Heading back downstream, we moored at Sugar Shack for the night.
First weir and lock
In the morning, Captain Simon took us on one more walk to discover some native plants and a scar tree. Barks were often removed from trees by the Aboriginal people to create canoes, shelters, shields and other artefacts. An example of such a tree can be found here.
Then, it was time to retrace our steps at Swan Reach before indulging in another two-course meal. Lunch today was a beautifully grilled barramundi and pineapple flambe.
Soon after, we entered the longest bend in the river again. These spectacular Big Bend cliffs are the tallest and, with rays of sunlight glistening on the rock face, this stretch of river truly provides for a majestical photo opportunity. What's more, we actually tied up at an onshore barbeque spot alongside Big Bend itself! But, due to bad weather, our barbeque dinner had to be eaten indoors instead. Nonetheless, the show went on and a local musician belted out all our favourite Aussie songs in the dining room.
An early breakfast was called for this morning as we cruised towards Ngaut Ngaut Conservation Park. We were given the choice of either a boardwalk or clifftop tour at this archaeological dig site. Since I've climbed the 200 steps to the top before, I decided to join the boardwalk tour which showed us ancient rock carvings of the Nganguraku people.
I then spent the afternoon relaxing in our cabin ahead of Captain's Dinner. Neat casual is all the dinner requires, so don't worry about packing a formal dress unless you really genuinely want to. Not only did I enjoy the food this evening but also the captain's company as he visited each table. Our menu featured pumpkin soup, garlic butter prawns, grilled beef rib steak and chocolate mousse.
Beef rib steak
Proud Mary coach
Arriving once again at Woodlane, we boarded the coach for a tour of the township of Mypolonga. To my surprise, we had the opportunity to visit an apricot orchard too. Aussie Apricots grows, sun-dries and processes apricots into delightful chocolate-dipped confectioneries, truffles, jams and chutneys. If you're interested, these products can be purchased direct from their orchard shop on Carawatha Drive.
Back onboard, our last meal was served as we embarked on the final leg of this 5-night cruise. We bade goodbye to the captain at Murray Bridge before retrieving our car and driving home. Overall, I enjoyed myself very much and would not hesitate to return for another pleasurable voyage on the Proud Mary.