Renmark is a beautiful, well planned and well developed town with a long history and is situated near the Victorian border in the sunny Riverland region of South Australia. Paringa is a small township just across the Murray River and both towns were recently incorporated into one council area. For all intents and purposes, they can be considered two parts of the one settlement as they are so close together.
Renmark is the biggest town in the Riverland and ground zero for Australia's oldest irrigation settlement. Renmark and Paringa are also great places for a family holiday no matter the budget. To help you plan what to do while you're in town, here's some free things to do in Renmark and surrounds. There's something for all the family so you'll easily be able to fill a holiday weekend with these ideas.
The well-tended parks and gardens of the Renmark riverfront precinct has a few great things to see and do. The Matulick Riverfront Trail is a well signposted walk along the river where you'll learn all about the natural and built history of the area. The Renmark Visitor Centre is home to the paddle steamer PS Industry (which you can board and walk around for a gold coin donation) and has heaps of information, displays, and local products for sale. There's also signage to a longer riverfront walk through bushland to the Paringa bridge and over the river, just a kilometre or two downstream.
You won't see them during the day but the riverfront precinct in front of the Renmark Hotel is home to numerous possums. At dusk, they climb down from the trees to feed on the plentiful offerings left by locals and visitors. It's a unique way to get up close to these normally secretive and cautious native animals. Cut some pieces of apple or carrot, or simply bring a banana to hand feed these curious little critters. The kids will love it!
Strictly speaking, this playground isn't in Renmark, but it is only a ten minute drive away and is completely free. This grassy and wide open playground is a popular spot for picnics and features a wide range of large play equipment with a maze, flying foxes, big swings, rope bridges and plenty of other pieces of equipment to climb around and on. Unlike its famous predecessor, it's all very safe these days and while the kids will enjoy it, the adults will reminisce on its rather unsafe and exciting history.
Cross the river at Paringa and turn left past the black stump to head for the region of Murtho. After passing through some of the irrigated citrus and almond orchards so integral to the region's growth you'll arrive at the Murtho Reserve and the Heading's Cliff lookout is just off the bitumen. This lookout is responsible for some of the most striking images of the river as the stark red cliffs tower over the river and the endless floodplains extend over the horizon. This truly is what they mean by 'big sky' country. Climb the lookout tower and get your bearings with the sundial-like compass and enjoy the gorgeous views.
The Paringa Black Stump is one of 11 scattered around Australia. 'Beyond the Black Stump' was once a common Aussie colloquialism for anywhere past the settled areas of the country. This particular black stump was cut from the river many years ago by a colourful character by the name of Frank Turton. He cut the stump out over three days, floated it, attached a motor to it, and 'drove' it back down the river to Paringa where it now stands imposingly and proudly on the main street of Paringa. Frank had just finished hosing it down as we visited and tells us that he is still hoping it may grow one day! There is heaps of information to read and Frank himself is always happy to tell you a tale about it or anything else you care to ask.
This one is again across the river and you'll need to cross the opening bridge to Paringa, turn right and follow the signs to Lock 5 reserve. This is again a green grassed, wide open reserve that is so emblematic of the parks and gardens in the area. You can read all about the history of the massive lock building project that created the navigable river we have now, and if you're there at the right time you can watch boats traverse this massive structure.
Completed in 1927 this massive steel bridge has an opening section that still lifts twice a day everyday to allow river traffic to pass underneath. From memory, the bridge opens at 9.30am and 2.30pm and it's quite an impressive sight. Riverland Biosphere Reserve
Head north out of Renmark through one of the original irrigation districts for about ten minutes and you'll find yourself on the edge of the desert! Formerly known as the Bookmark Biosphere Reserve, it encompasses 9000 square kilometres of land in varying landscapes. From the river and its wetlands, rich floodplains and river terraces, to the vast wilderness of the Mallee. It also includes working sheep stations, orchards and vineyards (including Banrock Station) and features one of the biggest continuous stands of original Mallee forest left on earth. It's home to some rare and endangered species and you're sure to spot some kangaroos!
Grab some bait from one of the shops nearby, throw some meat into a shrimp trap to catch your own bait, or just use tinned corn! Either way, you can fish just about anywhere that you can reach the river around Renmark for callop/yellowbelly/golden perch. You will also catch catfish and maybe an elusive Murray Cod! Catfish must not be kept and cod must not be removed from the water. By contrast, you'll also catch plenty of redfin and carp and these must NOT be returned to the water and disposed of responsibly. It's easy to catch fish around Renmark and the kids just love fishing!
This Museum hosts displays a number of both small and large stationary engines, historic farm machinery, tractors, static displays and other bits and pieces which speak of the hard won farming history of the area that built it into the fertile farmland we see today. It's open Monday to Wednesday, Friday from 9 am to 2 pm, and Saturday 9 am to 12 pm.
Have you visited Renmark yet? Do you have a place or activity to add to the list? Let us know in the comments below!