Australia is a country that divides travelers. Australia is known for its creepy crawlies like snakes and spiders (although box jellyfish and ants are actually worse). Many folks avoid Australia with the belief that "everything there is out there to kill you". While Australia does have a lot of poisonous and venomous animals they aren't exactly out there to get you, but rather like all wild animals, they run away from you. And it's this wildlife that makes Australia so special and so worth exploring. For many of the readers out there, this may sound like hell on earth, but for those for whom it sounds great. Then the Murray River is for you.


Introducing The Murray River

Most tourists in Australia explore the main cities like Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, the Gold Coast, and then visit the Great Barrier Reef. If they think about going Outback then they likely only think about going to Ayers Rock (which is also totally worth seeing, just bear in mind that it's like 1,500 miles from anywhere). But they miss out on the stunning Murray River. The Murray River is a slow and muddy river (much like the Colorado River) that drains a large inland basin with only the occasional small settlement on it.

The Murray River is fed by various tributary rivers. The Murray itself is fed by the snows from the Australian Alps. Its main tributaries are the Murrumbidgee and the Darling. The Darling drains all the way from Queensland and is by far the longest tributary. In fact, the Murray River with its tributaries includes 5 of the 6 longest rivers in Australia. Apart from Antarctica, Australia is the world's driest continent with most of the rain falling on the coasts - and mostly the eastern and southeastern coasts. So as you move inland there just aren't many rivers. The Murray River has played a major role for the native Aborigines and their mythology, the European settlement of inland Australia, and shaping the native wildlife of Australia.

Related: Everything You Need To Know About Visiting Australia's Northernmost Point

A Hot Bed Of Wildlife - A River Oasis

The Murray-Darling River Basin is one of the main hotspots for wildlife in Australia (including many of those creepy crawlies we mentioned above). The Murray-Darling River Basin forms a sort of thousands of miles long oasis in the Aussie outback. It provides both water for agriculture (especially vineyards) and shelter for innumerable wildlife. Camping out on the Murray River is one of the most Aussie things anyone can do. There's camping all along the river.

Swifts Creek Campground (government-run)

  • Camping Cost: This campsite is free for campers and with RVs (just a $6 booking fee)

Paringa Caravan Park

  • Camping Cost: Powered Camping Site $35
  • Cabin Cost: Ensuite Cabins From $120
  • Park Caravan Cost: For 2 People One Week $200

You will be able to spot a huge amount of animals native to Australia including Kangaroos (lots of them), emus, stumpy trailed lizards, monitor lizards, snakes, and a dizzying amount of birds like cockatoos, magpies, galahs, rainbow lorikeets, laughing kookaburras, rosellas, ibises, kingfishers, pelicans, ducks, crested pigeons and so many more. Often these are exotic parrots and on the Murray, they are to be found in vast flocks. Unfortunately, it's difficult to spot Koalas in the wild, and it's a little underwhelming when you do - it's best to see them in a zoo.

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Here on the Murray River, you are in an oasis surrounded by the calls of native birds - including the laughing kookaburra (you will probably recall its distinctive call from old movies where the characters are lost and afraid in the jungle - it's a cliche with old movies). You can also go fishing. The fish you can catch are Murray Cod, trout cod, golden perch, Macquarie perch, silver perch, eel-tailed catfish, Australian smelt,  and to the dismay of the local Australians, lots and lots of carp (an invasive species).

Cost Of Victoria Fishing License (The NSW bank of the Murray is Part Of Victoria)

  • 3 Day License - $10
  • 28 Day License - $21.50
  • 1 Year License - $37.70
  • Under 18 And Over 70 Years Old Free

South Australia Fishing License

  • Free - South Austalia Does Not Have A Fishing License

In fact, it's partly the invasive carp who are to blame for muddling the waters as they stir up the silt on the bottom of the river. Upstream along the river, you can even find the vaunted platypus. More broadly you may even spot echidnas (Australia's strange porcupine-like animal) and wombats. The water is muddy but it's not dirty in any sense of being bad for you. Just don't drink it and don't freak out that you can't see your hand after putting it 4 inches deep in the world.

Tourist Towns And Paddlesteaming On The Murray

In the town of Mildura (a town mostly famous for its vineyards) situated on the Murray, you can go on a paddle cruise of the river for a few hours. Further upstream is the old-timey town of Echuca, this is the Australian equivalent of an old Wild West town. It also features an old wharf with vintage paddle boats. Back in the 1870s, this was Australia's most inland port but the demise of the paddle steamer spelled doom for the town. Today its main economy is tourism as a favored destination on the Murray. It boasts the world's largest paddle steamer fleet. Its oldest paddle steamer is the PS Adeliade built in 1866.

Murray River Paddle Steamers

  • One Hour Cruise $30-35
  • Two Hour Cruise $45
  • Lunch Cruise $80
  • Dinner Cruise $110

Echuca Paddle Steamers

  • Cruise on the PS Adeliade $27 (adult) or $12 (child)
  • Family Package $70

As well as going on cruises on vintage paddle steamers, you can rent a modern houseboat and slowly meander your way up and down the river. If you have the time and the money, this is one of the best and most chilled ways to explore the Murray River - just whatever you do, don't underestimate the amount of beer, wine, cheese, and crackers you ought to bring along!

Bella Casa House Boats Rental Cost

  • Peak Summer Season: For 7 Nights - $5800
  • Winter Season: For 7 Nights - $3400
  • Peak Summer Season: For 4 Nights - $3700
  • Midweek Winter Season: For 4 Nights - $2400

In short, for those who truly want a deeper and richer Australian experience (and who aren't afraid of creepy crawlies), the Murray River offers a stunning opportunity to immerse themselves in wild Australia.

Next: Australia Vs New Zealand: 20 Reasons To Choose One Over The Other