Waikerie - One of SA's Best Holiday Spots

Norwegian tourists Katrine Rask and Sigrid Thomassen enjoy the river at Waikerie with local dog Sunny.
Picture: Tricia Watkinson. Source: The Advertiser

Waikerie (and the Murray)

IT'S dawn in Waikerie and the Murray River is coming to life. While the pelicans begin their slow circles, looking for an easy feed, the young men and women onboard the Murray River Queen - Australia's only floating backpackers' hostel - are preparing for another hard day in the orchards.

It's tough, hot work, but the travellers are loving every minute they spend in the unassuming Riverland town.

"We bloody love it," says 25-year-old Londoner Aaron Blackman.

"This boat just has such a great atmosphere."

Norwegians Katrine Rask and Sigrid Thomassen agreed.

"The people here are so open," Miss Rask said.

"I think it has something to do with the sunny weather. At home we are much more shut in."

Most of the backpackers in Waikerie are "doing their regionals" - working manual labour in a regional area in order to earn a second-year working visa.

They add some year-round life to a town that explodes over summer with water-skiers, houseboaters and holidaymakers.

For Dean Kelly, moving his young family from Adelaide to his wife's hometown of Waikerie was an easy choice.

"We just love it here," Mr Kelly said as he picnicked on the riverbank with his children.

"There are no traffic lights, no traffic jams, the people are nice and just look at this scenery."

The lure of the river also proved strong for Scott Jones, owner/baker at the Waikerie Bakery, surely the best named bakery in Australia.

"We always had a shack in Blanchetown, and that attraction of the Murray just led me back," Mr Jones said.

Lucy Quintel runs the visitor information centre on the outskirts of town.

Ms Quitel moved to the Waikerie 42 years ago from the State's South East to work as a telephone receptionist, and she's been there ever since.

"The river is the main attraction, but the food and wine businesses are improving every day," she said.

"And it's a great place to raise kids. They can ride their bikes around, and everyone knows each other so if they're doing something they're not supposed to be doing you'll hear about it."

MUST SEE: The River, of course. Whether you're into watching birds at the world famous Gluepot Reserve or testing your skills on a pair of waterskis, most things in Waikerie revolve around the water. Away from the Mighty Murray you can check out some incredible photography at Paul Whit's Gallery in McCoy St.

MUST EAT: Havenhand Chocolates and Cafe offers Riverland fruit chocolates, while Illalangi does excellent gourmet products in a bush garden setting. Waikerie Bakery's egg and bacon pie is the perfect way to start the day. Head to the newly renovated Waikerie Hotel for pub grub and a cold beer.

MUST STAY: On a houseboat, of course! Green and Gold Houseboats offer a range of craft to suit any family and budget, and operate from the Waikerie riverfront. If you'd prefer to stay on land, the Waikerie Caravan Park has a range of accommodation options.

VALUE: 9/10

There's plenty to do in Waikerie that's not going to break the bank. From twitching for rare birds to casting a line in the river, it's definitely a budget-friendly option.

FRIENDLINESS: 9/10

A true country town where everyone drives with courtesy and is more than happy to suggest the perfect campsite or fishing spot. Old fashioned hospitality.

SCENERY: 7/10

Like anywhere in the Riverland, stray too far from the water and you'll find yourself in some pretty hot, flat, dusty country.

ACCESSIBILITY: 9/10

Just 175km up the road from Adelaide, Waikerie is one of the more accessible Riverland towns.

ENTERTAINMENT: 7/10

You might catch the odd live band at the pub, but Waikerie is more about relaxing by the river with a cool drink than partying the night away.

TOTAL: 41/50

Waikerie things to do