01 Jun Our South Australian Extravaganza Part 1
Regular readers of this blog site may remember that each year since 2011 (except 2020), Maggie and I have joined a group of caravanning friends at a place we call Paradise. Our visits there used to be at Easter, but now we have the choice of visiting at other times. This year (2023) we visited Paradise in mid-April (after Easter), and then ventured into South Australia with good friends Patrick and Heidi from the caravanning group.
Our Paradise, NSW
The first camp of our Extravaganza was here for 6 nights. Not a lot had changed down by the riverside, except the land owner / farmer friend had fenced off the paddock where we camp (to restrict movement of his bulls) and installed locking gates (to keep out uninvited guests).
The river was relatively still most of the time and the water level down to a more normal height (following last year’s flood).
We decided Jugiong would be our next stopover although it’s only about 1 hour northwest of Paradise. This meant we could hitch the caravan in Paradise valley during the warmer part of the day (saves frost bite on fingers), arrive at Jugiong in time for lunch and remain hitched there overnight, ready for a quick getaway the next day. It also meant we could have dinner that night at the Sir George Hotel in Jugiong. (Camping Price $10 donation to the honesty box).
Next morning it was off to Junee and then Hay.
Junee is approximately 1 hour from Jugiong, so we didn’t want to stop the night there. However, we were keen to visit the Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory,
We had morning coffee and cake in their cafe and purchased a small quantity of their yummy licorice and chocolate.
Junee is an attractive town, especially in the area near the station.
Next up was Hay Showground, for a one night stay.
The Hay Showground offers caravan sites with power and water, big enough for us to remain hitched (Camping Price $10 donation to the honesty box).
After leaving Hay we stopped at Balranald NSW for morning coffee and cake,
… then to Robinvale VIC, briefly crossing NSW/VIC the border, for “homemade” lunch beside the Murray River. Here and all along “the River” there was evidence of the 2023 flood.
Our destination for the day was Mildura, just across the NSW state border on A20 (Sturt Hwy) and into Victoria.
Mildura is a big town (actually it’s classified as a city) just in the northwest corner of the state of Victoria. There are plenty of vineyards and several wineries close by, some of which we visited on a previous trip. While we stayed there 2 nights we didn’t visit the wineries this time. What was of interest was the confluence of the Darling and Murray Rivers at nearby Wenthworth NSW. (The Lachlan River flows into Murrumbidgee River, which then flows into the Murray, which is then joined by the Darling River – see map below).
Dinner on the first night in Mildura was at Thai-Riffic in the city centre – Good ambience, professional service and tasty food for a reasonable price. The local wine was very enjoyable. Lunch the next day was at Seoul Chicken and Beer – Food tasty, service good, dishes delivered by a robotic waiter.
Unfortunately, on day 2 we had to move our caravan to another site, due to a very stinky blocked drain in our section of the park. Staff at the Mildura Riverside Holiday Park were very apologetic and helpful. We believe the problem was a result of the flooding in late 2022 and early 2023 when the Murray River broke it’s banks to create the worst flood there since 1956. The park had only reopened a couple of weeks prior to our visit.
It was frightening to see how high the flood waters were in 2023 and 1956.
In the photo above, part of the orange dirt levy bank can be seen, an attempt to save the park from the next flood.
After two nights at Mildura it was time to move on to the South Australian (SA) part of our journey. We crossed into SA on the A20 (Sturt Hwy) and were stopped at the Yamba Quarantine Station, shortly after. Be aware, there are heavy fines for carrying fruit and vegetables into SA. Due to renovations at the border dump stop, we were unable to dispose of our veggies, so we were not fined. However our veggies were confiscated.
It is only a short journey from Mildura to Paringa (1.5 hours), so we arrived in the township for morning coffee and cake. Opposite the cafe is the “biggest Black Stump” in Australia. This is a little bizarre to me, because in my experience the term “black stump” means, the stump of a tree that is above the ground and burnt black (with the roots system still in the ground). Such stumps being often used as a reference point for directions. Alternatively an arbitrary point in the country beyond which one should not go. It seems people in small Australian towns will do anything to promote their town … and “good on” them.
Having filled our faces here, we crossed the Murray, did a hard right at the end of the bridge and rolled down the slope into the Renmark Riverbend Caravan Park at Paringa. This park had also been flooded earlier in the year, but a lot of repair work had been done by the time we arrived, so it was in “good shape”.
After lunch and a rest, Maggie and I visited Renmark, a few minutes drive from the park.
While Remark didn’t flood in 2023, some of the riverside walking paths were damaged by undermining and work is still being done to restore their integrity.
Back at camp
Leaving our caravans at the park the next day, we made the 35 minute trip to Loxton with Patrick and Heidi, in their car.
Loxton is a good sized town with some lovely architecture, but we mainly visited there to explore the Loxton Historical Village, down by the river.
On the way back to Paringa we stopped for lunch at Cucina 837 Restaurant, part of Salena Estate Wines at Bookpurnong SA. Food and wine was very enjoyable.
The next day we left Paringa and set off, vans in tow, for Burra SA.
Burra is north west of Paringa and a considerably longer drive than Google Maps suggests (if towing a caravan). What basic maps and popular satellite navigation systems also don’t show is a river crossing at Morgan SA by punt / ferry. No cost to cross for cars and cars with caravans, but we didn’t know that until we got there.
Our caravan site for one night at Burra was behind the Bon Accord Hotel. An unpowered site is free if you have dinner and drinks at the pub.
After settling the caravans onsite, having lunch and a rest, we headed into the Burra township to find a replacement external fridge vent for the one that had fallen off Patrick and Heidi’s van. When no replacement could be found, Patrick and the local hardware salesman conjured up the ingredients for a temporary vent. Back at camp Patrick screwed and taped the bits together for a perfect fit, which remained intact until the correct vent could be purchased in Adelaide.
That night we thoroughly enjoyed lounging by the Pub’s cosy log fire, sipping some nice SA wine and swapping travel experiences with other campers, while waiting for our dinner to be prepared. Dinner in their “oldy worldy” dinning room was just as enjoyable.
It was only a short drive to Clare from Burra, so we arrived there with caravans still attached, in plenty of time for morning coffee and cake and a good look around.
Lunch in Clare was at Mr Mick’s. Both food and wine were beautiful.
As there was no caravan sites available near Clare, we moved further south to Williamstown, where we stayed two nights.
The Williamstown Caravan Park (ringside to Aussie Rules football matches and training) was a base from which to see various places of interest in the Barossa Valley.
This is where we had morning coffee and cake, plus purchased a few of Maggie Beer’s goodies.
Penfolds is arguably the most famous and prestigious wine brand in Australia. We felt we had to visit their Barossa cellar door. However, their “Cellar Door” is not on the same land as any of their Barossa vineyards or wineries. It’s in a shared commercial building at Nuriootpa. I still wanted to book a tasting, but decided against it after discovering the various tasting price levels.
From Nuriootpa we drove (courtesy of Patrick) to Gully Gardens farm at Angaston, to sample some of the table fruit and nuts of South Australia. Dried pears, almond chocolate and choc coated sultanas all made it into our basket.
Henschke is another prestigious wine brand, but from the neighbouring Eden Valley. Pictured above, in a sealed wall cabinet, are vintage bottles of their most famous wine, Hill of Grace. Again we passed on the tasting, but soaked up the rarified atmosphere.
Heading back into the Barossa we visited Chateau Tanunda just to view the “Chateau” and take photos of it.
It was decided we’d have lunch at St Hugo’s Restaurant, but when we got there they were preparing for a wedding.
Lou’s Palace wasn’t far away and there were vacancies for lunch, so that’s where we headed.
We sampled some of their wine with lunch. The food and wine were excellent. I remember Patrick described his pork Ragu dish as the best pasta he’d ever tasted.
Our last activity, while staying at Williamstown, was a visit to the “Whispering Wall” to test the claim that someone can stand on the platform at one end of the wall (shown in photo above), whisper in the direction of the platform at the other end of the wall (just visible in photo) and be heard clearly there, 140 metres away. It worked perfectly. Why?
This Barossa Reservoir wall is one section of the diameter of a perfect circle and forms what is termed a Parabola. Sound generated at either end follows the curve of the wall without losing the energy it would normally do, if directed in a straight line through clear air.
In case you didn’t hear what I said from my end of the wall, “this brings Our South Australian Extravaganza Part 1 to a conclusion”.
In Part 2 (coming soon) we visit Hahndorf, McLaren Vale, Victor Harbour, parts of Adelaide and Kangaroo Island, plus more.
Stay safe until then.
Maggie and I wish to express our thanks to Patrick and Heidi for their companionship during this adventure and for driving us from campsites to so many attractions.