With 2,508 kilometers of dramatic riverscape the Murray River is Australia’s longest river and a popular cruising destination. These Murray River Cruise Packages are very popular and include specialty activities on water and land.
You can visit from Melbourne or Adelaide or start your trip at one of the small dock towns like Renmark and Echuca. So what type of cruise are you interested in?
This list gives you the choice of a historic paddle steamer or paddle wheeler to meander down the river or a small boat cruise that explores the smaller byways along the Murray River.
- Landlubber or Sailor? Choose to Stay on the Boat or on Land
- Travel Guide
- Guide to Paddle Steamers
- 1. Four-Day, Three-Night Murray River Cruise by Classic Paddle Wheeler PS Murray Princess
- 2. Five-Day, Four-Night Bendigo Balgownie Winery Retreat & PS Emmylou Cruise Package
- 3. Eight-Day, Seven-Night Goolwa to Mildura Cruise by Day, Sleep at Riverside Accommodation – Hotels and Motels.
If you want to hire your own houseboat see my post here: Murray River Houseboats in South Australia
Landlubber or Sailor? Choose to Stay on the Boat or on Land
There’s some options here for confident ‘sailors’ or landlubbers who prefer to sleep on solid ground:
- Stay in a berth with en-suite on the boat (PS Murray Princess)
- Stay some nights on land and some on the boat (PS Emmylou)
- Cruise the river by day and stay at hotels/motels at night (Spirit Australia)
- Next up ‘Travel Guide’…
The Murray River is sacred to indigenous communities and a striking destination for cruising. With changing landscapes, red cliffs, willow and gumtree-lined riverbanks, exotic birds, and native wildlife like koalas – it’s a real wonderland of flora and fauna (don’t forget your walking shoes and binoculars!)
The cruises wind through historic villages, lakes, locks, catchments, nature reserves, wine country, foodie towns and archaeological sites in Victoria and South Australia.
Depending on your cruise, you’ll have the opportunity to do wine tasting, enjoy a locally brewed beer, visit historic towns, dine at local restaurants, and maybe visit significant archaeological sites.
Activities can include small-boat safaris, nature walks, kayaking, swimming, fishing, and bonfires on the riverbank under a starlit sky!
Guide to Paddle Steamers
Paddle steamer cruises are the original mode of transportation on the Murray River and very popular for day cruises or multi-day cruises. You can stand in the wheelhouse and watch the skipper navigating this great river, with a changing landscape around every bend.
Don’t have time for a multi-day cruise? You can take a Lunch Cruise on board the Captain Proud Paddle Wheeler that leaves from Murray Bridge here’s a link to Viator to read more.
- The PS Emmylou is the only paddle steamer powered by local red gum wood.
- The PS Murray Princess is bigger than the Emmylou and is a lot more touristy. If you want more boutique then the Emmylou or Spirit of the Murray may be for you.
- You can watch the videos below to get a feel for cruising on the paddle steamers…
What does my cabin include?
The Murray River Cruise packages with cabins on-board include comfortable staterooms, linens and an en-suite. Included in the price are all meals. You’ll find the staff are always very helpful on all the cruises.
- The cruises are designed for active seniors but are also set up to help those travellers who are less mobile.
- Cruise packages include return transfers from Adelaide or Melbourne (depending on the cruise you choose).
- Summer is very hot along the Murray. The cabins have air conditioning but if you want to avoid the heat then best to travel in the cooler months.
I’ve checked out the Viator’s Murray River tours and found the most affordable multi-day cruises plus I’ve chosen one of the excellent Spirit of Australia cruise packages. Read on for the trip of a lifetime…
With Covid causing travel changes happening every day, some cruises may not be available – but here’s the latest cruises on offer from Viator. But do read on for videos and all the wonderful experiences you’ll have on your cruise:
1. Four-Day, Three-Night Murray River Cruise by Classic Paddle Wheeler PS Murray Princess
BEST FOR: Nature and Wildlife, Small-Boat Safari. Transfers from Adelaide.
The focus of this 4-day classic cruise is nature and wildlife. On board the PS Murray Princess everything is organised for you with well-equipped cabins and en-suite, meals, tours, and presentations to keep you busy – all at a good price. Even when you’re relaxing and cruising there’s so many birds to see and hear – pelicans, kookaburras, ibis, rosellas, galas and bats!
See what’s on offer on the PS Murray Princess:
You’ll be picked up from Adelaide and transported to your classic paddle wheeler – the largest in the Southern Hemisphere! The cruise includes an expert guide who gives interesting presentations and takes you on a fascinating small-boat safari of the backwaters where you’re sure to see some amazing wildlife.
What does the trip include?
- Nature Walk
- Talks about the river, history, flora and fauna, food and wine
- Monarto Zoo (entry fee to pay)
- Local Food and Wine Tasting
- Visit to historic Murray Bridge
- Round-trip transfer from Adelaide
- All meals included
- 60 staterooms to choose from
How about the Five-day, Four-night cruise on the PS Murray Princess ?
For just a little bit more cost the 4-night cruise aboard the PS Murray Princess also includes: Aussie BBQ, sheep shearing demo, visit to Swan Reach Museum and the Native Wildlife Shelter plus a tour to see the ancient rock carvings at Ngaut Ngaut Conservation Park, one of Australia’s most significant archaeological sites. Click here to read more.
See the PS Emmylou in action:
2. Five-Day, Four-Night Bendigo Balgownie Winery Retreat & PS Emmylou Cruise Package
BEST FOR: Wine Tasting. 2 nights in a Luxury Safari Tent, 2 nights on-board. Transfers from Melbourne.
Named after the country singer Emmylou Harris this comfortable paddle steamer departs from Echuca Dock. You’ll be transferred from Bendigo or Melbourne to your accommodation.
This is a stay and cruise package so you have two nights staying in a luxury safari tent within the Balgownie Estate winery where you can sip wine on your deck and tour the winery. Then you’ll enjoy two relaxing nights on board the paddle steamer for a Murray River Highlights Cruise.
3. Eight-Day, Seven-Night Goolwa to Mildura Cruise by Day, Sleep at Riverside Accommodation – Hotels and Motels.
Spirit Australia Cruises have a wonderful selection of Murray River Cruise Packages to choose from. I’ve chosen this one to feature but check out their website for more options.
This is a fascinating section of the Murray River that takes you from the site of the first paddle steamers to the end of the Murray at Goolwa on the South Australian coast. 878 Kilometers in total! With lots of see and do inbetween.
Your boat, Spirit of the Murray, is a small catamaran so you can travel down the narrow byways of the great Murray, enjoy the striking natural scenery and stop for visits to local sights, meals and your accommodation at night.
Take a tour of Mannum:
The cruise passes through 11 locks! Stops and sights include:
- Historic Riverport of Morgan with a talk by the local historical society.
- Banrock Station Winery for wine, lunch and wetland tour.
- Berri Township.
- Chowilla and Ana Branch Stations.
- Tailem Bend, Murray Bridge, Walkers Flat, Big Bend, Swan Reach
- Pass under Paringa Bridge as it’s lifted.
- Watch for koalas in the redgums.
The cruise includes breakfast, lunch, dinner and morning and afternoon teas. Special price for seniors. Solo travellers pay 12% more than twin share – so bring a friend! You can book this cruise at their website here.
If you’re fine with a bigger boat and a more touristy experience then the PS Murray Princess is for you. The PS Emmylou trip is more boutique with the added bonus of the luxury safari tent stay. The Spirit of Australia cruises are great for travellers who want to cruise by day and stay on land at night.
Happy Travelling! If you need any more information or want to join the conversation please share in the comments section below.
For Murray River Houseboats see here, for underground accommodation in Coober Pedy see here or Tree houses in Queensland see here.
Photos courtesy of Michael Coghlan, flickr creative commons, David Sam Levinson on Unsplash, vs_soccer_starlet from Pixabay