Cruising in Comfort: Murray River Houseboats in South Australia

Houseboats are designed literally as a comfy floating house on the water! Don’t think cramped quarters and narrow galleys, the Murray River Houseboats in South Australia are floating holiday houses with everything you need for a unique river adventure in a striking destination.

You’ve probably got a few questions about hiring a houseboat so I’ve created this Guide to help answer your questions…

Guide to Houseboat Hire

For starters, you’ll find a home away from home on your chartered houseboat! (Source) An open plan lounge and kitchen, dining table and chairs, double bedrooms, decks, BBQ and if you’re lucky a spa pool!

Murray River Houseboats are comfortable, and some are very luxurious. You can see a list of houseboats further on…

The Murray River region is an amazing destination and taking a houseboat down the river is perfect if you’re looking for relaxation, amazing bird life, a spot of adventure, and a nice glass of wine! P.S. This is wine country.

If you’re keen to ride on a paddle steamer or take a small boat cruise see my post here: Best Murray River Cruise Packages.

Travel Tips

The great Murray River is Australia’s longest river and a houseboat dream. You’ll have lots of fun aboard your own houseboat with a changing riverscape, calm water, exotic birdlife, incredible sunsets (and sunrises), and enjoyable activities on water and land.

As you meander along this panoramic river you can take in the scenery or stop for a spot of swimming, fishing, and kayaking.

Things to Do

Want a bit more action? Moor your boat, hop off and hike on scenic trails, enjoy delicious food at local eateries, cool down with a beer at one of the boutique breweries, and venture out to South Australia’s famous food and wine trails.

Food and Wine Trails

You can also organise tours with your houseboat company like the Champagne and Bush Tucker Breakfast and the Adelaide Hills Safari.

Watch the video and glide down the river…

The Timeless Charm of the Murray River

The Murray River is 2,508 km long from the Australian Alps, through New South Wales, Victoria and finally completing its journey near Gowla in South Australia.

The river is wide in some places, narrow in others, and flows through lakes like Lake Alexandrina, catchments, and even locks.

First Nations Peoples of the Murray

The Murray has cultural significance to the First Nations Peoples of the Murray who believe the river was created by their ancestor, Ngurunderi as he pursued Pondi, the great Murray cod.

The river provided them with their food and water, including fish, shellfish, turtles, birds eggs, and edible roots of water plants. The river system was also an important trade route for the communities.

Early European Boats

By the 19th Century, European settlers used Paddle Steamers and Paddle Wheelers to ferry goods up and down the Murray.

Some paddle steamers are still running today and you can ride in one at Murray Bridge – the day trip offers sightseeing and lunch. You can see the Viator Paddle Wheeler Lunch Cruise here.

Today, the Murray River is still an important water resource and recreational destination for house boating, swimming, and watersports. Now on to tips about house boating…

Map of the Murray River with the Houseboat Docks

Murray River Houseboats in South Australia - the docks
Murray River with the houseboat docks

Indiana Houseboat – The River House at White Sands near Murray Bridge

Some of the Murray River Houseboats in South Australia sit at the dock and act just like holiday homes. This 3-Bedrooms houseboat with 2 bathrooms accommodates up to 6 guests.

You can stay in the houseboat at the dock, or a boat license is required to pilot down the river. Pop your dates in and see when this getaway is available and the best dates.


1. Where can I hire a houseboat?

The main docks are at Renmark/Paringa, Mannum, Blanchetown, Murray Bridge, Morgan, and Waikerie.

The Houseboat Hirers Association has a list of recommended houseboats that they have accredited. All of their houseboats are licensed, surveyed, and insured. Also, see further on for houseboats at the various docks.

2. What are the facilities on a houseboat?

  • Modern kitchen with stove, microwave, fridge, freezer, and pantry
  • Dining table and chairs
  • Lounge suite and coffee table
  • Queen beds, linen, towels, and storage spaces
  • Well-appointed bathrooms with showers (the bigger boats might have two bathrooms)
  • Air conditioning for cooling and heating
  • TV, DVD, sound system
  • Outdoor furniture, BBQ
  • Some boats have spa pools

Some of the smaller boats for two are more compact and more like a campervan.

3. How many people does a houseboat accommodate?

From 2 to 12 berth. The houseboats are 1, 2, or 3 decks high. You can travel as a couple, a few friends, or a big group but the cost will come down per person if you hire a houseboat as a group.

Take a Tour of the Riverdance Houseboat

4. Is there a high and low season?

Yes, the low season is from June 1 to August 31. The peak time is the summer school holidays and Easter.

5. Do I need a boat license to drive a houseboat?

Most of the South Australian Houseboat hire companies only require that you have a car license to drive a houseboat. You’ll travel at a leisurely 5-7kms/hour. Hirers must be over 21 (or 18) years of age.

6. How do I drive a houseboat?

Modern houseboats are easy to pilot (aka drive). Before you set off the company will come onboard and give you a lesson on how to navigate and operate the boat.

Some companies, like Houseboat Heaven, can provide pilots for your trip.

Hot tips: You can’t drive the houseboat after sunset. Watch out for overhanging trees when you’re mooring the boat – these can damage the boat.

7. Where do I moor the boat?

Your houseboat company will give you a map of all the moorings you can stop at along the way. Some houseboaters stop at a mooring and spend their whole holiday there while others travel along the river.

8. How do I moor a houseboat?

This is an important maneuver! Willows and gum trees line the Murray River and this video gives you a good guide to mooring a houseboat to a tree (you’ll also hear the lively sound of kookaburras)…

9. What if the houseboat breaks down?

Mechanical breakdowns can sometimes occur so make sure your houseboat company has a technician you can call on to fix the problem.

10. How much does it cost?

The more luxurious houseboats cost more. The more people you have on the boat the more you can share the cost.

But if you want a romantic getaway for two then you can choose a smaller boat.

For example, The River House in White Sands, is A$1,362 for two guests, for three nights with Expedia.

11. Do I need insurance?

Insurance & Bond: When you book your houseboat ask about insurance and the bond. Is insurance included in the daily price? How much is the bond and what constitutes a loss of bond?

Hot Tip: your houseboat will include fuel when you set ‘sail’ but the cost of the fuel will come off your bond at the end of the trip.

You’re only travelling around 7kms/hour and most people travel around 3-5 hours per day so you won’t use too much fuel.

12. How long is a houseboat hire?

Usually, the company will have a set number of days with recommended stops and activities. For example, 3, 4, or 7-day hires.

13. Is a week too long on a houseboat?

Absolutely not! The pleasure of house boating is to enjoy the scenery, your fellow company, the serenity, good food, wine, and music.

You can moor the boat and take a walk along the shore. At night houseboaters like to sit under the stars around a campfire on the river’s bank.

Birdwatchers: You’ll see amazing birds like pelicans, kookaburras, ibis, rosellas, galas, and many more waterbirds (and bats!) Here’s a birdwatching guide to the Murray River.

14. When’s the best time of year?

Summer and school holidays are popular with families and this is when the river is busiest. So if you want a quiet, restful break then spring, autumn, and winter are ideal.

You’ll enjoy off-peak rates and serene boating with crisp mornings and sunny days. It won’t be too hot so you can hop off for some fun activities on land like hiking and wine trails. Click here to check school holiday dates.

15. What food do I need to bring on board?

You can stock up on food at the supermarket at your departure point. There are general stores along the route that are within walking distance but they’ll cost more. You’ll be able to buy bread, milk, canned food, bottled and frozen food, alcohol, and takeaways.

Depending on the part of the river you choose to cruise, you may have cafes and restaurants on shore for dining out.

Supplied Food: Your houseboat company may also supply the food for your trip ahead. If you feel like splashing out you can organise an on-board chef too!

16. What water is on board?

You’ll have filtrated drinking water on board. Your showering water is from the river so (as a general rule of travel) remember to keep your mouth shut when you shower.

17. What should I bring?

Casual clothes, warm jacket for winter, hiking shoes or boots, food, drinks, camera, music, binoculars, and swimsuit for summer. You can even bring your own kayaks.

18. Is there wheelchair access?

Some houseboats do have wheelchair access with accessible cabins so always check with the houseboat company before you book. Houseboat Heaven offers accessible house boats.

19. Are there optional extras?

Check if you can hire canoes, kayaks, fishing gear (or take your own), water skis, and jet skis. Hiring kayaks is a ‘must do’ so you can explore beyond the river to the quieter streams and lagoons.

20. Are spa pools a must?

Yes! They’re so relaxing and especially at night when you can gaze at the stars.

21. Is it safe to swim?

The Murray can run fast in some places so always check with your houseboat company which parts of the river are safe for you to swim in.

22. Can I take my pet?

White Houseboats at Mannum offers luxury pet-friendly houseboats.

23. Are there tours I can take from the houseboat?

Yes! For example, popular Unforgettable Houseboats offer:

  • Barossa Valley Winery Tour
  • Barossa Valley Clubs and Vines Tour
  • Adelaide Hills Safari
  • Outback Pub Crawl
  • Big Bend By Night Tour
  • Big Bend Sunset Dinner Tour
  • Champagne and Bush Tucker Breakfast
  • Langhorne Creek Discovery Tour

24. Is there cellphone reception on the Murray River?

You’ll find there is cellphone reception on parts of the Murray River but feel free to turn off, go off-grid and relax!

25. Can I just book a berth on a Murray River Cruise?

Yes, the Proud Mary offers cruises every day of the year. You can relax and have everything done for you.

Your berth will include a queen size bed and ensuite. The captain navigates the boat and the chef cooks all your meals.

During the cruise, they’ll also take you out on nature-based excursions on land. Obviously, you’ll share the boat with the other guests but what a great opportunity to meet new people and make new friends!

For more Houseboat cruises see my post: Best Murray River Cruise Packages on a paddle steamer, paddle wheeler, and a catamaran.

See the Proud Mary in Action

List of Murray River Houseboats in South Australia

Map of Murray River Houseboats in South Australia

Renmark – Lock 5

Renmark (at the top right of the map) is a great place to hire houseboats with lots of cafes and restaurants. See the Woolshed Brewery, a 100-year-old woolshed at Wilkadene Station set on the banks of the river, Ruston’s Rose Gardens, and Angoves Winery.

Murray River Houseboats in South Australia include
  • Magnum Houseboats – on the other side of the bridge so you don’t have to wait for the raising of the bridge.
  • Renmark Houseboats – a wide range of houseboats from 2 berth to 12 berth, some with spa pools.
  • Houseboat Heaven in Paringa (which means bend in the river) is 5kms from Renmark. Affordable and they also offer disability amenities, which don’t cost extra. You can pilot the boat yourself or they can arrange a pilot.
Murray River Houseboats in South Australia
Renmark Houseboat for 2

Blanchetown – Lock 1

Scamp Houseboat Griffens Marina

You’ll get to experience boating through Lock 1 at Blanchetown. This is an uncrowded stretch of the Murray River so nice and quiet. Blanchetown is 145 km from Adelaide through the Barossa Valley. Visit Blanchetown Hotel and the local winery, Burkes Salters.

Houseboat company: Griffens Marina Blanchetown. Small houseboats for couples, and dog friendly.


Loxton is known as the garden town of Riverland and is 240km east of Adelaide. Don’t miss the Loxton Historical Village.

Houseboat company: Riverland Houseboats Loxton. Affordable houseboats on a beautiful stretch of river.

Kingston on Murray

Interior of the Golden Leisure Houseboat

Don’t miss the Banrock Station Wine and Wetland Centre.

Houseboat company: Golden Leisure Houseboats. Affordable, for big groups. Lots of flora and fauna and red cliffs on this stretch of the river.

Travel Resources

Hire Car: Auto Europe Car Rentals is a comparison site with a good rating on Trustpilot. They reply to every review. Customers find they give good comparison prices and better value for money than the actual car company. Best of all, if anything goes wrong, they have a 24-hour phone line. You can save up to 30% on your car rental.

Book your Flights: Wayaway compares prices and gives you the best deal. Read about WayawayPlus which also gives you cashback for all your travel.

Book a Stylish Floating Home at Murray Bridge. Pop your dates in and see the best price.

Wrapping Up – Murray River Houseboats in South Australia

You’ll never know what’s around the next bend on your scenic houseboat adventure with one of the Murray River Houseboats in South Australia. Gliding down the river listening to birdlife, moored to a willow watching the sunset over the red cliffs, or toasting marshmallows on the bank under a starry sky – you’ll have an awesome and unique trip.


6 thoughts on “Cruising in Comfort: Murray River Houseboats in South Australia”

  1. Thank you for your post. It is a timely article for our family. Our family of six have been planning Australia trip for two years now. Since it is a long trip from US to Australia, we agree to spend 3 weeks there.

    We plan to visit several big cities and some famous scenery, such as Great Barrier Reef. Now we have something new, like the Murray River Houseboats. Since this is more that 2000 miles of trip, there certainly are a lot of attractions along the way. It is exciting new discovery and I am going to discuss this with my family.

    I see it is not expensive to rent a boat for six persons. Such trip can be economical.

    It is kind of you sharing this useful information with us.

    • Hi Anthony – yes hiring a Murray River Houseboat with your family is a wonderful idea when you visit Australia. To save time you could fly from Queensland to Adelaide and pick up a boat near there. Unforgettable Houseboats would be a great choice for your family group. Luxurious and comfortable. I wish you all the best for your Australian trip. Cheers, Alisa

  2. Thanks for offering us with this wonderful information about Murray river and houseboats because you have put me in the moods of wanting to have a tour at the Murray river for my vacation of this year because I have fell in love with its features and I have also liked the facilities provided at the house boats. Thanks for guide admin 

    • Hi Magalu – I’m happy that you’ve found the article enlightening. You’ll have the time of your life hiring a Murray River Houseboat – everyone has a wonderful time gliding down the river enjoying nature with fun stop offs. Happy travels! Best, Alisa

  3. House Boats would be wonderful to stay on especially after reading everything you wrote about them. The different types of them to choose from and what all they offer to go with it to do. What all do you like to do on a House Boat tour or which one is your favorite? The River Cruise sounds like what I would like to do and the tours. Everything would be fun to do.

    • Hi Renea – thanks for your comment. The best houseboat for me is one of the bigger ones shared with lots of friends and family and a spa pool on the deck! So relaxing and fun with stops at local wineries and hiking trails. Best, Alisa


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