Top Things to Do In and Around Barmera

If you’re heading to the Riverland these school holidays and you’ve got your accommodation sorted, then you might be starting to plan what you’re going to do and where you’re going to eat. Here’s a short list of things you might want to consider …

Got kids?

Monash Adventure Playground
Adventure Ahoy!

You definitely need to hit the Monash Adventure Park. Just 10-15 minutes drive out of Barmera is the town of Monash. It’s a small town that’s home to a massive playground that will suit children of a range of ages (that includes the adult-sized children …). Climbing, sliding, swinging … it’s all covered. You need to be prepared to spend quite a long time there and if your children are particularly playground crazy, I’d suggest leaving it til late in your trip to make your visit (otherwise you might have to go back every day). When we were there the Paddleboat Kiosk was closed (and it seems it’s at least semi-permanently closed) so I’d suggest taking along drinks and snacks. The playground is free but you are encouraged to leave a donation.

Directly opposite the playground is a chocolate shop (Chocolates & More) which was closed when we were there. Also opposite, is the Monash Club. On the advice of staff at the caravan park who said it was very family friendly, we headed here for dinner on our final night, which also happened to be a Sunday evening. This was quite a result as it was the night for children eating free (Sundays and Thursdays, but if you’re banking on this, do check with the club in advance!)! I was also impressed because the Monash Club offered me a half-sized chicken schnitzel. The meals are served with chips and there’s a small salad bar. Drinks-wise, you order from the bar. I ordered a glass of local Lagrein – a red wine which had clearly been open a day or two too long – so I’d recommend sticking with beers or ordering a whole bottle.

I absolutely love country pubs – I’m never quite sure what it is – maybe it’s the relaxed attitude of everyone (staff and punters), and maybe it really reminds me of my childhood (rest assured, I didn’t spend THAT much time in pubs either!) – but I just think they’re fantastic. OK – the food might not be exciting (and often it’s better that it’s not) – but the experience is invariably great. The Monash Club gets a big thumbs up!

And while we’re on pubs …

We also had dinner at Monty’s in the Barmera Hotel. I ordered the kangaroo special which was a bit of a disappointment (not least because I specifically asked for it with chips instead of mash and I got mash) – even though the meat was nicely cooked as a whole the dish didn’t work for me. Andy and Master then-5 ordered more conservatively (schnitzel, fish) and were rewarded for their sensible choices. 

Kangaroo and mash
Beautifully cooked meat but an underwhelming dish overall

A big plus of Monty’s is that it has a very impressive salad and veggie bar, providing you with plenty of opportunity to eat too much!

Not a pub, but casual dining very handy to the caravan park and also on the shores of the lake is The Lakes Bakery & Cafe. Our first visit coincided with that of a very large group of motoring enthusiasts who had neglected to inform the cafe of their arrival. The staff were harried (and apparently copping some abuse) and, with no notice, they were somewhat short on a few items. None the less, we enjoyed our lunch – Master 5 packed away the most enormous burger – and headed back the next morning for a coffee – in much calmer and happier circumstances.

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You’ll also find your morning coffee fix (and some pretty tasty sweet pastries!) at the Barmera Bakery on the main drag. While The Lakes Bakery & Cafe will do you a solid meal, the Barmera Bakery is more light snacks – think morning or afternoon tea.

Looking for something a bit fancy?

Banrock Station
Prawns, fishcakes, views, wine …

On our way home we stopped at Banrock Station (Kingston SE). The winery’s Wine and Wetland Centre has not only wine tasting but a beautiful deck that you can sit on and enjoy some food. While we were there we tucked into pork belly and prawns and fish cakes but the menus do change and if you’re early enough, they even serve breakfast!

Further afield?

Murray River at Renmark
The mighty Murray

Beer lovers – head to Renmark (well, slightly beyond) to visit The Woolshed Brewery. There are beers on offer – including tasting paddles if you’re inclined, and you can buy a selection of produce to create your own platter – but you are also welcome to bring your own picnic. Our timing was impeccable – we sat on the deck on a warm day, enjoyed the river views, ate crisps with our beers and were finishing up just as a couple of largish groups arrived! The view is lovely – you are literally perched above the river!

Beer tasting paddle
Tasting paddle at the Woolshed Brewery

In Renmark you’ll also find the very new 23rd Street Distillery. You can do a tour, a tasting (or combine the two) or just sit and have a gin and tonic or a coffee. It’s a lovely relaxing space and definitely worth dropping in for a drink, even if you’re not interested in a tour.

23rd Street Distillery
23rd Street Distillery

You can even fit in a bit of wine tasting … on a rainy day we headed to 919 Wines in Glossop, run by Eric and Jenny Semmler. Give them a call to let them know you’re coming and taste your way through their wines – made from familiar and not so familiar grape varieties. This was a really friendly cellar door experience and Master 5 loved drawing on the winery floor in chalk! Thanks to Eric for taking the time to show us the wines.

The Viewpoint Cafe in Waikerie is a great place to break up your drive. We stopped here on our way into Barmera. We had to wake up Master 5 – he was NOT happy about that, but his grumpy face was transformed by the prospect of a chocolate doughnut and a chocolate milkshake (this is what happens when daddy is around … ). Pies, pasties, sausage rolls and … coffee. There is also a fenced playground so you can sit on the deck and watch the little ones wear off some energy.

playground
Viewpoint Cafe Playground

And finally … if you head along to the Riverland around October time – make sure you drive around with the car windows open. If you wonder what the gorgeous scent is – it’s orange blossom!

Discovery Parks Lake Bonney – Barmera, South Australia

shady outdoor setting
A perfect shady spot for a drink at the end of the day

As term 1 hurtles towards its end parents may be thinking about booking a short holiday during the break. At least, that’s what we do.

Invariably we spend time umming and aahing and not going anywhere, but, miraculously, last October saw us head up to the Riverland for a few days away before school went back. Not having done really anything in the way of road trips, we were anxious to choose somewhere that was not too far away and I had a Discovery Parks membership that I had won that I was keen to use. 

Because Andy and I prefer not to go to bed at 7pm, it was essential also to choose accommodation where we had two separate bedrooms. Our really positive experience at the Port Elliot Big4 in 2015 pretty much sealed the deal, in terms of heading to a caravan park and splashing the cash for a two bedroom cabin.

I’ll wrap up some other useful hints and tips for Barmera in another post. This one – all about the park itself.

The name gives it away, that the park sits on the shores of Lake Bonney. This means that there are plenty of water-based activities available – there are water trampolines and various water sports equipment to hire and if boating, fishing, waterskiing etc etc are your thing then you’re well catered for. The park also has a swimming pool – and despite the weather not being ideal for swimming, Master 5 made sure we checked it out. 

For children there is a playground, a jumping pillow (this appears to be a KEY piece of equipment in terms of how good a holiday you have) and there is also a games room, with a pool table, air hockey and a couple of video games. Despite the fact we were there in October when you might expect some sunny weather, we had one very damp morning and playing a couple of games of pool as some down time was just perfect!

shady garden
Go for a walk and check out some of the amazing gardens in the park

The park itself is home to quite a few static caravans and (I’m guessing) permanent residents. Some of these residences have really beautiful, well maintained gardens. Nearby Renmark is home to an annual rose festival and many of the static caravans had absolutely stunning roses. Clearly, there is something very special in the soil in the area! Besides looking good, this helps the park look really well maintained.

We stayed in a ‘standard holiday unit’ – and while I took photos of the interior, you’re better off looking at the Discovery Parks website because they’re better quality photos (there’s a surprise!) and they are totally true to what you get. Yes – the interior is a little beige and feels a little 1970s, but our unit was very clean and (critically) the shower was hot with good power. Seriously – all I need for a holiday to be good is a hot, high pressure shower and a clean space!

The park is reasonably close to quite a busy road and our cabin was on the road side of the park. We’re pretty heavy sleepers so the odd noise of a truck going past didn’t bother us but if you are a light sleeper, I suggest you look at a park map and choose accommodation closer to the lake (I think if you’re camping you’ll be OK on that count anyway).

apricot rose
October was perfect for rose spotting

Each of the cabins has an outdoor setting and it was really lovely at the end of the day to sit outside, have a drink and chew the fat.  There are onsite bbqs which is great if you want to have a night off dining out without resorting to cooking a serious meal inside the cabin. I recommend reading the welcome manual as we thought we had to feed the BBQ 20c pieces and only discovered after the fact that they’re actually free!

Crucially, the staff at the park were really friendly and offered good advice when it came to both coffees and evening meals. 

We really enjoyed our break at Lake Bonney and while I probably wouldn’t want to be there in the height of summer (or, indeed, in the depths of winter), I think it makes a perfect destination for the break between terms 1 and 2 and that between terms 3 and 4.

If you’ve been on other great short breaks in SA (that can fulfil our two bedroom requirement!) let me know in the comments as we’re determined to take the time to explore a bit more of our state!

Lake Bonney Caravan Park
Lakeside Drive
Barmera SA 5345