Murraylands, South Australia

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The eastern slopes of the Mount Lofty Ranges descend to the place where the continent’s grand old river wends its way to the Southern Ocean. The Murraylands region reaches north and curls east, up-river, taking in the vast mallee terrain on both banks of the river, west to the Ranges and east to the Victorian border. The rugged mallee scrubland and golden agricultural land strikes a contrast to the meandering river, with its lagoons and billabongs habitat for many species of colourful, raucous birdlife.

About 40 minutes drive out of Adelaide, west of the river, is Monarto Zoological Park, an outstanding 1000ha open-range sanctuary. Monarto is at the forefront of international breeding programs for rare and endangered species. Go on safari: from the wide windows of the bus you’ll see giraffes, lions, rhinoceros, zebra, antelope and cheetahs roaming freely in bushland that resembles their native savannah.

The Murray is a broad expanse of mirror-smooth water, its banks fringed by weeping willows and ancient red gums. In the early morning a mist shrouds the surface of the water; in the evening, spectacular sunsets. Massive honey-coloured sandstone cliffs carved by the river over millennia rise up above the banks on either side. This is brilliant birdwatching country. Go bushwalking, or paddle a canoe through the quiet backwaters.