House Boats in South Australia

Old Aug 11th, 2004, 05:28 AM
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House Boats in South Australia

Hi there!

Anyone offering advice on to houseboating along the River Murray in South Australia (eg: how to book one, which one to book, what to do when on one, etc) would be fantastic.

There will be around 10 of us, ranging from Grandma to kids and the trip is planned for 3 nights in mid- Dec 2004. We will be driving to collect the houseboat from Adelaide.

I know just how HOT Adelaide can get in Summer but is it still OK to go houseboating then?

Any advice is much appreciated. Much thanks in advance!
celine13 is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2004, 09:43 PM
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Hello Celine13,

No one has answered your questions so far, so I'll give it a try, even if I'm not the best qualified respondent. Unfortunately, I can't share any experiences of houseboating on the Murray River, but I can share some information about houseboating in general.

We went on three houseboating vacations when our sons, who now are young adults, were younger. They were delightfully happy times.

To my mind houseboating gives one the best of both worlds. It enables one to get out into nature, in much the same way that tent camping does, but it also allows one to avail oneself of creature comforts like refrigerated food, hot water for showering, etc.

The houseboats on Shuswap Lake in British Columbia, where we took these vacations, were very simple to pilot. A staff member from the boat rental company took us out onto the water for an orientation session before we departed, and that was all that was necessary to prepare us for our voyage.

I would caution you about the published size of the boat, however. The rental company's brochure will say a boat has 6 or 8 or 10 or 12 berths. If I were you, I would take that number with a pinch of salt. The interiors of all of the houseboats we rented shared something in common with trailers (caravans). That is to say, the dining room table had two benches on either side of it. At night one was supposed to be able to lower the table top to the same height as the benches and re-arrange the cushions to make a double bed. So that was supposed to represent 2 berths, for example.

Using a houseboat to its full capacity probably would be fine for a group of young people. Indeed we passed groups like that, and they seemed to be having tremendous fun. They seemed to fit the same demographic profile as people who would be happy to sleep in dormitory accommodation in a hostel.

For adults who wanted a little more space, a little more privacy, and a little more comfort, however, it was more appealing to rent a boat that nominally was too large. The 4 of us rented an 8 berth boat, and we found that that was just the right size. It enabled us to keep the dining table permanently set up as a table, it gave us just that much more storage space for our life jackets and other paraphernalia, and all in all it felt just right.

We saw larger, multi-generational family groups who rented 2 boats and sailed in convoy. A family consisting of, say, 10 people rented 2 boats with 6 or 8 berths each. If you can afford to get 2 boats, and if your family group includes enough adults to pilot them, I would recommend going that route.

The houseboat was stocked with pots and pans, kitchen utensils, plates, glasses, and cutlery. We had to supply our own bed linen and towels, however. What supplies will come with your rented houseboat(s) is something you'd need to check with the rental company.

We had a 7 hour drive from our home in Calgary to the Shuswap Lake where we took delivery of the houseboat. We travelled in a minivan (something like a Tarrago), so the 4 of us were able to fit our clothing, bed and bath linen, and non-perishable groceries in the vehicle. When we reached the town from which we would set sail, we went into a local grocery store and stocked up with perishables that would require refrigeration (meat, milk, etc.).

One could not drive right up to the boat in order to transfer one's kit from one's vehicle to the boat. However, the rental company provided large wheel barrow type things (that's the only way I can think of describing them) into which one could load one's stuff and wheel it to the boat.

The summer weather we experienced at the Shuswap Lake was not as hot as the weather I imagine you'll encounter on the Murray River in December. However, if you're anything like us, you'll live in swimsuits or shorts, and you'll take frequent dips in the water, and I would think that would help.

At the Shuswap Lake, and I'm guessing any place that houseboats are rented out, you can't just rent a boat for any combination of days you want. At the Shuswap Lake, a week's rental goes from Saturday to Saturday. That was the period for which we rented in each case.

If I remember correctly, we also could have availed ourselves of half week rentals. I think the choice would have been a 3 day weekend rental or a 4 day, mid-week rental. Again, that involved taking delivery of the boat on a day specified by the rental company and returning on another day specified by them. Since you apparently want to do a 3 night rental, I think you'll need to find out which days of the week are customary for a 3 night rental in your local situation.

Well, Celine13, as I said, my post wasn't going to be about Murray River houseboats, but I hope it's given you enough information that you're better equipped to ask houseboat rental companies relevant questions.

By doing a Google search, I found a website that seemed to have a lot of information about Murray River houseboats:

Hope that helps.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2004, 09:59 PM
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Postscript. I forgot to say we went on all of these houseboat vacations once our sons were beyond toddlerhood. Speaking for myself, I would be nervous living on the water with a VERY young child.
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Old Aug 13th, 2004, 07:38 AM
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What an amazing idea. All I can contribute is that I tried to organise a trip like that some years back, being in Adelaide at the time and staying at a hostel. I failed. Not a backpacker sort of thing. But why don't you contact the south australian tourist authority? I remember they had loads of info.

But maybe you already have.
I just think it would be wonderful to travel lazily down such a river - so hope you manage to arrange it.
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Old Aug 13th, 2004, 09:02 AM
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Further to what Alice13 said, I don't know if I would call a houseboat trip "lazy." It is in some ways, and it isn't in other ways.

I don't know what restaurant facilities there are on the banks of the Murray River, but the area in which we houseboated was a wilderness with NO restaurant facilities whatsoever. Hence we self-catered all of our meals. The boat had a small fridge, much smaller than our fridge at home. So we had to plan our food supplies carefully. My husband and I drew up a day-by-day, meal-by-meal menu ahead of time, and from that menu we drew up a precise shopping and packing list.

Luckily the boat was equipped with a propane barbeque, so many of our meals took the form of barbeques. (I would think this would be particularly advantageous in the hot weather that you are likely to encounter on the Murray River.)

In the middle of the week we stopped at a tiny hamlet at the far end of the lake to fill up with gasoline (petrol). The hamlet consisted of a small store that sold a few groceries and gas / petrol and the home of the family who owned the store.

The half a week of wilderness life had helped to un-spoil our kids. By the time they reached the hamlet, they considered it a huge treat to buy a bottle of Coke and a bag of chips (crisps).

As luck would have it, we encountered one evening storm on each houseboat vacation we took. Although our houseboat in any case had to be tied up to the shore each night, the process required extra concentration when the wind was blowing and the water was choppy.

We brought a couple of simple rainy day activities (board game, decks of cards) on each trip. As it turned out, we had reason to use them for a bit of the time on each vacation.

We had no canned entertainment such as television and radio. Back when we took these vacations we didn't own a cell phone, but I very much doubt that the area has cell phone reception even now. The only way our families or employers could have reached us in an emergency was to phone the boat rental company, which would have relayed a message by two-way radio.

The lack of artificial entertainment was one of the things that made it such a wonderful family time. Typically we would make a fire on the shore after our evening meal and sit around and tell each other ghost stories and stuff like that. (Of course we would be careful to douse the fire very thoroughly when we were finished. Forest fires are a danger here, as they are in Australia. Had we been houseboating during a very hot, dry season, a fire ban would have been in effect, and we would not have been allowed to make a fire at all.)

Something else I forgot to mention is that it would be difficult to stow hard sided luggage on a boat. I recommend soft sided luggage (duffel bags and the like).

The boat had a limited supply of electricity. My memory on this point is a bit fuzzy because it's been a while, and my husband in any case has a beard, but I think the bathroom had a plug for an electric razor. If memory serves me correctly, a hair dryer would have been out of the question.

Apropos the discussion about packing lightly that is taking place in another thread, a houseboat is not a place to which I would recommend bringing a pharmacy's worth of cosmetics.
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Old Aug 14th, 2004, 07:43 AM
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I live in the riverland area of SA and there are loads of houseboats around here. One company I see a lot of is I've never personally used them, just see them on the river
Just skimming over their website I saw some mention of a/c so it should be fine even when it gets hot.
Not sure if this helped...
nil is offline  
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