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Houseboating 101: Your Murray River houseboat questions answered

18 Jun. 2022 by Daniela Sunde-Brown

Houseboating 101: Your Murray River houseboat questions answered

Houseboating the Murray River is simple - you don’t need a boat license to know port from starboard (just your left from right) or be a scout with experience tying overly complicated knots.

A sense of adventure and a driver’s license is all you need to go with The Murray flow. Following a quick mooring lesson, you can venture off in any direction with your crew.

To help you get on your way faster, we’ve answered some of the most common Murray River houseboat questions.

1. How many people can you take?

Houseboats are like people - they come in all shapes and sizes, have different personalities and each bring something different to the world.

On The Murray small simple houseboats usually sleep around four to six people and are perfect for couples or single families looking to escape.

While large luxury houseboats feature multiple storeys, a huge hot tub, two huge lounge rooms and sleep up to 12 people with ensuite bedrooms.

Whether you’re travelling to relax and escape with the family, or bring a big group together for a good time, you’ll find a houseboat size and style to match.

2. Where can you go?

The Murray River is long, wide and there’s at least 200km of navigable river for you to explore from any starting point – the only limit is time.

Each houseboat operator shows you how far you can head up or down the Murray River, and the sights you can see along the way.

Houseboats cruise along at a steady but slow pace of around 8 km/h downstream and 4 km/h upstream, so where you go depends on how much time you want to spend cruising versus exploring on dry land.

The Murray River itself is a lifeline that gives you access to thousands of things to do. Pull up at Trentham Estate Winery near Mildura or pass through Lock 11 and explore Coomealla Golf Club near Wentworth.

Around Echuca Moama, drop by Morrison’s Winery, stop for a chic brunch at Three Black Sheep, or find a riverside bank and picnic among the river red gums.

You can moor the boat just about anywhere, so if you spy a beautiful patch of river stop for a swim or simply enjoy the serenity of the place.

3. Where do you leave your car?

As a general rule, you can park your car, caravan or trailer at the mooring site of the houseboat company for the duration of your river escape.

Of course, each individual operator has different parking facilities, and some can provide secure storage or powered sites (for caravans) for a small fee.

4. Which operator should I choose?

There are around 20 houseboat operators located along The Murray, so it pays to do your research and find the houseboat to match your needs.

Think about where you want to depart from, how many people are in your group, your price point, and whether you want all the luxury mod cons or just simple living.

Departing from Wentworth, choose from Murray Darling Houseboats, Adelora Houseboats, or Drifter Houseboat Holidays.

A little further upstream at Mildura check out All Seasons Houseboats, Mildura Houseboats, or Reflections on the Murray.

In the Echuca Moama area, look up Executive Houseboats, Magic Murray Houseboats, Moama on Murray Resort houseboats, Murray River Houseboats Perricoota Marina Houseboats and Simply Irresistible Houseboats. A little further afield there is also Deep Creek Houseboats, BellaCasa Houseboats, Houseboat for Two, and Luxury on the Murray.

For something a little different, drive up to Deniliquin where Edward River Houseboats float along the Edward River. Venture further east to Lake Mulwala where River of Islands Houseboat launches among the spectacular scenery of the lagoon.

5. Are you stuck on the boat all day?

Treat your houseboat like a car on a river road and moor the vessel as many times as you like.

Pull up at local wineries for a tasting, stop for a bush walk and picnic in a regional forest park, and drop into towns for supplies and a spot of history hopping.

Choose to explore as much or as little as you like – simply mooring wherever the heart desires. If you prefer, simply stay on board the boat and enjoy a relaxing few days floating along The Murray while fishing, reading and enjoying every sunrise and sunset.

6. What does it cost?

Again, this really depends on the operator, the size of the boat, the season, and the luxuries aboard the vessel.

Rates vary from around $30 per person per night up to a couple of hundred for that ultra-swish 12-berth boat with a big onboard hot tub.

Prices vary throughout the year, so if you have a cleanskin budget and champagne taste try to travel off-peak for great deals. To find exact prices, visit the individual operators listed above.

7. When is the best time to visit The Murray?

You can boat The Murray year-round, with each season offering a different reason to visit.

Spring, summer and autumn are all fantastic times to plan a vacation with warm days and fun in the sun. Expect to fish, swim, sunbake, hike, explore local towns and simply relax in your floating villa.

During the winter low season expect cooler days and chilly evenings, with some advantages. Keen anglers can try to catch the famed Murray spiny freshwater crayfish, which is the second-largest freshwater cray in the world – which just happens to only be permitted to fished in winter.

You’ll need a licence and to abide by strict rules around the quantity (two per day) and size of crays. With BBQs onboard most boats, we know how you’ll be cooking your catch.

8. How far in advance do I need to book?

If you’re looking at dates in peak seasons such as December, January or Easter long weekend, you should try to book at least six to 12 months in advance.

Rolling into autumn, February through to April is still busy, so it’s best to get your group organised early so you have a choice of vessels.

Winter is the quietest time and last-minute bookings are possible June through to August, but from the September school holidays expect houseboats to start booking out again.

Pro tip: Plan ahead to get the best boats and rates for your group.

9. Do I have to cook every night?

While every houseboat is equipped with a kitchen, you don’t have to spend your precious holiday hours slaving over a hot stove. The beauty of a houseboat is you can moor for the night and venture into town.

Whether you’re craving Thai food, a relaxed pub, riverside cafe or a chef-hatted fine dining experience, there are dozens of great options for dining out in The Murray and with fresh produce easily sourced from the banks, chances are good you’ll be eating well.

10. What animals can I expect to see?

A cheery chorus of native birdsong will greet you each morning, so bring earplugs if you like to sleep in.

As you float along The Murray keep an eager eye out for marsupials - it’s common to see kangaroos and wallabies enjoying a drink around sunset along the banks.

Look up to spot koalas and goannas hiding up high in the trees and keep your eyes on the forest floor for sneaky echidnas, furry wombats and cute spotted quolls.

At night look for possums in the treetops, rustling the leaves in search of food.

And if you have a furry family member some boats will let you bring your pooch onboard too.