Located 236 kilometres north east of Adelaide and 31 metres above sea level, Berri is a substantial service centre on the banks of the Murray River. In the era after World War II, it become associated with the huge Berri wine and orange juice factory, which produces a significant proportion of the country's orange juice.
The town was named after an Aboriginal term, reputedly coming from the Meru people who occupied the area before European settlement, which is thought to mean 'a wide bend in the river'. This reflects its attractive riverfront with floating wharf platforms, lookouts, historic monuments, an indigenous bridge mural and areas for picnics and sports activities. For the peckish there is an award-winning restaurant, a riverfront cafe and a hotel bistro, and there is a shopping plaza.
The area was first explored by Europeans when Charles Sturt made his way down the Murray River in 1830. Of necessity he must have passed the modern townsite of Berri.
A kind of township came into existence with the arrival of paddle steamers on the Murray. A landing near the town was used as a refuelling stop.
Like Barmera, the town's development really hinged on the ability to use the waters of the Murray River to irrigate the surrounding area. This did not occur until 1910 and, the following year, the town was proclaimed. This relative modernity (at the beginning of the motor age) has meant that the town, which looks decidedly modern, has a huge median strip down the main street (Vaughan Terrace), giving it the impression that there is almost a central park with shops and a road on either side.
This irrigation program lead almost immediately to the establishment of vineyards and orchards in the area, although it is true that the first residents lived in tents and, after three years, the town still only boasted a hotel, confectionery shop, general store and billiard hall. By 1918 a distillery had been established and the district was producing spirits. By 1922 this distillery had become a cooperative. The railway arrived in 1928.
By the 1950s a major fruit cooperative was dominating local production. 20 years later it was producing more than 150 different products - everything from juice and wine to peel and dried fruits. The famous Berri juices were first manufactured and sold in 1943.
Major events include the Riverland Wine and Food Festival and the Riverland Rodeo.
Things to see
The Big Orange
Located on the Old Sturt Highway, this is a typical Aussie symbol. The Big Orange is a very typical tourist trap set outside Berri in the citrus orchards which surround the town. On the first floor is a cafe and juice bar, with a 360-degree mural on the second level, executed by local artist Garry Duncan. At the top of the 'orange' are fine views of the surrounding area. Entry is free and it is open daily from 9.30 a.m. to 5.00 p.m., tel: (08) 8582 4255.
Wilabalangaloo Homestead and Flora and Fauna Reserve
Over the road from the Big Orange is the Wilabalangaloo Nature Reserve, which is situated on the banks of the Murray River. The name derives from an Aboriginal word said to mean 'place of the red, yellow and brown stones,' reflecting the colours exposed in the cliff face along the river. It is a delightful combination of a large historic National Trust homestead museum (exhibitions include old photographs and furniture) set in a flora and fauna reserve with marked walking tracks along the river. The walk is well worth taking as it offers magnificent views of red sandstone cliffs and red gums which characterise this area of the Murray River. There are also native fauna in the area, including an albino kangaroo, wombats and peacocks. The reserve is open 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. Thursday to Monday. It is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, except during school holidays. The entry fee is $4 for adults and $1 for children. For more information ring (08) 8582 1804.
Berri Fruit Juices are manufacturers of Daily Juice and the Gardener label of condiments. Visitors can pick up the relavant products and watch a video on the Riverland, its horticulture industry and how the locally grown fruit is processed from tree to supermarket shelf. It is located on the Old Sturt Highway and entry is free. Opening hours are 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. daily, tel: (08) 8582 3321.
Glossop was named after Vice Admiral Glossop, Commander of the HMAS Sydney during World War I.
Berri Estates Winery
No visit to the district would be complete without seeing the huge Berri winery. It is reputedly the largest winery and distillery in the Southern Hemisphere and certainly is the largest in Australia. Located on the Old Sturt Highway at Glossop, 13 km west of Berri, it was founded in 1922, became part of the Berri Renmano group in 1982 and was taken over by the Hardy group of wine companies in 1992. It specialises in premium quality red and white table wines, brandy and fortified wines derived from all grape varieties grown in the Murray Valley. Familiar brands are Nottage Hill and Banrock Station.
The cellar door isits adjacent a 70-year-old lemon-scented gum and is open weekdays from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m., Saturdays from 9.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m., Sundays of long weekends from 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. and public holidays from 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m., tel: (08) 8582 0340.
Sculpture in honour of Jimmy James
Located on Riverview Drive (not surprisingly it is the road which runs beside the Murray River) is a sculpture made out of two large slabs of black, finely-polished granite with engravings of birds and animals which were part of the spirit world of Aboriginal tracker, Jimmy James, who, for more than thirty years, tracked escapees, felons and missing persons for the police forces of South Australia, the Northern Territory, New South Wales and Victoria. He belonged to the Pitjantjatjara people and was born around 1910. Jimmy arrived in the district in the 1940s and took his name from his well-known father-in-law. He died a few years ago and is buried at Gerard, the Aboriginal settlement near Winkie. For details, contact the Berri Visitor and Information Centre, tel: (08) 8582 5511.
Murray River National Park - Katarapko
Katarapko, just south of Berri, offers an opportunity to explore the district's mallee and floodplain. Visitors can enjoy camping, fishing, canoeing, birdwatching, picnicking and bushwalking along such trails as the Kai Kai Nature Trail and the Cragg's Hut Walk (both 30-minute easy strolls) and the one-hour Ngak Indau Walking Trail. There is also the 6-km Mallee Drive, which offers glimpses of multi-stemmed trees, sand goannas, parrots and kangaroos. Open 24 hours a day, the camping fees are $6.50 per vehicle per night, $4 per person per night without vehicle and $4 per motorcycle per night. Ring (08) 8595 2111 for further information.
Cobb Webb Leadlight Studio
If you are interested in leadlight art, including lamps, mosaics, art pieces and commissions, visit this studio at Dalziel Road, Winkie. It is open weekdays from 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. and on weekends by appointment, tel: (08) 8583 7383.
Monash Adventure Park
This popular family attraction is located five minutes north of Berri, at Monash, a small town which was originally known as 'Lone Gum', after the solitary river red gum that still grows there. The Park has such attractions as leaning towers, a Burmese rope bridge, a wave bridge, a maze, mini-basketball, a flying fox, a slippery dip and much more. It has free electric barbecues and picnic facilities, together with a paddleboat kiosk. Located in Madison Avenue, it is open from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. daily and there is no entry fee, tel: (08) 8582 5511.
Monash was originally known as 'Lone Gum,' after the solitary river red gum that still peculiarly grows at some distance from the river.
Chocolates and More
Over the road from the Adventure Park, in Madison Avenue, is a factory producing handmade chocolates. It is open every day but Monday (except on long weekends) from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. and entry is free, tel: (08) 8583 6099.