Print

Berri, SA

One time, iconic orange juice town in the heart of the Riverland

Berri is located on the banks of the Murray River and, as a response to its location, the district's primary attractions include exploring the area by canoe, mooching up the Murray on a houseboat, going fishing or swimming, sailing or wind surfing and watching out for the rich wildlife that lives on the banks of the river. After World War II, the town become associated, in the minds of most Australians, with the huge Berri wine and orange juice factory, which produced a significant proportion of the country's orange juice. The name lives on with "Berri - Since 1943" but the factory has been closed for many years. Today the town is known for its attractive riverfront with floating wharf platforms, lookouts, historic monuments, an indigenous bridge mural and areas for picnics and sports activities.

Location

Berri is located 241 km north-east of Adelaide via the Sturt Highway. It is 31 metres above sea level.

^ TOP

Origin of Name

The Erawirunga Aboriginal people lived along the Murray River prior to European settlement and it is said that 'berri' simply means 'a wide bend in the river' in their language.

^ TOP

Things to See and Do

Berri Bridge Mural
Located under the bridge on the town side of the river is a remarkable mural which takes up an entire wall and includes a particularly ferocious bunyip known as the Mulgewanke. The huge mural depicts Ngurunderi Dreaming, a Dreaming story of the Ngarrindjeri people. It is quite a long and complicated story which is told on a plaque and is worth repeating here: " In the Dreamtime, Ngurunderi travelled down the Murray River in a bark canoe in search of here's to wives who had run away from him at that time the river was only a small stream below the junction with the Darling river. a giant cod swam ahead of Ngurunderi widening the river with sweeps of his tail. Ngurunderi chased the fish trying to spear it from his canoe. Near Murray Bridge he threw a spear but it missed and changed into Long island. At Tailem Bend he threw  another, a giant fish surged ahead and created a long straight stretch in the river.
At last, with the help of Nepele (the brother of Ngurunderi's wives), Ponde was speared after it left the Murray River and had swum into Lake Alexandrina. Ngurunderi divided the fish with his stone knife and created a new species of fish from each piece.
Meanwhile Ngurunderi's two wives had made camp. On their campfire they were cooking bony bream, a fish forbidden to Ngarrindjeri women. Ngurunderi smelt the fish cooking and knew his wives were close. He abandoned his camp and went after them. His huts became two hills and his bark canoe became of the milky way. Hearing Ngurunderi coming his wives just had time to build a raft of reeds and grass trees and to escape across Lake Albert. On the other side their raft turned back into the reeds and grass trees and the women hurried south. Ngurunderi followed his wives as far south as Kingston. Here he met a great sorcerer, Palumpari. The two men fought using weapons and magic powers until eventually Ngurunderi won. He burnt Palumpari's body in a huge fire symbolise to buy granite boulders today and turned north along the Coorong beach. Here he camped several times digging soaks in the sand for fresh water and fishing in the Coorong lagoon. Ngurunderi made his way across the Murray mouth and along the Encounter Bay coast towards Victor Harbor. He made a fishing ground at Middleton by throwing a huge tree into the sea to make a seaweed bed. Here he hunted and killed a seal, it's dying gasp can still be heard amongst the rocks. At Port Elliot he camped and fished again, without seeing a sign of his wives. He became angry and threw his spear into the sea at Victor Harbor creating the islands there. Finally, after resting in a giant granite shade shelter on Granite Island, Ngurunderi heard his wives laughing and playing in the water near Kings Beach. He hurled his club to the ground creating the Bluff and strode after them. His wives fled along the beach in terror until they reached Cape Jarvis. At this time Kangaroo Island was still connected to the mainland and the two women began to hurry across to it. Ngurunderi had arrived at Cape Jarvis though and seeing his wives still fleeing from him he called out in a voice of thunder for the waters to rise. The women were swept from their path by huge waves and were soon drowned. They became the Rocky Pages Islands. Ngurunderi knew that it was time for him to enter the spirit world. He crossed to Kangaroo Island and travelled to the western end. After first throwing his spear into the sea he dived in before rising to become a star in the Milky Way."

Pumping Station
Located near the bridge, the Pumping Station is a reminder that the economic prosperity of this area is tied to the reliable supply of water from the Murray River. It is vital for the vineyards and orchards which are the lifeblood of the local economy. Berri's first pumping station was built in 1909. The second pumping station was built in 1918 and operated until 1959. The town's third pumping station, which is still in operation, was built in 1959. It supplies water to the surrounding orchards and vineyards and there is a smaller pumping station which provides water for the town's domestic consumption.

Sculpture in honour of Jimmy James
Located on Riverview Drive 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 (1913-1991). There is an excellent biography of this remarkable man at SA Memory. "Jimmy James was born in the Pitjantjatjara lands of north western South Australia. During his childhood James learnt from family members the survival and tracking skills which helped the indigenous people of these harsh regions survive. In the early 1930s James and members of his extended family moved to Ooldea and James attended the school at the United Aborigines Mission there. He moved to the Riverland in 1936 and helped establish the United Aborigines Mission at Gerard.

James worked with the South Australian, Victorian and New South Wales police as a tracker for over 30 years, successfully tracking escaped criminals and missing persons. Some of the most notable cases that James assisted with were the Sundown murders (December 1957-January 1958), the Pine Valley murder (November 1958) and the disappearance of a nine-year-old girl at Mylor in the Adelaide Hills (October 1966).

James was a well-regarded member of the Gerard community and received many honours throughout his lifetime. In 1983, James was named Aboriginal of the Year and in 1984 he was awarded an Order of Australia for his tracking work. A year later, the South Australian Police awarded him a plaque paying tribute to his work with them. A sculpture in honour of James is located next to the River Murray at Berri." Check out http://www.samemory.sa.gov.au/site/page.cfm?u=452&c=2000. A touching plaque near the sculpture reads: "I, the Aboriginal artist Bluey Roberts dedicate my art work to my famous uncle Jimmy James Black Tracker who worked for his community."

Berri Lookout Tower
Located on the corner of Vaughan Terrace and Fielder Street, this old water tower is now used as a lookout point. It is 15.8 metres high and offers excellent panoramic views over the town and the Murray River.

^ TOP

Other Attractions in the Area

Canoeing on the Murray and around the wetlands.
It is possible to hire a canoe (half day, full day, overnight) with a guide who will accompany the visitor through the Murray wetlands and backwaters. There are also non-guided tours. Check out http://www.canoeadventure.com.au for bookings and prices.

Wilabalangaloo Reserve
Located on the Old Sturt Highway north of the town, the Wilabalangaloo Reserve, 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.
Now managed solely as a nature reserve (it used to include a National Trust homestead), Wilabalangaloo Reserve contains a significant remnant of native Mallee vegetation and wildlife habitat including representative specimens of the rare Blue-leaved Mallee (Eucalyptus cyanophylla), Native Jasmine (Jasminum didymum ssp lineare) and 9 species of rare birds. There is a pleasant nature trail through the reserve and along the river where it is possible to see magnificent views of 30 metre high 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, which was dedicated in 1959 and 1972, is open from dawn to dusk. For more information tel: (08) 8202 9216 or check out https://www.nationaltrust.org.au/places/wilabalangaloo-reserve.

Berri Estates Winery
Located on the Old Sturt Highway at Glossop, 13 km west of Berri, is Berri Estates winery. It describes itself as the largest single operating winery and distillery in Australia. Founded in 1922, it became part of the Berri Renmano group in 1982 and was taken over by the Hardy group of wine companies in 1992 and is currently owned by Accolade Wines, a huge global company which is "number one by volume in Australia and the UK". Berri Estates specialises in premium quality red and white table wines, brandy and fortified wines derived from all grape varieties grown in the Murray Valley. The cellar door sells local brands including Nottage Hill and Banrock Station. The cellar door is open weekdays from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm, Saturdays 10.00 am to 4.00 pm, tel: (08) 8582 0340.

Lyrup
A very special experiment in social engineering, Lyrup was created as a self-supporting settlement by the South Australian government in an attempt to solve an acute unemployment problem which existed in Adelaide. In total eleven settlements were created. Lyrup was probably the most successful.
There is an interesting history of this tiny village which records that: "It has been a village settlement since 1894. Lyrup has a romantic history. Lyrup was established by a contingent of 243 persons - 49 males, 40 married women and their husbands, 114 youths and children. They left Adelaide by rail for Morgan on 20 February 1894 where they boarded the PS Ellen at 2 p.m. and travelled by river to Lyrup where they landed on 22 February 1894. The area was totally virgin and nothing had been prepared for their arrival. Everything they needed was brought on the boat. Stores included an engine and pump, 5 tons of flour, 1 ton of corned beef, tents, tarpaulins (condemned by the railways because they were full of fleas), 40 yards of calico, 5 pounds of pins, 6 dozen pairs of moleskins and one dozen men’s felt hats among many other things. On arrival tents were erected for the women and children and the men were housed in bough shelters. Land was cleared, the pumping plant installed, the land cleared for planting. The settlement was established as a commune with food and clothing issued with ration coupons. If anyone caught a rabbit or a fish, it was put into the community supplies. The early days were tough with poor living conditions and dissatisfaction with the communal methods. The system changed to private ownership in 1903 and to this day the Lyrup village continues to prosper.
"Lyrup is believed to be named after Lyrup Hut - a boundary rider's hut on Book Purnong Station in the 1800s. It’s possibly named after a village near Hamburg in Germany. It stands today as a unique solution to a unique experiment. This settlement is the only one remaining of the ten started by the South Australian government on the communistic system in 1894."
Today Lyrup is a tiny little village. It has the distinction, of all the eleven village settlements that were established in 1894, it is the only one that still has a Village Association.

Murray River National Park
Katarapko
Katarapko lies across the Murray River and can only be accessed via the Old Sturt Highway between Glossop and Berri. This is 15 km south of Berri. In total the Murray River National Park covers more than 13,000 ha of Murray River wetlands. It is characterised by attractive shaded banks, deep channels and lagoons and ideal spots for swimming, canoeing, fishing and picnicking. It is a sanctuary for more than 150 species of birds. For more information check out http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/parks/Find_a_Park/Browse_by_region/Murray_River/murray-river-national-park which has an excellent and detailed, downloadable map of the Katarapko area of the park.

Lock 4 (Bookpurnong Boat Ramp)
Located 5 km  south of Berri via the Bookpurnong Road and Quast Road, Lock 4, which was completed in 1929, is an opportunity to see the controlled water system that is the lower Murray River, in operation. It is located 516 km upstream from the mouth of the Murray River.

Monash Adventure Park
This popular playground is located 12 km north of Berri via the Sturt Highway (turn at Madison Avenue, Monash). The Park, which has been operating since the 1960s, has such attractions as leaning towers, a Burmese rope bridge, a wave bridge, a maze, mini-basketball, a flying fox, a slippery dip and a Liberty swing. It has free electric barbecues and picnic facilities, together with a paddleboat, the PS Monash, which operates as a kiosk. It is open from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm on weekdays and 10.00 am - 2.00 pm on weekends daily and there is no entry fee, tel: 0497 063 490 or (08) 8583 6033. Check out the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pscafemonash.

^ TOP

History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the district was the home of the Erawirunga Aboriginal people.

* The explorer Captain Charles Sturt rowed a whale boat down the Murrumbidgee in late 1829 and reached the junction with the Murray River on 14 January 1830. He passed the present site of Renmark in late January and reached Lake Alexandrina on 9 February, 1830.

* A rough settlement came into existence with the arrival of paddle steamers on the Murray. A landing near the town was used as a refuelling stop.

* By 1910 farmers were using the water from the Murray to irrigate the land.

* In 1911 Berri was officially proclaimed. During the year the first settlers took up land.

* By 1915 the town still only boasted a hotel, confectionery shop, general store and billiard hall. Most of the local residents were living in tents.

* By 1918 a distillery had been established and the district was producing spirits. This was known as the Berri Estates Winery.

* By 1922 this distillery had become a cooperative. That year the District Council of Berri was declared.

* In 1924 the local Council Chambers were built.

* The railway reached the town in 1928.

* In 1936 the local council purchased the Rivoli Theatre

* The famous Berri juices were first manufactured and sold in 1943.

* By the 1950s a major fruit cooperative was dominating local production.

* By the 1970s the local Berri Cooperative was producing more than 150 different products - everything from juice and wine to peel and dried fruits.

* In 1996 the Berri Barmera Council was amalgamated.

* In 1997 Berri Bridge, spanning the Murray River, was opened. It cost $17 million.

^ TOP

Visitor Information

Berri Visitor and Information Centre, Riverview Drive, tel: (08) 8582 5511. Open from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm Monday to Friday, 9.00 am to 2.00 pm on Saturdays and 10.00 am to 2.00 pm Sundays and public holidays.

^ TOP

Useful Websites

The local council has a useful website. Check out https://www.berribarmera.sa.gov.au.

^ TOP
Got something to add?

Have we missed something or got a top tip for this town? Have your say below.