There is some debate over how Waikerie came about its name. One argument believes it derives its name from Weikari, meaning ‘the rising’ and references the river. The other believes that the name means ‘many wings’ and references the giant swift moth called ‘wei kari’ by the Ngawait tribe who first inhabited this land and represented an ancient creator god inhabiting the land in the dreamtime.
Set on the south bank of the river, and one of the closest towns to Adelaide, it supports a bustling rural community. Its surrounding areas are an ecological wonderland and teem with birds and wetland wildlife.
Waikerie was one of the later established towns of the Riverland. Due to the steepness of its cliffs, it was never considered as a suitable river port and although paddle steamers rolled past it was not until 1882 that the Waikerie Station (property) was established by W.T. Shepard. In 1894 it was further developed as a settlement due to its participation in a decentralisation experiment when 281 people from Adelaide arrived by paddle steamer as a readymade township. The experiment worked and by the end of the first year those very first pioneers had started to thrive, planting vines, citrus and stone fruit orchards. This led the way to Waikerie being the first of the large irrigated areas of the Riverland and the town being officially declared in 1910. In 1914 the first meeting of the Waikerie Co-operative Fruit Company (later to become the Waikerie Producers Co-operative) was held. Today the company has one of the largest fruit processing operations in the southern hemisphere.
Climate and geography
Waikerie, located in mallee scrub, has a semi-arid climate with hot dry summers and cool winters. The average rainfall is below 260mm per annum and falls evenly throughout the year.
late Jan to early Feb
Mallee loam, river clay
Things to do, places to go
Located at a particularly beautiful and diverse part of the river, it’s easy to immerse yourself in the stunning surrounds while in Waikerie. River boating, waterskiing, fishing, canoeing and kayaking are all an afternoon well spent. Bird watching, bush walking and camping are also an excellent way to spend your day. Local produce in the area is delicious, varied and available. Make sure you pay a visit to Kerryn at Illalangi Gourmet Foods, who pulls together a platter that is representative of the whole region and is equal to any fare world wide. Byrne Vineyards cellar door is located in this region as well as the Scotts Creek Reservation wetlands and accommodation – a stay at which is truly a magical experience. The Caudo Vineyards cellar door is literally on the banks of the river and is a must – you can even arrive by boat!
Vines date back to 1894 and were originally influenced and planted by the early pioneers and settlers from various immigrant backgrounds. In the early 1900’s it became one of the first large irrigated areas in the Riverland and the area boomed with vines, citrus and stone fruit orchards. This industry continues today and dominates the region that – with its warm climate, low disease risk and access to water – has seen it evolve into an Australian wine industry powerhouse in terms of scale, return on investment and contribution.
Soils are diverse and ancient and are a mix of river valley soils, river flats and mallee scrub. Both red and white, and traditional and alternative varieties are grown in this region with much success. Boutique, sustainable wine brands as well as large viticultural projects operate alongside each other in harmony.