The town of Berri takes its name from the local Aboriginal tribe ‘bery bery’ meaning ‘bend in the river’. Up until the 1870s the area was part of the Cobdogla sheep station and the home of the Erawirunga tribe of Aboriginals.
In the days of paddle steamers it was one of the hundreds of woodpile locations along the Murray–Darling system and a mooring and refueling place. Berri lies on a large bend in the Murray, one of many such twists and turns that challenged riverboat skippers navigating this stretch of the waterway.
In 1910, irrigation was established and Berri was proclaimed as a town in 1911. Irrigation subsequently led to the establishment of vineyards and fruit orchards such as citrus, apricots and peaches. Rail arrived in 1928. The town’s population increased in the 1920s and 1930s with an influx of returned soldiers and paddle steamers called regularly to collect the area’s dried and fresh produce for shipment to Adelaide.
Berri Estates was established in 1922, when a group of grape growers formed a co-operative distillery to manage surplus grape production. Today the Berri Estates Winery is Australia’s largest single winery and distillery complex, processing 70,000 tonnes of grapes annually. Berri is surrounded by over 3000 hectares of irrigated orchards and has become notable as a fruit processing town. A large percentage of Australia’s canned fruit and juice come from Berri.
Transport from one side of the Murray to the other (Berri to Loxton) consisted of two parallel ferries. These were replaced by a bridge in July, 1997. The bridge cost $17 million and 30 years of lobbying.
Nearby is also Monash. Proclaimed in 1921 it was named in honour of General Sir John Monash, a highly decorated commander of the Australian troops in World War I. The General has also given his name to the town’s Adventure Park. The park was opened in 1996 and has rapidly established itself as the Riverland’s premier family destination. Entrance to the wonderland is free and the park offers a giant maze, leaning climbing towers, flying foxes, a tree house, a rope bridge, basketball courts and just about any piece of play equipment any child and adult could imagine.
Proclaimed in 1940, Loveday is small town close by. It was the site of one of Australia’s largest internment camps during World War II. The camp was built to house German, Italian and Japanese internees and prisoners of war. At its peak, the camp held 5380 as well as over 1,500 Australian Military Personnel and covered approximately 180 hectares of cultivated land. The camps supplied a variety of products including morphine, which was made for the forces from the harvested opium poppies grown in the camp grounds.