Former Barossa couple Ruth and Jim Roberts share success in the Riverland

An enthusiastic couple who made Barossa their home for 30 years have spread their wings and as a result gained success in the recent South Australian Tourism Awards.

Ruth and Jim Roberts, who lived at Cockatoo Valley, were awarded a silver within the award's unique accommodation category for their PS Julie Fay BnB - vintage paddle boat.

Ruth was the manager of Williamstown's Abbeyfield, now Wirraminna Care, while her husband was a teacher at Xavier College.

In 2015 they moved to the Riverland to open a tourism business, providing kayak tours and dinghy cruises of the creeks and lagoons behind the river.

"We're absolutely delighted with the award, especially since the PS Julie Fay opened only two years ago and this was our first nomination," Ruth shared.

"Tourists are always looking for ways to get onto the river and enjoy a first-hand experience of boat-life, history and nature.

"Our guests love the opportunity to feel immersed in the whole experience."

The idea of providing accommodation that invoked the river's paddle steamer history began in 2017.

The Julie Fay was 1400kms up the river at Cobram and had to take advantage of the high waters to be successfully driven downstream.

Jim and two riverboat men spent one day getting to know the boat and assess the sand bars and low bridges they needed to navigate.

It was high adventure as they had to be towed from two sandbars, once by a bobcat.

They also had to lower the funnel to get under bridges and to race to the Barham Bridge before it closed for the year.

After all their adventures it was a relief to safely moor the boat at her new home near Paringa and start preparing her for her new life as a Bed and Breakfast.

After a year of upgrades and renovation, the accommodation quickly won the hearts of many tourists from throughout Australia.

PS Julie Fay is moored in a tranquil natural setting where guests can relax and unwind in a peaceful setting.

The unique aspects of the boat include being a working paddle boat with authentic fittings, and rare 360 degree views of nature from both the living area and top deck.

The modern interior surprises guests with its luxurious space and view.

Ruth explained how their business Canoe the Riverland offers water sports to tourists and schools, so the move into this style of accommodation was a natural extension of helping people get onto the river.

"We're very aware of our beautiful environment here, so we wanted something special for our guests to enjoy the river as much as we do," she said.