Historic Goolwa

The historic river port of Goolwa began life as Goolawa, an Aboriginal word meaning elbow or bend. Goolwa was first settled by white men in 1841 and proclaimed a River Port in 1857. Goolwa was the centre for transport and trade between South Australia and the eastern colonies. The town is situated on both fresh and salt water as it is the last town on the river before it meets to sea.

Goolwa was the very first port on the Murray River and the first to engage in shipbuilding and repairs. Goolwa has another couple of firsts including the first public railway in Australia built between Goolwa and Port Elliot in 1854 and the first yacht club in Australia was established in Goolwa in 1854.

Goolwa was once an option to be the capital of South Australia and was the first Australian town to be granted Cittaslow status in 2007. Cittaslow is an organisation founded in Italy and inspired by the slow food movement. Its goals include improving the quality of life in towns by slowing down its overall pace especially in the use of spaces and the flow of life and traffic through them.

The historic Goolwa Wharf precinct provides great views of the Murray River and the Hindmarsh Island Bridge towers above. From the wharf you can ride a paddle steamer, take a cruise through the Coorong and learn more about the river trade at the Goolwa River Boat Centre. You can watch heritage trains go by or sample a drop at the brewery or wine at the cellar door. There is also a great looking cafe however it is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

The wharf is the home mooring for the historic paddle steamer the PS Oscar W built in Echuca in 1908 and it regularly takes visitors on 1 hour cruises up and down the river as it chugs along.

Not far from the historic Wharf Precint is the Goolwa Visitors Centre and right next door is the RSL Club which is housed in the historic Goolwa Railway Horse Stables building. It was built to house the railway horses in 1862 by local builder William Ray who had also constructed the Corio Hotel across the road in 1857. Horses were only used up until 1885 when steam locomotives had taken over and all the horses, tack and harnesses were sold. The building was purchased by the RSL in 1946 and renovated to become the current RSL Club.

On the other side of the road is another piece of history in the Goolwa Customs House built in 1859. William Ray was again the builder. It is a lovely stone building complete with offices and a residence. The Customs House was the chief collector of revenue for the government right up until 1894. The buildings were later used as the residence for the Railway Stationmaster and since 1983 has been owned by the local community.

We spent a couple of hours exploring this lovely part of Goolwa and have booked a 6 hour cruise, including lunch, on the Spirit of the Coorong to learn more about this amazing part of the world.


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