The Maritime Museum's steam tug Yelta is a living piece of history. The last steam tug in South Australia, it was built in 1949 and worked in the port of Sydney right up until 1976 when it came to Port Adelaide. Now its working days are over, it offers family entertainment for local visitors.
Every now and then the old girl gets a chance to raise her skirts and take a Port River cruise, departing McLaren Wharf and passing other Port Adelaide attractions like the historic clipper ship City of Adelaide on her way out to Lipson Reach. It's an enchanting way to explore the maritime sights of the Port Adelaide wharves - the One & All, huge grain ships, old cranes, and maybe even some of the Port River dolphins if you're lucky.
The steam tug Yelta's Port River cruise will give you glimpses of yesterday's history as well as today's industries. See the newly landscaped Hart's Mill area which now also has markets, and Birkenhead's historic precinct including Fletcher's slip, Dunnikier's slip and the old naval base.
Cranes - A Stark Reminder of Port Adelaide Maritime History
After the Yelta steams under the Port River Expressway you will get to see some of the heavy industry that is the lifeblood of Port Adelaide - the Adelaide Brighton Cement works, Penrice Soda, and the huge submarine and air warfare destroyer construction yards. On the other side of the Yelta is the brooding mystery of Torrens Island Quarantine Station with its dark history of disease and death.
Will You Spot the Clipper Ship 'City of Adelaide'?
Remember to keep a lookout for the Port River dolphins - it is possible to get a fleeting sight of a pod as they playfully prance through the waves.
But the sights and Port Adelaide attractions are only part of the steam tug Yelta experience, some say that the ship itself is the main attraction. Taking a Port River cruise on the Yelta requires some planning and work in advance - it takes three days for maritime museum volunteers to fire up the boiler of this magnificent old boat. People are welcome to stop by and watch the process as engineers and stokers busily breathe life into the old engines.
Port River Dolphins Can Sometimes Be Seen in Lipson Reach
Under the deck the brass work gleams from hours of loving polishing, while the brass compass, antique telegraph dial and great wooden wheel are almost works of art. The ticking of tappets softly seduces and soothes as you admire this gleaming 65 year old.
The ticket price of $25 (no concessions or children under 5) for a two hour harbour cruise is excellent value family entertainment - and it includes free admission to the Maritime Museum too. Bookings are essential, for more information about the Port River cruise and the steam tug Yelta see the museum website.
People taking the cruise who are interested in Port Adelaide history will be fascinated by two new websites recently created by the Port Adelaide Enfield Council. Historical maps of the council district with aerial imagery and linked photos are available on this Port Adelaide Enfield Local History website. You can choose different aerial maps from a variety of periods, and see how Port Adelaide and its surrounds have changed.
A huge number of historical photos have also been released on the Council's Flickr website, bringing to life many of the locations around Port Adelaide . These websites are brilliant for interpreting the Port's rich past, and helping to understand how it looked in times gone by.