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6 Great Things to Do in Goolwa

Home > Adelaide > Beaches | Parks | Picnic Spots | Places of Interest | Walks | Lists
by Graeme Fanning (subscribe)
I'm a tour guide who is passionate about South Australia and love to showcase to locals and visitors. Visit my facebook page at
Published February 10th 2016
Goolwa - a great blend of river, sea and heritage
1. History/Heritage

A recent article of mine highlighted some of the great food and drink options in Goolwa, however Goolwa offers so much more when you visit this historic town, around 83 kms south of Adelaide.

Goolwa dates right back to 1840 with the first land allotted a year later, and grew to become one of Australia's most important river ports with paddle steamers towing barges from New South Wales and Victoria laden with wool, grain and other produce.

In fact between 1853 and 1913, Goolwa produced 37 paddle steamers and 23 barges, evidence of which is still seen today along the wharf frontage.

The advent of the railway from Morgan to Adelaide in 1878 saw river trade in this area dwindle.

Walking around the town reveals many historical buildings which have been well restored and some house current businesses including Art Galleries, Cafes and Bed and Breakfasts.

An example of an historic building now housing one of the local radio stations is the ex- Railway Supervisor's Cottage located near the wharf which dates from 1852, reputed to be the oldest house in Goolwa.

Goolwa is currently working towards being known as a Cittaslow town, which is based upon the principles of "its inhabitants being curious about times past, and being aware of the slow passing of the seasons marked by genuine products, respecting tastes and health and spontaneous customs" - Original Cittaslow Manifesto

The whole concept is all about supporting local producers and celebrating regional history and traditions. Goolwa is well on the way to embracing this new philosophy.

Old Railway Supervisor's Cottage c 1852

2. Walks

The Goolwa Visitor Information Centre provides a brochure outlining a self-guided walking tour classified as a Heritage Walk around Goolwa.

The walk is essentially around 3 kms, although a shorter 1.8 km walk can be taken as another option.

Throughout the walk, there are interpretive signs through the town which help explain the history and stories behind Goolwa's beginnings.

Old Church converted to Dentist

3. Shopping

A stroll along the main street (Cadell Street) contains a great selection of shops which offer anything from antiques to clothing, bric-a-brac, crafts and souvenirs.

One such business is Chantillie Place, right next door to the Goolwa Hotel which spills out onto the street with racks of clothing hanging in the breeze, together with gifts and antiques dotted around the pavement as well as inside the store.

There was even a maritime/nautical based shop called Yachties, which has a great shop front highlighting well the whole ambience of the sea.

Merchandise at Chantillie Place

4. Picnic Areas and Playgrounds

Goolwa is well laid out with space for at least 12 parks for recreation including Soldier's Memorial Rose Garden and Rotunda, Bristow-Smith Reserve Nature Playspace on Barrage Road and Jaralde Park on the wharf, which offers BBQ's, adventure playground, lawns and toilets.

Great places to take the family and enjoy a picnic whilst taking in some fine views of the River Murray and heritage buildings.

Soldiers' Memorial Gardens with Rotunda

5. The Wharf

On a nice day there is nothing like a stroll along the boardwalk adjacent to the wharf and river.

There are usually varying sizes of crafts and vessels plying the river watched over also by the resident pelicans.

Interpretive signage along the wharf also tell about the history of the paddle steamers and the river trade and stories are told, for example about the PS Oscar W, an authentic wood-fired paddle steamer dating from 1908, which still offers one hour cruises from the Goolwa wharf.

The next cruises are on Sunday 14 Feb and during March will be on Sunday 6th, Monday 14th, and at Easter (Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th March).

Bookings can be made through the Goolwa Visitor Information Centre and charges are $20 for Adult, $15 Concession and $8 for children between 5 and 15 years.

Cruising times are three times a day, at 11 a.m., 12.30 pm and 2.00 pm.

More information can also be obtained from the Oscar W website.

Also the remains of a double ended barge called "The Dart" is housed along the wharf, dating from 1912.

The Barge Dart features a river redgum hull with iron topsides and framework.

The barge was originally used by the E&WS Department in lock building, pile driving and other works along the River Murray.

The vessel was recovered and returned to Goolwa in 1988 to work with the Oscar W.

The Barge Dart

6. Beach

A short drive off the main South Coast Road will bring you to Goolwa Beach, which stretches 12 kms along the south coast, about 11 kms north-west of the River Murray mouth.

Being right on the raw ocean front, Goolwa Beach is one of the most hazardous beaches in South Australia due to the persistent high waves.

However, as long as patrons remember to swim between the lifesaver's designated flags and fairly close to shore, then usually it is quite safe.

Goolwa Beach like so many other beaches on this part of the coastline are popular surfing beaches and attract large crowds in summer.

A grand perspective of this part of the coastline can be obtained by not only walking along the beach but also on a boardwalk which stretches out from the main carpark and ends at a raised platform lookout, giving you excellent views up and down the coast as well as back towards Goolwa and the River Murray.

The options don't end there for what to do in Goolwa, as there is opportunity for kayaking, for experiencing the Cockle Train journey between Victor Harbor and Goolwa as well as venturing over to Hindmarsh Island and much more.

So much to experience under 90 minutes from Adelaide.

Goolwa Beach

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Why? The historic town of Goolwa offers diverse choices for visitors
When: Any time including weekends
Phone: 1300 466 592
Where: Goolwa SA
Cost: Dependent on your interests and plans
Your Comment
Beautiful - looks inviting!
by Diana (score: 2|719) 2326 days ago
This is a fine article about a town I am fairly familiar with from my childhood days..way back in the late 1940.s.It has it's own unique character,due to it's history as a river boat/barge port,before rail and road transport took over.It now has become a holiday destination in it's own right and I wonder how much further it can progress in the coming years.It makes a great base for Strathalbyn to the east ..Victor Harbor to the West and the wineries to the North and good drives throughout the hills nearby.
by noelp (score: 3|1201) 2323 days ago
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