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South Australian Wooden Boat Festival 2019

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by Michael Genrich (subscribe)
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A wonderful weekend of heritage and entertainment
South Australian Wooden Boat Festival, Goolwa, April
Image courtesy SAWBF

The beautiful and historic Goolwa wharf precinct again hosts the famous South Australian Wooden Boat Festival on the 27th and 28th April 2019.

The festival was established way back in 1989 by a group of locals who shared an obsession with wooden boats and a desire to share the beautiful environment, lifestyle, culture and heritage of the region.

The seaside river port of Goolwa is a popular South Australian recreation and holiday destination. It's just an hour's drive from Adelaide and is the gateway to the magnificent Coorong National Park. It was the first inland port in Australia and connected the Murray River paddle steamer trade to the ocean by rail to Victor Harbor.

The South Australian Wooden Boat Festival is a free community event that promises an action filled program both on water and on land.


South Australian Wooden Boat Festival, Goolwa, April
Image courtesy SAWBF

An impressive fleet of more than 150 wooden boats, including everything from speed-boats and paddle-steamers to vintage yachts, will form the largest collection of wooden boats on show in Australia.

Watch from the wharf as the flotilla sails by in a Concours d'Elegance and view them up close at their moorings, take a ride on a historic paddle steamer, get up close to the boats that featured in the Storm Boy films, and browse all kinds of boats for sale.

There are wooden sailing boat races both days and grand parades (led by the paddle steamer Oscar W) in the afternoons. You can hit the water on Sunday with Floatfest as they pop up (with Canoe the Coorong) for some 'Come and Try Canoeing' sessions and hold a count to see how many paddlers they can join together in a raft-up.

The signature event of the festival is the Rough and Ready Boat Building Competition. Contestants will need to get creative with limited materials to build a boat and 'sail or sink' on Sunday.

South Australian Wooden Boat Festival, Goolwa, April
Image courtesy SAWBF


The Goolwa Wharf Precinct is already home to the Goolwa RIverboat Centre, Signal Point Gallery and Steam Exchange Brewery. There's already plenty to do, see, try and buy but that's just the beginning.

This year's festival has plenty of activities for kids and families. There's the River Murray Eco Maze, sponsored by the Murray-Darling Basin Natural Resources Management Board, face painting, a circus performer and miniature train rides. Families and kids will enjoy heading out 'On the Pirate Trail'. It's a fun way of exploring the festival and might put you in the running to win a family trip for four to Kangaroo Island!

On Saturday night, Goolwa will get its groove on as Adelaide band Gumbo Ya! Ya! perform their high energy rhythm and blues on the main stage. They're followed by a spectacular fireworks display launched from the Hindmarsh Island Bridge.

South Australian Wooden Boat Festival, Goolwa, April
Image courtesy SAWBF

There'll be heaps of regional food and wine on offer and even more live music to make for a joyous and lively atmosphere all weekend. There'll be golf carts and a community bus on hand to help people get around the festival precinct.

South Australian Wooden Boat Festival, Goolwa, April
Image courtesy SAWBF

Goolwa wharf is where steam trains meet steamboats. To make the weekend extra special why not park in Victor Harbor, Port Elliott or Middleton and catch the Cockle Train to Goolwa? SteamRanger Heritage Railway are adding services to their popular Cockle Train to operate six return services each day of the festival (fares apply).


Signal Point Gallery overlooks the wharf precinct and showcases contemporary artists from across the region as well as nationally touring exhibitions.

The Goolwa Cittaslow Farmers Market is on Sunday on the nearby customs house lawns and will be jam-packed with local produce, foods and crafts.

Get the details and full program guide here. For SteamRanger Cockle Train details click here.

South Australian Wooden Boat Festival, Goolwa, April
Image courtesy SAWBF
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Why? Australia's largest collection of wooden boats together at once
When: 27th and 28th April 2019
Where: Goolwa Wharf Precinct, Goolwa, South Australia
Cost: Free
Your Comment
Great work Michael, this will be terrific family fun.
by Dave Walsh (score: 4|11210) 67 days ago
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by Michael Genrich on 13/03/2019
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