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Goolwa Historic Walk

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by Steve Hudson (subscribe)
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Published March 5th 2016
The story behind this great river town
They lobbied hard, and put forward some good evidence to support their claim that a town at the bend in the lower reaches of the Murray River should be the capital of the newly formed colony of South Australia. But Colonel Light, in his wisdom, ignored them and headed up the Gulf St Vincent and chose Adelaide. Goolwa was not to be. The historic walk around this old river port describes to us what happened after that.

Goolwa Historic Walk, Encounter Bikeway, Goolwa Wharf Markets, Port Elliot Market, Port Elliot Heritage Trail, Port Victor, Hindmarsh Island, Goolwa Hotel
Busy Goolwa Wharf - Steve Hudson


The lobbying continued and Colonel Light visited in 1837 and ordered a special survey to be undertaken. Some minor development occurred in the mean time, but it wasn't until a second survey took place in 1853 that the township of Goolwa came in to being, just as the railway from Port Elliot was completed.

Goolwa Historic Walk, Encounter Bikeway, Goolwa Wharf Markets, Port Elliot Market, Port Elliot Heritage Trail, Port Victor, Hindmarsh Island, Goolwa Hotel
Old Chart Room - Steve Hudson


1853 also saw the first of many paddle steamers enter the River Murray and begin to ply their trade. With the connection to the rail line and ultimately ocean trade, a large wharf was constructed which was to see the trains arrive on a perpendicular line before being swung on a turntable to be parallel to the moored steamers and barges.

Goolwa Historic Walk, Encounter Bikeway, Goolwa Wharf Markets, Port Elliot Market, Port Elliot Heritage Trail, Port Victor, Hindmarsh Island, Goolwa Hotel
Goolwa Railway Station - Steve Hudson


The increase in movements as Australia's inland trade began to open up saw a maritime industry emerge with boatyards, foundry ships,, chartrooms, customs house and numerous storage facilities. With industry comes money, and many of the local river boat identities invested their business proceeds to build themselves attractive houses, some with interesting additions.

Goolwa Historic Walk, Encounter Bikeway, Goolwa Wharf Markets, Port Elliot Market, Port Elliot Heritage Trail, Port Victor, Hindmarsh Island, Goolwa Hotel
Captain Richie's Cottage with Cannon - Steve Hudson


However investment wasn't top of mind for all the local workers, many who found their way to one of the three hotels that had popped up in town by this stage - the Goolwa, Australasian and Corio Hotels, all of which were built between 1853 and 1857.

Goolwa Historic Walk, Encounter Bikeway, Goolwa Wharf Markets, Port Elliot Market, Port Elliot Heritage Trail, Port Victor, Hindmarsh Island, Goolwa Hotel
Figurehead on the Goolwa Hotel - Steve Hudson


Perhaps there was a linkage with the hotel industry, but it didn't take long before there was a need for law and order. The Police Station and Courthouse was initially built in 1859 and underwent modifications a decade later to cater for the larger number of visiting townsfolk.

Goolwa Historic Walk, Encounter Bikeway, Goolwa Wharf Markets, Port Elliot Market, Port Elliot Heritage Trail, Port Victor, Hindmarsh Island, Goolwa Hotel
Police Station and Courthouse - Steve Hudson


A Town Hall and Council Chambers brought some structure to the Main Street and the town, and numerous shops began offering goods for sale. Several bakeries commenced around 1860 but it was Thomas Goode's General Store that was to make the biggest (and longest) impact on trading at Goolwa.

Goolwa Historic Walk, Encounter Bikeway, Goolwa Wharf Markets, Port Elliot Market, Port Elliot Heritage Trail, Port Victor, Hindmarsh Island, Goolwa Hotel
Former Thomas Goode's General Store - Steve Hudson


By 1870 river trade was booming and further investments were required. The Bank of South Australia opened a branch at Goolwa and a formal railway station was built as passengers were growing tired of standing under the Post Office's veranda waiting for the train to arrive.

Goolwa Historic Walk, Encounter Bikeway, Goolwa Wharf Markets, Port Elliot Market, Port Elliot Heritage Trail, Port Victor, Hindmarsh Island, Goolwa Hotel
First public railway - Steve Hudson


In the late 1870's, the Morgan to Adelaide railway was opened, and river trade began to use this alternate route. Within the next decade, Goolwa's trade dwindled and the town changed to supporting the local agricultural industry before becoming a tourist destination with the opening of passenger rail from Adelaide.

Goolwa Historic Walk, Encounter Bikeway, Goolwa Wharf Markets, Port Elliot Market, Port Elliot Heritage Trail, Port Victor, Hindmarsh Island, Goolwa Hotel
Former Morgue - Steve Hudson


Just like towns, people don't live forever, and there was a need for a morgue to be built. The previous temporary morgue was in the cellar of one of the town's Hotels, and by now it was being considered as unsuitable and disrespectful. A morgue was then ordered and built atop a small mound above the ferry landing, and remained in active use until 1956.

Goolwa Historic Walk, Encounter Bikeway, Goolwa Wharf Markets, Port Elliot Market, Port Elliot Heritage Trail, Port Victor, Hindmarsh Island, Goolwa Hotel
Cockle Train - Steve Hudson


Today Goolwa is just 70 minutes from Adelaide by car, and is a pretty town making use of the historical buildings to host antique shops, cafes and restaurants. The self guided Goolwa Historic Walk commences from the Visitor Information Centre near Signal Point, on the Encounter Bikeway and near the popular Goolwa Wharf Markets, and highlights 40 items of historical significance in the town's early life. The walk is around 4km long, has information boards throughout, and should take 90-120 minutes to complete. Brochures are available from the Visitor Centre.

Goolwa Historic Walk, Encounter Bikeway, Goolwa Wharf Markets, Port Elliot Market, Port Elliot Heritage Trail, Port Victor, Hindmarsh Island, Goolwa Hotel
One of the locals - Steve Hudson

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Why? A great South Australian town
When: Anytime
Where: Goolwa, South Australia
Cost: Free
Your Comment
Goolwa the poor cousin of Victor,has improved quite a bit over the years,but still retains that sleepy atmosphere of years gone by.Fortunately, it still retains that historic element.Like the drives along the river either side of the bridge and the drive to the barrage,where you can clamber a short distance over the sandhills to the magnificent beach.The photo of the cockle train is really good.Now a top tourist attraction . with the station at the wharf for the trip to Victor.I wonder how many buses go to Victor these days..thinking of tourists coming to Adelaide and not having a car to get there.
by noelp (score: 3|1199) 1195 days ago
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