Port Germein is a historic wheat shipping port, founded in the late 1800's. The area was first seen by the Europeans nearly 80 years previously by Captain Matthew Flinders while on his circumnavigation of Australia. While on this epic journey of exploration, he travelled up the Spencer Gulf and named it after the President of the Admiralty Board, Earl Spencer.
The town itself was named after Samuel Germein, who discovered it in 1840, but many also credit his brother Captain John Germein with the discovery. Samuel claimed to have discovered it in 1840 while on his way to the head of the gulf to meet Edward Eyre. Port Pirie was originally named Samuel's Creek - named after him too. His brother John was said to have found it in 1840 while exploring the coast.
The jetty was built in 1881 by John Wishart and was built to a length of somewhere between 1646 metres and 1680 metres, depending on who you talk to. In the late 1800's, the southern Flinders Ranges became an important producer of wheat and a local jetty was needed in order to get the cargo to ports all over the world. This extra long jetty was purpose built to cater for the very low tides that occur along the coast. There were approximately 100,000 bags of wheat loaded from the jetty each year - at its peak, the Port Germein jetty was the largest grain-loading port in Australia.
A lighthouse was once in place at the end of the jetty. This was built in 1894, replacing the Port Germein Lightship. The lighthouse was manned until July 1917 when it was replaced by an AGA flashing light. The lighthouse was moved in 1975 and these days can be seen at the jetty entrance.
The Morgan to Whyalla railway line was extended to Port Germein in 1934 and the port was closed for shipping a few years later.
This historic Port Germein Jetty and it's two railway sheds are listed on the South Australian Heritage Register. Taking a walk on the jetty is a great experience. It's so long that when you stand at one end of it, you just cannot see the other end. It completely disappears from your line of view. At low tide, you will need to walk almost halfway (approximately 700 metres) before you are walking over water and then you'll need to walk another 800 metres before you are over deep water. Quite incredible!
These days, the jetty is a tourist draw card and the town is a quiet seaside summer holiday destination. It's also a great spot to catch a fish for dinner or to catch one or two blue-swimmer crabs - a tasty local delicacy.
Fishing and crabbing can be hard work here though. The area is known for its 2 metre tides and extremely flat tidal seabed - it's quite possible that you could launch your boat from the beach in the morning and, when you return in the afternoon you're stuck 1.5kms out from the beach until the tide comes in again. To combat this problem, a local gent came up with an ingenious invention - the "Port Germein Jetty Jinker" - a specialist tow vehicle that is specifically designed to travel out onto the flats and tow a boat behind it. The height of the jinker means that it only gets partially submerged and can be tied to the jetty awaiting the fisherman's return. These homemade tractors seem to be unique to Port Germein in South Australia and are simply wonderful to see in action.
The town celebrates each New Years Eve with their annual Festival of the Crab. The festival doubles as a fundraiser to help with the damage that habitually comes from the storms that arrive each winter. The winter of 2016 was particularly damaging and took its toll on the jetty. The storms ripped the end of the jetty off and it's now a shorter length of 1532 metres. The jetty has only recently reopened after repair works were done following the massive storms in South Australia last September.
Port Germein is a pretty town to visit and spend a while. The movie "Robbery Under Arms" was filmed in the town and there have been many TV series and features filmed there. The town became world famous in the year 2000 when the shadow from a tree formed an image of Jesus on a fence.
The magnificent Southern Flinders Ranges are to the east and create a beautiful panoramic backdrop. Any time of year is perfect for a visit, but the summer months are great for those who love the outdoors, particularly fishing. The warmer months are best for catching crabs and there's an old wives tale that says that crabs should be caught only in the months that have an "R" in them.
There's plenty to see in and around Port Germein - the gorges, beaches, the history, and heritage. Stay a few days and enjoy what the area has to offer. Top of the list of things to do is a walk on the longest wooden jetty in the country. I highly recommend it!
Port Germein is a small seaside town in South Australia and is located about 251km north of Adelaide. The nearest major centre is Port Pirie - approximately 20kms to the south. Port Germein has a population of approximately 200 permanent residents.
It's not even the longest wooden Jetty in Australia now. Seen it lost a bit of the end a few years back. Western Australia has the longest wooden jetty in Australia now. Just Google it to see the lengths.
The Morgan to Whyalla railway line passed Port Germein is incorrect. It should be Morgan to Whyalla pipeline supplying water to Port Augusta and Far North of SA. The correction is Port Augusta to Port Pirie standard gauge line opened in 1937. The standard gauge railway line near Port Germein is now the main traffic route between Adelaide and Perth controlled by ARTC.