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Polly Woodside Maritime Museum Melbourne

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by Lionel (subscribe)
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Published June 18th 2017
Australia's rich maritime heritage right here in South Wharf

Resting in a dry dock alongside the Melbourne Exhibition and Conference Centre in South Wharf is one of Melbourne's understated attractions. Every day, thousands of people walk past the historic Tall Ship, oblivious to its contribution to Australia's maritime heritage.

Polly Woodside is a 650 ton iron-hulled sailing barque with three masts, beautifully restored and shared with the public. Today, the once working vessel is a museum and function venue, complete with an interactive visitor centre, educational programmes and a central feature of the South Wharf precinct.


Polly Woodside started life in 1885 commissioned by William J. Woodside in the yards of Belfast, the same year Belgium took possession of Congo, the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York City, and Eastern & Oriental Hotel became the first grand hotel in the orient.

polly woodside as rona sailing in 1914
Photo courtesy of National Trust of Australia (Victoria)

Over the next 75 years, this humble barque witnessed the growth of cargo between the British Empire and South America; made a maiden voyage to Australia in 1900; ferried timber between New Zealand and Australia as "Rona"; supplied steamships in Sydney and Melbourne with coal; and even served in World War II. By that time, she was the last square-rigged deep-water commercial sailing ship still afloat in Australasia.


Polly Woodside managed to escape scuttling in the early 1960s when Karl Kortum and Dr. Graeme Robertson led a group of ship enthusiasts to attempt to restore the barque to her former glory. The National Trust of Australia continued to support restoration efforts post 1968 when the ship was entrusted to the organisation for a token of one cent.

The Polly Woodside Volunteers' Association (PWVA) established in 1970s progressively restored the barque and it became the first merchant ship in the world to be awarded the prestigious World Ship Trust Medalin 1988. Today, the PWVA continues to maintain her as a static exhibition at the Duke's dry-dock.

Heritage Status

The vessel enjoyed the highest level of State Heritage protection under the National Trust of Australia (Victoria), the premier heritage and conservation organisation in the state. It was added to the list of house museums and historic properties including the Old Melbourne Gaol, Barwon Park, Como House and Gardens, Mulberry Hill, Rippon Lea, Gulf Station and Labassa Mansion.

Events & Activities

After circumnavigating the world 17 times and travelling over 2.4 million kilometres, Polly Woodside sits proudly in Melbourne's original dry dock as a venue of education and entertainment for families. Visitors can look forward to explore the ship both above and below deck, gallery space, theatrette, outdoor entertainment area, guided tours and National Trust Day celebrations.

The late 19th century ocean-going trading ship is also used for children birthday parties, board meetings, cocktail parties, wedding events and hosts special children programs. Pirate Sundays run throughout the year on the first Sunday of each month. Children can look forward to a day of planned adventures. There are decks to scrub, bells to ring, arts and crafts, games and treasure hunts on this Pirate Day.

Polly Woodside Primary Programs provide school students the opportunity to discover working life for sailors on a tall ship sailing the seven seas in the 20th century. They will enjoy interesting experiences including the art of navigation used in yesteryears, usage of the capstan, hauling sails and watch a film about the life of the crew member and his journey aboard in 1904.
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Why? A piece of Australia's rich maritime heritage right here in South Wharf
When: Normal Trading Saturdays & Sundays 10am-4pm (last entry 3.15pm) / School holidays every day (subject to change) 10am-4pm (last entry 3.15pm) / CLOSED: Closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year's Day and the Easter weekend from Good Friday through to
Phone: (03) 9699 9760
Where: Polly Woodside Maritime Museum
Cost: Adults: $16, Concession: $13 Child (3-15years): $9.50 Family: $43 ( 2 Adults and 2 Children), Single Family: $30 (1 Adult and 2 Children) Additional Children: $5.00 per child
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