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Sorrel checks out Goolwa on the Murray.
Sorrel checks out Goolwa on the Murray.
The local church.
The quirky town of Goolwa.


Thursday, September 27, 2001
Venture to this historic river port on Lake Alexandrina at the mouth of the Murray River for a taste of New Orleans — Aussie-style.

Goolwa is a historic river port on Lake Alexandrina at the mouth of the Murray River. It was the last port of call for paddle steamers trading wool and general produce during the mid- to late 1800s. These days, they carry tourists along the mighty river.

The New Orleans of Australia, as Goolwa was dubbed, had Australia's first train line and yacht club.

The influence of water on this town of just a few thousand people — which swells to 25,000 in summer — is evident everywhere. Yachts and riverboats are moored and ready to go. Colourful sailboards flash by, and contented pelicans bob about in the water or waddle along the jetties.

Chris and Jude Crabtree have a passion for things nautical, and left Melbourne to live out their dream. They restore riverboats and take tourists on delightfully personal trips. The 120-year-old boat they call home used to pull sugarcane barges and cedar along rivers in northern NSW. It took the Crabtrees and local wooden-boat builders three years to rebuild it, and they're now working on their third boat.

They have collected chandlery, maritime art and memorabilia in Australia and Europe, and are also involved in maritime photography. Their collection is used to promote Goolwa and the wooden boat festivals held there.

They also lease the Chart Room, the last structure on what was Graham's Patent Slip and Iron Works. It operated in the 1800s, and was the only place on the Murray Darling where paddle steamers, including their steam engines, were totally assembled.

The Chart Room is small but on two levels. The quaint limestone building has a bridge leading to its entrance and is absolutely full of memorabilia, some for sale, and some just for show.

When you are looking for something to eat, the Whistle Stop Cafe has great food and is fun. Jacki Scott and Ralph Gray's cafe has loads of character with lots of antiques and bric-a-brac, most of which is for sale. Their chef is well travelled and experienced and turns local fish, Coffin Bay oysters, prawns and other delicacies from the sea into top-class meals.

The building itself is made of solid bricks that were salvaged from other buildings. Even the window frames and shelving are made from old, recycled wood. At the height of the season, they open every day for three meals.

The pretty, vine-covered Dolphin Cottage is one of many cosy places to stay in Goolwa. The restored artist's studio is self-contained with open living area, romantic mezzanine bedroom, private entrance and courtyard. Dolphin Cottage is right in the centre of the heritage area, and after enjoying your breakfast hamper, a stroll through Goolwa is a great way to spend some time.

A ride on the Cockle Train through Port Elliot and Middleton, through farmlands and above coastal dunes to Victor Harbour, is a real treat. The little wooden steam train used to carry cockles from Goolwa to shops along the coast.


An hour south-east of Adelaide.


Dolphin Cottage costs $120 per night, including breakfast.
Goolwa Maritime Gallery and Chart Room costs $3 per person.
Please note prices are valid at time of transmission and to the best of our knowledge are inclusive of GST.

More information

Whistle Stop Cafe: Ph: (08) 8555 1171
The Chart Room: Ph/fax: (08) 8555 3392
Dolphin Cottage: Ph: (08) 8555 0338 Fax: (08) 8555 0337

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