Towns in Australia

Exploring Australia, town by town

Goolwa SA


Postcode: 5214

Goolwa is a historic river port on the River Murray near the Murray Mouth in South Australia, , and joined by a bridge to Hindmarsh Island. The name “Goolwa” means “elbow” in Ngarrindjeri, the local Aboriginal language. Goolwa is approximately 100 km south of Adelaide, at the base of the Alexandrina Council. It is in the state electoral district of Finniss and the federal Division of Mayo. Goolwa has a population of approximately 6500.

Before 1837 Goolwa was briefly considered as the site of the colony’s capital; however, the teacherous waters of the Murray Mouth for shipping made it unsuitable as a major port. Goolwa was Australia’s first inland port (1857). Australia’s first railway was built to connect Goolwa to Port Elliot and later extended to Victor Harbor, allowing goods to move from river boats to sea boats, so that neither had to negotiate the Murray Mouth. The spread of railways to inland Australia put an end to the river trade and Goolwa’s importance as a port. In the 1970s the paddle boat Murray River Queen was built in a dry dock on Hindmarsh Island. For many years the Murray River Queen was based at Goolwa and made week-long trips up the river. It is now based at Waikerie as a floating hotel, making afternoon and dinner cruises in the Riverland.

Every odd-numbered year, Goolwa hosts the South Australian Wooden Boat Festival. The town is a popular holiday destination and home to the PS Oscar W, a paddle steamer.

Goolwa, along with its neighbouring towns of Middleton and Port Elliot and the city of Victor Harbor have in the 2000s enjoyed a nationally recognised “sea change” boom, with people moving there from more metropolitan areas for an improved lifestyle on the coast. The local councils are left with the dilemma of how to provide sufficient services for the influx of new residents, while at the same time not spoiling the character and appeal of the area that attracts newcomers. In March 2007, Goolwa was declared a Cittaslow by visiting cittaslow representatives. Goolwa was the first non-European town to gain cittaslow status