Wooden Boat Festival, South Australian Tourism Commission

Population 5881

Goolwa is a rapidly growing holiday town on the last big bend of the Murray River before it reaches open waters. In 2007 Goolwa became the first town in Australia to be declared a Cittaslow, or 'slow town', joining a network of other towns in Europe and throughout the world which aim to improve the quality of life in towns. Goolwa was originally surveyed as the capital of South Australia, but Adelaide was later thought to be a better option. Goolwa did, however, boom as a river port from the 1850s to the 1880s – in the golden days of the riverboats. The area is excellent for fishing, with freshwater fishing in the Murray and saltwater fishing in the Southern Ocean and the Coorong, as well as boating, surfing, watersports, birdwatching and photography.

Visitor Information

41 Goolwa Tce; (08) 8555 7248 or 1300 466 592

Nearby national parks

Nearby towns

  • Port Elliot

    Port Elliot is a charming historic town set on scenic Horseshoe Bay. Its popularity as a holiday destination lies in the fabulous beaches...more

  • Victor Harbor

    In the 1830s the crystal waters of Encounter Bay – and the Southern Ocean beyond – throbbed with the whalers and sealers of the south....more

  • Strathalbyn

    This heritage town has some of the most picturesque and historic streetscapes in country South Australia. It has a predominantly Scottish...more

In Town

Signal Point River Murray Interpretive Centre Learn about the river and district before European settlement and see the impact of later development. There is also a detailed history on Goolwa's river port, the paddlesteamers and local Aboriginal people. A highlight is the 3D model showing how the Murray River interacts with the SA landscape. The Wharf.

National Trust Museum: documents the history of Goolwa and early navigation of the Murray River; Porter St.

South Coast Regional Arts Centre: explore the restored old court and police station and see exhibitions by local artists; Goolwa Tce.

Goolwa Barrage: desalination point to prevent salt water from reaching the Murray River; open Mon–Fri; Barrage Rd.

Armfield Slipway: a working exhibition of wooden boatbuilding and restoration; open Tues mornings and Fri afternoons; Barrage Rd.

Horse-Drawn Railway Carriage: first carriages used in SA between Goolwa and Port Elliot from 1854; Cadell St.

Goolwa Beach: popular surfing and swimming beach with large cockles to be dug up (in season); end of Beach Rd.

Cockle Train: journey around Encounter Bay from Goolwa Wharf to Victor Harbor, stopping at Port Elliot. The train has been operating since 1887, and its name comes from the abundance of large cockles found on Goolwa's surf beach. It forms part of the longer SteamRanger tourist railway from Mount Barker; see Hahndorf; operates most weekends and public/school holidays; bookings (08) 8231 4366.

Cruises: day tours to the mouth of the Murray, the Coorong, the Barrages and the Lower Murray; details and bookings at visitor centre.

Scenic flights: over the region; contact visitor centre for details.

Goolwa Heritage Walk: a self-guide tour to see the 19th-century architecture of the river port's boom days; brochure available from visitor centre.


Hindmarsh Island: Captain Sturt located the mouth of the Murray River from here in 1830 – visit the Captain Sturt Lookout and monument. The island is now popular for both freshwater and saltwater fishing and is home to the kid-friendly Narnu farm, which offers horseriding, cottage accommodation and the opportunity to milk a cow; east of town; farm bookings (08) 8555 2002.

Currency Creek Game Reserve: feeding grounds, breeding rookeries and hides for many waterbirds; access by boat only; 3 km E.

Currency Creek: Lions Park is a popular picnic spot with a walking track along the creek. Near town is an Aboriginal canoe tree (a eucalypt carved to make a canoe) and also the Currency Creek Winery with a restaurant and fauna park; 7 km N.

Cleland Conservation Park This park protects a variety of vegetation. Read More Belair National Park The oldest national park in SA was declared in 1891. There are plenty of activities, including 5 defined bushwalks ranging from the easy Wood Duck Walk to the more challenging 6.5 km Waterfall Walk, and cycling and horseriding tracks. Visitors can also visit Old Government House, built in 1859 to serve as the governor's summer residence; open Sun and public holidays; (08) 8278 5477. 19 km W.

Mount Barker: a historic town renowned for its gourmet outlets. The SteamRanger tourist train operates from here, including regular trips to Strathalbyn and on to the coastal section from Goolwa to Victor Harbor (this section is known as the Cockle Train; see Goolwa). For SteamRanger information and bookings contact 1300 655 991. Local events include the Highland Gathering and Heritage Festival in Feb; 6 km SE.

Bridgewater: a historic town with excellent gardens and Petaluma's Bridgewater Mill, which has wine-tastings, sales and an up-market restaurant for lunch in a historic flour mill; 6 km W.

Oakbank: craft shops and historic buildings with self-guide heritage-walk brochure available from local businesses. The Oakbank Easter Racing Carnival, held each Apr, is the Southern Hemisphere's biggest picnic race meeting and brings thousands of visitors to the town each year; 7 km N.

Aldgate: a historic village featuring art and craft shops and historic sites that include the Aldgate Pump and the National Trust–listed Stangate House with its extensive camellia garden; 8 km W.

Stirling: renowned for its European gardens and architecture, including the National Estate–listed Beechworth Heritage Garden (Snows Rd). See colourful parrots in the aviaries at Stirling Parrot Farm (Milan Tce); 10 km W.

Warrawong Sanctuary: large native animal reserve for reintroduced and endangered species, with walking trails and a boardwalk around Platypus Lakes. Guided dawn and evening tours are available; bookings (08) 8370 9197; 10 km SW via Mylor.

Jupiter Creek Goldfields: walking trails with interpretive signs across historic fields discovered in 1852; 12 km SW.

Woodside Heritage Village: includes Melba's Chocolate Factory (with guided tours and sales) as well as craft studios with artisans at work; Woodside; 13 km NE.

Mt Lofty Botanic Gardens: Australia's largest botanic gardens, with walking trails past cool-climate garden species, on the eastern face of Mt Lofty; access via Summit or Piccadilly rds; 14 km NW.

Wittunga Botanic Gardens: native plants; Shepherds Hill Rd; 21 km W at Blackwood.

Hahndorf see inset box on previous page

Eco-friendly activities around town

Whale-watching on the Fleurieu Peninsula 10 km

Between May and October, southern right whales often cruise right next to the shore of the Fleurieu Peninsula. Popular viewing spots include Port Elliot, Goolwa, Middleton and Victor Harbor, but your best starting point... Find out more

Swimming along the Fleurieu Peninsula 15 km

There are plenty of great swimming beaches along the peninsula. Victor Harbor has a plethora to choose from – including Kent Reserve and Dump Beach – but there is also Horseshoe Bay at Port Elliot, and the... Find out more

Diving and snorkelling off the Fleurieu Peninsula 51 km

Some of the state’s best diving – particularly in-shore and around jetties – is on the Fleurieu Peninsula, with leafy sea dragons, shipwrecks, dolphins and myriad fish species. Second Valley is great... Find out more

Golf courses around town

Links Lady Bay Resort 43 km

‘A pleasurable golf course,’ Dr Alister MacKenzie once wrote, ‘is not necessarily one that appeals at first sight, but rather one that grows on a player like good music, good painting, or good... Find out more

Cafes & restaurants around town


The waterfront location might be breezy and laid-back but there’s seriously good food on offer here. Savvy kitchen skills result in surprising dishes such as a humble seafood pastie featuring a luscious blend of... Find out more

Blues Restaurant

Housed in an iron-clad building, complete with large outdoor deck, water feature and shade sails, this venue strikes a relaxed note. Meanwhile, the jauntily clad Beach Huts accommodation next door add a strong seaside... Find out more

Nearby breweries

The Steam Exchange Company

South Australia seems to have more than its fair share of craft breweries in significant historical locations, and The Steam Exchange Brewery is no exception. It’s housed in a heritage-listed former railway goods... Find out more

Campsites around town

Barker Knoll camping area (boat-based camping) 13 km

This is a great beach location for self-sufficient campers, right at the Murray Mouth and reached only by boat via Goolwa or Mundoo Channel, or from Hindmarsh Island. Pick up a permit from the self-registration station.... Find out more

Godfreys Landing camping area (boat-based camping) 14 km

Beach camping just south of the Murray Mouth is accessible by boat only. Come equipped for self-sufficient camping, and pick up a permit from the self-registration station. There is a limit of 6 people per site.... Find out more

Cole Crossing camping area 19 km

Around 17 km north-east of Mt Compass, this peaceful camping area is reached from Cole Crossing Rd, 6 km south of Mt Magnificent Rd. No fires: only gas/fuel stoves are permitted.... Find out more

Waitpinga camping area 29 km

Sheltered sites are set amongst coastal scrub a short stroll from Waitpinga Beach, 16 km south-west of Victor Harbor. Access is from Range and Dennis rds. A permit is required and cooking is by gas/fuel stove only.... Find out more

Mark Point camping area 30 km

Close to the water, with a boat launch, Mark Point is reached from Mark Point Rd, 35 km west of Meningie. Permits are available from self-registration stations within the park.... Find out more

Jacks Paddock camping area 32 km

Opposite Kuitpo Hall, with access from Christmas Hill Rd, this paddock campground is 11 km south of Meadows. With a restored barn and horseyards, it’s recommended for group camping. Arrange your booking and permit... Find out more

Woodcutters Cottage 33 km

This former youth hostel is a 4-room stone cottage with a lounge, kitchen and sleeping room for 12, plus room nearby for tents. It is just 2 km from the information centre on Brookman Rd. Booking is necessary and a... Find out more

Chookarloo camping area 34 km

Creekside camping is permitted just 1.5 km from Kuitpo’s main information centre, 8 km south-west of Meadows on Brookman Rd.... Find out more

Rocky Creek Hut camping area 40 km

On the Heysen Trail, this camping area next to a cottage is on Razor Back Rd, 7 km north-west of Meadows. The stone cottage has a wood heater, sink, rainwater tank and sleeping platforms for 8. There is a short walk from... Find out more

Caravan parks around town

Goolwa Caravan Park 4 km

Located 4 km from the town centre, in a quiet waterside area, this is a big park with large numbers of both annual sites and powered tourist sites, as well as an enormous number of unpowered sites. Reservations must be... Find out more

Port Elliot Holiday Park 9 km

Located just 2 km from Port Elliot, between Victor Harbor and Goolwa in a fabulous beachfront position, this is an excellent place to stay year round. We feel this is one of the great seaside caravan parks on the... Find out more

Victor Harbor Beachfront Holiday Park 16 km

Right on the beachfront, this park is also within walking distance of the town centre (1.5 km). It is a quality tourist park with good facilities. Ideal for a few days or an extended stay, bookings are required during... Find out more

Milang Lakeside Caravan Park 21 km

This neat and shady park on the western shores of Lake Alexandrina is the ideal getaway destination for those wanting to have a few quiet days in a waterside location. Bookings are required during Christmas and Easter... Find out more

Mount Compass Caravan Park 22 km

As neat as a pin, this newer caravan park in a rural setting has reached a high standard in its early years. It is a great inland base for exploring the Fleurieu Peninsula. Bookings are required in peak periods.... Find out more

McLaren Vale Lakeside Caravan Park 39 km

This is a spacious, quality park amid the vineyards of the McLaren Vale region. If you want to experience the great wines from the multitude of cellar-door outlets, you will find the park the best base on this part of... Find out more

Big 4 Port Willunga Tourist Park 40 km

In a quiet rural location about 4 km from Aldinga, this is a spacious park with well-established shady trees. Bookings are necessary at Christmas, January, Easter and long weekends and a minimum-stay period applies.... Find out more

Jetty Caravan Park - Normanville 43 km

This is a neat tourist park alongside the beach. Bookings are required during Christmas and Easter holidays and a minimum-stay period applies at Christmas, January, Easter and long weekends.... Find out more

Moana Beach Tourist Park 44 km

Only a short distance from the Moana town centre and close to the beach, this park is also not far from Adelaide’s southern suburbs. Bookings are required at Christmas, January, Easter and long weekends. There is a... Find out more

Hotels, motels & B&Bs around town

Ginger Blue – The Studio

A converted artist’s studio in the heart of town, Ginger Blue is quirky, romantic and perfect for two. It’s only a short amble to the historic wharf and local shops, but this delightful haven offers a real... Find out more

Jackling Cottage

Built in the 1860s for the lime burner and river boatman William Jackling, this quaint bluestone residence retains strong links to the past while boasting some very modern flourishes. Fully self-contained, it offers two... Find out more

The Yellow House

Splashes of sunny colour are an energising element in the Yellow House. A generously scaled residence for families and larger groups, it has a vast living and dining space, four bedrooms, two bathrooms, huge balcony... Find out more

Boatman’s Cabin

This snug timber cabin is an inspired version of the classic waterfront boathouse. Though compact, it has all you need for a relaxing getaway: two neat bedrooms, a fully equipped kitchen and a light and airy living and... Find out more

Coorong Beach House

Sensational water views across to the Murray mouth and Southern Ocean surf are just part of the buzz at this artfully presented holiday home. The standard of the interior appointments and contemporary decor is... Find out more

Eco-friendly places to stay around town

Ridgetop Retreats 51 km

Three funky, architecturally designed cabins sit in quiet seclusion in Deep Creek Conservation Park at the tip of the Fleurieu Peninsula. They have solar hot water, composting toilets, two bedrooms, floor-to-ceiling... Find out more

What's on around town

Goolwa Wharf Markets: 1st and 3rd Sun each month.

Milang to Goolwa Freshwater Sailing Classic: Jan.

Wooden Boat Festival: odd-numbered years, Mar.

comments powered by Disqus