Goolwa, is one of the fastest-growing holiday and resort destinations in South Australia, and with good reason. There are few places that so readily combine a deep sense of history and sense of place with the unlimited enjoyment of the sand and sea.
Originally prosperous as an inland port, Goolwa sits on the mouth of the Murray River and was the transfer point for goods coming from inland down the Murray River to oceangoing vessels, or for shipment onward to Victor Harbor. As time went on, developments changed the course of the town expansion: the railroad systems took over much of the river freight, and the harbour at Goolwa silted up partially, making it impassable for larger ships. Life in Goolwa transitioned to farming and fishing industries. Now, the township of roughly 6000 is a popular destination for holidaymakers from far and wide.
But don’t get the impression that a holiday in Goolwa is only an amble through sepia-toned history! This is a vibrant and growing community, focused on tourism and enjoyment of life (and was the first non-European city to be certified by Cittaslow International as a community focused on quality of life). Restaurants, pubs, family activities, plentiful holiday rental accommodations, and a long slate of activities make this a great choice for your holidays.
To pay respect to the relationship between Goolwa and the local waterways, take a ride on the PS Oscar W. The 103-ft. long paddle steamer was built in 1908 and still ferries passengers, reminiscent of the days when paddle steamers frequented the Murray. If you’re fortunate enough to visit in an odd-numbered year, the biennial South Australian Wooden Boat Festival is held in Goolwa as well. This festival includes a boat build-and-sail contest, raft building with native methods, live music, delicious local food and wines, and local artists’ displays all in one. Not to be missed! If you plan to join this festival, ensure that you are able to find a holiday rental home or villa nearby – you’ll need rest at some point!
Motorheads won’t be disappointed either, as the Goolwa Motor Museum (open Wednesdays – Saturdays) has an extensive display of fine automobiles from around the world. The collection spans builds from the 1920’s through the 1970’s, including some vintage custom builds. Be careful – a walk through this museum will have you making room in the garage for a classic of your own.
When it’s time for a quiet pursuit, spend some time in the wharf area. On the 1st and 3rd Sundays of each month, the Goolwa Wharf Markets offer up the best of local handicrafts, handmade furniture, the abundant local produce, and succulent local wines. Spending a day browsing here can really work up a thirst, so its fortunate that the Steam Exchange Brewery is in the neighbourhood as well. Stashed in a former railroad building constructed in the late 1870’s, the Steam Exchange Brewery offers up 4 distinctive microbrews. Try them all before you decide on a favourite.
Those familiar with the climate conditions in Adelaide will find no surprises in Goolwa. Expect warm days of 26 to 28 degrees Celsius and mild night from 14 to 16 degrees if you’re visiting from December through February. If you come later in the year, from June through August, expect days around 16 degrees, with nights falling to an average low of 7 degrees. Rainfall is moderate, and never presents an obstacle to the many activities on offer. Remember that peak seasons tend to be around the summer school holidays and the Easter break, so book holiday accommodations early to ensure first choice of locations.
Fortunately, times have changed. Reaching Goolwa in the “old days” would have meant a combination of sailing ships, river-bound paddle steamers, and maybe a train ride. Today’s travellers have it much easier. Once your holiday home in Goolwa is already booked, arrange your flights. Major air carriers have multiple daily departures from all of London’s airports to Adelaide. On arrival, hire a car and drive about 1.5 hours south (90 km) from the airport. Travel is mainly on A-roads (A6, A14, A13) in good repair.