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As well as everything else going on in my life, I have recently enjoyed a number of one-day excursions to different locations outside of Adelaide. They have all be terrific, adding to the joy and wonderment I am currently experiencing in discovering parts of Australia that I had never been to, nor ever knew were so wonderful. Some of these excursions will be covered in Tony’s Tours: Dan Does Adelaide, whilst others will be given their own post. Two of these are the towns of Goolwa on the Murray River, and Clarendon in the McClaren Vale, two very different towns that are respectively about 100 kms and 30 kms outside of Adelaide.


Clarendon is a small village-town, nestled within a rather large gully near the Onkaparinga River in the Adelaide Hills, about 30 kms south of Adelaide. The surrounding region, is primarily for agriculture, with wheat, peas and potatoes being the major produce grown and harvested in this area. This is in contrast to other parts of what is the McLaren Vale region that is better known for producing top quality wines. Clarendon’s closeness to the Onkaparinga River assisted in making it  a relatively important and central place in the late-nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Today it is still central the region, with many of the well-preserved old historic buildings that line the main street and a few in the outer areas, being an excellent magnet for tourists. It is really a delightful little village.


Goolwa is about 100 kms south of Adelaide and is an old historic river port situated on the Murray River not far from where the Murray runs into the sea. Goolwa is aboriginal for ‘Elbow’, and the area was called as such in the early days of white settlement. In the 1830s it was considered as the site for state capital, but the treacherous waters at the mouth of the Murray River made it unsuitable as a port for large ships. It did,however, become a major inland port and of significant importance when paddle-steamers dominated trade on the Murray River and it’s tributaries; this included the inland port towns of Echuna and Swan Hill visited last December (see Tony’s Tours: Xmas 2015). With railways being established in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth century and becoming the new dominating method of transport and trade in the developing country, Goolwa lost its importance as major inland port and trading centre.

Today, however, Goolwa is a major town in the area, which also has a significant and diverse annual arts program. This visit, however, was very brief, so I really did not see a great deal of the town. The reason for my visit was to attend the opening of and exhibition by local photographic artist – Alex Frayne. Knowing of my new interest and passion for photography, particulalry landscape photography, my old friend Charles Maddison had invited me to accompany he and his lovely wife, Karen, to this opening; Charles is a friend of Alex Frayne’s.

This exhibition of Alex Frayne’s latest work of photos  from his series Fleurie Inscapewas held at the South Coast Regional Arts Centre, which use to be the old (and compact) nineteenth century Goolwa Police Station, Couthouse, and Gaol.


It is a terrific exhibition and I would heartily recommend it to anyone who is either in the local area, including Adelaide, as well as those holidaying and/or just passing through Goolwa. Alex Frayne gave an excellent introduction speech, which I found quite inspirational, covering artistic challenges such as the need to have an emotional ‘feel’ for a subject photographed, as well as the need to sometimes edit and remove things from a photo in order to de-clutter so that the main image is clearly focused and highlighted. Terrific!

We also had a quick look through this old historic building, the old Goolwa Police Station, including the well preserved inner courtyard where prisoners could daily exercise. The courtyard also contained three old, solid, and rather terrifying, solitary confinement prison cells.

Afterwards we wandered down to the Goolwa Wharf and the Murray River, taking in a couple of historic sites, as well as a couple of modern oddities, on the way.

We passed by the WW1 war memorial that stands overlooking the main street, and is directly opposite the old Australia Hotel.

On this short walk to the wharf we also passed a beautiful old historic house that once was the Railway Superintendant’s Cottage. Dating from 1852 it has a rather unique structure due to enforced circumstances of not having the (then) normal building structural frames and having to improvise – with a delightful result. The building now is home for the local radio station, with the music of David Bowie being broadcast over speakers in the beautiful garden.

Opposite to this old cottage was a memorial garden to all wars,in which Australians had fought, beginning with the Boer War, and marked by large boulders that surrounded the garden-park.


We passed under the arch of a new modern complex and across is garden-park, that contained a wonderful sun-dial, crossing the train tracks to reach the wharf.


Standing at the modern Goolwa Wharf and looking at modern developments, buildings as well as boats, it is perhaps a little difficult to imagine it full of paddle-steamers and other old-world boats; maybe this is me being too romantic. However, whilst the old paddle-steamers may have gone, you can still catch an old steam train that operates as a tourist attraction between Mt Barker and Goolwa, arriving and departing from the Goolwa Wharf Station, right on the Murray River, the original train station and platform that has been well preserved.

The Goolwa Wharf lies directly opposite Hindmarsh Island, and to the left facing the island the controversial Hindmarsh Bridge; a relatively modern bridge and quite impressive it is own way, yet was and still is a point of contention between ‘white’ and ‘indigenous’ Australians. When the bridge was first commissioned, designed and built in the 1990s it was vigorously opposed by the local indigenous tribes and inhabitants, claiming  ‘Native Title’ precedency and that it violated a sacred site dedicated to ‘women’s business’. At this time, transport between Hindmarsh Island and the mainland was a single barge-ferry. Whilst the ‘Native Title‘ claim had legitimacy, nonetheless, in the name of progress, the bridge went ahead; with support from both ‘white’ and ‘black’ local South Australian citizens. The bridge has been opened nearly twenty years, and it has significantly assisted in developing Goolwa and Hindmarsh Island as significant and relatively prosperous towns in current times. Unfortunately, it is still somewhat a tender point with many local indigenous people, who steadfastly still refuse to use the bridge, as did the original protesters twenty-odd years ago in a non-violent shaming response to the bridge being constructed.

We found a delightful modern functioning Brewery in an old wharf warehouse, directly opposite the train station. It was terrific – with the machinery that goes into making ale on display, plus a small operating model toy railway. We ordered some of the local produced and settled in for a chat.

And thus our trip to Goolwa was over; we drove back to Adelaide via the, which offered some spectacular country vistas, finally reaching home about 6:00pm. A truly terrific day.