Signal Point Centre
A good place to start any exploration of Goolwa is Signal Point, a handsome modern building located at the Wharf near the ferry across to Hindmarsh Island. The Centre was completed in 1988, opened by Prince Charles, and is devoted to the Murray River in all its glory and complexity. There is an extensive photographic display, a history of human relationships with the river, lots of information on the old river boats which used to ply the river, and it offers an excellent explanation of how Goolwa fits into the history of the Murray. It is open seven days a week from 10.00 a.m. - 5.00 p.m. For more details contact (08) 8555 3488.
In 1987 the inner section of Goolwa was declared a State Heritage Area because of its importance as a river port from the 1850s to the 1880s. There is a brochure available which lists all the major buildings in this area. They include the Council Chambers in Cadell Street which incorporate the original Town Hall (1860) and which were modernised in 1878 and 1907; the Goolwa Hotel in Cadell Street which dates from 1853 and has the figurehead from the Mozambique out the front; the bow-fronted shop over the road from the hotel which dates from the 1850s; the attractive Soldiers Memorial Gardens in the middle of the town centre which were completed in 1917 and built on the site where the horse tramway used to go; the Post Office (built in 1857 and used by tramway passengers until 1872) in Goolwa Terrace opposite the Gardens; the Old Police Station and Court House in Goolwa Terrace which was built between 1859-74; the former railway horse stables behind the Post Office where the horses which pulled the train from Goolwa to Port Elliot were stabled (built 1862); the railway cutting behind the post office which dates from 1852; the Corio and former Australasian Hotels on the corner opposite the post office (both these buildings date from 1857 when the town was at its height - the Australasian closed in 1934 and was used as an office for the building of the Goolwa barrage until 1940) and, closer to the river, the Customs House (1859) which was built when Goolwa was proclaimed a port. At the back of this important collection of buildings is the Railway Superintendants House, known as the Round House, which dates from 1852 and is the oldest house in the town.
National Trust Museum
Located in an old Blacksmiths shop which was built around 1872, the town's National Trust Museum has an excellent collection of items which give the visitor an insight into the history of the Goolwa and Hindmarsh Island. It is located on Porter Street. For details of opening times contact (08) 8555 2221.
The Cockle Train
The steam train, a reminder of the origins of the town and the whole region, only runs during the school holidays but it runs three times a day from Goolwa to Victor Harbor stopping at Port Elliot. Details: (08) 8555 2691.
On the way out to the Barrages there is a special Bird Watching Hide where people can sit and observe the local birds. The Goolwa Barrage is open to visitors from 8.00 a.m. - 5.30 p.m. and it simply a question of walking through some rather pleasant and well tended gardens to reach the barrage where the sea water is separated from the fresh water of Lake Alexandrina.
In recent times Hindmarsh Island has been the subject of on-going problems between developers and the local Ngarrindjeri Aborigines. In essence there has been an attempt to build a bridge from Goolwa across to the island (like most local developments there is an inability to realise that there was something quite delightful about the ferry crossing) which has been the subject of numerous court appeals by the Ngarrindjeri who have argued that the bridge would materially damage a number of sacred sites. Given the appalling way the early settlers in the area treated the Ngarrindjeri (for more details read 'Conquest of the Ngarrindjeri' by Graham Jenkin) this ongoing insensitivity to their needs and requests is fairly typical of attitudes which have existed in the area for over a century. The battle was lost and the bridge was completed in 2001.
There are a number of cruise options (up the Murray, along the Coorong, across to Hindmarsh Island) which are available from Goolwa. For more information contact Goolwa Cruises (08) 8555 2203 or Coorong Experience (08) 8555 1133