Located 251 km north of Adelaide, with a population of around 200 permanent residents, Port Germein was once famous for the fact that it boasted the longest jetty in the southern hemisphere. The water was so low that a jetty of 1646 metres (you can try and measure it - other sources insist it is 1676 metres and 1680 metres) was built to cater for the ships which came to the port to collect the wheat harvest. Once you arrive in the town you will see immediately, particularly if you arrive during low tide, why the jetty is so long.
The first European into the area was Captain Matthew Flinders who, in 1802, circumnavigated Australia and, while en route, named Spencer Gulf after Earl Spencer who, at the time, was the President of the Admiralty Board.
There is some argument as to how the port got its name. One source insists that Captain John Germein discovered the inlet during his explorations of the coast in 1840 while other sources claim that it was John's brother, Samuel Germein, who discovered the inlet while taking stores to Edward Eyre at the head of Spencer Gulf in 1840. One thing is certain: one member of the Germein family is honoured by the name of the town.
The development of the district as an important producer of wheat led to the building of the jetty in the 1880s by John Wishart. The Port Germein Hotel dates from 1881 and still evokes a world where clippers from all over the world came to take cargoes of wheat and where sailors drank while on their too-brief shore leave.
The aim of the jetty was to provide a safe point where wheat from the mid-northern area of South Australia could be directly loaded onto ocean going vessels for export to Europe. This never occurred because most of the ships still had to moor another 800 metres offshore and be loaded by wheat which was transferred first to lighters and then to the ships. It is claimed that at its peak Port Germein was the largest grain loading port in Australia.
The port continued to operate until the 1940s. Today it is a quiet holiday town which comes to life each New Years Eve with the Festival of the Crab, a celebration of the excellence of the local blue crabs. The first festival, held in 1982, was designed to raise funds to restore the jetty to its original state.
Things to see
The Anchor and Plough
In the main street is an anchor and a plough with the inscription '1878-1978 Dedicated to the seafarers and pioneers of Port Germein and District. Unveiled by John T. Germein, Esq. a descendant of Captain John Germein on 7 October 1978.'
This two storey building on the waterfront was once a famous local pub named the Pier Hotel where sailors, local farmers and wharfies used to meet. It is claimed that one seaman was murdered in the pub during a brawl. Times changed and it became a general store but it has recently been restored to its original hotel appearance. Next to the Continental/Pier Hotel is a monument which provides an interesting depiction of the clippers which used to carry grain from Port Germein around 1920.
Telowie Gorge Conservation Park
Located 10 km east of Port Germein Telowie Gorge is a scenic park at the southern end of the Flinders Ranges which has a community of yellow-footed rock wallabies living in an environment characterised by a number of different eucalypts including the Yellow Gum, the Sugar Gum and the Red River Gum.
Port Germein Jetty
Prepare yourself for a long walk. The Port Germein jetty is the longest in South Australia and, reputedly, the longest in the southern hemisphere.
Bangor Historic Site.
On the road between Port Germein and Murraytown is the Bangor Historic Site. This is a really interesting drive. Beside the river the amount of stonework which has gone into establishing the roadway is quite remarkable.
The information on the plaque informs the visitor: 'The Bangor Historic Site. The Mount Remarkable Special Survey was purchased in 1846 to acquire mineral rights to a discovery of a copper ore near Mount Remarkable. When the special survey was subdivided in 1853 the township of Bangor was surveyed at the southern end but it never developed.
A road through the Port Germein gorge opened in 1879 to allow grain to be carted from the eastern side of the ranges to Port Germein. The Gorge Hotel was erected by Thomas Kurner in 1888 as a stopping point for carters. This subsequently became known as Bangor. Up to 100 bullock and horse teams were camped at any one time at the creek opposite the hotel. The hotel closed in 1911 when the extension to railway greatly reduced the traffic through the gorge. Several other buildings were erected near the hotel, including a school, post office, shop and blacksmith. All have been demolished. A school opened in 1887 in a building which later became the hotel stables. The school was relocated in 1905 and a building transported from Port Germein School; it closed in 1964. The Post office opened in 1887 and closed in 1931.'
All that is left now are the ruins of the hotel and a plaque which was put up in 1986 which depicts the hotel. It is still possible to inspect the ruins and, in your mind, reconstruct the hotel by looking at the illustration on the plaque.
Located 242 km from Adelaide and 36 km from Port Germein, Wirrabara was originally settled by Europeans in 1844. It is claimed that 'wirrabara' is a local Aboriginal word meaning 'creek with big trees' although other sources claim it means 'running water, rushing winds'. It is a pretty area which is known for its State pine forests (and the timber mill) as well as its peach orchards. In the main street is an old steam engine used to cut timber in the pine forest.