Tailem Bend

Tailem Bend
Important transport centre built on a cliff overlooking the Murray River.
Located 99 km east of Adelaide and 21 metres above sea level, Tailem Bend is one of those Australian towns where no one really knows the origins of its name. Some people argue that it is a corruption of the Ngarrindjeri word 'thelim' meaning 'bend' (as the town is located near a very major bend in the river). Others insist the origins go back to Donald Gollan, one of the early European settlers, who called his property 'Taleam'. Still others say it has something to do with cutting tails off sheep and others argue that it was Aboriginal advice on how to get cattle to swim across the Murray 'bendem tail, boss' which sounds truly dubious.

Prior to European settlement the area was inhabited by the Ngarrindjeri people (they are the same people who fought over secret women's business at Goolwa). They made bark and reed canoes, and lived on the fish and animals which came to live beside the river.

The Ngarrindjeri people were decimated by the arrival of Europeans. The combination of smallpox (which raged all the way up the Murray River) and massacres saw the numbers drop dramatically.

The first European into the area was Captain Charles Sturt who, being assigned to solve the great mystery of why so many rivers flowed westward from the Great Dividing Range (often known as the question of whether Australia had an 'inland sea') rowed a whale boat down the Murrumbidgee in late 1829 and reached the present site of Tailem Bend in early February before entering Lake Alexandrina, at the mouth of the Murray river, on 9 February, 1830.

Following Sturt the whole area along the Murray was opened up particularly by overlanders who moved sheep and cattle across the land. By the 1840s there was a ferry across the Murray River at Wellington which meant that the more difficult terrain, particularly the high cliffs, around Tailem Bend were overlooked in the development of the river bank.

The town's real roots lie in the railway. It is essentially a railway town was created when the railway came through the area in 1886. The town was proclaimed in 1887. If you doubt the importance of the railway try and think how many towns you have visited where the railway line (and the attractive local railway station) run alongside the main street.

Things to see:

Old Tailem Bend Pioneer Village
Located on the South Eastern Freeway 5 km north of Tailem Bend this is a very extensive historic village which contains more than 70 old buildings including corner stores, emporiums, dance halls, hospitals, dentists, chemists, barbers, butchers, bakers, saddlers, clock shops, bootmakers, pubs, stables, police stations, coach and bike shops and the Cobb & Co terminus. Peter Squires, who created the town, writes: 'I started building Old Tailem Town in 1982 after visiting Swan Hill's village in 1971. I gathered buildings from a 150 mile radius and put them together in a form of an old town depicting the times from 1920 to 1960.' The buildings include the Long Flat Town Hall (1905), Murray Bridge Railway Administration Office (1906), Wolseley Methodist Church (1900), Langhorne Creek bakershop (1920), Wattleford Methodist Church (1900), Peake Railway Station (1906). Details (08) 8572 3838, open 10.00 a.m. - 5.00 p.m. daily.

Poltalloch Homestead
Built in 1876 at Narrung this beautiful Victorian mansion is a reminder of the wealth that was generated in the area at this time. Today it is still a working farm being operated by the descendants of John Bowman who established it as a sheep and cattle station. The outbuildings resemble a small village and include substantial stables, a coach house, barns, a woolshed and the manager's accommodation. It is open for tours and overnight accommodation. Bookings are essential. Contact (08) 8574 0043.

Tailem Bend Tourist Information
87-89 Railway Tce
Tailem Bend SA 5260
Telephone: (08) 8572 4277
Facsimile: (08) 8572 4277

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River Bend Motel
110 Princes Hwy
Tailem Bend SA 5260
Telephone: (08) 8572 3633 or (08) 8572 3620
Rating: ***

Riverside Hotel
80 Princes Hwy
Tailem Bend SA 5260
Telephone: (08) 8572 3655

Tailem Bend Hotel
77 Railway Tce
Tailem Bend SA 5260
Telephone: (08) 8572 3515

Poltalloch Station Guesthouse
Narrung PMB 3
Tailem Bend SA 5260
Telephone: (08) 8574 0043
Facsimile: (08) 8574 0065
Rating: ***

Rivers Edge Caravan & Tourist Park
Princes Hwy
Tailem Bend SA 5260
Telephone: (08) 8572 3307 or 018 813 748
Rating: **

Westbrook Park River Resort
Princes Hwy P.O. Box 23
Tailem Bend SA 5260
Telephone: (08) 8572 3794

Riverside Hotel
80 Princes Hwy
Tailem Bend SA 5260
Telephone: (08) 8572 3655

Tailem Bend Hotel
77 Railway Tce
Tailem Bend SA 5260
Telephone: (08) 8572 3515

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