Welcome to the Port of Echuca Discovery Centre
The bustling Port of Echuca is recognised as one of Australia’s finest heritage icons.
Built in 1865 by the Victorian Railways, the Port of Echuca Wharf was crucial to Echuca’s development. For many years, Echuca was the main shipbuilding centre for the river transport industry. Some of the boats built in Echuca, such as the PS Adelaide, still operate on the Murray River today. At its peak, Echuca supported 8 sawmills and turned over up to 240 paddlesteamers a year.
Today, the Port represents the pageantry of the river trade’s heyday and offers an extraordinary insight into our pioneering days. The Echuca Wharf is a surviving part of the great red gum wharf, which once stretched more than a quarter of a mile.
Learn about the bustling river trade of the 1800s, discover the Star Hotel with it's underground bar, and hear fantastic but true tales of the Murray River on your next visit to Port of Echuca.
“We’ve trained the young blokes to maintain the paddlesteamers. We’ve got the people to drive them, and people want to see them.”
Boat building was an important industry in Echuca in the late 1800s, mainly due to the endless supply of superior red gum in the nearby Barmah, Moira and Perricoota forests. Today, shipwrights still based at Port of Echuca continue to practice their trade in ways that bring the river heritage to the local community and tourists alike.
Over the years Port of Echuca has assembled a skilled team responsible for several major paddlesteamer restoration projects. As the late Kevin Hutchinson, former senior shipwright of the Port said, “Rebuilding paddlesteamers is a team effort. Although I have been the leader you need a good lot of workers to do the job and I have been lucky to find a team for each major restoration.”
The work of Kevin and his team has made an enormous contribution to both the local community and Australia’s heritage. Although a lot of the old skills have been forgotten, Kevin has always been confident it will all keep going.
P.S. Adelaide is the oldest wooden hulled paddlesteamer still operating anywhere in the world. She was built at Echuca in 1866 for J.C. Grassey and Partners. She is now moored at Echuca Wharf and used for special occasions.
One of the fastest paddlesteamers on the Murray, PS Adelaide is rumoured to be named after Her Majesty Queen Adelaide. “Adelaide” was also a popular ladies’ name during the riverboat trade era.
She was used by her original owners to transport wool to Echuca from nearby stations. She was also a part-time passenger boat, bringing the ladies into town to do their shopping. When PS Adelaide was purchased by the Murray River Sawmill Co, she began her long life as a logging steamer.
P.S. Adelaide towed four empty barges upstream to the Barmah forest to collect the red gum logs. The logs that were being transported were tied with chains to logs that stretched across the deck. The cargo then hung down in the water. PS Adelaide would then bring the load home to the mill at Echuca.
In 1957 Murray River Sawmills started to use trucks to transport the logs and PS Adelaide was sold and went to South Australia. In 1960 she plied the Murray River back home again and remained there until 1963. Because of the rise and fall of the river, a group of dedicated people tirelessly adjusted the ropes daily to prevent the unused boat from tilting hazardously on the bank. Eventually, she was raised out of the water by a series of locks and placed in the Hopwood Gardens where she remained for 21 years until restoration finally began in 1980. In 1984 PS Adelaide was refloated and in October 1985 she was re-commissioned by Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales during a Royal Visit to celebrate Victoria’s 150th Anniversary.
PS Adelaide operates at the Port of Echuca as a passenger boat carrying 49 passengers per trip. On special occasions she even tows one of her four original barges, the D26.
P.S. Adelaide is special because she is the oldest wooden paddlesteamer still operating on any river in the world. PS Adelaide is also 100% Australian made.
The P.S. Success was built in Moama in June 1877 by G.B. Air for Westwood & Air.
In the old days, the Success towed barges of sawn red gum, wool and other cargo along the Darling and Murray rivers, as well as running as a passenger boat from Swan Hill to Mildura during 1915-16.
The Success ended her working life in 1957 and was put up on the bank at Ned’s Corner Station, 80 km west of Mildura. In 1996 her owners, the Pollard Family, donated the vessel to the Riverboat Historical and Preservation Society of Mildura, with plans to restore the vessel to her former glory.
However, additional funds were required to proceed with hull renovations. Becoming increasingly difficult for the dedicated volunteers to handle, the group approached the Shire of Campaspe to take ownership of the Success to enable further restoration.
A static exhibit, the wooden hull of the PS Success is currently located in the northern end of the Port in the Log Yard. Here, traditional shipwrighting methods are explained. Tour guides additionally use the hull to demonstrate the “caulking” process which is used to seal joints or seams in various structures. It is hoped that in the future, funds can be raised to support a full restoration.
The Success was the last paddlesteamer to carry wool along the Darling and Murray rivers in 1956.