The Historical Port on the Murray River in Echuca was built in 1865 to support sawmills in the area. The wharf is three stories high, and in its heyday supported a fleet of paddle steamers larger than anywhere in the world, until the late 1880s when trains and trucks took over the transport of goods.
You can wander through the main street along the port, still kept as a dirt road which adds to the historical feel of the place. A log buggy with a large log on it sits in the street, that was pulled by bullock team around the 1870s, and various horse-drawn carts sit on the side of the road.
The street is free to enter, with many of the buildings heritage listed and open operating as a business, such as the Star Hotel. To get a full experience of the Echuca Wharf, go to the Port of Echuca Discovery Centre. Entry to the discovery centre lets you follow the guided daily tour (at either 11.30am or 1.30pm), as well as wander around the discovery centre itself.
There are lots of options for adding something extra, such as add a one hour cruise with Echuca Paddlesteamers or Murray River Paddlesteamers. An after-dark tour with ghost stories and things unexplained on some nights (with minimum numbers required) provides a different perspective for the tour. Or get the heritage package, which includes the discovery centre, one hour cruise, entry to the National Holden Motor Museum , entry to the Echuca Historical Society Museum, and entry to the Great Aussie Beer Shed.
We took the one-hour cruise option on the PS Pevensey with Echuca Paddlesteamers. The PS stands for Paddle Steamer. The Pevensey was built in 1911 and named after a sheep property on the Murrumbidgee River. In its early years it carried bales of wool from different properties and brought them to the wharf at Port Echuca and the wool was then put onto trains to be taken to Melbourne for shipping overseas.
The PS Pevensey was restored in 1973, maintaining its original steam engine. It has had a stint of fame on television too, starring as the Philadelphia in All the River Run, an Australian mini-series from the 1980s.
The cruise left at 10.15, also providing a view of the wharf from the water and arrived back in time to go on the 11.30am walking tour, learning about the history of how Echuca first began with ex-convict Henry Hopwood starting a river crossing service Hopwood’s Ferry.
The remains of the original wharf pylons were pointed out to us in the water, and where the wharf finished marked with a red spot on a tree in the distance. The wharf was over a quarter of a mile long (over 400m), and the Port stretched out at 1.2km.
The tour takes you through some of the buildings. The tunnel in the Star Hotel was built when the hotel lost its license to serve alcohol. An illegal underground bar let drinkers to continue drinking their grog. The tunnel leads to the backyard so when police raided the building from the front they could escape through the tunnel.
To get there:
If coming toward Echuca along Murray Valley Hwy heading West, turn right into High St 280m after the railway crossing. Follow High St for 2.2km, and turn right into Leslie St. The Historic Port is straight ahead.
If coming toward Echuca along Murray Valley Hwy heading East, turn left into Warren St towards Echuca City Centre. Follow Warren St for 2.1km, and turn right at the roundabout into High St. Turn left into Leslie St after 200m and the Historic Port is straight ahead.
If coming from NSW over the Murray River on the Cobb Hwy, turn right at the roundabout about 200m after crossing the bridge. Follow Heygarth St for 500m and turn right at the roundabout into High St and continue for another 400m. Turn right into Leslie St and the Historic Port is straight ahead.
Cost: Free to walk around outside
Cost Discovery Centre: Adult $14.00, Child (4-14) $8.00, Concession $11.00, Family (1 Adult, up to 4 children) $37.00, Family (2 Adult, up to 4 children) $45.00
Cost Discovery Centre plus 1 hour cruise: Adult $36.50, Child (4-14) $18.00, Concession $31.25, Family (1 Adult, up to 4 children) $74.75, Family (2 Adult, up to 4 children) $101.75
Heritage Package: Adult $55.00, Child (4-14) $26.00, Concession $49.00, Family (2 Adult, up to 4 children) $171.00
Port After Dark Tour: Person $19.50
Hours Discovery Centre: Mon-Sun 9am-5pm, Christmas Day Closed
Hours Port After Dark Tour: May-Sep Wed 8pm-9pm, Fri-Sat 8pm-9pm, Oct-Apr Wed 9pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 9pm-10pm, minimum numbers required before tour proceeds
Tables: Yes, in hotels
Seating: Yes, along street and in hotels
Food: Yes, in hotels
Wheelchair accessible: Yes, under the wharf may be difficult, and the Star Hotel Tunnel is skipped on the guided tour. Cruises will require some assistance, with PS Canberra or Pride of the Murray best options, contact Port of Echuca to discuss.