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Goolwa is a historic river port on the Murray Rivermarker near the Murray Mouth in South Australiamarker, and joined by a bridge to Hindmarsh Islandmarker. The name "Goolwa" means "elbow" in Ngarrindjeri, the local Aboriginal language.

Goolwa is approximately 100 km south of Adelaidemarker, at the base of the Alexandrina Councilmarker. It is in the state electoral district of Finniss and the federal Division of Mayo. Goolwa has a population of approximately 6,000.


Before 1837 Goolwa was briefly considered as the site of the colony's capital; however, the treacherous waters of the Murray Mouth for shipping made it unsuitable as a major port. Goolwa was Australia's first inland port (1857). Australia's first railway was built to connect Goolwa to Port Elliotmarker and later extended to Victor Harbormarker, allowing goods to move from river boats to sea boats, so that neither had to negotiate the Murray Mouth. The spread of railways to inland Australia put an end to the river trade and Goolwa's importance as a port. In the 1970s the paddle boat Murray River Queen was built in a dry dock on Hindmarsh Island. For many years the Murray River Queen was based at Goolwa and made week-long trips up the river. It is now based at Waikerie as a floating hotel, making afternoon and dinner cruises in the Riverland.


Every odd-numbered year, Goolwa hosts the South Australian Wooden Boat Festival. The town is a popular holiday destination and home to the PS Oscar W, a paddle steamer.

Goolwa, along with its neighbouring towns of Middleton and Port Elliotmarker and the city of Victor Harbormarker have in the 2000s enjoyed a nationally recognised "sea change" boom, with people moving there from more metropolitan areas for an improved lifestyle on the coast. The local councils are left with the dilemma of how to provide sufficient services for the influx of new residents, while at the same time not spoiling the character and appeal of the area that attracts newcomers.

In March 2007, Goolwa was declared a Cittaslow by visiting cittaslow representatives. Goolwa was the first non-European town to gain cittaslow status.

Goolwa is currently suffering from one of the worst droughts in Australian history and the river which has sustained the town throughout its history is now reduced to nothing much more than a channel and mudflats. Ongoing discussions with state and federal governments aim to release more water from upstream to ensure the survival of the river.


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