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Wellington is the original punt crossing the Murray River

Wellington mapWellington

Originally established as a private enterprise in 1839, the Wellington Punt was the earliest and most important ferry crossing on the Murray River.

The Wellington ferry was a vital link on the Great Eastern Road to Victoria, being used by travellers, stock and the mail service.

In 1849 the South Australian Government took over its operation and constructed a new ferry landing which, in the early 1850s, served the escort coaches bringing gold to Adelaide from the Victorian goldfields.

The Wellington ferry was busy. Reports for February 1852 indicated that a total of 1234 people and 1266 horses and bullocks, pulling 164 carriages, crossed the river during that month. Total fees collected were £64. During October to November of the same year the punt serviced 3000 passengers, 361 carriages and 2777 draught oxen.

The early ferry services unreliable and sometimes dangerous and out of action for several days at a time. Sand drifts from the Lake region caused extreme concern and often became a barrier to the crossing. Recurring floods also interfered with the ferry service.

At least four Wellington punts have sunk during a crossing. Perhaps the most notable was in 1958 when the ferry sank with a truckload of cattle and three cars. The divers who later recovered the vehicles reported that there were other derelict punts on the river bottom.

Historic Ferry Crossing

The stone wall is the remaining evidence of the six foot high barrier that protected the road and the old ferry landing. This wall kept the ferry road open when West Wellington became engulfed by sand drifts during the latter half of the nineteenth century.

Wellington puntFrom the early 1850s visitors and residents wrote about the problems caused by the shifting sands in this area. A traveller in 1889 reported that 'we found to our astonishment a six foot high wall on both sides of the road and this drifted full of sand, so forming a hill ... The drift was so high in places to be only two feet from the telegraph wires.".

The former Wellington Ferry Road and Stone Wall is a significant State Heritage Place protected by the Heritage Places Act 1993.

Ferries and Punts on the Murray

Many overlanders used drays as temporary punts to cross waterways, but ferries provided the first regular crossings at strategic points along the river. As traffic increased bridges were constructed at some locations but in many places ferries still operated today as important links along South Australian roads.

The early puts were privately owned but were later replaced by councils or government owned vessels.

Until the early 1900s all ferries were hand-operated and passengers were frequently asked to assist in winding the cable. It was a tedious and back breaking job, especially when the punt was loaded with stock.

At some sites a bell was located on each side of the river to call the ferry when a crossing was required

The introduction of motorised services in 1910-11 was a great boon to the traveller, reducing the crossing times significantly.

Today's river ferries are operated by the State Government and are designed to safely carry large vehicles.

There are 12 ferries crossing the Murray River in South Australia, each individually named for one of the water birds of the river.

GPS: Zone 54 E 0353189 N 6089007
Panel is north of the ferry landing, in front of the Courthouse

Interpretive panels are located at:

River Boat Trail | Border Cliffs | Renmark | Berri | Loxton | Waikerie | Morgan | Blanchetown | Mannum
Murray Bridge | Tailem Bend | Wellington | Meningie | Point Malcolm | Milang | Goolwa

Please do not interfere in any way with ship-wrecks and land based heritage sites

Published with permission of Government of South Australia
Department for Environment and Heritage


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