The Goolwa Riverboat Centre is normally open from 10.00 am to 3.00 pm on every day of the year except for Good Friday and Christmas Day, depending on the availability of volunteer staff.

Entry into the museum is free.
The boat is also open for inspection whenever the centre is open, and the boat is moored at the wharf.
This is also free.

The Goolwa Riverboat Centre occupies the historic wharf shed, through which the goods unloaded from the paddle steamers engaged in the river trade, passed during transhipment to railway freight trucks. It is therefore an important item in the heritage of both the local district and the River Murray system.

These days, in its role as the home of the P.S. Oscar W,
it provides the facilities for booking passengers on the popular regular cruising days.

As a museum, it houses many exhibits that illustrate the river and its place in the development of Australia, including many models of boats from the trading era, as well as historic photos and relics of the former trade, all backed up by panels discussing the various artefacts and their place in history.

A few of the models on display.

The Goolwa wharf shed in its historic and modern context.

A large mural of the above photo taken during regatta day in 1922 provides an imposing backdrop for the historic exhibits as it illustrates the role of the wharf shed as the connecting link between the river trade and railway transportation.
This photo, from the Godson collection, along with many others depicting all aspects of the history of the state,
is held by the State Library of South Australia.
These images can be accessed through the following link:

As well as artefacts from the boats engaged in the river trade, the museum houses the beam engine, imported from Britain in the 1850s to aid in the construction of the breakwater at Port Eliot. This breakwater was needed to provide protection for the ships to which the goods were transported from Goolwa on the first public railway constructed in Australia.
It should be noted here that the colony of South Australia was only settled in 1836,
so this item was brought in only 15 years into the colony’s history.
This engine was later installed at a shipbuilding yard in Goolwa and remained in use until the 1930s.

Another significant item is a replica of the canoe built in Melbourne by Francis Cadell and paddled from Swan Hill to Goolwa 1854 in order to assess the suitability of the River Murray for navigation by larger vessels, providing for the carriage of goods and people to and from the inland areas of the continent.
The original was named the "Forerunner", and the replica, "Forerunner III", was constructed in 2001 for a
re-enactment of Cadell's pioneering journey during the celebration of the centenary of Federation.

Of course the star museum exhibit is the P. S. Oscar W itself.

It is open for inspection whenever the Riverboat Centre is open and it is berthed at the wharf.
Entry onto the boat, and to the museum as well, is quite free.

Another major item that is too large to be housed in the centre is the barge Dart built at Goolwa in 1912. The barges, hauled by the paddle steamers, were an integral part of the river trade. The Dart which is currently being prepared for restoration is located under the Hindmarsh Island Bridge, just a short walk from the Centre.
For the safety of visitors this vessel is NOT accessible.

Recently restored by the Friends of the Oscar W, and awaiting council to decide on a suitable location, is the last remaining example of several wharf cranes used to load and unload cargo from the river boats and their barges. Presently in pieces out at the council depot, this exhibit will feature a new wooden boom, and a goods wagon, kindly donated by the 'MORGAN MUSEUM’ from the ‘HISTORIC PORT OF MORGAN WHARF & RAIL PRECINCT’,
converted into a base for the crane to depict it as it was in its heyday. It too will be displayed outside.

The historic exhibits are discussed on the many explanatory panels scattered through the museum, and there are numerous photos illustrating the river trade. As well as the static information on display, the museum features a continuously running video display featuring the river. Patrons can sit down to view the videos shown in comfort.

All the facilities associated with the Oscar W are provided and maintained on a completely voluntary basis, and, as with all such volunteer endeavours, money has to be raised in order to ensure their continued existence. Of course, much of the finance required to keep the boat running, and the museum operating, is raised by the regular cruising days, and by numerous charters. However, the centre also makes a contribution, and to this end it has numerous items for sale, including books, DVDs, clothing, toys, ornaments, postcards and other souvenirs.

An important aspect of the centre’s role is to provide school groups with an insight into the significance of the part played by the river boats in the development of Australia. There is a 50% discount on the normal fee for chartering the boat available to such groups, making this an economical addition to a bus trip to the district.

P.S. Oscar-W