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Beachport, SA

Idyllic and beautiful seaside holiday town

Beachport is an idyllic holiday destination. It has an historic charm about Railway Terrace with its elegant stone buildings and beyond the town centre it is a typical seaside resort with a relaxed beach holiday atmosphere. The appeal of the town is created by a wonderful mixture of Norfolk pines, pure aquamarine waters, beautiful white sands, a long jetty ideal for fishing and places where visitors can swim and boat. There are a number of significant historic buildings but mostly the appeal lies in the waters and the scenic drives, conservation parks and walking trails.


Beachport, a quiet coastal town south of the Coorong, is located 391 km south of Adelaide.


Origin of Name

The Beachport area was known as 'Wirmalngrang' to the Booandik First Nation peoples who lived in the area prior to the arrival of Europeans. In 1802 when Nicholas Baudin sailed along the coast he  named the section of the coast Rivoli after the Duke of Rivoli who had fought with Napoleon against the Austrians  in 1796. Some time after that it became simply Beachport. It is not self-evident. It was named after a parliamentarian named Hicks Beach.


Things to See and Do

Beachport's Historic Buildings
There is an excellent nineteen page Beachport's Historic Buildings Drive brochure which can be downloaded at http://www.wattlerange.sa.gov.au/webdata/resources/files/drive1.pdf. It lists a total of 25 places of historic interest around the town:

1. Customs Office
Located on the corner of Millicent Road and Railway Terrace. This small customs office was located at the railway yards. After 1901, when it was no longer needed, the building was used as a railway office for goods and railway workers. There are records of the customs. For the three months to 30 September 1879 the customs duties amounted to £95 13s 3p and included 108 gallons of bottled beer, 35 gallons of whisky and 735 pounds of tea. It was used by the ANZ Bank for some years but closed in 1997. There is a display which can be seen through the windows.

5. Jetty
The town is famed for its impressive jetty which is recognised as the second longest in the state. The jetty was started in 1878 but not finished until 1882 and was designed to deal with the shallow waters off the coast. It was originally intended to be 4,000 feet long but modifications have resulted in the current jetty which is approximately 2536 feet (772 metres) in length. In 1974-1975 the State government planned to demolish the part of the jetty but the locals successfully resisted the change.

7. Harbour Master's House
Located on the shore just beyond the roundabout, and only a hundred metres from the jetty, is the old Harbour Master's House. There was a time when Beachport was seen as becoming a major port and the house reflects the status of the Harbour Master.

8. Bompas
Heading up Railway Terrace from the roundabout the first elegant building on the left was builtin 1878 by Peter McQueen. It looks like a hotel and Espeth McQueen held the license until 1887. It was subsequently taken over by SA Brewing, became the ESA Bank and then became The Coffee Palace when the license was not renewed in 1889.

9. Old Wool & Grain Store - National Trust Museum
Located at 3 Railway Terrace next to Bompas, the Old Wool and Grain Store is now a National Trust Museum. It dates from the 1879-80, was built of local freestone with limestone quoins, and was originally constructed as a wool and grain store. The stores were held downstairs and the upstairs was used as a residence. When the District Council of Beachport was first formed in 1882, they leased an office in the building for 8 shillings per week. In 1912 the building was sold to Dalgety & Company. At one point a railway line ran from the store to the jetty. It was restored by the National Trust in 1972. The museum has a good collection of artefacts from the town's whaling and shipping past. Displays of blacksmith tools, farming and fishing gear, relics from local shipwrecks, copies of diaries and early household equipment are also exhibited. The upstairs rooms have been furnished in the style of the late 19th century. Open 10.00 am – 4.00 pm daily. Tel: (08) 8735 8013 or check out https://www.nationaltrust.org.au/places/beachport-old-wool-grain-store-museum.

10. The Institute
Located next door to the Old Wool and Grain Store is the Institute building which was built in 1882 specifically as a library and reading room for the local community. In 1952 it became the Beachport Institute Motion Picture Project and it currently operates as a cinema.

11. St Nicholas Church
The small timber building next to the Institute in Railway Terrace is a church which was moved to Beachport from Southend. The first service in the church was held in 1881. It was sold to the Beachport Institute in 1940 and used as a dressing room and supper room until, in 1975, it was restored by the National Trust.

12. Post Office
Located on Railway Terrace between Foster Street and Lanky Street, the Post Office was opened in 1880. The town had been received mail, twice weekly, since 1875. Prior to the construction of the post office the mail service had been housed in a tin shed. It is now a private residence.

14. Butcher's Shop
Located on the corner of Foster Street and Corigliano Street, this small butcher's shop operated continuously from 1879-1994. It remained continuously in the Pretty family from 1892-1994 and still has the original sign on the outside wall.

21. Lanky's Well
There is a short path, which starts at the corner of North West Terrace and Sutherland Street, down to Lanky's Well. The Historic Buildings Drive guide points out "Lanky was the last surviving member of the Buandik people the traditional owners of this area. A well was dug to water the Police horses which he cared for and in turn received a small wage. He was buried in the far corner of the Beachport cemetery, next to a little white girl, to give him a good place in the next world. A plaque with a death mask in the likeness of Lanky and the inscription “Lanky. Last of the local native tribe. Died 1904” has been placed on the cairn along with two aboriginal axe heads. This was erected by the late Mr Tom McCourt. The town of Beachport commemorates this early First Nation Tracker with Lanky’s Walk and Lanky Street." This is not quite correct. He was not the last of the Buandik people. In recent times there has been work by the local Wattle Range Council and the historical society to correct the earlier mistakes and to shine a light on his grave.

22. Old Police Station
On the corner of North West Terrace and Chambers Street is the Old Police Station (now a private house) which was built in 1881. It has since been moved but this rather handsome public structure still stands.

23. St Nicholas Church of England
Having passed the tiny St Nicholas next to the Museum here is the building that replaced it. Located on the corner of Railway Terrace and McCourt Street. The church was opened in this building in 1923. After 95 years of worship, it was deconsecrated July 1, 2018. The church had experienced a decline in attendance and was in need of major repairs to the roof and walls.

25. Beachport Hotel
Located in Railway Terrace and originally named the Bay View Hotel, this hotel was built in 1879-1880. In 1988 it was sold, renovated and renamed the Beachport Hotel.

Beachport Sculptures and Art Works
The town has an active program of sculptures and art works and, on a regular basis, extra works are being added. The well established works include:

* Driving from Millicent, as you approach Beachport, you will notice on your left (near the sand dunes) a sculpture depicting a boat, a fish and a sextant - images celebrating the town's association with fishing. The sculpture was designed by Andrew Stock and Tony Rosella. They were unveiled in 2000.

* In the park on the left between Millicent Road and Beach Road there is a sculpture featuring a lobster pot and recycled timber from the jetty. It was created by local residents and erected in 2009.

* Located near the beach on Beach Road, this sculpture by French Artists Dominique (Dume) Paolini and his partner Celine Gorget is titled “Native Vision”. It is a whale sculpture and it overlooks Rivoli Bay. It was unveiled in 2011. Dume explains that it "evolved out of the minds and hearts of the local people".

* Mosaic Shower Wall - A work in progress it was started in 2010 as the Mosaic Shower Wall Sea Dragon, built by locals with help from Mike Tye, a specialist in mosaic from Goolwa, and it is continuing to grow.

* Lagoon Area - located off Somerville Street (enter via Centennial Park) are a series of sculptures created by local artists with assistance from Dominique (Dume) Paolini and his partner Celine Gorget. They include (as the brochure at https://www.wattlerange.sa.gov.au/webdata/resources/files/Beachport%20Mosaic%20and%20Sculpture%20Walk%202016.pdf explains):
* The Magic Jetty sculpture is designed to allow visitors to let their imagination leap from its edge, across the ocean and through the borders of countries before landing safely in France.
* The Birds Nest is to represent the nest for the giant Birds swimming in the lagoon.
* Global Fish – reflection of poles in water and reflecting into France.
* Water Tap was designed from scrap metal that Dume Paolini recovered from a yard in Millicent his idea behind the wind tap “is that it will catch the wind in Beachport, if people flick the switch to France it will bring the wind from there to here” a pipe for the wind tap is located in France.
* Communique - Built in 2015 by Beachport local Rob Reeves. The idea behind the sculpture, “These pipes through cloud may now perchance send greetings to our friends in France”.
* There is a mosaic on the cinema wall in Railway Terrace which was created by local in 2006. It is a celebration of the local town with most of the mosaic being pieces of glass which was collected on the beaches around town. A bronze shell, cast by Rob Reeves, also hangs above the door to the cinema.


Other Attractions in the Area

Pool of Siloam
Located on the Scenic Drive 2 km to the west of the town, the Pool of Siloam (also known as the Beachport Salt Lake) is about as close as Australia gets to the Dead Sea. It is fed by underground springs and has a salinity seven times that of the sea. As a result of this very high level of salinity it is popular for therapeutic purposes and is so saline that swimmers will actually float ... just as they do in the Dead Sea.

Beachport Conservation Park
Located 10 km north of Beachport, Lake George is part of the Beachport Conservation Park. The park, which was established in 1959, is known as a place of "pristine beaches, beautiful coastlines, and diverse flora and fauna". There are a number of nature trails and it is ideal for bird watching. It is an important habitat for Lewin's Water Rail, Rufous Bristle Bird, Yellow Bellied Parrot and the Olive Whistler. There are also some particularly important Aboriginal middens in the area. Check out https://www.wattlerange.sa.gov.au/page.aspx?u=2339 for more information.

Penguin Island Conservation Park
There is a parking lot at the end of Foster Street and a short walk takes visitors to the lighthouse and a lookout across at Penguin Island. On Penguin Island it is possible to see the ruins of the first lighthouse which was constructed in 1877-1878 and  lit for the first time on 13th August 1878. The light was fuelled by kerosene and revolved every 10 seconds. There were two cottages on the island, built to house the two lighthouse keepers and their families. A school was also built to cater for children’s educational needs. The lookout offers an excellent view of the Penguin Island Conservation Park which is a wildlife sanctuary and breeding ground for silver gulls, little penguins and crested terns. It is also possible to see Australian fur seals at the water's edge. The island itself is characterised by 10-15 metre cliffs.

Cape Martin Lighthouse
The Cape Martin Lighthouse was built in 1960 to replace the Penguin Island lighthouse which had been operating since 1878. The light from Penguin Island was reused in the new structure which was converted to electricity in 1974. In 1980 the tower was raised to its current height of 12 metres so that it is now 15 metres from its base and 38 metres above sea level. For more information check out https://lighthouses.org.au/sa/cape-martin-lighthouse.

Woakwine Cutting
Located 12 km north of Beachport this cutting (ie huge trench) took Murray McCourt three years. He started in May, 1957 and finished in May, 1960. The result is probably Australia's biggest engineering feat performed by one person. By himself, Mr McCourt cut a kilometre long trench which was 3 metres wide at the bottom, 28 metres deep (at the deepest point) and involved the removal of 276,000 cubic metres of soil and rock. There's an observation platform where visitors can admire McCourt's work as well as enjoying great views over Lake George and the coastal dunes. For more information check out https://www.wattlerange.sa.gov.au/webdata/resources/files/Woakwine_Cutting_Brochure.pdf.



* Prior to European settlement the district was known as 'Wirmalngrang' to the local Buandik First Nation peoples who called the area home.

* The first European into the area was the French explorer, Nicholas Baudin, in 1802. * In the early years of the 19th century the bay was being used by whalers.

* By 1845 Captain Emmanuel Underwood had built a store and was trading with merchants in Port Adelaide.

* In 1876 the Geltwood sunk off Rivoli Beach. This led to the building of a jetty

* The town's jetty, at 772 metres, is one of the longest in Australia. It was commenced in 1878 and the plan was to build it nearly 1300 metres long.

* On 21 November, 1878 the town came into existence.

* The railway to Mount Gambier was completed in 1878 with the first train arriving on 26 January, 1878.

* The Bay View Hotel was built between 1879-1880.

* A police station was built in 1881.

* The railway closed in 1956.

* In 1988 the Bay View Hotel was renovated and renamed the Beachport Hotel.

* Today the town is sustained by a combination of fishing (this is an excellent crayfish area) and tourism. It is a charming centre with plenty of good walks and interesting historic sites.


Visitor Information

Beachport Visitor Information Centre, Millicent Road, tel: (08) 8735 8029.


Useful Websites

There is an excellent local website for the Wattle Range Council area. Check out http://www.wattlerange.sa.gov.au/page.aspx?u=318.

Got something to add?

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2 suggestions
  • I was born in Millicent and lived in Millicent for over 30 years. Beachport was and still is my favourite spot in the south east of SA. It’s a seaside town that has pretty stayed the same all these years.

    Brenton Thorogood
  • The old butcher shop is no longer standing, was demolished in 2022 but I’m sure there are photos and info on it it the museum.

    Gail Stanley