Small township on the shores of Lake
Located 76 km south-east of Adelaide, Milang is
a small community (permanent population of
around 350 people) on the shores of Lake
Alexandrina. In fact it is the only town on the
shores of the lake. It is characterised by many
attractive historic homes but its isolation (it
is off the beaten track) has seen it remain
relatively underdeveloped where the nearby town
of Goolwa has developed rapidly as a day
trip/holiday resort town for people from
Prior to European settlement the area around
Milang was home to the Ngarrindjeri people (they
are the same people who fought over secret
women's business at Goolwa). They made bark and
reed canoes and lived on the fish and the
animals which came to the lake shore. It is from
the Ngarrindjeri that the word 'millangk' (which
was Anglicised to Milang) meaning 'place of the
millin (sorcery)' comes from.
The Ngarrindjeri people were decimated by the
arrival of Europeans. The combination of
smallpox (which raged all the way up the Murray
River) and massacres saw the numbers drop
dramatically through the nineteenth century.
The first Europeans into the area were
sealers who arrived in 1828. They were followed
by Captain Charles Sturt who, being assigned to
solve the great mystery of why so many rivers
flowed westward from the Great Dividing Range
(often known as the question of whether
Australia had an 'inland sea'), rowed a whale
boat down the Murrumbidgee in late 1829 and
reached Lake Alexandrina on 9 February, 1830. He
named the lake after Princess Alexandrina who
later became Queen Victoria.
Following Sturt the whole area along the
Murray and around Lake Alexandrina was opened up
particularly by overlanders who moved sheep and
cattle across the land. Sturt had hoped the lake
might have access to Gulf St Vincent and it
wasn't until the following year that Collet
Barker sailed along the western shoreline and
demonstrated that the Lake was the mouth of the
At the time there was a feeling that a
settlement should be established near the mouth
of the river so that the inland could be opened
up. In 1837 Colonel William Light, responding to
this interest, inspected the area around the
mouth of the Murray and concluded that the land
was poor and the mouth of the river was probably
not navigable. The following year Sturt endorsed
Light's view that the mouth of the Murray could
not be made safe for navigation. This led to the
establishment of Adelaide on Gulf St Vincent but
there was still a body of support for the
utilisation of the Murray River and a number of
proposals (most involving safer harbours and
moving goods overland to points further up the
river) were suggested.
It was in the wake of these suggestions that
Milang came into existence. It was founded in
1856 as an important and vital river port
servicing both the paddlesteamers which plied
the Murray River from Goolwa to the upper
reaches of the river and the ferries which
regularly crossed Lake Alexandrina. For some
time Milang competed with Goolwa for the
lucrative Murray River trade.
In the early years farmers moving into the
area tried virtually anything and everything.
Sheep were grazed, vegetables grown, grain
crops, vineyards, cattle and fruit trees were
all tried. The soil was not particularly good
and it wasn't until the advent of superphosphate
and mallee scrub clearance that the area reached
its full economic potential.
At its height Milang was a port where goods
were unloaded onto bullock drays which made the
slow (usually about 9 miles a day) journey
across the Mount Lofty Ranges to Adelaide. At
the same time the town was known as a ship
building centre with a number of paddlesteamers
being launched from its yards.
The town's heyday was from the mid-1850s
through to the 1880s. It was during this time
that the churches, the police station and most
of the important public buildings were
constructed. The town was visited in 1867 by the
Duke of Edinburgh, the son of Queen Victoria,
who went on a shooting expedition on Lake
Alexandrina and planted a willow tree (which is
still standing) near the present site of the
town's bowling club.
Today Milang is a delightful holiday resort
on the water's edge. It is an ideal destination
for campers and caravanners. The reed-edged lake
is an ideal retreat for people who want to
escape from the more busy holiday destinations.
Each Australia Day Milang hosts one of the
largest fresh water sailing races which is held
on Lake Alexandrina. The sailing boats sail from
Milang to Goolwa.
Things to see:
One of the few remaining hotels from the time
when Milang was a bustling port. This is a fine
example of a 19th century pub.
Historic Willow Tree
Located in Luard Street. The town was visited in
1867 by the Duke of Edinburgh, the son of Queen
Victoria, who went on a shooting expedition on
Lake Alexandrina and planted a willow tree
(which is still standing) near the present site
of the town's bowling club.
The Church of Christ was built in 1857 only a
year after the establishment of the town. The
Congregational Church was completed in 1872.
Milang's Police Station dates from 1874 when the
town was an active port. At this time more than
half of all the exports up the Murray River were
passing through Milang.