Wellington Court House and Museum
Small historic town on the banks of the
Located 105 km south-east of Adelaide,
Wellington is a very tiny settlement which is
really nothing more than a couple of dozen
houses on the banks of the Murray River.
Prior to European settlement the area around
Wellington 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 riverbank.
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 European into the area was 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 the
present site of Wellington, at the mouth of the
Murray river, on 9 February, 1830.
Following Sturt the whole area along the
Murray was opened up particularly by overlanders
who moved sheep and cattle across the land. It
was the colonial land developed, John Morphett,
who saw Wellington's potential. By 1839
Wellington had become one of the most important
settlements on the Murray. The ferry which was
established that year and the town became the
only point where traffic could cross the Murray.
In 1840 a township was surveyed, most of it
for John Morphett who had bought large tracts of
land in the area, and named after the Duke of
Wellington. It grew rapidly as a major
transportation stopover point. It was the first
stop for paddlesteamers plying the Murray north
of Goolwa. It was the stopover point for people
crossing the river from Adelaide to Victoria.
And,during the 1850s, it became an important
point on the gold run from the Victorian
goldfields across to Adelaide.
When the bridge across the Murray was
completed at Murray Bridge the town declined in
importance. Today it is an interesting stopover
because the buildings are genuinely interesting.
It is also true that this is the widest crossing
of the Murray. It gives the traveller an
appreciation of the importance of the river.
Things to see:
The Wellington Court House is a National Trust
building. The Police Station, Ferry House and
Postal and Telegraph Offices were all part of
the Court House complex which was the site of
the first police station in Wellington in 1841.
A new building was built in 1849 and the present
building in 1864. The stores and stables were
attached the following year in 1865. Now known
as the Court House Tea Rooms it serves teas and
light lunches. It is an ideal waiting place for
the ferry - although it crosses the river at
regular and short intervals. For more details
contact (08) 8572 7330.
The hotel has a very modern facade which makes
it look like just another hotel. In fact the
original Wellington Hotel was opened as early as
1846. It enjoys a delightful location on the
banks of the Murray with views across the river
just upstream from the ferry.
East Wellington Hotel
On the freeway into Wellington you pass the
original East Wellington Hotel which was built
around 1860 and subsequently converted into the
Post Office and Telegraph Station. It is now
nothing more than a ruin.
Built in 1876 at Narrung this beautiful
Victorian mansion is a reminder of the wealth
that was generated in the area at this time.
Today it is still a working farm being operated
by the descendants of John Bowman who
established it as a sheep and cattle station.
The outbuildings resemble a small village and
include substantial stables, a coach house,
barns, a woolshed and the manager's
accommodation. It is open for tours and
overnight accommodation. Bookings are essential.
Contact (08) 8574 0043.