Mannum – Paddle steamer history; great water sports fun close to Adelaide

Mannum, widely recognised as the birthplace of Australia’s Murray River paddle steamer, is an historic town with an active boating tradition. Mannum is an ideal place for a short holiday to explore the magic of the river. Hire your own houseboat, take a cruise go canoeing or visit the many local attractions.
Welcome to Mannum; a great place to kick back and relax



Welcome to Australia’s best kept secret

MANNUM is situated on the broad reaches of the Lower Murray and is easily accessible by road, being 100 km from Adelaide along the South Eastern Freeway via Murray Bridge, or even less (approx. 80kms) if the scenic route via Gumeracha and Birdwood is chosen.

This easy accessibility makes MANNUM one of the most popular day trip venues in South Australia, and with its natural beauty, unique history and heritage, the area offers visitors the opportunity to relax in a pleasant, friendly environment. See map.

Early History

William Randell in front of Mary Ann boilerMANNUM’s early history developed around the personal desire of William Randell, the son of an early pastoralist, to operate a steamboat on the River Murray, and in 1853 Randell launched his Paddle Steamer “MARY ANN” at Noa-No landing, 5 km upstream from the present site of MANNUM, and in doing so, opened up one of the most romantic eras in the history of Australia.

This paddle steamer, the first on the River Murray in South Australia, pioneered the navigation route to the stations along the Murray, Murrumbidgee and Darling Rivers and in the early years, the goldfields of Victoria.

The boiler of this historic vessel is currently preserved and is on display at the “MANNUM DOCK MUSEUM OF RIVER HISTORY”.

Randell transferred his operations from Noa-No to the present site of MANNUM during 1853 when he built a wharf, goods shed and cottage, and from this small beginning, the present township evolved.

The River trade opened up a transport network for goods and services along the entire river system, and in 1877 David and John Shearer established a blacksmith and implement business in MANNUM and used the River system to market their range of agricultural products. This Company (now Horwood Bagshaw Limited) remains today, the mainstay of MANNUM’s economy.

The rural areas of MANNUM were, until the early 1870’s, controlled by pastoralists who ran large cattle stations. However, in the period 1872 -1883 many new farmers, principally of German stock, settled the land to grow cereals and for sheep production.

These settlers provided the town with the economic boost required for development, and tradespersons, butchers, bakers, banks and other services established businesses to swell the population to approximately 770 in the early 1880’s.

This rich and unique heritage has provided MANNUM with the opportunity to become known as the “BIRTHPLACE OF THE MURRAY RIVER PADDLE STEAMERS”. Detailed Mannum history.

Mary Ann Reserve


Mannum Today

MANNUM township currently supports a population of approximately 2000 residents who enjoy a lifestyle in keeping with the environment – peaceful and relaxing.

The magnificent “MARY ANN RESERVE” situated adjacent to the towns business centre provides some 350 metres of lawned area right on the banks of the broad and majestic Murray River. This reserve, known locally as the “Rec“, provides a delightful setting for picnic and barbeques, (with coin operated barbeque facilities available), a boat ramp, adequate parking and a kiosk for light refreshments.

Cruise boats “MURRAY PRINCESS“, are regular users of the historic town wharf at the reserve as part of their tour package. The “FOUR KNOTS CRUISES” are available for short cruises from this Wharf.

The “P.S. MARION“, an original steamer of the paddle boat era, is currently moored near the Heritage Listed Randell Dry Dock. This vessel has been restored to full steaming capacity. The vessel is owned by the Mid-Murray District Council and is an integral part of the new “MANNUM DOCK MUSEUM OF RIVER HISTORY“, which is open daily. Limited public cruises are available on the “P.S. MARION“. Details from the Visitor Centre.

Houseboat cruising

MANNUM is centrally located to enable visitors to use the town as a base for their activities to visit places of interest in the immediate area.

The Mannum waterfalls reserve, situated approximately 9 Km from MANNUM on the Murray Bridge road is a geological phenomenon with large granite outcrops rising from the plains around the Reedy Creek to provide natural waterfalls. Alongside these outcrops are walking trails for those who wish to enjoy the scenery at close quarters.

The Younghusband Road on the eastern side of the River provides approximately 18 km. of one of the most unique drives along the entire River system. The road winds past lagoons, quarries (from which rock was obtained to build the Goolwa Barrages), and the main river.
A scenic lookout, 200 metres above the river valley, is situated on the northern extremity of the town and provides visitors with an uninterrupted 6 Km. Panorama of the River Murray Valley and the MANNUM township.

Noa-No Landing, the original launching place of William Randell’sMARY ANN” is easily accessible, 5 Km. along the Purnong Road from MANNUM, and the spot is marked with a cairn recording the significance of the site. This trip takes in 15 Km. of river lagoons which are home and breeding grounds for many species of native birdlife.

The council owned MANNUM CARAVAN PARK, situated immediately north of the town ferries, has 165 powered sites in a well shaded and lawned area, cabin and bunkhouse accommodation and has excellent river frontage with a beach area and boat ramp. The park provides well maintained shower, toilet and laundry facilities, together with a kiosk and resident managers. The Hermann Gass bird sanctuary situated at the northern end of the caravan park, offers a peaceful tranquil viewing area for many birds (from September through to November some of the migratory birds can be seen)People come to celebrate the Waders Festival.

A privately owned and operated Caravan Park also operates in the area. On the Eastern side of the River. Cowirra Caravan Park is situated in the township of Cowirra, approximately 2 km. north of the ferries.

A well appointed motel with full convention facilities, holiday flat units, several holiday houses, B&B’s and the above caravan park, provide a wide choice of holiday accommodation for visitors.

Randell St, Mannum Mannum Bowls Mannum museums

Shopping facilities are first class, with a supermarket, take-away food outlets, chemist, delicatessens and craft shops.

Sporting and recreational facilities are excellent, with clubs and venues providing bowls, tennis, golf (on a challenging nine hole fully greened course), football and cricket etc. Indoor sports are catered for in the magnificent MANNUM LEISURE CENTRE, which provides activities such as badminton, squash, basketball, rollerskating, etc., as well as a fully equipped gym. This centre is also used for theatrical performances, and apart from the large stage, all necessary public address, amplification systems and lighting are available.

Of course, there is always the river, and the area provides many concrete boat launching ramps to enable fishermen and ski-boat operators to safely launch their boats. Activities such as swimming, boating, fishing, etc., as well as cruising the mighty Murray River are enjoyed by many of the boaties who visit the area.

After enjoying your day, there is no better place to visit than the club. The MANNUM CLUB provides a meeting place for the community to relax and enjoy life, with an excellent dining room and bar facility which is supplemented by social functions such as live bands etc. on special weekends. Visitors are always welcome to this club. Many members are people from Adelaide who own property in the area.

The Barossa Valley, Victor Harbor, Goolwa, Birdwood, Hahndorf, Swan Reach, Blanchetown and Morgan are all areas that are easy day trips for visitors who choose MANNUM as their base.

As an alternative to using your vehicle as a means of transport, you may choose to hire a houseboat. There are many hire boats moored in the area, as we have perhaps the best cruising waters on the entire Murray system. Within relatively short distances the scenery changes from willow lined banks to mighty cliffs then back to magnificent gum tree lined banks and rural scenery. Turn the next corner, and the scene may repeat itself, or be completely different. Such is the life aboard a leisurely houseboat on the river.

Mannum paddle steamer cruising


Street Names

The streets within the caravan park always pose a talking point, many bets are won and lost as to what they represent.

The streets are named after paddle steamers:

  • Marion Way: P.S. Marion built 1897-Restored by volunteers: currently moored as part of the dock museum still does regular cruises during the year.
  • Mary Ann St: P.S. Mary Ann built 1853- owned by William Randell. The boiler is housed in the Mannum Dock Museum, a replica sits in the Mary Ann Reserve.
  • Gemini St: Twin Hull P.S. Gemini built 1855 owned by W Randell was twin hull, the larger being the hull of the Mary Ann. Randell had the wheel built in the middle so as to avoid snags ripping the floats. This steamer was used to explore the Darling River Feb 24th 1859 it reached Brewarrina. On the return journey when nearing Wentworth it struck a snag and partly sank, cargo floated in the water. Bunyip St: Twin Hull P.S. Bunyip built 1859 owned by W Randell and John Taylor in 1862 was converted into a stern-wheeler. Randell made his famous trip to Walgett in this steamer, the first to reach there. Later she was tragically lost by fire.
  • Bogan St: Barge the Bogan built 1859 owned by F Cadell registered 1864 W Randell had engine refitted, broke up 1904
  • Ariel St: P.S.Ariel (aerial) built 1867 by R.Graham at Goolwa owned by W Randall who towed her to Mannum to have the engine installed, and used her for trading up the Darling. She was snagged badly several times, and on one occasion had to be towed from Wentworth to Mannum to go on the slip for repairs.
  • Tyro St: P.S. Tyro built 1872 at Goolwa. Later rebuilt at Mannum. Randell and his son Capt R.M. Randell and Capt Anderson were joint owners. In 1897 she blew up at Mannum but was successfully repaired and finally owned by William Randell’s son, who used her as a passenger and mail steamer running between Murray Bridge, Mannum and Forster for many years.
  • Corowa St: P.S. Corowa built 1876 by James Anderson at Moama.
  • Ruby St: P.S. Ruby built 1876 especially for low water. She was snagged near Wentworth in 1880 and took six weeks to refloat her. In 1888 she was enlarged and had electric lights installed.
  • Waradgery St: P.S. Waradgery built 1865 at Moama she was a stern wheeler, and gave her name to Waradgery Reef above Koondrook, where she experienced some trouble negotiating the channel there. She was owned by W Randell in 1888.
  • Mannum St: Barge Mannum built 1871 by James Nutchey at Mannum owned by W Randell converted to steamer 1919 by JG Arnold of Mannum

Full information on these and many more Murray River Paddlesteamers is available from Ships of the Inland Rivers by Ronald Parsons and the Mannum Visitor Information Centre.

Annual Events

  • Mannum Show
  • Mannum Hot Rod Show
  • Crystal & Craft Fair – Palmer
  • Walker Flat Trash N Treasure
  • Christmas Tree Festival
  • Christmas Pageant & Street Party
  • Carols by the River