Thursday, June 11, 2020

She sailed the Murray River at the height of its glory days, survived two World Wars and the Great Depression – now the historic Paddle Wheeler (PW) Mayflower is helping revive tourism in the Mid Murray Council following the COVID-19 pandemic. Short cruises aboard the oldest paddle wheeler in SA resumed on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend, and are now running again each Tuesday and Thursday. The restored passenger vessel’s return to the water marks a milestone in the district’s recovery following SA’s travel and gathering restrictions during the Coronavirus crisis – and coincides with a strong return to the area by domestic tourists. Mid Murray Mayor Dave Burgess said the recent Queen’s Birthday long weekend and the return of attractions including the PW Mayflower, as well as local museums, campgrounds and eateries, was bringing a new wave of tourists to the district. “We have already seen many South Australians take the relaxing of travel restrictions within our State as an opportunity to come explore their own backyard and discover the unique attractions and experiences we have to share,” Mayor Burgess says. “The PW Mayflower has a rich history and is a unique way our visitors can experience and learn about the glory days at the height of trade and travel when vessels such as these ruled the Murray River. “Local campgrounds, holiday accommodation, restaurants and cafes have also been popular with visitors in recent days, along with our spectacular riverfront. It’s been heartening to see so many people come and explore our district – and we hope they take away fond memories of their time here to inspire others to visit as well.” Built in 1884, the PW Mayflower has a rich heritage. Starting out life as a ‘bottle-o’ in Echuca, it was converted into a professional fishing vessel in Renmark, before becoming a showboat for passengers in Mildura in the 1950s. Volunteers lovingly restored the PW Mayflower to its 1913 style and continue to operate the vessel from the Mannum Dock Museum today. Mannum Dock Museum Chairman Rob Bowring said volunteers were excited to welcome visitors back aboard the PW Mayflower and through the museum. “While restrictions prevented regional travel, they also put volunteer programs such as ours on hold,” Mr Bowring says. “Our volunteers dedicate a lot of their time and get so much out of working on the PW Mayflower and in our museum to share our district’s rich river history with visitors, so this has been something that they have greatly missed.