A small fishing and former trading port on the western shores of Discovery Bay, Port Macdonnell southernmost town in South Australia.
Where is it?: South East. 467 km south east of Adelaide; 28 km south of Mt. Gambier.
The town prides itself on being the The Southern Rock Lobster Capital of Australia. Port Macdonnell is also the western gateway to the Great Ocean Road. The town is ideal as a base for the region, its activities including surfing at and nature walks at Cape Northumberland.
Wagon tracks of 19th century bullock wagons scar the limestone flats at low water and can be seen from Sea Parade. The wagons once carried the wool, pebbles and other items to and from the state's second busiest port at the time.
Large quarries of limestone were opened up at the west end of the township and stone buildings went on apace. Bullock teams carted huge loads of flat beach flints along the low rocky shores to the west of the town and the wheel ruts of these bullock wagons are still to be seen scarring the limestone flats at low water. When the tides are low these wheel tracks are plainly visible filled with water and provide a hiding place for crabs, mussels and anemones.
Dingley Dell was the home of romantic poet Adam Lindsay Gordon from 1864 to 1867. There is a legend that Gordon won the cottage in a card game from its owner George Randall. It is open every day in the school holidays from 10.00 a.m. - 4.00 p.m. It is 2 kms out of Port Macdonnell and is clearly signposted from a number of points around the town. Each of the rooms has been recreated.
In 'South East Sketchbook' the journalist Max Lamshed, who was born in Mount Gambier, wrote of Dingley Dell: 'Adam Lindsay Gordon, the romantic poet, spent some of his happiest and most fruitful years at Dingley Dell. It stood in open scrubland which wattle splashed with springtime gold; where the music of wattle bird, magpie and thrush was never far away, and the growl of the sea came muted from the rocks of Cape Northumberland.
'He took his young bride, the gentle and understanding Maggie Park, to live there, and they were a familiar sight in nearby Port McDonnell (sic). He tall, long striding, with open neck shirt and cord riding pants, dark felt hat with long puggaree; she slight, dainty treading, holding her partner by the shirt pocket to give him a check.'
Port Macdonnell and District Maritime Museum: Located in Meylin Street, the Port Macdonnell & District Maritime Museum has been open since January 1990. It is constantly being expanded with new artefacts from the local area. The people who open the museum are a source of information about the district. The museum has been assiduous in collecting information about the local area and write of the Wagon tracks to the west of the township.
Cape Northumberland: South Australia's most Southerly Point boasts a magnificent rugged coastline, natural vegetation and uninterrupted ocean views. The 1882 lighthouse is one of the most spectacular locations to have an uninterrupted view of the sunrise and sunset of the Southern Ocean. The area is well worth visiting. The shapes which the sea has eroded out of the rocks are very spectacular and unusual.
Fairy Penguins can be viewed each day at dusk and dawn at the Penguin Viewing Platform.
Picturesque rock formations called Rhino, Frog, Crocodile and Camel Rocks, Lobster Pot Rocks and Map of Australia Reef can all be seen from the Lighthouse area at Cape Northumberland.
About Port Macdonnell
Natural features: Discovery Bay; Petrified Forest (Frog Rock, Rhino Rock, Captains Head Rock); Mount Schank (crater of the dormant volcano, 10 km north); Piccaninnie Ponds Conservation Park; Douglas Point Conservation Park; Ewens Ponds Conservation Park (6 km north east); Buck's Lake Game Reserve; Nene Valley Conservation Park
Heritage features: Victoria Hotel (1860s); Public Buildings Complex (police station, courthouse, telegraph station and customs house, 1862-75); Port Macdonnell & District Maritime Museum.
Origin of name: recalls Sir Richard Graves Macdonnell, Governor of South Australia from 1855-1862 when the town was proclaimed (4th April 1860).
Brief history: Prior to European settlement the area was the home to the Bungandidj Aborigines who lived largely on the produce from the sea. Like Mount Gambier, which is only 28 km inland, Port Macdonnell was first sighted by a European when Lieutenant James Grant, sailing the HMS Lady Nelson down the coast on 3 December 1800, observed the coastline. It was at this time that he named Cape Northumberland and Mount Gambier.
Like many places in South Australia the name, Macdonnell, comes from Sir Richard Graves Macdonnell who was the Governor of South Australia from 1855-1862. The town was officially became a port on 4 April 1860. For the next twenty years, servicing the local district, it gained a reputation as one of the state's busiest ports (second only to Port Adelaide) shipping the wheat and wool from the local area around the world. Clippers arrived to carry the wheat and wool to England. In the 1880s the port became so important that the jetty was extended so it reached 1700 feet into the harbour.
Port Macdonnell would be much more important today if it had become the major rail centre on the south-east coast but the rail went to Beachport and it declined. Today Port Macdonnell is famous for its lobsters. It has South Australia's largest lobster fishing fleet.