The town of Goolwa is 80 kilometres south of Adelaide in South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula region. It’s the last town on the River Murray before the largest river in Australia winds its way through the Coorong and out to the Southern Ocean. Goolwa was also Australia’s first Cittaslow (pronounced cheetah-slow) town.
Cittaslow (slow city) is a concept that originated in Italy in 1999 as a response to the rapidly growing ‘fast food’ and generally fast pace lifestyle that was creeping into the everyday. It began as a slow food movement and from that, four Italian mayors decided to apply the concept to the wider community. The idea of proclaiming a town to be a Cittaslow town is to be recognized as adhering to some principles and values amongst which are, caring for environment, preserving unique and heritage characteristics, supporting local products and businesses, promoting healthy lifestyles and local markets, working for a sustainable future and generally quality of life for all.
It was in 2007 that Goolwa was accredited as the first Cittaslow town in Australia but it has since been joined by Katoomba in the Blue Mountains in NSW and Yea in Central Victoria. These three towns make up the foundation members of the Cittaslow Australasia Network.
For visitors to the town of Goolwa it makes perfect sense that it is a Cittaslow town as everything that the movement stands for is obvious in spades. The heritage of the area is well preserved with plenty of historic buildings throughout the town. Goolwa also has a rich riverboat history which can still be seen and enjoyed at the wharf today with cruises available to take passengers out on day trips. Goolwa is also home to the biennial Wooden Boat Festival, the next one of which will be held in April 2021.
The slower pace of life is also evident in the historic tourist train experience you can have on the Steam Ranger train. It is affectionately known as the cockle train and takes visitors on a beautiful 30 minute coastal trip from Goolwa to Victor Harbor with stops in between, on Wednesdays and Sundays and daily during peak holiday times. There aren’t many places you can experience a steam engine train trip in historic carriages these day and this volunteer run train trip is a fun and scenic trip and children especially love it when you can have windows down and wave to everyone as you admire the scenery.
Apart from the arts and crafts and farmers markets that are held every alternate Sunday, there is also a vibrant art scene and the region is steeped in aboriginal stories. The local Alexandrina Council was the first Government organization at any level to make an agreement with traditional owners, the Ngarrindjeri nation in 2002. The agreement made a commitment to protect areas of cultural significance and enhance relationships through engagement and participation of the Ngarrindjeri people.
It doesn’t take long to see that many aspects of Goolwa meld nicely with the original Cittaslow manifesto which in part reads,
‘…towns still curious about times past, rich in theatres, squares, cafes and spiritual places, towns with untouched landscapes and fascinating craftsmen, where people are still aware of the slow passing of the seasons, respecting tastes, health and spontaneous customs…’
Definitely a place to put on the must visit list for those interested in slow travel and unique tourist experiences.