Historical Towns Directory

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 Port MacDonnell

Find Port MacDonnell

In 1800 Lieutenant James Grant sailed past the Port MacDonnell coastline in the HMS 'Lady Nelson', naming Cape Northumberland and Mount Gambier.

The Bungandidj Aboriginal people inhabited the area prior to European settlement, which began when pastoralists first took up land in the area in the 1840s.

The original MacDonnell lighthouse began operating early in 1859. This building, however, was situated on an exposed site at the end of a narrow sandstone cliff and the dangers presented by such a location meant that its operations were relatively short-lived. In 1881-82 the new Cape Northumberland Lighthouse was constructed around 400 metres east of the original. Upon the completion of the new lighthouse the original was demolished. The site is now marked by a plaque, which commemorates the first lighthouse keeper, Captain Ben Germein.

The port was proclaimed in 1860 and took its name from the then South Australian Governor, Sir Richard Graves MacDonnell.

The customs house complex was constructed between 1862 and 1874 and also included the police station, courthouse and the post and telegraph station. The stone customs house buildings were part of a system of tariff collection on goods traded between the colonies.

Dingley Dell, near Port MacDonnell, was the home of 19th century poet, horseman and pioneer Adam Lindsay Gordon (1833-1870) and his wife, Maggie Park, from 1864 to 1867. While at Dingley Dell Gordon had his first poem published outside a magazine or newspaper and between 1865 to 1867 a number of his other works were also published.

By the 1870s Port MacDonnell grew to be the second busiest port in South Australia (after Port Adelaide), transporting wool and grain from the area on clippers bound for England. By the end of the decade, however, the railways in the south-east of South Australia were commenced and the decision to route the rail line to Beachport rather than to Port MacDonnell resulted in its subsequent decline.

Port MacDonnell is located 467km south-east of Adelaide and 28 kilometres south of Mount Gambier. The small coastal town is today home to a large lobster fishing fleet.

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