The inland river port of Echuca is a heritage town, home to a large paddle steamer fleet and its historic wharf. Among the vessels docked at the wharf is the PS Adelaide (built in 1866), the world's oldest operating wooden-hulled paddle steamer. Other historic buildings include the Bridge Hotel, built by ex-convict Henry Hopwood and the "father of Echuca," who had the foresight to establish a punt, and then to build a bridge at this commercially strategic point on the river. The Star Hotel, built in the 1860s, has an underground bar and escape tunnel, which was used by after-hours drinkers in the 19th century to evade the police. The Port of Echuca Discovery Centre is now open and full of historical displays. It's also a booking office, where you can get tickets to paddle steamer cruises and other historic sights, plus a spooky Port After Dark tour. The center itself runs daily tours (A$14) covering its displays and the recently revitalized wharf areas (warehouses, old railroad
tracks, and riverboats included), and the Star Hotel.
One-hour river excursions are a refreshing treat at the end of a hot summer's day. Step aboard the historic Pevensey, and the Alexander Arbuthnot (v26483781www.echucapaddlesteamers.net.au) or the Canberra and Emmylou (v26483782www.emmylou.com.au), a 19th-century style boat built in 1980–82 for a television series (Murray River Paddle Steamers). The paddle wheelers depart daily from 10:15 am to 2:45 pm, with a 4 pm cruise sailing in peak periods; a one-hour cruise on the PS Emmylou costs A$28.50.