These resources on the history of Australian river shipping (coastal and inland) are available in the museum library. The guide also suggests excellent resources online and further afield.


New South Wales

Paddle boats of the Murray-Darling river system
Brian Marshall. Melbourne. Mercury, 1988.
386.224360994 MAR
An excellent photographic coverage of the inland river ships with a detailed data list.

The river trade: Wool and steamers
G. Painter. Sydney. Turton & Armstrong, 1979.
386.30994 PAI
A concise description of the cargo trade on the inland rivers featuring photographs from the Godson collection, State Library of South Australia.

Ian Mudie. Melbourne. Sun Books, 1961.
387.309944 MUD
One of the earliest discussions of life along the rivers and on the river ships.

Rich river
Allan Morris. Echuca. A.H. Morris, 1970.
919.44 MOR
First published in 1958, this book concentrates on the area of Echuca.

Redgums and paddlewheels
Peter J. Phillips. Melbourne. Greenhouse, 1980
386.22436 PHI
Provides an extended pictorial view of the riverboats. Details vessels active in 1980.

The river boats
Ronald Parsons and Rod Williams. Houghton, S.A. R. Williams, 1992.
386.30994 PAR

Ships of the inland rivers
Ronald Parsons. Gumeracha: R.H. Parsons, 1987.
386.2243609944 PAR
In addition to providing a comprehensive alphabetical catalogue of river steamers this title also provides a good overview of the trade and features photographs from the collections of the State Library of South Australia.

Riverboats and rivermen
William Drage with Michael Page. Adelaide : Rigby, 1976.
386.30994 DRA
Concentrates on the personal memories and activities of William Drage, who was born in 1901 and spent his working life on the rivers.

Paddle steamer captain: My life on the river
Jack Searles. Melbourne. The Marketing Shop, 1985.
386.30994 SEA
The story of a life working on the rivers.

River boat days on the Murray, Darling, Murrumbidgee
Peter J. Phillips. Melbourne. Landsdowne Press,1972.
386.309944 PHI
A well illustrated and readable history of the river trade.

Elsewhere in Australia

Paddle steamers of Australasia
R.H. Parsons and J.C, Tolley. Lobethal, S.A. R.H. Parsons, 1968.
386.22430994 PAR
Rare but very useful.

The wheels still turn: A history of Australian paddleboats
Peter Plowman. Kenthurst, NSW. Kangaroo Press, C.1992.
386.30994 PLO
A good general history of paddleboats.

Sailing ships and paddle wheels and other Gippsland Shipping
J.C. Bull: Metung, Vic:. The Author, 1974.
387.099456 BUL

The Mosquito fleet: Hawkesbury River trade and traders 1794-1994
Jean Purtell. Berwora Heights, NSW. Deerubbin Presss, 1995.
386.3099442 PUR

Hobart river craft and sealers of Bass Strait
Harry O'May. Hobart. Government printer, [n.d.]
386.3 OMA

Looking to buy books? Shop online in the museum store.


Australian Sea Heritage
Articles on the river steamers and the river trade appear fairly frequently. Also a good source of information on preserved vessels and vessel restoration projects through the regular columns.

Other Sources

This guide was compiled with the assistance of maritime author Graeme Andrews.