The Fascinating History of the Polly Woodside

The Fascinating History of the Polly Woodside

Written by: Cameron Ward

Published: 12/30/2016

Reading time: 3 mins

Find out more information about the old ship in Melbourne City!

After travelling all across the world, Polly Woodside now makes up part of the South Wharf precinct in Melbourne City. The Polly Woodside is an iron-hulled, three-masted barque that was originally built in 1885 in Belfast over in Northern Ireland. Belfast was also the homeland of the iconic Titanic that sunk in 1912 while on the way to New York City.

Polly Woodside has been to all different countries and in total has travelled over 1.5 million kilometres!

Close-up of Polly Woodside

The History of Polly Woodside

This historic ship got its original name from its maker, William J. Woodside.

Polly Woodside first set sail from the Workman Clark yards in Belfast, where she started her role as a general cargo ship. She took part in the nitrate trade between the UK and South America before making her very first voyage to Australia in 1900.

When in Australia, she was snapped up by New Zealand interests and was given a new name: Rona. She then mainly travelled between New Zealand and Australia, carrying cargoes of timber between both countries.

In 1923, Rona joined the coal industry, employing bunkering steamships in Sydney and Melbourne. She was a part of WWII, where she operated in New Guinea before returning to Melbourne when the war ended.

In the ’60s, she was going to be scuttled in Bass Strait, but a group of boat enthusiasts reformed her to her original form. Australia’s National Trust took care of the renovation and once again she was named Polly Woodside.

In 1978 she was ferried to Duke’s dry dock, where she remains to this very day. She is a static exhibition that recalls the important role this ship, and many others like it, had on the history of Australia and the rest of the world.

How to see Polly Woodside

In 1988, the Polly Woodside became the very first merchant ship in the whole world to be given the World Ship Trust Medal. Today, visitors can see the boat for themselves at 21 South Wharf Promenade.

Here you’ll learn about the specific roles the boat and the important role ships of its kind had on Australia’s history. This is a must-visit, particularly if you’re fascinated by the rich and lengthy maritime history that imbues Australia.

• Pirate Day

Experience the pirate life and have the kids get involved in a range of activities on Polly Woodside! There are all kinds of activities including hide and seek, treasure hunts, scrubbing the decks like past pirates, and arts and crafts games! Pirate Day takes place on the first Sunday of every month. You can purchase your tickets online for the whole family to get involved!

• Tours
Go onboard Polly Woodside and experience one of the guided tours that take place every first Sunday of the month. There are four set times, so ensure you book online and experience seeing the staff members act as the historic pirates that once ran across this ship’s deck!

How to get to Polly Woodside

Crown Casino, Melbourne

There are a couple of ways to reach Polly Woodside to see the magnificent ship! From Flinders Street Station, you can walk for about 20 minutes, it isn’t too far of a walk from Crown Casino. If you’re near Southern Cross Station, the walk is 10 minutes.

Catching public transport is another option with the 12, 96, and 109 trams stopping at 124A Casino/MCEC/Clarendon Street. From the 124A stop it is only a short walk to see Polly Woodside.

Related article: What to Do in Melbourne This Weekend!

Cameron Ward
Cameron Ward
Managing Director at Sightseeing Tours Australia

Cameron Ward turned his travel passion into a thriving Australian tourism business. Before he co-founded his own business, Sightseeing Tours Australia, he was enjoying being a Melbourne tour guide. Even now, Cameron delights in helping visitors from all around the world get the most out of their incredible Australian trip. You’ll see Cameron leading tours or writing about his favourite Australian places where he shares his local insights.