Milang and the Lakes

Milang began life in 1854 as a river boat port on Lake Alexandrina to service the surrounding farmland as far inland as Strathalbyn and Callington. ( about 30km). Its life blood was all activity connected with the Paddle Steamers which plied the thousands of kilometres of the Murray and Darling Rivers from Goolwa to Bourke and Albury.  In its heyday, Milang boasted boat building and repair yards and a number of substantial commercial premises erected by the trade barons of the day. For many years until the Intercolonial Railway was completed in the 1880s, Milang was on the main land route from Adelaide to Melbourne.  Passengers and mail came by coach to Milang, took a steamer across the Lakes to Meningie and continued by coach via the Coorong to the port of Robe, thence to Melbourne via Hamilton and Colac, a total journey of some 5 to 8 days. "Milang" - Believed to be from the Ngarrindjeri word for a meeting or corroboree place. 

Lake Alexandrina was named by Capt. Charles Sturt, who explored it in 1830, after the Princess who later became Queen Victoria.

Main street Sadly these fine buildings were demolished and new shops built in the mid 1960s.  The archway in the large building was a railway entrance for a track leading to the jetty.  Grain and wool were stored here and trans-shipped to the railway to Adelaide
Commercial premises in Milang, c1950.
With the demise of the river trade, Milang sank into sleepy obscurity.  It is now a popular holiday destination for boating and other water activities.  There is a modern, sheltered Caravan Park, a Motel and a traditional Hotel.  A well stocked general store and several food shops supply the needs of locals and visitors.
The jetty, still surviving from the River Boat days, and two new boat launching ramps service water craft of all sizes. 
Lake Alexandrina The Caravan park and Lake shore.
Point Sturt can be seen on the horizon.
Although the Lake is ideal for holiday aquatic activities, caution must be exercised, since it is shallow and can become dangerously choppy, very quickly. Appropriate safety equipment should be carried.
A feature of the town is its community of Shacks, built along the water's edge from the 1940s.  Many were built by local farmers as a place to relax and fish.  Concerns about water pollution and erosion of the lake shore led to the group north of the jetty being removed 25 years ago. The future of the remainder is uncertain. Shacks

In January each year, over 400 sailing boats converge on Milang for the Milang to Goolwa Classic, Australia's largest freshwater race.  Most "overnight" in nearby reeds before the race and competitors and locals alike are treated to a spectacular sight and carnival atmosphere.

3 boats
The lakeshore in the vicinity is host to a great variety of water birds and is part of the internationally recognised Ramsar Wetlands of the Lakes and Coorong.  In the samphire behind the shacks is an important feeding ground for Latham's Snipe, on its annual migration to and from Japan. Pelicans


Milang is keenly aware of its history and has several active historical societies.  The Railway Station has been restored and is open every weekend. An extensive collection of vintage agricultural implements and curios is housed at the Oval.  It is open by appointment. 

 A local history book was published in 1981:
"Alexandrina's Shore".
ISBN 0 9593662 0 2
Copies are available from:

The Milang and District Historical Society,
South Australia,

Book cover


*Images on this page
(c) 1999 Liz Yelland