The Riverboat Postman delivers my mail. It’s been delivering mail to water access properties along the Lower Hawkesbury River since 1910. Today I’m going along for the ride.
All Aboard the Riverboat Postman
Early morning fog hangs low in the sky. I wrap my jumper around me against the cool air as I board the Riverboat Postman. Tom the deckhand greets me with a smile and we chat briefly. He lives on the river and we know each other. Randall, the skipper, makes his way up to the wheelhouse.
Zarapito is a hundred-seater catamaran owned by the Pignéguy family who have lived on the Hawkesbury River for years. Active members of the local community, they run a professional and friendly operation.
Morning Tea en Route to Dangar Island
As the boat leaves Brooklyn Marina, Tom pours me a steaming cup of hot tea. Served with a crunchy ANZAC biscuit freshly baked using a family recipe, it hits the spot.
We cruise past pelicans preening themselves on tall poles, simple boatsheds and waterfront cottages as we make our way upriver to the Dangar Island Public Wharf.
There, Tom hands a series of parcels bags of mail across to Jann who waits with her trolley. Perhaps the parcel that I’m expecting is in that lot. Tom shouts “All clear” and Randall expertly pulls away from the wharf.
Cruising the Hawkesbury River
Our route takes us under the Hawkesbury River Bridge, the main railway line north. The first railway bridge was opened in 1889 but after about fifty years it began to fail. A new bridge was constructed in 1946, explaining the series of sandstone lined piers running alongside the current bridge.
Steering the boat closer to the shore, Randal points out large weathered sandstone rocks display beautiful swirling shapes and patterns along the riverbank.
Tom, carrying a mailbag, hops off at Kangaroo Point and runs to a nearby building where he exchanges the mailbag for an empty one ready to be filled tomorrow.
Two women board the boat. One carries a cat in a cage. Locals, they’re hitching a ride to Bar Point.
Randall explains that buildings on Peat Island were once used as a mental hospital and a hospital for people with intellectual disabilities. There are apparently plans to open the land up for public recreation.
At Milson Island, Tom throws the mailbag across to a waiting staff member from the Department of Sport and Recreation who run school camps on the island. Interestingly, Milson Island was once a testing station for myxomatosis and was later used as a minimum-security prison.
Randall worked for the Maritime section of Corrective Services in the 1970s. He used to ferry prisoners to and fro across the river and has many stories from those days.
One night, he tells us, prisoners stole a boat and rowed across to the mainland where they met a friend who drove them to the city for a night on the town. They planned to return later that night.
Unfortunately for them, their escapade was discovered – but only after they had returned – because their sheets were covered in mud.
Approaching the waterfall at Cascade Gully, we glide through water spotty with hundreds of jellyfish. A small wooden fishing trawler cruises slowly past, seagulls flying and squawking behind the nets.
The rusty wreck in front of us is the mid-section of HMAS Parramatta. The bow is in Garden Island and the stern in Parramatta, making it the “longest destroyer in the world” says Randall.
Bar Point and Marlow Creek
At Bar Point, cottages of all shapes and sizes, old and new hug the riverbank, their jetties in varying stages of repair. The women with the cat step off the boat onto the Public Wharf and almost immediately release their cat who runs off onto dry land.
We continue upstream to the little settlement of Marlow Creek which consists of only a few houses. They have electricity but rely on tank water and must dispose of their garbage themselves. The challenges of living on the river means it’s not for everyone. Life is slower and, in some ways, simpler.
After Tom locks the mail in a green metal box at Marlow Creek (residents have a key), we turn around for the return journey.
Gliding Peacefully Along
Quietly gliding past mangroves and native bushland with the occasional shack, passengers sit contentedly as they stare out the window, or chat over a generous ploughman’s lunch and perhaps a glass of something from the bar.
Randall points out a sea eagle “perched halfway up the hill on the left”. Everyone scans the hillside. Suddenly someone gasps and points “there he is”. Right on the end of a long thin branch.
Soon we pull up at Milson’s Passage. A large black dog bounds up. Tom makes him sit before giving him a biscuit. A resident signs for the mail bag and answers a couple of passengers’ questions. “Yes, there are Airbnb’s here” and “No, there are no shops”.
As we pull away from the wharf, someone shouts “see you soon, we’ll hire a house here”.
A Special Experience
Cruising the Hawkesbury River with the Riverboat Postman enables passengers to experience the natural beauty of the Hawkesbury River while getting a glimpse into the lives of those who live on the river. It is a special experience.
On this occasion I was a guest of The Riverboat Postman, but I have cruised with them many times and highly recommend the cruise. I like it so much that I wrote a kid’s picture book about the Riverboat Postman. You can find a link to the book here.
- The Riverboat Postman leaves Brooklyn Mon – Friday at 10am returning 1pm.
- How to get to The Riverboat Postman: Drive to Brooklyn leaving plenty of time to find parking which can be scarce. OR come by train to the Hawkesbury River Station. There is a lift at the station
- Book your trip on the Riverboat Postman via the website