Sure, there’s nothing Polly Woodside likes more these days than throwing parties. And now she’s got herself a sweet park on South Wharf Promenade right outside the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre, can you blame her? But life hasn’t always been yo-ho-ho-and-a-bottle-of rum for this incredibly tall lady. She was a proper commercial ship in the 1800s.
Polly is a much-loved reminder of Australia’s rich maritime history. Launched in 1885 in Belfast, she made 17 trips around the world and operated between Australia and New Zealand. She served as a coal ship following World War Two, and by 1968 was the last square-rigged deep-water commercial sailing ship still afloat in Australia.
In 1968 as a rusty, derelict hulk (her words not ours) she was bought – for one cent! – by the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) for restoration. She’s quite the prize, and in 1988 became the first merchant ship in the world to be awarded the International World Ship Trust Medal.
Unfortunately the Polly Woodside no longer sails the high seas, but you can visit this enchanting beauty down at South Wharf. Her main mast reaches as high as a 10-storey building (which was quite tall in her day) and she has sails the size of an Olympic swimming pool. Join the crew and discover what it was like to swab decks, sew sails, navigate your way through treacherous waters and survive on the rations of a nineteenth century sailor. Better yet, bring the kids down in their best sailor gear for Pirate Sundays on the first Sunday of every month and let them search for hidden treasure.
See more information on getting hitched on Polly, partying and admission prices and opening hours here.