Posted by: travelrat | February 4, 2008

The Nepean Belle

Penrith, NSW. 6th December 2007

Nepean Belle is a paddle-boat, and I’ve been hooked on paddle-boats since a cruise on the Murray Princess in 2006. (see for a picture, and for some video)

The Belle is much smaller, though, and isn’t equipped for multi-day cruising. It’s roughly rectangular in shape, and looks more like the end of a seaside pier than a boat. But, a pointed bow isn’t really necessary on a slow-flowing river, and the shape does allow passengers to walk all the way around the ship.

She’s a side-wheel boat, but the paddle wheels are placed so far aft that she could almost be described as a stern-wheeler. And, the décor inside is ‘Mississippi River Boat’, but with modern, up to date fittings. It was built in 1982, and has been offering day cruises up the Nepean Gorge ever since.

The cruise took us from Penrith, NSW up into the Gorge, which is one of Australia’s many National Parks. Now, I’ve written about the gorges of Crete earlier, and most people know how enthusiastic I am about them … so, a gorge AND a paddle boat? With a chicken salad thrown in for lunch, it doesn’t get any better!

Once, a farm stood on the lip of the gorge. It was almost inaccessible by land, and stock and goods were taken in and out by boat, and were winched up the cliff-face by means of a ‘flying fox’ cableway. This was an expensive undertaking, and the farm was just about going broke.

Then, the farmer hit on the idea of offering trips up the Nepean Gorge on his boat! Thus was born the company we were cruising with today; still a small family business. The farm, however, is long gone.

We learnt all this from the Captain’s commentary … and when, after lunch, he went below to give a presentation, and we saw what a small family concern this was. I’m sure the helmsman relieving him was suitably qualified and perfectly competent. But, it was a little unnerving to see he was wearing chef’s whites!

Nepean Belle’s website is ; general information about the area is at .


  1. I feel ashamed to admit that I haven’t been on the Nepean Belle. Inexcusable!

  2. No need to be ashamed … there’s several people who haven’t been to local attractions. I know several people who live within walking distance of Lake Windermere, but have never sailed on the lake steamers; my aunt lived in Ravenglass all her life, and never rode the ‘Ratty Railway’ … and there’s people living here who have only seen Stonehenge from the A303, even though anyone living within a 3 mile radius gets in for free!

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