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William the Fourth is an accurate operational replica of Australia’s first steam powered ocean-going paddlewheel ship.

When convict settlement was established at Newcastle from 1801, ships were the only form of transport. Within 30 years the settlement of fertile lands along the Hunter River and a growing coal trade – Australia’s first significant export industry, enabled the era of steam ships. In 1831 – when the Australian Agricultural Company began to have a profound impact on Newcastle, a shipyard was established at Clarencetown, taking advantage of the excellent timbers, to construct Australia’s first steam-powered ocean-going ship – William the Fourth, to operate between Sydney and the growing settlement inland from the ‘Green Hills’ now known as Morpeth.

There were almost no roads, and the graveyard of shipwrecks at the harbour entrance is testimony to the many hazards our local pioneers faced. The ship was a general carrier, transporting produce to the markets in Sydney and every product the settlers needed to live in the valley. It’s hard for us to imagine the hardships they faced, but their enterprise and determination developed the characteristics that are still in our blood today. By its very unique nature William the Fourth still serves as a faithful testimony to that tough pioneering and maritime heritage.

After suffering a boiler tube leak that put it out of service in 2001, the ship remained idle at Throsby Wharf for 4 years until it was taken from the water in 2006.

Owner Newcastle City Council decided that it was unviable to complete repairs to return the ship to service. Attempts to sell the ship were unsuccessful so it was decided to cut it up. A small group of past volunteers (who believed it was possible to repair) approached NCC and offered to take over ownership and to restore it to operating condition. After a lengthy tendering process, a new incorporated association “William the Fourth Inc” was formed and took ownership in September 2008.

Difficulty in raising the minimum of $150,000 funds required resulted in restoration being delayed until 2013. With the support of local business leaders providing cash and in-kind services, a new diesel engine, generator and related machinery was installed progressively over 4 years.

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Where We Are


Lee Wharf Pontoon

5 Honeysuckle Drive

Newcastle NSW 2300


Our Hours

10:30 AM – 22.00 PM

Monday – Sunday


Contact Us

Phone: +61 0419 241 731




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