Ballina and the Raft



The maritime history of the area can be seen by the famous La Balsa raft. The rafts were made from the balsa wood which crossed the Pacific from Ecuador to Ballina in 178 days in 1973. The expedition, lead by Vital Alsar, was undertaken to prove that early South Americans could have crossed the Pacific by raft, and the rafts were constructed using only the materials and techniques available to the early settlers of South America.

Other historic vessels of the area include the PV Richmond, a pilot vessel which served for 50 years on the river, and is now displayed behind the Pilot's Cottage in Norton Street, Ballina; and the MV Florrie, the oldest serving river boat which ran from 1880 to 1975 and is now on the bank at Regatta Reserve, Norton Street Ballina.


The Richmond River and its estuaries are abound with marine wildlife and for many years has remained the fisherman's paradise in harmony with water sports and numerous boating activities.

The Richmond River was discovered in 1828 by Captain Henry Rous, in the HMS "Rainbow", and was named after the fifth Duke of Richmond. Early settlers travelled upstream to Broadwater, but the cedar-getters first came across the country from the Clarence River. As word spread, another party of cedar-getters and their families arrived in 1842 on the "Sally", and a camp was established at what is now East Ballina, because of the high ground and good water supply. 

The settlement was first known as Deptford, but as it grew an Aboriginal word 'bullenah' which meant 'place where oysters are plentiful' became the town's name. With a town in Ireland named also named Ballina, the similar pronunciation meant that the indigenous link was all but lost through the change in spelling. However an appreciation of the area's seafood certainly remains, with strong fishing industries and seafood featuring strongly in the regional cuisine.

The Ballina Prawn Festival is a quintessential Aussie event and a wonderful celebration of the laid backed Ballina lifestyle.

If you would like to stay up to date with Prawn Festival activities, check out our new website, plus jump on and LIKE our Ballina Prawn Festival Facebook page.

Don’t miss all the family fun at the Ballina Prawn Festival on Saturday 11th November 2017!  Invite friends and family to come and stay for the weekend!  We’ll see you there!

Cristy Houghton