Bass Strait Maritime Centre

Crossing the River

SIGN NUMBER 2 – Crossing the River

The first ship builder on the Mersey was John Drake who built barges in the 1850s to lighter goods in and out of port as the bar had only 3 feet (914mm) of water at low tide. He lived at “Zetland”, located at what is now the Argosy Hotel. The small steamship Thistle was commonly seen moving up and down the river for twenty years from 1878. Learn more about the Thistle by clicking here.

Mersey River Punt. BSMC-1594.

Many boats were built for the Taylor family of Penguin by Edward Higgs in his slip yard. The bay behind the hotel was part of the reclamation of the area in the 1950s to facilitate the new roll on/roll off ferries, the first of these was the MV Princess of Tasmania.

Access to the ferry and punt was across the shingle. Its unique propulsion system was a cable attached to either side of the bank and relied on tidal movement (high/low tide) to convey it to and fro. This punt and ferry remained the major connection between the two towns Torquay and Formby up until 1901 when the road bridge was constructed. Learn more about the Mersey River ferry service by clicking here.

Torquay and Formby were united under the one name to become Devonport in 1890.

Thomas Street, East Devonport, c. 1905. BSMC-1318.


  • Higgs Family record by Peter Higgs (great grandson)
  • “With The Pioneers” by Charles Ramsey
  • “The Quiet Achievers” by Maureen Bennett
  • Bass Strait Maritime Centre
  • “Discovering Devonport” by Faye Gardam
  • Eastside Village People