The Nepean Belle Paddlewheeler, or 'the Belle' as she is affectionately known, was launched in October 1982 and run by the Wakeling family for 32 years.
Local residents, Chris and Carol Bennett purchased the Nepean Belle Paddlewheeler in October 2013. Chris had worked on the Belle when she first started operating on the Nepean River and he and Carol are determined to continue and maintain the operation of this wonderful paddlewheeler.
The business continues to be a family affair and the Belle enjoys a great reputation for great food that is freshly prepared onboard, hospitality, scenery and charm. The Nepean Belle Paddlewheeler is an icon in Western Sydney and can be seen sitting at the Jetty and cruising the Nepean River many times each week throughout the year - rain, hail or shine!
The Blue Mountains National Park and the Nepean River at Penrith are where city convenience and country charm unite - just 45 minutes from Sydney via the M4 Motorway, where the unique and romantic Nepean Belle Paddlewheeler departs for Devonshire Tea, lunch and dinner cruises.
The Nepean Belle is a romantic old-world style Paddlewheeler. Reflecting the grace and charm of yesteryear, the Belle's interiors are beautifully paneled with stained timbers featuring cedar and teak. There is nothing quite like the nostalgia of the paddlewheels churning, the water lapping against the hulls, reliving the romance and excitement of the paddlewheel era. With seated dining capacity for 120 guests or cocktail function capacity of up to 160 guests the Belle is suited to a range of function styles.
The Nepean Belle is renowned for its exceptional fresh food and welcoming atmosphere. With over 28 years experience in the Hospitality Industry and as winner of a number of prestigious awards you can be sure that you are in experienced hands from the moment you step on board.
The Makings of the Nepean Belle
The idea of operating a large paddlewheeler along the Nepean River at Penrith first came to John and Helen Wakeling when they moved into the area in 1976. When the search for a suitable boat to buy proved unsuccessful they decided to build one themselves.
The 60ft/18.2m long aluminium catamaran hulls were built in 1981 by De Havilland Marine at Homebush Bay, along with the paddleboxes and the paddlewheels. This was to be De Havilland's last project before closing their doors.
The two hulls and the paddleboxes were lifted by crane onto the three low-loaders and driven to Penrith where they were placed into position forconstruction to begin.
The appearance of the Nepean Belle is modeled on the Mississippi sternwheelers, though it has side wheels and two non-functioning smoke stacks. The paddlewheels are independent, each having their own engine which enables the boat to turn around in her own length.
The Belle is powered by two Kubota diesel engines and cruises the Nepean River into the Nepean Gorge at a leisurely speed of about 4 knots.
History of the Nepean River
Penrith was first inhabited by the Aboriginal Dharug Tribe with many descendants still living in the area today. In 1770 Captain Cook landed on the shores of Sydney’s Botany Bay. Eighteen years later in 1788, Captain Phillip established the first European settlement at Sydney Cove.
In the following year 1789, Captain Watkin Tench of the Royal Marines lead a party west of Parramatta to the foothills of the Blue Mountains. They came across a river described as being "as broad as the Thames at Putney and apparently of great depth, the current running very slowly in a northerly direction".
The river was named the Nepean River after Evan Nepean (the Under Secretary of the Home Office in Britain who was involved in the organisation of the first fleet). Following settlement, the district became known as Evan and rapidly developed in agriculture to produce food for the Sydney Colony.
History courtesy of penrithaustralia.com.au