Lady McKell, now the Victoria Star, winning the Sydney Harbour ferry race.

Lady McKell Sydney Ferry

Built in Newcastle in 1970, Victoria Star was formerly the Lady McKell a member of Sydney’s fleet of famous harbour ferries. She was named in honour of the wife of Sir William McKell, a former Governor General of Australia. Lady McKell was employed to ferry commuters to and from Circular Quay to Mosman and during off peak times to provide scenic harbour cruises for tourists.

Winner of the great ferry race on three occasions, Lady McKell is fondly remembered by the millions of passengers who travelled on her throughout her quarter century of service on Sydney Harbour.

Finally made redundant in 1993, Lady McKell was auctioned off for further service in Hong Kong. This plan never eventuated and she was all but abandoned in Rozelle Bay until sold to Captain Leigh Doeg in 1998.

Leigh had from his early years been in love with heritage ships and boats. From the age of eighteen he volunteered in the restoration of the Polly Woodside. In 1979 Leigh acquired the Sydney Steam Tug Wattle and delivered her to Melbourne. Founding Bay Steamer Maritime Museum, he brought together a dedicated team of enthusiasts to restore the Wattle back to steam.

Wattle entered service as a hospitality vessel, licensed to carry 65 passengers in 1985. For the next twelve years Leigh successfully managed her operation and crewed on board, gaining his Masters certificate in 1989. During her hay Day Wattle conducted over 180 cruises annually bringing fun, wonder and excitement to tens of thousands.

View of Victoria Star sundeck at Docklands Melbourne

Melbourne Refit, 1998

Leigh’s vision for Lady McKell was a “Wattle on Steroids”!

Lady McKell arrived in Melbourne on route from Sydney, on Friday 28 August 1998. Over the next 15 months she was dramatically transformed from a bedraggled utilitarian commuter ferry into a classic hospitality cruise ship designed for entertaining in superb style.

The ships rebuild involved dry docking for hull repairs, removal of the aft wheel house and the complete guttering of the passenger saloons. Once rusted superstructure and decks were renewed, a modern well equipped galley and bar were installed. All new modern amenities were fitted during the refurbishment. Traditional rich timber panelling complimented by plush red carpets and polished brass dictated the ship’s image and position in the marketplace.

Befitting her new identity the transformed vessel was renamed Victoria Star and entered Melbourne service on Friday, 3rd December 1999. Today she entertains over 20,000 guests annually.


I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the MV Victoria Star to anyone interested in a fantastic quality experience ... (more)
— Tracy Jugum, Altona

I just wanted to say a big thank you for hosting my 50th Birthday aboard the MV Victoria Star. My guests and I had the time of our lives! The staff, the food, the DJ and the whole night was just amazing. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the MV Victoria Star to anyone interested in a fantastic quality experience.

Thanks again to your bar and catering staff, Will, Leigh and Steve.