English girl Philadelphia Gordon (Sigrid Thornton) life is turned upside down when she is shipwrecked and orphaned off the coast of Victoria in 1890.
She spends most of her life around Echuca, on the Murray River, and invests some of her inheritance in a paddle wheeled riverboat. Her life is forever changed when she meets frontier paddleboat captain Brenton Edwards (John Waters), a cavalier river-man.
It is the beginning for Philadelphia of a remarkable 10 years in her life. Her investment in the riverboat is, without her knowing it, the first step towards a turbulent marriage to a riverboat man and, indeed, to the boats who ply their great trade along the mighty, unpredictable and perilous river.