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Published November 17th 2015
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For a capital city, Adelaide's coastline is in a league of its own in Australia. Anchored by the magnificent Guan Yin Buddha, the suburban beaches stretch 70km from Sellicks Beach in the south as far as North Haven in the north. It is a fairly extensive day trip to see it all, but for tourists or visitors who are a bit short on time, why not take a drive or ride along the Coastal Tourist Drive 59 on LeFevre Peninsula and sample some of the best beaches that Adelaide has to offer.
Starting outside the Fort Glanville Museum on the corner of Bower and Military Roads, the tourist-brown "59" sign is hard to miss, and as you round the corner on to the Esplanade at Semaphore Park that distinctive beach feel hits you immediately. Large car parks, grassed areas with large trees, playgrounds and bathroom facilities are a feature of this part of the drive, with the water's edge typically being just over 100m away from the car park, and beyond a small range of sand dunes.
A toot in the distance and the Semaphore to Fort Glanville miniature steam train comes into sight. Running daily during school holidays and all weekends, the train is a hit with young kids as it traverses the coastal parklands between destinations.
At its northern end, the train stops alongside the Semaphore Jetty which in turn is located at the end of the revitalised Semaphore Road. Once a popular tourist destination in its own right, Semaphore Road lost its way a little in the latter part of last century, before a concerted effort by the local council, shop owners and the community has restored pride to the street. With plenty of coffee shops, cafes, and bakeries to choose from, it is hard to pick just one as being the best, albeit the weekend crowds outside of Swedish Tarts and Whipped Bake Cafe are suggesting that something good is happening in these establishments.
As an alternative, and perhaps for a more relaxed afternoon or evening why not try the Palais Hotel on the foreshore. This grand old building has been fully restored, and is often the feature of many weekend weddings and other functions. But at other times, why not pull up a chair outside and watch the world pass you by, or at least until the sun sets.
The next major stopping point along the Drive is Large Bay with its Jetty, Kiosk and iconic Largs Pier Hotel. The small shopping street contains some eclectic delights for those who burrow deep, while the large grassed areas outside the Kiosk provide a great spot to relax while considering whether I have burned enough calories to justify the afternoon icecream.
But for those who haven't exercised, never fear because just one kilometre up the road is the sand dune training track known locally as the Snake Pit. Early mornings and later afternoons this track becomes busy with budding athletes of all forms who seek to push their body to the limit as they carry it up and down those soft sand dunes, perhaps for the reward of that icecream.
A little further north and the beaches disappear and are replaced by the masts and sails at the Yacht Squadron and the purpose built suburb of North Haven. While direct access to the yachts is off limits, great views of these vessels is available from a walk around Gulf Point Marina.
The final destination on the Drive is the Outer Harbor Passenger Terminal. Outer Harbor, often just the end of the line for a suburban rail service, comes alive at numerous times during Summer and Autumn with the buzz associated with tourists and sightseers appreciating the cruise liner season.
The majority of the time on the Tourist Drive is spent looking out towards the sandy beach and sea. While this offers great sea views don't forget to look alongside the road itself where grand Norfolk Pines provide a magnificent canopy of shade, and ultimately wind and sea-spray protection to the numerous historic homes and hotels that line the drive.
The Coastal Tourist Drive 59 is 9km in length (one way) on a relatively low speed road entangled with numerous roundabouts and can be taken anytime with different perspectives observed during morning, afternoon and at sunset. Also, being such an extended and uninterrupted piece of road, it is popular amongst cyclists with many a peloton riding to and from Outer Harbor particularly during weekend mornings and as part of training for the annual Tour Down Under.
However for those looking to do all or part of this great Scenic Drive in a different manner, there is a walk / cycle path through the coastal reserve for the entire distance, thus providing many more ways to enjoy this great tourist drive. And when coupled with the miniature train, this provides a unique and different way to enjoy this great stretch of Adelaide's coast line.
I've done this several times on my bicycle, in different seasons (yes, even winter time) and it is always a pleasure. Very well done article. And I can understand why that path is called the Snake Pit - during summer, I've come across a few reptiles there myself! Most common are the blue-tongues and skinks but occasionally a snake can be seen sunning itself on the path.