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Explore Port Adelaide By Foot, Bike or Kayak

Home > Adelaide > Outdoor | Free | Day Trips | Craft Beer
by Karen Ross (subscribe)
I love slow travel, slow food and discovering new adventures and delicious regional food in new locations. Check my travel tips on Instagram
Published January 3rd 2021
My five top tips
I've been drawn to the idea of exploring historic Port Adelaide for some time and so, in keeping with the current COVID-safe practice of 'Holidaying at Home' I decided to book into a hotel for two nights and do just that. With three whole days to discover the Port's secrets, I decided to use mixed modes of transport. I started my self-guided tour by foot, swapped to my trusty e-bike on day two then ventured onto the water in a kayak on day three.

In this article, I will list my five top tips and explain why I think you might enjoy them too.

Lighthouse at Port Adelaide

Tip 1: Download the excellent phone app that has been developed by the City of Port Adelaide and Enfield Council with input from local Port Adelaide businesses. It's called 'Visit Port Adelaide' and is free from the app store or Google Play. It lists events and places to eat, drink and stay with accompanying maps but the most useful section is 'Self-guided Tours'. Eight tours are currently listed and incorporate history, environment, art and local ghosts. There's also a Craft Beer Walking Tour which may appeal.

Most tours begin near the Lighthouse, which dates back to 1869, at the end of Commercial Road near the esplanade that runs alongside the Port River.

Visit Port Adelaide App
Visit Port Adelaide App

The Walk the Port - extended tour will direct you past various historical buildings and monuments including the Courts, Customs and Police Station after which you will proceed to the waterfront.

Around 45 stops are suggested on this tour which should take around 90 minutes. Information is provided to set the scene for each stop's history, character and use.

Historical building at Port Adelaide
Historical building

Local personalities and dignitaries are mentioned and bring a human factor into the Port's history. I particularly like the fountain dedicated to John Formby Esquire, Mayor from 1869-1873. The fountain was designed for human use but there were apparently far more water stops, in the form of troughs, for horses back in the 1800s. I suspect the humans drank more beer than water judging by the number of hotels dating back to that time.

Memorial fountain in Port Adelaide
Memorial fountain

After enjoying the Walk the Port - Extended tour, I elected to do the Environmental Walk and find out about the living ecology of the Port River and its historical connections to the local Kaurna people. This tour indicates a 'Dolphin Watch Point', where I stood as instructed, and just like that, saw a dolphin. What an efficient tour.

Following on from the magic of the dolphin sighting I became entranced by the seawall tiles near the public mooring pontoons. They are designed to mimic nature, along the lines of rock pools and crevices, and encourage marine diversity and water quality. This melding of art and science reminded me of the Gaudi buildings in Barcelona. Clearly, I'm suffering the effects of international travel deprivation.

Seawall tiles Port Adelaide
Seawall tiles

The tour continues across the bridge where you can learn about the living shoreline, coastal birdlife, maritime history and stories from our first nation Kaurna people.

Information boards at Port Adelaide
Information board

Information boards provide supplementary stories to those on the app.

Seen from the mangrove boardwalk
Seen from the mangrove boardwalk

Tip 2: A short, well-hidden boardwalk through the mangroves was a delightful discovery. If you choose to follow the Environmental Tour make time to find this boardwalk and stay awhile. It's a tranquil break and an opportunity for a focussed nature study.

Local information
Local information

Tip 3: Do the Craft Beer Walking Tour. Towards the end of our delightful walking afternoon, I felt it prudent to suggest this tour knowing my walking companion would continue to walk if there was a beer or two involved. He agreed and proceeded to sample beer at a number of stops while I read, aloud, the stories corresponding to the historical pubs involved; Did you know The British was South Australia's first independent hotel operated by a female publican in 1936?

Pirate Life Brewery
Pirate Life Brewery

Our last stop on the beer tour was the uber-cool Pirate Life Brewery. Apparently, the beer is excellent but I chose a glass of refreshing Rose to accompany a tasty treat from the on-site food truck. I highly recommend this stop.

Food truck at Pirate Life
Food truck at Pirate Life

Tip 4: Once you have explored the immediate environs of the Port, why not venture slightly further afield by bike or scooter. The Port River Bikeway opened in 2020 and provides a series of paths facilitating safe exploration of the area.

We took electric bikes and started with a visit to Outer Harbour, where I first arrived in Australia as a migrant child over fifty years ago.

Arriving at Outer Harbour
Outer Harbour

From Outer Harbour, the bikeway passes through North Haven and runs along the coast to Semaphore and beyond. There's plenty to do and see in Semaphore and it's a short ride across the Birkenhead Bridge back to Port Adelaide.

If bike riding is not your thing, you might consider renting an electric scooter. They are a fun, planet-friendly way to explore the coast of Adelaide's West in a novel way. The e-scooters are unlocked using a smartphone app.

Bike track to Semaphore
Bike track to Semaphore

Tip 5: Get out on the water. The Dolphin Explorer departs from the waterfront, near the lighthouse and is a comfortable way to see Port Adelaide from the water.

Mosaic at Garden Island boat ramp
Mosaic at Garden Island boat ramp

For those more adventurous, a kayak or canoe trip might appeal.

Garden Island jetty
Garden Island jetty

We headed to Garden Island boat ramp to launch our kayak and paddled alongside the jetty looking for dolphins.

Port River Dolphin Sanctuary
Port River Dolphin Sanctuary

Around 30 resident bottlenose dolphins are said to live in the area with others visiting from time to time. We saw none on our visit but there were other sights to see.

On the far side of the river is a winding channel known as 'Little Amazon'. A slow paddle along this channel is a chance to see mangrove plants and birds up close while enjoying the peace of nature.

Paddling in the Little Amazon
Paddling in the Little Amazon

The most amazing sight of all is a series of shipwrecks. There are around 26 in the vicinity of Garden Island making this one of the largest and most diverse ships' graveyards in the world. The various vessels date back to 1856 and are best viewed from a kayak or canoe.

Image from wikimedia commons

If you don't own a kayak, they can be rented from at least two reputable companies near the boat ramp on the island.
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Why? Explore the colonial, maritime and Indigenous history as well as the flora and fauna of this fascinating port.
When: Anytime
Where: Port Adelaide
Cost: Free
Your Comment
Great informative article Karen. Such a lot to see and do in a limited area.
by Neil Follett (score: 3|4705) 873 days ago
Karen, what a fabulous trip - congrats on the well-deserved gold!
by Elaine (score: 3|9390) 874 days ago
Congrats on your well-deserved gold award
by May Cross (score: 3|8375) 870 days ago
Fascinating info, thanks Karen. Congrats on the gold!
by Jenny Prior (score: 3|4272) 870 days ago
Love Port Adelaide! Great article :)
by Gill Lockhart (score: 1|35) 874 days ago
Such a great idea to book an hotel and explore the surroundings, I like your concept of "Holidaying at Home". Sometimes we spend so much money traveling, we forget that we can also have fun holidays closed from home... all you need is the right mindset and the good attitude (like you did) to make it fun, refreshing and memorable! Well done, will definitely try something like that in the near future! Any hotels to recommend there?
by Virginie the frenchie (score: 1|20) 872 days ago
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