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Garden Island

Home > Adelaide > Outdoor | Animals and Wildlife | Photography
by Barry Silkstone (subscribe)
I am an Australian natural history writer and photographer. My aim is to encourage people to venture outdoors and enjoy the natural beauty of our planet. Visit my blog naturallysouthaustralia.com
Published August 31st 2021
Garden Island's wild history
Garden Island is situated at the end of The Grand Trunkway in Port Adelaide over the Torrens Island Bridge; about a 30 minute drive from Adelaide's CBD. Most of the island is crown land and fenced off. Garden Island Road leads to an extensive boat launching ramp with a long jetty running parallel to the mangroves.

Garden Island, History, coastal SA, wildlife, flora, attractions, SA coast, shipwrecks,
shipwrecks viewed from the bridge to Garden Island


Terrain
The island is flat and just above sea level and the waters of the Barker Inlet and Angas Inlet which border the island are sheltered and usually calm.

Garden Island, History, coastal SA, wildlife, flora, attractions, SA coast, shipwrecks
Mangrove habitat on the island


Wildlife
The mangroves and associated narrow tidal, muddy areas are home to a wide variety of fish species including juvenile recreational and commercial species like bream, whiting and mullet. Birdlife ranges from small whistlers, fantails and honeyeaters to cormorants, herons and egrets. An occasional kestrel and hawk hunt on the fringes. As there are no extensive mudflats, there are few waders.

Garden Island, History, coastal SA, wildlife, flora, attractions, SA coast, shipwrecks, dolphin, pelican
Dolphin and Australian Pelican hunting together near the mangroves


Dolphin pods commonly cruise along the edge of the mangroves and in the deeper Barker and Angas inlet channels. A variety of marine invertebrates, including many shellfish (Molluscs) live in the muddy mangrove substrate and small mangrove crabs are common in holes and under rocks whereas the larger Blue Swimming Crabs are seasonal. Butterflies and small insects as well as spiders live in the mangrove foliage.

Garden Island, History, coastal SA, wildlife, flora, attractions, SA coast, shipwrecks, mangroves, jetty, fishing
Walkway close to the Barker Inlet and mangrove stands


Vegetation
Grey Mangroves, samphire and saltbush are main plants with some plantings of native bushes and trees on the grassy fringe near the jetty.

Garden Island, History, coastal SA, wildlife, flora, attractions, SA coast, shipwrecks, Kaurna, First Nations
Kaurna people hunted numerous bird species but Black Swans were left because of their cultural significance


History
First Nations

The mangrove forest and low island samphire and saltbush ecosystem of Garden Island would have provided a rich environment for Kaurna hunters and gatherers. There would have been both temporary and permanent campsites depending on the seasonal influx of birdlife and different fish and crustacean species such as crabs and prawns.

Conservation parks in the area are cared for by biologists and rangers


European settlement
Garden Island has been crown land since 1836. Between 1909 and 1945 it was the site of a Ships' Graveyard with 25 identifiable wrecks some of which can still be seen today, the most prominent being the Santiago, Dorothy H Sterling, Glaucus and Sunbeam. In 1962, the whole of Garden Island became a dedicated reserve and the first public road was opened in 1968. From 1973-2021, the surrounding waters have been part of an ever-growing marine reserve that includes Barker Inlet Aquatic Reserve, Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary and the Torrens Island Conservation Park. In the 1970s, the area was used for landfill and in 2015 gas extraction technology was installed to use the methane generated by landfill. During this latter part of the island's history, an extensive boat launching facility and recreational jetty were constructed.

Garden Island, History, coastal SA, wildlife, flora, attractions, SA coast, shipwrecks, paddle boarding
Early morning paddle boarders find some unexpected company



General attractions/facilities
There are boat launching ramps, public toilets, parking, a shelter with barbecues and a lawned area. A 400m boardwalk runs parallel to the mangroves which is used for fishing and nature observation. A kayaking trail starts at the boat ramp and follows the mangroves allowing close observation of natural features, including plant and wildlife as well as the historical ships' graveyard.
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Why? Great outdoor site
When: All year round
Where: Garden Island Port Adelaide
Cost: None
Your Comment
An interesting and informative article Barry and very nice photos. It sounds and looks like great place to visit
by Neil Follett (score: 3|3114) 25 days ago
How good it would be to see dolphins in the wild and the shipwrecks are always fascinating and great photography subjects.
by Gayle Beveridge (score: 3|9023) 24 days ago
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