What exactly is this park in Hallett Cove conserving?
Along with a delicate ecosystem of coastal flora and fauna, within it lay records of our earth's history that have been preserved for 600 million years.
If these rocks could talk they would tell a tale of a continent completely different to the one we know now. There would be stories of a supercontinent called Gondwana, megafauna like giant kangaroos, glaciers that covered the earth and ancient tribes that roamed the land.
Unfortunately, the rocks can't talk but their scars from the past speak volumes. It is for this reason the park is nationally and internationally recognised as a geological and archaeological sweet spot, earning a place on the South Australian Heritage Register for educational and scientific significance.
The park is over fifty hectares of reserve co-owned by the National Trust of South Australia and the South Australian Department of Environment & Heritage. For thousands of years the land was inhabited by Aboriginal tribes and hundreds of artifacts have been collected from the area. This large range of stone implements is now kept at the South Australian Museum.
It was declared a Conservation Park in 1976 and was saved from destruction and urban development. It is dedicated to the preservation of the geological, ecological and historic features so that future generations can appreciate it recreationally and benefit from it scientifically, just as we have.
There are three main entrances where you can begin your geological journey back in time. I prefer the southern entrance off Heron Way by the beach. It is the site of what was once the Surf Life Saving Club and is now the Boatshed Cafe. There are amenities, a playground and plenty of parking here.
Upon entering the park, coastal vegetation is all around as are signs warning of the presence of snakes. Paths have been made to guide you from one attraction to the next and informative signs will take you from 'no idea' to 'know it all' in a matter of minutes.
It is not long until the boardwalk has become stairs made of sleepers that lead the way to the park's best known feature, the Sugarloaf. It is called the Sugarloaf because of its resemblance to hardened refined sugar.
The Sugarloaf is surrounded by the imposing Amphitheatre. The Amphitheatre was eroded into its present crescent shape about ten thousand years ago revealing colourful layers of sediment deposits. Like the Sugarloaf, these layers divulge a geological timeline that dates as far back as 270 million years.
Scattered throughout the park you will find rocks comprised of material different to any other in the area. Known as erratics, they are believed to have been dragged great distances as glaciers dispersed. When the thick ice cap made its move, it left a record of its travels along the rock beneath it. These striations can be seen on the large smooth rocks along the coast by the black cliffs.
The dramatic Black Cliff was formed by massive earth movements about 500 million years ago that folded the rocks and changed the landscape. It now provides a striking backdrop to the rocky, rubbly beach of Hallett Cove which makes an adventurous walk when the tide is low. The beach is also a popular spot for fishing and snorkelling.
You'll cross paths with many runners and walkers as you take in the spectacular ocean views of the coastal route. The wide, sturdy boardwalk coupled with a few sets of steps make it ideal for exercise. You can travel some distance as the boardwalk forms part of a longer coastal walking trail which extends from Marino to Port Stanvac.
The duration of your trek will depend on how leisurely you stroll, how thoroughly you peruse the informative signs and how long you muse over each exhibit in this amazing natural outdoor museum. Allow up to two hours.
It is suitable for most ability levels although some of the paths get quite steep so pace yourself. There are benches along the way should you need a rest. Wear comfortable walking shoes, a hat, sunscreen, insect repellant and bring a drink of water. Be sure to stick to the designated walking paths so as not to disrupt the surrounding wildlife. Dogs and bikes are not permitted in the park and the removal of rocks and fossils is forbidden.
You can reach the Hallett Cove Conservation Park from Lonsdale Road then onto Cove Road. It is also easily accessible by train with the Hallett Cove station and the Hallett Cove Beach station at each end of the park and just a short walk away.
I live at Hallett Cove and the coast is my playground, I have surfed, swam, fished, run the boardwalk to Kingston Park, walked the trails and run on the boulders . I am currently Back-pack training for the Himalaya so Hallett cove is perfect for most of my training. I love Hallett Cove.