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The Popeye Boat Trip on the Torrens

Home > Adelaide > Day Trips | Cruises | Boating | Outdoor
by Vivienne Pearson (subscribe)
I am a freelance writer, fortunate enough to live near Byron Bay, one of Australia's most beautiful regions. My writing - for newspapers, magazines, online and for business - lives at vivienne
Published March 18th 2018
I'm Popeye the Sailor Man
Have you ever had the experience of visiting a place several times yet never getting to do something that was on your wish list? For me, this is taking a trip on Popeye, the flat-bottomed boat on the River Torrens in Adelaide.

I finally got my chance during a recent visit.

Adelaide, Popeye, boat, Torrens, Adelaide Zoo, river
Popeye at its launch spot in Elder Park. Credit: Vivienne Pearson

Popeye is a flat-bottomed boat that makes a leisurely 40-minute round trip on Adelaide's River Torrens. It has only two stops:

Elder Park - its main launch spot, which is on the river behind North Terrace, down from the Railway Station / Casino and across the river from the Adelaide Oval.

Adelaide Zoo - a second stop on the river side of the Zoo. There is no infrastructure here other than a basic landing spot and boats only stop here long enough to drop off and pick up passengers.

You can take a one-way trip between these two spots, or the entire loop from either starting point.

Each of the Popeye boats seats up to 50 people. The boat interiors are not flash - seating is simple plastic seats either in rows or around tables - but it is enough. The whole space is undercover - good for sun protection - and you get good views from the sides. I also wandered up and stood next to the captain for a while.

Adelaide, Popeye, boat, Torrens, Adelaide Zoo, river
Popeye's interior is basic but enough. Credit: Vivienne Pearson

You can move around and cruises are rarely so busy that you can't shift spots depending on what you want to look at.

It seems that I am not the only person keen to go on Popeye. The Queen of England and Malcolm Fraser have both enjoyed jaunts during Popeye's eye-opening 78-year history. It has even been declared a State Heritage Icon.

I love seeing a city from its river. Getting on the water gives you a unique perspective and is a way to cover distance while giving your travel-weary feet a rest.

Adelaide, Torrens, Popeye, Adelaide Zoo, river, cruise
See the sights of Adelaide from a river view. Credit: Vivienne Pearson

Adelaide, Torrens, Popeye, Adelaide Zoo, river, cruise
See the sights while giving your feet a well-deserved rest

The captain of Popeye gives an interesting and relaxed commentary on what you are passing by. The commentary was perfect - loud enough (and good enough quality speakers) that you can actually hear what is being said, but not so loud that it dominates your trip.

Adelaide, Torrens, Popeye, Adelaide Zoo, river, cruise
Popeye's captain provides interesting commentary

Our captain was a skilled driver with a totally smooth trip and extra excitement for those who wished by passing close to the fountains that grace the river and the waterfall that is part of the pedestrian bridge linking the CBD to the Adelaide Oval. My kids loved the spray (though you could equally choose to not get wet) - perfect for a cruise on a hot day!

Adelaide, Torrens, Popeye, Adelaide Zoo, river, cruise
Get up close to the river fountains. Credit: Vivienne Pearson

Prices for Popeye's regular trips are very reasonable for the experience. Generally, trips leave Elder Park on the hour between 10am - 4pm (11am - 3pm on weekdays May-September) - but do check the website in case this had changed.

There is no need to book (unless you are with a large group). Do call ahead though if the weather is looking very bad. There is no toilet on board (though there are ones close to the stops) and you are welcome to take your own food or drink.

The leg between Elder Park and the Zoo takes around 30 minutes, as you initially head in the 'wrong' direction in order to see the sights and head past the fountains. The leg between the Zoo and Elder Park is direct and only takes around 10 minutes.

You can also hire Popeye for a charter cruise or go on one of their special trips - like High Tea or a performance cruise.

And, if the Popeye journey isn't enough river time for you, you can also go on a paddleboat - run but the same people - see for details.

Adelaide, Popeye, Adelaide Zoo, River Torrens, cruise
Paddle boats are also available. Credit: Vivienne Pearson
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Why? A gentle cruise on Adelaide's Torrens River
When: Daily except Christmas Day (weather permitting)
Phone: 0400 596 065
Where: Elder Park landing or Adelaide Zoo
Cost: $3 - $15
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