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Port Elliot Heritage Trail

Home > Adelaide > Beaches | Cafes | Historic Houses | Places of Interest | Walks
by Steve Hudson (subscribe)
Inspired by Australia's natural, developing and fun environments. Join me. Get some inspiration.
Published March 1st 2016
Such a short period, such a long history
It was only 15 years in the middle of the 19th Century but it was enough to leave an indelible mark on the South Coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula and to create a town that we now know as historic Port Elliot. A quick walk through the town gives a great insight in to those 15 years, and the years since.

Port Elliot Heritage Trail, Port Elliot Maritime Heritage Trail, Basham's Beach Recreation Park, Encounter Bikeway, Port Victor, Hotel Elliot, Horsehoe Bay
Horseshoe Bay - Steve Hudson


Horseshoe Bay was proclaimed as a port in 1851 and the settlement above the bay was named Port Elliot in 1852 after Charles Elliot, the then Governor of Bermuda (a friend of the SA Governor at the time). The initial purpose of Port Elliot was to be the conduit for ocean and river trade by opening up the corridor between Port Elliot and Goolwa.

Port Elliot Heritage Trail, Port Elliot Maritime Heritage Trail, Basham's Beach Recreation Park, Encounter Bikeway, Port Victor, Hotel Elliot, Horsehoe Bay
Founded in 1851 - Steve Hudson


Major infrastructure was required and a rail line, jetty and wharf were all completed by 1854. To support these, a series of minor infrastructure projects commenced with a view to maintaining a viable town facilitating transportation and supporting local industry.

Port Elliot Heritage Trail, Port Elliot Maritime Heritage Trail, Basham's Beach Recreation Park, Encounter Bikeway, Port Victor, Hotel Elliot, Horsehoe Bay
Former Port Elliot Hotel - Steve Hudson


Hotels and churches are typically always the first buildings to be built in fledgling towns and Port Elliot was no different with the Port Elliot Hotel being built in 1851 on the Main Road beating the church by three years. However longevity is a different story, and the St Jude's Anglican Church remains active today while the Port Elliot Hotel has changed a few times and is now the Arnella by the Sea guesthouse.

Port Elliot Heritage Trail, Port Elliot Maritime Heritage Trail, Basham's Beach Recreation Park, Encounter Bikeway, Port Victor, Hotel Elliot, Horsehoe Bay
St Judes - Steve Hudson


Part of becoming a town meant government buildings were also required, and a harbourmaster's cottage was built in 1852, a police station in 1853 and a government store in 1854. By this time the rail line was complete and Port Elliot was a hive of activity with river-to-ocean trade.

Port Elliot Heritage Trail, Port Elliot Maritime Heritage Trail, Basham's Beach Recreation Park, Encounter Bikeway, Port Victor, Hotel Elliot, Horsehoe Bay
Remains of Harbourmaster's Cottage - Steve Hudson


However the next 10 years saw a series of shipping disasters in and around Horseshoe Bay, and a decision was made to extend the rail line to Port Victor. The vibrancy that brought optimism to the town was suddenly lost, and for a decade or so the town became a shell of its former self.

Port Elliot Heritage Trail, Port Elliot Maritime Heritage Trail, Basham's Beach Recreation Park, Encounter Bikeway, Port Victor, Hotel Elliot, Horsehoe Bay
A recovered anchor - Steve Hudson


However in the late 1870's this was to change as Port Elliot was given a second life and commenced the process of transforming itself from a transportation and industry hub to a seaside destination for tourists from Adelaide. The opening of passenger rail and the commencement of the local council facilitated this process, and local businessmen got on board.

Port Elliot Heritage Trail, Port Elliot Maritime Heritage Trail, Basham's Beach Recreation Park, Encounter Bikeway, Port Victor, Hotel Elliot, Horsehoe Bay
Council Chamber - Steve Hudson


The Port Elliot Council Chamber in The Strand was built at a time when development was encouraged, and bureaucracy and paperwork were items to be constrained by the physical size of the building.

Port Elliot Heritage Trail, Port Elliot Maritime Heritage Trail, Basham's Beach Recreation Park, Encounter Bikeway, Port Victor, Hotel Elliot, Horsehoe Bay
Old Courthouse - Steve Hudson


The mandatory communal Institute building arrived, while the decade-old post office and telegraph station received upgrades to accommodate the extra visitors. The Hotel Elliot expanded from the small Railway Hotel, and in 1880 the Royal Family Hotel was built alongside a small but growing Norfolk Island pine tree. The pine, believed to have been planted in the early 1870's, still stands tall across the rear of the hotel and provides great shelter in the gardens.

Port Elliot Heritage Trail, Port Elliot Maritime Heritage Trail, Basham's Beach Recreation Park, Encounter Bikeway, Port Victor, Hotel Elliot, Horsehoe Bay
Royal Family Hotel and that Pine Tree - Steve Hudson


As the tourists kept coming, the town kept evolving. New schools and churches arrived, while the railway station underwent a complete overhaul early in the 20th Century.

Port Elliot Heritage Trail, Port Elliot Maritime Heritage Trail, Basham's Beach Recreation Park, Encounter Bikeway, Port Victor, Hotel Elliot, Horsehoe Bay
Railway Station - Steve Hudson


It was also early in the 20th century that the first baked goods were sold at a site on the Main Road. Several owners and iterations later, the Port Elliot Bakery stands today as a contemporary example of how to deliver quality goods with outstanding customer service.

Port Elliot Heritage Trail, Port Elliot Maritime Heritage Trail, Basham's Beach Recreation Park, Encounter Bikeway, Port Victor, Hotel Elliot, Horsehoe Bay
The Bakery - Steve Hudson


Today Port Elliot is more than just history. Contemporary dining in hotels and cafes, shops selling collectables and books, beaches treating family and friends, bikeways and recreation parks combine with historical artefacts and buildings to create a town that is on everyone's 'must do' list.

Port Elliot Heritage Trail, Port Elliot Maritime Heritage Trail, Basham's Beach Recreation Park, Encounter Bikeway, Port Victor, Hotel Elliot, Horsehoe Bay
Town Art - Steve Hudson


Port Elliot is around 75 minutes south of Adelaide. A historical walk takes visitors past the major items of significance. Each item has an information board which provides further details of its history over the last 160 years. The walk commences alongside the Council Chambers and takes around 60 minutes to complete.

Port Elliot Heritage Trail, Port Elliot Maritime Heritage Trail, Basham's Beach Recreation Park, Encounter Bikeway, Port Victor, Hotel Elliot, Horsehoe Bay
Breakwater - Steve Hudson

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Why? To learn about this historic town
When: Any time
Where: Port Elliot, South Australia
Cost: Free
Your Comment
I have so many fond memories of Pt.Elliot.Spent much of my youth body surfing here and staying here and clambering over the rocks.With beach changing sheds,kiosk and grassy area alongside,it became my favourite spot on weekends.The rocky islet known as "puddin" rock.because the big waves would smother it with white foam,was a sight to see .The beach is like a mini bondi and attracts heaps of bathers during the warmer months,with one end with only tiny waves,getting larger as you head towards caravan park end.Before the current caravan park was established,one could pitch a tent on that end of the beach and just take a few steps onto the sand..
by noelp (score: 3|1199) 1200 days ago
We are there right now for the weekend and come down from Adelaide often. Loved this article
by janec (score: 0|2) 1185 days ago
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