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The Madness of Eagle on the Hill

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by Dave Walsh (subscribe)
I enjoy writing about Adelaide and its many attractions. If you think Adelaide is boring, the problem is not with Adelaide. Please click the link to Like my articles, and subscribe to see more. adelaideunearthed.blogspot.com.au
Published November 14th 2012
The place with no bounds
mountain bikers, skateboarders, motorbike riders, eagle on the hill, eagle mountain, Sunday trading, cycling, racing
The Eagle On the Hill


As I was driving to take photographs for artist Chris Wake's Open Garden & Gallery, I was overcome by the temptation to visit the suburb that doesn't exist.

There is a large sign for Eagle on the Hill after the Mount Osmond turnoff on the South Eastern Freeway, although the Geographical Names Board does not recognise it as a suburb, merely an unbounded locality.

On a whim I took the exit, and proceeded on my path back in time.

Mad sports

mountain bikers, skateboarders, motorbike riders, eagle on the hill, eagle mountain, Sunday trading, cycling, racing
Directions @ Eagle on the Hill Lookout


Using the turnoff takes you on a twisting path that once was the main road before the Heysen Tunnels were built in 1998. The steep road winds around a tight corner known as The Devil's Elbow and continues up past a lookout to Eagle on the Hill. Once hugely popular with motorbike riders as a thrilling place to race and scrape your bike's footpegs, the road is now more likely to be used by road racers on bicycles enjoying a speedy downhill rush.

The area is familiar territory to mountain bikers and skate boarders, but otherwise little known to people under 40 or so.

mountain bikers, skateboarders, motorbike riders, eagle on the hill, eagle mountain, Sunday trading, cycling, racing
A Mountain Bike Trail Near Eagle on the Hill


Mountain bikers come in droves to use the popular Eagle Mountain Bike Park network of trails. It's a very scenic area and the trails range in difficulty from easy to distinctly difficult. If you appreciate native flora, there are some spectacularly colourful native plants to see along the way.

For skateboarders the old section of freeway offers a mad thrill (which others might call madness on a public road with a 60 km/h speed zone).



If you continue up the winding road you will reach a level area with the remains of a disused service station on the right, and a large house on your left.

A closer look shows that the house was once the Eagle on the Hill Hotel, a very popular place to stop and dine for travellers since 1853.

mountain bikers, skateboarders, motorbike riders, eagle on the hill, eagle mountain, Sunday trading, cycling, racing
Former Eagle on the Hill Hotel


The Shell Service Station was also a popular destination in itself for weary travellers to enjoy meals in the restaurant with a view, and to purchase fuel.

But back in the 1970's both of these places were far more important to the community. The government had long regulated shopping hours and decreed that in the metropolitan area hotels could not serve alcohol on Sundays, nor could service stations open to sell petrol. Complete shopping madness!

Motoring madness

mountain bikers, skateboarders, motorbike riders, eagle on the hill, eagle mountain, Sunday trading, cycling, racing
Disused Shell Service Station


If you were unfortunate enough to need fuel on a Sunday there were only a couple of options available. Self service pumps could be found at a few selected service stations around Adelaide, and it was possible to buy petrol at these using twenty cent coins.

People who needed more than could be bought with coins (or didn't have change) could either drive to Eagle on the Hill for fuel as it was outside of the metro area, or go to Adelaide airport which was exempt from SA legislation being on Commonwealth Government land.

mountain bikers, skateboarders, motorbike riders, eagle on the hill, eagle mountain, Sunday trading, cycling, racing, street art
Street Art @ Eagle on the Hill


At Eagle on the Hill there was a BP service station on the "up" track near the hotel, and Shell and BP service stations on the "down" track opposite the hotel.

The BP near the hotel has completely disappeared now, while the Shell opposite is disused, decrepit and dilapidated. Adorned with street art and graffiti and in a state of disrepair, it is gradually returning to nature.

mountain bikers, skateboarders, motorbike riders, eagle on the hill, eagle mountain, Sunday trading, cycling, racing, street art
A Recycled Service Station For Sale


Interestingly the BP service station further down the hill now appears to have morphed into a house, which is now on the market. It's a pity this doesn't happen with heritage buildings more often too.

Dipsomania

mountain bikers, skateboarders, motorbike riders, eagle on the hill, eagle mountain, Sunday trading, cycling, racing, street art
Panoramic City Views from Former Eagle on the Hill Hotel


For those in need of alcohol on a Sunday it was again necessary to leave the metropolitan area, unless you could prove to an unenthusiastic publican that you were a bona fide traveller. It's still not clear to me why travellers were particularly deserving of alcohol on Sundays, and clearly this was before the days of random breath tests :)

So it was that the Eagle on the Hill Hotel did a great trade on Sundays, with many people only too happy to enjoy a meal as they consumed their favourite tipple and enjoyed panoramic views of the city. Lots of patrons would have drunk to excess before taking the treacherous road down through the Devil's Elbow.

mountain bikers, skateboarders, motorbike riders, eagle on the hill, eagle mountain, Sunday trading, cycling, racing, street art
The Former Eagle on the Hill Hotel Today


It would be interesting to know how accident statistics on that stretch of the road on Sundays compared with other days of the week.

This was an extremely frustrating time for motorists and serious drinkers alike, and it was a great relief when shopping hours were relaxed and Sunday trading was permitted.

Little do those mountain bikers and skateboarders realise :)
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Why? Why is this place deserted?
Where: Crafers West, SA
Cost: Free
Your Comment
Enjoyed the article - for your info it was a shell servo on the up track.
by top65 (score: 1|11) 2475 days ago
How fascinating!
by Jennifer Muirhead (score: 3|1105) 2560 days ago
I remember driving up yo the Eagle on the Hill pub on a Sunday to buy some beer to take away. One had to pretend to be a 'bona fide traveller' meaning one had to have travelled 50? miles to qualify with this archaic law. So we always had a story prepared about just coming over from Melbourne or somewhere. That's what everybody said and the barman would smile and wink as one signed the form at the bar. I remember once my friend I was with told the barman that we'd just come from Melb. The barman then asked 'which road did we take' and my mate was caught by surprise and said Eyre Highway! The punters in the bar burst into laughter but the barman just chuckled and gave us our beer anyway. It was a popular place on a Sunday. The only other place to drink was at the Adelaide airport bar!
by rell2 (score: 0|5) 1096 days ago
Thanks for the memories. We actually had our wedding breakfast at the Eagle on the Hill (27/10/2002) and they went 'above and beyond' to make our occasion perfect. I still recall standing on the deck with my bride, looking at the magnificent view of the city's lights and thinking "What a wonderful way to end the day!"
by sheld (score: 0|5) 1142 days ago
Great article! I kinda miss Devils Elbow and the road that went past the Eagle on the Hill. I think I may take a drive up there again - thanks for the memories!
by Paula McManus (score: 3|3415) 2559 days ago
WOW What a flash back....As a 17 yr old i used to drive up and down the old road from the city to aldgate tafe every day, all those cars and semi's going up and down through devils elbow, i recall that going up the hill, the steepest section and therefore the slowest bit where i could only manage 40kmh in my old honda car was 2 corners before you got to the serve on the left. It was much more beautiful to drive the old road, My favorite memory was coming back to Adelaide on a bus from melbourne, it was just after sunset and all the city lights were on and the bus was full of Victorianns on holiday and there was a unanamous Whoa, Wow, from everyone on the same corner when you couls see the city of Adelaide in all its glory suddenly appear, you cant see that anymore on the new freeway, fantastic article, thankyou Dave.
by samir (score: 2|126) 2557 days ago
Oh and great article! I've been away from Adelaide for a long time and this brought back the time when I'd only been here for a few years... so many places, so many things seen, but I remember feeling so relaxed seeing the lights of Adelaide from the old road, too. Like crossing Sydney Harbour in a ferry on a sunny Saturday morning, it was one of those AAAAAAAHHHHHHHH moments.
by curiouser&curiouser (score: 2|526) 2553 days ago
Memories.....
I remember the guys still riding their motorbikes down this stretch, even in the early '80's.

And yes, the Eagle on the Hill hotel was a popular spot for a meal then, too.

Interesting to see it now.
by curiouser&curiouser (score: 2|526) 2553 days ago
Can't believe the Heysen tunnels have been around for so long now. Can still remember using the Devil's Elbow as clear as it was yesterday. Gateway to the Adelaide Hills and the way to Melb.

What has happened to the Eagle's pub? Has that become someone's residence?

A friend once told me about there being no alcohol on Sundays in town. Had totally forgotten about this interesting fact. Fascinating read Dave.
by Yin-Yin Ow (score: 3|1596) 2561 days ago
As a former retail slave no Sunday trade wouldn't have been that bad... although it is good pay lol

I remember being really freaked on this road at Devil's Elbow as a kid, so probably a good thing that people can't stop at the pub on a Sunday and risk driving it home...

A really interesting and informative article :)
by Kathleen (score: 2|580) 2561 days ago
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