Subscribe      List an Event or Business      Invite a Writer      Write for WN      Writers      Other Locations
list an event      1 million Australian readers every month      facebook

Torrens Island Quarantine Station Tour

Home > Adelaide > Cruises | Escape the City | Tours | Unusual Things to do
by Graeme Fanning (subscribe)
I'm a tour guide who is passionate about South Australia and love to showcase to locals and visitors. Visit my facebook page at
Published September 6th 2015
Find out the true meaning of the word, Isolation
Torrens Island Quarantine Station

For a different kind of experience, how about a tour of the Torrens Island Quarantine Station which is steeped in history and associated stories?

Not only a quarantine station but also during World War One, it was utilised as an internment camp for alleged "enemy aliens".

Torrens Island Quarantine Station
Entry point for quarantine station

History and Background

The quarantine station was originally opened in 1879 and designed to prevent passengers on ships bringing diseases such as smallpox into Adelaide.

The visit to Torrens Island would have been the first experience passengers would have had when arriving here and was utilised for passengers right up until the 1950's.

However the quarantine facilities were used much longer for animals and plants.

Most of the buildings connected to the original quarantine station and subsequent internment camp were built between 1912 and 1916, although some of the original nineteenth century station remains.

In 1909, the running of Torrens Island Quarantine Station moved to the Australian Government and at that time there was believed to be accommodation up to around 224 people.

The internment camp at its height accommodated up to 400 men of German and Austro-Hungarian background and was operating in that capacity from October 1914 until August 1915.

Unfortunately the camp had a reputation for being one of the most brutal in Australia and government lobbying luckily caused it to be closed down fairly early in the war, with internees either being released or transferred to camps in New South Wales.

The island could only be reached by boat right up to 1962 when a bridge was built as part of the Torrens Island Power Station development.

In 1979, following the eradication of smallpox world-wide, the human quarantine part of the station was closed permanently.

Torrens Island Quarantine Station
Internment Camp c 1916 Source State Library of South Australia / 9002


Fully trained and knowledgeable staff from the South Australian Maritime Museum at Port Adelaide run the tours which last for approximately two hours.

Upon arrival at the site, you can't help but imagine you can hear the ghosts of the inhabitants echoing through the derelict buildings - what stories would they have to tell?

You will have an opportunity to view the bathing blocks that separated first and second class passengers, visit the boiler house which was used to power fumigation, as well as the morgue and the isolation hospital.

The guides paint a vivid picture of the experience of a traveller back in the nineteenth and early twentieth century from the time they set foot on the island, through the process of having their luggage fumigated, being bathed in diluted carbolic acid and then taken to their bungalows or the isolation hospital.

Not only are the stories fascinating and the infrastructure visits eye opening but also there is an excellent opportunity to wander around on your own to peer into windows, through the old dormitories and bungalows and to take photographs.

Torrens Island Quarantine Station
Bed in Dormitory

An added experience

To really put yourself in the quarantine internee's shoes, the South Australian Maritime Museum is also currently offering a cruise on the ST Yelta, which was South Australia's last working steam tug built in 1949.

These two hour cruises leave the wharf and the crew highlight an experience for passengers of the heyday of steam power.

For both the Torrens Island quarantine station tour and the ST Yelta, cost includes admission to the SA Maritime Museum, which holds excellent memorabilia, documentation, artefacts and all information relating to South Australia's maritime history.

You can easily pass the time away for a whole day down at Port Adelaide and soak in the atmosphere and history of this fascinating area.

Torrens Island Quarantine Station
Fumigating areas for passengers


Torrens Island Quarantine Station Tours

Dates left for this year: Sunday 20th September 2015, Sunday 18 October 2015 and Sunday 15 November 2015

Times: Tours are run at 10 am, 11.15 am, 12.45 pm and 2.15 pm

Tour Length: 2 hours including 90 minutes walking around Torrens Island site

Departing area: Tours leave from the SA Maritime Museum, 126 Lipson Street, Port Adelaide

Mode of transport: Bus

Cost: $25 per person

ST Yelta Cruises

Dates left for this year: Sunday 27 September 2015, Saturday 10 October 2015, Sunday 11 October 2015

Times: Cruises leave the wharf at 1 pm and return at 3 pm - boarding commences at 12.30 pm

Cruise Length: Two hours

Departing area: Port Adelaide wharf near Lighthouse

Cost: $25 per person

All tours can be viewed and booked on the SA Maritime Museum website

Torrens Island Quarantine Station
Boiler Room Chimney

Help us improve  Click here if you liked this article  14
Share: email  facebook  twitter
Why? Two opportunities to re-visit South Australia's past
When: Sun 20 & Sun 27 September 2015, Sat 10,Sun 11 & Sun 18 October 2015 & Sun 15 November 2015
Phone: (08) 8207 6255
Where: Maritime Museum, 126 Lipson Street Port Adelaide SA 5015
Cost: $25 per person
Your Comment
Articles from other cities
by Dave Walsh on 26/11/2012
Top Events
Popular Articles