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Urban Exploration

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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.
Published September 6th 2012
See things a very different way
Urban Exploration

urban exploration, adelaide, urban spelunking, urban rock climbing, urban caving, building hacking, UE
An Abandoned Industrial Site

Urban Exploration (UE) is an activity where people explore unusual or interesting places in the city. Traditionally these include disused institutions (think hospitals, schools and power plants), tunnels and waterways, and derelict buildings such as factories.

Somewhat ironically, in Victoria a high interest target has been the abandoned Pentridge Prison. Popular targets in Adelaide in the past have included the abbatoirs at Gepps Cross, and the derelict Julia Farr Centre at Fullarton.

There also is a closely related activity called rooftopping, where people gain access to the top of buildings (often at unconventional times) and take photos of spectacular views.

There may also be a component of territory marking such as with graffiti, while photographic images of visited sites are often enhanced to make the locations appear more dramatic or mysterious.

Most of the younger people who enjoy urban exploration prefer abandoned buildings, although I can't see why the possibilities can't be broader. Mysteries can be found in many urban areas, even outside the metropolis.

In fact some people in UE forums seem content to submit images of places that are not explored or abandoned, but the images are sufficiently unusual to capture the imagination.


Urban Explorers face many risks. Some of which include:
unsafe materials such as asbestos, industrial chemicals and other contaminants
electrocution from live wiring
drowning from flash flooding in drains
entanglements with the law for trespass
unsafe structures, tunnel cav-ins
disease from contaminated water, mould etc
police and security patrols

None of these are sufficient to deter many who have tried this pastime. Fortunately those who take the sport more seriously take significant safety measures with appropriate equipment and dress.

At least one website promotes a code for UE.
Unwritten Rule:
Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints"

There is at least one other unwritten rule - Don't ask where the site is. It is often explained away by saying that newcomers should research and find their own site. But it probably is more simply a desire to protect territory.

Abandoned Industrial Site

This former industrial site of around 2 hectares contains a range of derelict buildings both enormous and small. It is also pictured on the first page of this article.

It is situated in a busy urban area, but is locked in a time warp as planning consents for future use are discussed.

Buildings At Risk - Harts Mill

Hart's Mill was built in 1855 and is currently listed as an SA heritage site. However that listing has not prevented other buildings from being demolished, and the listing only applies to the stone/brick structure and not to the iron sheds which have significance too.

urban exploration, adelaide, urban spelunking, urban rock climbing, urban caving, building hacking, UE
Hart's Mill Today

An Unlikely Site - Seafront Toilets

urban exploration, adelaide, urban spelunking, urban rock climbing, urban caving, building hacking, UE
No Occupants Were Embarrassed By This Photo

Although certainly no architectural masterpiece, these toilets have provided a source of shelter, comfort and relief to many over the years.

A council asset management report in 2008 claimed that these toilets were erected in 1992, although a simple look at the buildings would have shown otherwise. A quick troll though the National Library's Trove website shows that their likely age is between 60 and 100 years old.

Whatever their provenance (and they do look somewhat dilapidated now), they are scheduled for destruction imminently.

urban exploration, adelaide, urban spelunking, urban rock climbing, urban caving, building hacking, UE
The Last Sunset is Near For This Convenience

Derelict Chocolate Factory

A disused former chocolate factory may be found to contain surprises.

There are indications that the site is alarmed and patrolled by security guards, but it still gives up some secrets.

Tunnels and drains

Some drains are relatively easily accessed during dry weather, but must be avoided when rain threatens.

urban exploration, adelaide, urban spelunking, urban rock climbing, urban caving, building hacking, UE
Not A Good Time To Enter This Tunnel

Many cities around Australia have stories about secret tunnels - often claimed to have wartime origin. Most of these stories become distorted over time and eventually attain a mythical status.

The Adelaide Treasury tunnels are one of those stories that have been exaggerated over the years to become a little larger than life.

SA UE locations already on Weekend Notes

The Almanda Silver Mine
Mackereth Cottage
West Terrace Cemetery
Shepherds Hill Reserve has former railway tunnels and artifacts

Not abandoned, but the Old Adelaide Gaol may be of interest. It is open to visitors regularly (see website).

Not a building but a historical structure, this bridge fits within the broad UE definition.

Clicking on my profile, then choosing the Writer Category of History will bring up a number of sites in SA and overseas that may be of interest to potential Urban Explorers.

Websites for further exploration

There are a number websites where the urban explorer can display the results of their forays. Of course there are many, but here's a brief list:

Urban Exploration Group
Urban Twilight contains a wealth of Australian images
Already Home
Midnight Flip's site

Forbidden Places
Urban Explorers
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Why? Urban exploration is fun, creative and the answer to curiosity
When: Anytime
Where: Anywhere you dare
Cost: Free
Your Comment
Can't believe I missed this article (although I think it's because it was published in Everywhere, not Adelaide). Great stuff Dave.

I've always been fascinated in Urban Exploration, especially around Adelaide. Unfortunately I don't think it's something I'll ever get into, as I wouldn't know where to start, and I don't own a sensible enough pair of shoes...
by Natasha Stewart (score: 4|10437) 3684 days ago
I would be scared of weird people who hang around those type of places excluding photographers of course. but I enjoyed reading this article very well written.
by brown (score: 1|20) 3643 days ago
What a fascinating topic Dave!
by Nadine Cresswell-Myatt (score: 3|6109) 3736 days ago
Are you on instagram? Would love to see more of your shots if you have any :-)
by m. (score: 2|474) 3074 days ago
Extremely fascinating. Although I must say partaking in Urban Exploration would certainly feed my imagination more than I could handle.
by Yin-Yin Ow (score: 3|1596) 3736 days ago
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