Port River Dolphin Trail – Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary

The Port Adelaide Dolphin Trail is a self-guided drive that takes you around Port Adelaide and the LeFevre Peninsula to six of the best dolphin viewing hot spots in the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary. Allow around four hours to complete the trail.

Did you know that the Port River is home to wild dolphins? Ours are Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) to be exact. The Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary is unique. Just 12 kilometres from Adelaide’s CBD, it’s home to one of the worlds most urbanised dolphin populations.

Fishermen’s Wharf

The wharf at Port Adelaide

The central point of the trail is situated on the historic Fishermen’s Wharf in Port Adelaide. There’s plenty going on here and you can pick up a trail brochure from the visitor centre nearby. We couldn’t find the first dolphin sign so here’s a picture of the general area around Lighthouse Square. Dolphin cruises depart the wharf daily. A great place for lunch while you’re in the port is the Banksia Tree Cafe.

Garden Island

Garden Island

Head west for the Grand Trunkway and cross the North Arm bridge onto Garden Island. It’s pretty bleak. For many years it was a major metropolitan rubbish dump and has only recently been rehabilitated. On the far side of the Garden Island is Angas Inlet. You’ll find dolphins here most of the time. There’s also a picnic area, a busy boat ramp and a boardwalk. Allow a half hour or so to walk the mangrove boardwalk.

Garden Island Boardwalk

Moorhouse Road

Despite the signs declaring no entry (which is strange considering it’s a market every Sunday) we headed to the desolate car park that hosts the Torrens Island Market. The area is undeniably industrial but has a wide view of the river and North Arm and rock hopping for the kids. It’s not a pretty place to hang around but I always see a dolphin or two here. Maybe it’s because of the fishing boats.

Dolphin Trail sign with the Port River in the background

Largs Bay

Head back through Port Adelaide to Semaphore and follow the Esplanade north to Largs Bay Jetty. Dolphins often hang out off the beaches of Adelaide and you can spot them easily from the jetty when they’re around.

This is a much nicer place to stop and has a kiosk, park and toilets but we couldn’t find a dolphin trail sign here either.

Largs Bay Jetty

North Haven Marina

North Haven Marina

Drive a little further along the coast beneath the rows of majestic pines to North Haven Marina. Look for the Sailmaster Tavern car park. Head out onto the walk overlooking the marina to find the trail information sign. Dolphins sometimes enjoy the relative calm of the water inside the marina. This is an excellent spot to stop for lunch. There’s a couple of great restaurants nearby with excellent views.

Snowdens Beach

This is a popular spot for land-based fishermen after bream and mulloway. It’s also the site of a few sailing clubs, a marina and popular boat ramp. Way back in my fishing days, I watched the dolphins ride the bow waves of passing ships here and wonder why they did it.

Snowdens Beach

Things to remember

  • These are wild animals. Don’t harass or feed them.
  • They don’t appear on demand.
  • Dolphins are not fish. They’re mammals.
  • They are often far away. If you want to get a closer look at them you should consider booking a mangrove kayak tour.

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