Did you know that the Port River is home to wild dolphins? Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) to be exact. The Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary is only 12 kilometres from Adelaide’s CBD. The Port Adelaide Dolphin Trail is a self-guided afternoon drive that takes you around Port Adelaide and the LeFevre Peninsula to six of the best dolphin viewing hot spots in the sanctuary.
This is the central point of the trail, situated in the historic waterfront centre of 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 and it’s a great view.
This is a popular spot for fishermen after bream and mulloway, and launching boats. It’s a bit out of the way and again a bit bleak but I used to watch the dolphins ride the bow waves of the big ships as they pass by. Why do dolphins do that?
Things to remember
- These are wild animals. Do not harass or feed them.
- They don’t appear on demand.
- Dolphins are not fish. They’re mammals.
- If you want to get a closer look at them consider booking a mangrove kayak tour.