How to spend a day in Adelaide’s dolphin and bird sanctuaries

How to spend a day in Adelaide’s dolphin and bird sanctuaries

Want to make the most of your vis­it to these diverse sanc­tu­ar­ies? We’ve got you cov­ered with this itinerary.

Locat­ed just 20 min­utes from the city, the Ade­laide Dol­phin Sanc­tu­ary cov­ers an area of 118 square kilo­me­tres, includ­ing the inner Port Riv­er, Bark­er Inlet and the waters up to Port Gawler.

The neigh­bour­ing Ade­laide Inter­na­tion­al Bird Sanc­tu­ary Nation­al Park-Winaity­i­naityi Pangkara encom­pass­es more than 60 kilo­me­tres of coast­line, adja­cent to Gulf St Vin­cent, in Adelaide’s north­ern suburbs.

Over­lap­ping in some areas, the dol­phin and bird sanc­tu­ar­ies togeth­er help to pro­tect a pop­u­la­tion of bot­tlenose dol­phins, res­i­dent and migra­to­ry shore­birds, as well as pro­duc­tive marine and coastal habi­tats includ­ing man­groves, riv­er estu­ar­ies, sea­grass mead­ows, sand­flats and shel­tered beaches.

The sanc­tu­ar­ies can be vis­it­ed all year round. There’s plen­ty to see and do like kayak­ing, dol­phin and bird watch­ing, boat­ing and coastal walks.

To help you plan your vis­it to the Ade­laide dol­phin and bird sanc­tu­ar­ies, rangers Tam­my Leggett and Ver­i­ty Gibbs have put togeth­er this itin­er­ary for a great day out:


Start your day explor­ing the Ade­laide Dol­phin Sanc­tu­ary by vis­it­ing the Dol­phin Dis­play Room at the Port Ade­laide Vis­i­tor Infor­ma­tion Cen­tre.

You can learn about the sanc­tu­ary and pick up maps and infor­ma­tion about the best way to see the dolphins.

From here, we’d rec­om­mend you choose an activ­i­ty that best suits your sense of adven­ture – whether it be a boat trip aboard the Dol­phin Explor­er (which is acces­si­ble to all ages and abil­i­ties) or a kayak through the man­grove-lined creeks and the Ship’s Grave­yard with Adven­ture Kayak SA. On both tours you’ll have an excel­lent chance of encoun­ter­ing res­i­dent dolphins.

If a self-guid­ed tour is more your thing, walk, cycle or dri­ve the self-guid­ed dol­phin trail, which takes you to the best land-based loca­tions for view­ing dolphins.

Top tip: If want to learn more about indi­vid­ual dol­phins and where they’ve been sight­ed recent­ly, check out Whale and Dol­phin Con­ser­va­tion – the Port Riv­er Dol­phins on Face­book or go to the Dol­phin Dock website

How to spend a day in Adelaide’s dolphin and bird sanctuaries


Trav­el up to St Kil­da where you can pur­chase lunch, bring your own pic­nic or use one of the BBQs there. The kids will espe­cial­ly love the adven­ture playground.

While you’re there, walk along the fore­shore and see how many dif­fer­ent birds you can spot in the Bark­er Inlet. 

How to spend a day in Adelaide’s dolphin and bird sanctuaries


After lunch, pick up a key to the St Kil­da Man­grove Trail from the St Kil­da Tack­le and Tuck­er shop.

The trail’s ele­vat­ed board­walk winds through tidal salt­marsh, under the man­grove for­est canopy and sea­grass-lined chan­nels, and ends with a scenic look­out over Bark­er Inlet.

The St Kil­da man­grove for­est is an impor­tant site that’s pro­tect­ed in both the dol­phin and bird sanc­tu­ar­ies. It’s also a vital breed­ing ground for many dif­fer­ent fish and crus­tacean species due to the warmer waters and low ener­gy coastline.

Top tip: Don’t for­get to pack your mozzie repel­lent. Take your binoc­u­lars too, so you can watch the beau­ti­ful black swans feed­ing on sea­grass­es in the Bark­er Inlet.

How to spend a day in Adelaide’s dolphin and bird sanctuaries


Thomp­son beach is a great spot to watch the sun go down, unwind and reflect on your day.

Take a walk along the South­ern Walk­ing Trail from Thomp­son Beach head­ing south to Third Creek.

See the sam­phire cov­ered tidal mud­flats, salt pans, coastal veg­e­ta­tion and sea­grass beds that are used by the migra­to­ry birds that arrive here every year.

Don’t for­get to pack your binoc­u­lars so you can watch the birds with­out dis­turb­ing them and remem­ber your cam­era to get those stun­ning sun­set shots.

You can then walk back to your car along the beach or head back along the trail.

Top tip – Just remem­ber to check the tide times when head­ing out to the park, as low tides go out a long way, so the best time to vis­it is just after a high tide when the birds are clos­er to the shore.

How to spend a day in Adelaide’s dolphin and bird sanctuaries

This con­tent was pro­duced in part­ner­ship with  Good Living