Swan Alley Creek - Garden Island

Garden Island in the North Arm of the Port River provides access to Swan Alley Creek which meanders through the mangroves on the eastern side of Barkers Inlet. This circular route returns to Garden Island Boat ramp.

Paddle overview : Swan Alley Creek

Swan Alley Creek paddle trail

Region Adelaide Region
Nearest Town Port Adelaide (14km from Adelaide) – View in google map
Distance Approx. 9-10 km
Paddle Time Approx 2hrs (and up to half day)
Difficulty Easy – Moderate
Facilities Toilets, extensive parking.
Conditions Visit BOM for weather conditions
Conditions Flatwater – see caution below
Parking Extensive free parking available
National and recreation park link Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary

Trail Notes

Launch sites:
Garden Island Boat ramp GPS: 34.8046 S; 138.5400 E
Launch and exit same location
Caution: The Garden Island boat ramp is often busy and powered craft may be encountered. Remember to give way to powered craft when in the boating channel.

Trail Points:
Garden Island in the North Arm of the Port River provides access to Swan Alley Creek which meanders through the mangroves on the eastern side of the Barker Inlet. A circular route returns to Garden Island Boat ramp.

Swan Alley Creek is one of a number of creeks that meander into the mangrove forest on the eastern side of Barker Inlet. It branches into a number of smaller creeks and is intersected by the channel alongside the embankment built in the late 1800s to reclaim land to the east but abandoned some years later.

Launch from the Garden Island boat ramp area and paddle around the southern end of Torrens Island. Be aware that this area is shallow, and dries out at low tide.

Once around the point, head in a north by north-easterly direction until you can make out the entrance to Swan Alley Creek (Point A 34.7923 S 138.5513 E). From a distance the line of mangroves is almost featureless. At low tide, keep a bit to the west of the direct track and look for the channel in the shallows.

About 300m from the entrance, on the southern side, is a sandbar. Depending on the state of the tide, it may be the only place for landing for a break. Just to the east is the junction with a southern branch of the creek. Its eastern end is impassable.

About one kilometre from the creek entrance the creek branches in a number of directions (Point B: 34.7924 S 138.5618 E). The first branch on the right heads in an easterly direction and is the continuation of Swan Alley. This connects to the dry creek drain about 1.5k upstream and can be navigated at high tide as far as the trotting track. The second branch on the right also heads in an easterly direction and is the outfall of the Little Para river. It is navigable only a short distance.

The third branch on the right that heads in a north easterly direction is Shooting Creek which can be navigated some distance at high tide. The last branch which heads in a north westerly direction can be paddled to the embankment channel and Burrows Creek except at low tide.



The boat ramp is often busy and powered craft may be encountered. Remember to give way to powered craft when in the boating channel.

Always check weather, wind strength and tidal information before departure

Trail 20


picnicParkingBBQToiletsWalking trails
Toilets, parking, BBQ, shady trees, picnic tables, grassy area and change rooms

Points of interest

The Barker Inlet is associated with the following protected areas – the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary, the Barker Inlet-St Kilda Aquatic Reserve, the southern part of the St Kilda – Chapman Creek Aquatic Reserve and the Torrens Island Conservation Park. It also forms part of the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary National Park – Winaityinaityi Pangkara.

Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary is a marine protected area located on the east coast of Gulf St Vincent in and adjoining the north-western part of the Adelaide metropolitan area. It was established in 2005 for the protection of a resident population of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus). It is a real delight to encounter these wonderful creatures when you paddle in this area – something that happens quite frequently.

The Barker Inlet-St Kilda Aquatic Reserve was declared in 1973 principally to protect mangrove seagrass communities which serve as nursery areas for specie such as blue swimmer crabs, and several species of whiting and prawn.

The Torrens Island Conservation Park was proclaimed in 1963 to protect areas of mangrove forest, samphire shrubland and sand dune systems.
Both these reserves share territory with the St Kilda – Chapman Creek Aquatic Reserve which helps provide a buffer area between commercial fishing activity and the other reserves.

The area around Garden Island and Barker Inlet boasts the most southerly mangrove forest, and it is an extremely fragile environment. Avoid damaging the exposed pneumataphores of mangrove trees as these are part of the root system that helps anchor the plant in the soft mud and also bring oxygen to the plant in the anaerobic (low oxygen) water soaked soil. Be aware that mosquitoes can be a problem at times and will be numerous close to dawn and dusk.

The area around Garden and Torrens Islands has great scenic value with numerous water-birds nesting both in the mangroves and on Section Bank (sometimes referred to as Bird Island) at the northern end of Torrens Island. Much of this area forms part of the Adelaide Bird Sanctuary. Within this sits the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary National Park – Winaityinaityi Pangkara. The Bird Sanctuary encompasses over 60km of coastline north of Adelaide, adjacent to Gulf St Vincent and Adelaide’s northern suburbs. Winaityinaityi Pangkara means ‘a country for all birds and the country that surrounds these birds’ in the language of the Kaurna people.

The Bird Sanctuary is one of the key feeding and roosting sites for migratory birds who use the East Asian-Australasian Flyway each year. Birds fly from as far as Siberia and Alaska, passing through 22 countries. The area acts as a crucial habitat on this migratory route which is used by more than 5 million birds a year, 27,000 of which call Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary home.

The Bird Sanctuary helps protect resident and migratory shorebirds, including threatened species such as Curlew sandpiper, Ruddy turnstone, Red knot and Eastern Curlew. Do not enter the rookery area on Section Bank where you will find nesting ibis, spoonbills, pelicans, cormorants, and other water-birds.

There are also opportunities for photography, fishing and viewing marine mammals, such as Long-nosed fur seals (Arctocephalus forsteri), Southern eagle rays (Myliobatis tenuicaudatus) which may grow up to 3m in length, Australian sea lions (Neophoca cinerea) and of course the resident dolphins.
Hint: Some of the Dolphin Sanctuary’s resident dolphins have even been given names, like Twinkle and Hunter. You may like to familiarise yourself with their unique markings and see how many you can recognise on your next visit.

Show us your photos on Instagram: #adelaidedolphinsanctuary

One of the obvious results of writing an article about incredible family adventures near Australian capital cities is that I'm now really keen to visit each and every one of them. Who knew that there was a Dolphin Sanctuary right in Adelaide where you can kayak with playful bottlenoses while exploring mangroves and shipwrecks?

I've now got a family adventure shortlist for every capital city in Australia. Just got to wait for those borders to open...

Photo from Sharon Sharp WDC - The Port River Dolphins.
#portriverdolphins #adelaidedolphinsanctuary #travelwriter #travelwriting #adventurewriting #travelwithkids #adventurekids #radelaide

27 8

#dolphin #bottlenose #tursiops #portriver #AdelaideDolphinSanctuary #wildlife #wildlifephotography #adelaidephotographygroup #abcmyphoto #abcadelaide #naturettl #wildlife_shotsig_wildlife #ourport ...

24 6

One week to go!
Pack a picnic and your water toys (SUPs and kayaks!) for a lil’ launch gathering at Garden Island boat ramp next Friday evening! All genders welcome and I’ll have some SUP’s there for you to have a go on!
I’ll post any updates regarding alternative locations if the weather doesn’t play ball. BUT there’s no such thing as bad weather! Just inappropriate clothing! So maybe get ready to get wet! 😂
#launch #gardenparty #celebrate #picnic #gatheratgardenisland #kayak #sup #adelaidedolphinsanctuary

25 5

Spent the afternoon kayaking off Garden Island in the Dolphin Sanctuary. Didn’t see any dolphins today but loved being out in the water. Will have to go again! 😁
adventurekayakingsa #adventurekayaking #kayaking adelaidedolphinsanctuary #adelaidedolphinsanctuary #gardenisland

24 2

There is a protest out front of Parliament house on Sat 29th Sept 12:00 to help protect our Port River Dolphins from being hit by speed boats. Recently our tail walking dolphin 'Oriana' was killed by a boat strike and since then another dolphin 'Zoom' has been hit. Dolphins need our voice so please try to attend ❤️🐬 #portriver #portriverdolphins #portadelaide #protectourdolphins #adoptadolphin #saveourdolphins #dolphins #lovedolphins #justicefororiana #justiceforourdolphins #tailwalkers #adelaidedolphinsanctuary #dolphinexplorer #wdc #adelaide #southaustralia ...

7 0

Clear #blueskies at the #adelaidedolphinsanctuary yesterday for an afternoon #SUP 🏄🏼‍♀️ Few #dolphins around too 🐬🐬🐬

#gardenisland #dolphin #marinepark #nationalparkssa #standuppaddleboarding #paddleboarding #paddling #calmwaters #sunshine #nofoghere #jetty #hobie #afternoonoff #earlyfinish #wateractivities #balance

26 0

#myhappyplace out on the water 😍

#adelaidedolphinsanctuary #nationalparkssa #SUP #standuppaddleboard #paddleboarding #suplife #adelaide

20 0

Just your average day in the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary! It is always so exciting to see the dolphins jump out of the water and the team at adventurekayakingsa sure were excited!
#dolphins #adelaidedolphinsanctuary #kayaking #portadelaide #visitportadelaide #adelaide #southaustralia #seesouthaustralia

81 6

🌟This is what my 2021 looks like 🌟
Women, together, in nature, getting active, playing, learning, growing in confidence, and having fun!👭
Hope you’re keen to join!🌱🌸💞
📸 by caseytreloar

#enlivenoutdooradventures #enliven #2021 #newyear #newgoals #newintentions #womenoutdoors #nature #getactive #getoutside #sup #standuppaddleboarding #standuppaddle #adelaide #southaustralia #seesouthaustralia #gardenisland #adelaidedolphinsanctuary

52 4

Sit down Skipper.
#itsportadelaide #ourport #bandw #ourportadl #ptadelaide #bnw_captures #bwpic #portadelaide #adelaide #southaustralia #bwphotos #seesouthaustralia #brandsa #cityofpae #adelaidephotography #ichoosesa #portrenewal #birkenheadbridge #portadelaidelighthouse #dolphins #woodenboat #woodenboats #portriverdolphin #portrivetdolphins #adelaidedolphinsanctuary #hartsmill #reflectionphotography #hartsmillplayground

127 1

A ships graveyard, 10,000 year old mangrove forest and our beauties... Home of the bottlenose dolphins (wild) and tail walkers taught by a dolphin named Billie. In the late 1980s, Billie swam out of the Port River and was held at Marineland in Glenelg for a few weeks before being released. In that time she learnt to copy the captive dolphins who had been taught to walk on their tails. When she returned home, she continued to do it. Before long, several other dolphins were mimicking her. Tail walking is extremely rare for wild dolphins and had almost completely disappeared from the river after the Port’s most famous tail walking dolphin, Billie died in 2009 until last year... Tail walking has returned 😘🐬😍 #portriver #portadelaideriverdolphins #gardenisland #gulfstvincent #barkerinlet #torrensisland #shipsgraveyard #mangroves #boardwalk #homeofdolphins #bottlenosedolphins #adelaidedolphinsanctuary #tailwalkers #southaustralia ❤️🐬❤️🐬 ...

13 0

It was way overdue, been on my bucket list for a long time to adopt a dolphin ( monthly payments ) it helps with research and helps to provide a safe future for these guys. I've adopted Sparkles baby 'Twinkle' 🌟🐬 She has been entangled in fishing line four times, not helped by the large notches in her tail fluke and she has five brothers and sisters. #wdc #whaleanddolphinconservation #adoptedadolphin #dolphinsareawesome #theseguysarespecial #tailwalkers #greatcause #twinkle #wanttoadoptthemall #portriverdolphins #bottlenosedolphins #adelaidedolphinsanctuary #portadelaide #gulfstvincent #gardenisland 🌟🐬🌊 ...

4 0


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Trails Adelaide Swan Alley Creek

Paddling Trail South Australia has range of Paddling Trails to suit different abilities. These are easy to access kayak and canoe trails through the Adelaide, Fleurieu Peninsula, Riverland, Murray River and the Coorong.