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

Amazing day to be out on the water #socialdistancing 😍

#suplife #supaddict #adelaidedolphinsanctuary #dolphinsanctuary #adelaide #portriverdolphins #dolphins #nationalparks #marinepark #mangroves #nature #socialdistancingdoneright #paddling #sup #standuppaddleboard

16 2

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

24 6

Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary & St. Kilda. My wife catherinechioutw and I had a small weekend getaway with my brother to explore the beauty of Adelaide nature scenery. The wind was mildly over at the Sanctuary but strong at St. Kilda which made it hard to capture the scenery with a drone. We saw a dolphin but wasn't fast enough to capture it's footage on land. Overall, it was fulfilling and thanks to my brother ed.93.cheah for this adventure

Subscribe to my Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSaXjMbNMCA8trkIRKsS3aw

#adelaide #australia #adelaidedolphinsanctuary #stkilda #spring #windy #weekend #dji #djimavic2pro #dronestagram #dronedesire #droneporn #droneoftheday #droneofficial #shotoniphone11pro #handheldvideo #epic #beauty #nature #fun #exciting

11 0

#itsportadelaide #ourport #bandw #ourportadl #ptadelaide #bnw_captures #bwpic #portadelaide #adelaide #southaustralia #bwphotos #seesouthaustralia #brandsa #cityofpae #adelaidephotography #ichoosesa #portrenewal #birkenheadbridge #portadelaidelighthouse #dolphins #reflectionphoto #portriverdolphin #portrivetdolphins #adelaidedolphinsanctuary #hartsmill #reflectionphotography #hartsmillplayground

134 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

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

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

When you go kayaking and see a SHARK! Nah just kidding, it was a dolphin 😍
#gardenislandsa #adelaidedolphinsanctuary #dolphins #kayakingadventures #meetupgroup

19 0

Just casually kayaking through the mangroves in the #AdelaideDolphinSanctuary. Pic: flelm002 #NationalParksSA #SouthAustralia #SeeSouthAustralia ...

531 16

Had such an amazing day with adventurekayakingsa and taylorjam92 showing the South African surf life saving team our amazing mangroves and flippered friends at the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary! It’s such a rich ecosystem just 20mins from the city! 🌱🐬🕷🐬🐜🐬🐟🐬🦐🐬🐍🐬🦂🐬🦎🐬🐡🐬🌿PLUS the life savers were the best banter buddies. It will be aired on South African National TV, so tell all your friends karlien_vanrooyen jawsome_skipper shark_explorers -
#adventurekayakingsa #adelaidedolphinsanctuary #surflifesavingworldchampionships #yoh #lekker #seeyounownow

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TrailsAdelaideSwan 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.