Adelaide's Metropolitan Coastline
For a bike trail of salty winds, hidden wildlife and delicious cafés, Marie Barbieri pedals Adelaide’s magnificent metropolitan coastline.
When picturing the South Australian coastline, you might automatically think of the wild, surf-bashed Fleurieu Peninsula or isolated cliff-tops inhospitable to those on two wheels. But don’t pack away that helmet yet. Adelaideans are fiercely proud of their bike-magnet metropolitan beaches and with good reason. Cycling is amongst the most popular activities along Adelaide’s shores, with serious routes for thehard-core cyclist and snaking boardwalks over unspoilt sand dunes for leisure cruisers. Overlooking gulf St Vincent is a natural paradise suitable for all abilities and it’ll cost you little more than calories to join the people who have already discovered its beauty.
Adelaide’s Coast Park is a ground-breaking project and the first of its kind in South Australia. Upon completion, it will be a 70km uninterrupted linear trail that hugs the metropolis from Sellicks Beach in the south to Outer Harbor in the north. The 30km section from Brighton beach to Outer Harbor, the most popular for all cycling abilities, consists of sealed foot and bike paths interspersed with on-road cycling. The ride journeys through an exquisite tapestry of natural habitats where wild birds and reptiles (such as the coastal bearded dragon and venomous brown snake) make their home. Dotted along the way are BBQ/picnic areas, landscaped lawns, benches, drinking fountains, public showers, educational plaques and expansive dune systems undergoing continual plant regeneration.
Brighton to Glenelg
To train for Adonis-shaped thighs, you should start your ride at charming Brighton. Bistros buzz on quaint Jetty Road and the smells of breakfast will entice you into one of its bohemian cafés. At A Café Etc, wallpapered in authentic Marilyn Monroe memorabilia, you’ll find many fellow cyclists kicking back at alfresco tables. Join the beach turning right onto Esplanade. This strip boasts some of Adelaide’s most expensive real estate, with rows of old-time cottages squatting humbly between state of the art penthouses and glass-fronted mansions. At the end of the Esplanade and after a small section of sealed beach path, follow the bike sign turning right onto Gladstone Road to bypass the protected and expansive Minda Dunes. Some of the indigenous vegetation prior to European settlement remains within this precious dune reserve, which is best admired on foot from the beach. Turn left onto King George Avenue, and cycle anticlockwise around Minda’s perimeter returning back to the beach via Repton Road. At its end, Somerton Beach Café will hail you over to its beachfront tables. Elevated above the dunes, this pit stop has to be amongst the best positioned on the coast. If you don’t end up ‘derailed’ here, continue riding along the coastline. When the road turns right onto Broadway, continue straight ahead onto the shared path. The Broadway Kiosk can be a problematic spot. Its wafting aromas will send you wobbly on your wheels as they seduce you in to sample some of the delicacies inside.
Weaving along the beachfront path, you’ll soon arrive at historic Glenelg. This is the site where the European settlers of 1836 (and first official immigrants) established themselves on mainland South Australia. If you have the time, slip inside Glenelg’s ornate town hall. Stealing the photographic limelight, it houses Glenelg’s Bay Discovery Centre which runs a permanent exhibition of the town’s social history; from early migrant settlement to modern-day beach culture. Today, this hip and trendy beach resort is conveniently connected to the city by tram (though bikes are not permitted onboard). Once you’ve absorbed bustling Jetty Road, a kilometre of heritage buildings, vibrant cafés, galleries, funky shops and boutiques, take a mini cycling detour (3.5km return) onto the Proclamation Trail. This ride takes you from the site of the early settlers’ first landing, where the shark proof baths once stood and across the Patawalonga Creek where you’ll eventually come to the site of the Old Gum Tree.
Still standing, though somewhat arthritically, this is where the 1836 Proclamation was read, declaring the establishment of the new government. Having completed the loop, head north again until you reach Holdfast Shores Marina. This is Glenelg’s upmarket restaurant quarter, and is almost entirely surrounded by water. Head under the white footbridge (pedestrian overpass) and veer left by Wigley Reserve, following the bike path sign. Curl round to wheel your bike across the short footbridge over the Patawalonga Creek weir, rejoining the bike path at Tarniwarra Park.
At the end of North Esplanade, continue north along the sealed Coast Park path. Glenelg’s sand dune restoration area will rise proudly to your right, where sleepy lizards often hang out for a bit of cyclist-spotting.