Adelaide’s Linear Park

When the words on my computer screen start to play up and I need a break from writing, I often head down to the River Torrens and walk along Linear Park. Just a boomerang throw from the Adelaide CBD, I am suddenly in the bush, bounded by towering gums and golden wattles. Birdsong fills the air and frogs croak in the reeds and rushes, the mesmerising sounds echoing along the banks. Sometimes I hear a kookaburra laugh or see a cheery flock of rainbow lorikeets; there are ibises, pelicans, wood ducks and all kinds of native waterbirds. Occasionally on my travels I spy a long-necked tortoise, or a koala snoozing high above in the fork of a tree. IMG_5327 Completed in 1997, the River Torrens Linear Park was the first trail of its kind in Australia and is the largest hills to coast park. The promenade stretches 37 km and runs from the foothills through suburban Adelaide and the city to the sea, straddling the Torrens. In the early days, the river was a summertime chain of fresh water pools, used for stock watering and swimming, and filled with yabbies and mussels. I was surprised to discover that in the 1940s an Olympic-size swimming pool was built into the river with a diving tower! IMG_5303 Today, Linear Park still provides a place for locals to relax for an hour or a day, away from the routine of the week. In my favourite little neck of the woods (the lovely loop between the bridge at 9th Avenue and the next bridge east), I often pass dogs fetching balls, and children skimming stones into the river or tad-poling, jeans rolled up, shoes kicked off. With my computer screen a distant memory I sometimes stop to pick a wild mulberry or two from a gnarly old tree on the bank and pluck some feathery fennel that grows in large, wild clumps near the water. IMG_5405 In springtime, the verdant banks are bursting with promise and teeming with life, and rows of baby ducklings march behind their mothers. Come summer the grasses brown off and the river can brake to a muddy trickle. I love it most in wintertime when torrents of gushing water flow under the bridges and up and over the boulders.  IMG_5291 For visitors to Adelaide, especially those pressed for time, Linear Park is a unique way to see both the city and the bush, passing city landmarks and native flora and fauna. The sealed trail is shared by cyclists, walkers and joggers, and dotted with playgrounds, barbeques and picnic tables. The scenic path can be picked up at many spots along the way, and bridges enable you to loop back so that you can choose your own long or short adventure. This makes it suitable for all ages and levels of fitness. IMG_5344 Places to eat along the path are scarce but it’s the ideal setting for an Australian bush picnic. You’ll spot the odd water fountain but it’s wise to bring your own supply of water. There are lots of ways to tackle the trail but one suggestion for a day outing is to start by stocking up on picnic supplies at the iconic Adelaide Central Market. Pack your goodies in a backpack, jump on the free tram to North Terrace, and walk along this majestic avenue before turning down Frome Road to the Adelaide Zoo. You could also stroll a little further down North Terrace to the Botanic Gardens and slip out the back gate to the zoo, where you can pick up free bikes at the entrance. IMG_5419 Bike SA runs the FREE Adelaide City Bikes scheme, sponsored by the Adelaide City Council, with the aim of creating a cleaner, greener city. Each bike is fitted with a lock, which means you can hop on and off, confident that your bike will be there when you return. Bikes can be picked up from various locations, the only catch is that they must be returned to the same spot. IMG_5397 From the zoo, there are numerous options. Perhaps head east and ride a few kilometres to my favourite little patch of the park. Along the way you will pass the swinging bridge, and the Dunstan Adventure Playground on 11th Avenue, a great stop for kids of all ages. For those who would rather taste a really good Aussie meat pie than pack a picnic, not far from the playground is St Peters Bakehouse. See my blog post about the bakery here. IMG_5379 If you have small children in tow or want to take it easy, an alternative is to simply ride through the middle of the city, an elegant, manicured stretch of river with a Cambridge feel. IMG_5395 There are plenty of things to do and see here without venturing further afieldThe riverbank behind the University of Adelaide is a pretty spot for a picnic or ride the Popeye ferry from the zoo to Elder Park, a cherished childhood memory of many South Australians. Paddle boats are also available for rent at Elder Park. If you don’t want to bother with bikes, this city section of the river is easily accessible on foot. IMG_5354 More adventurous souls may prefer to continue from the city down to the beach, a 1 to 1 & 1/2 hour trip (around 8 km). Once you arrive at the river mouth, ride another 2 km along the beach front to Henley – my favourite beach in Adelaide where you can stop for a swim, stroll along the creaky old jetty and relax over coffee or lunch at a café on Henley Square. And for those of you who don’t have the energy to ride back to the city, at Grange (the next beach along) you can hop on a train and rattle back with your bike. Well, that’s enough writing for now…I need to clear my head. It’s time for a walk.

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