The Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary

The Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary is one of the gems of metropolitan Adelaide. Located in the Port River and Barker Inlet, the sanctuary is just 20 minutes from the city centre and features a 10,000-year-old mangrove forest. A resident pod of about 30 bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) call the river home, while another 300 visit the area regularly.

The Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary covers a 118 km² area including the inner Port, Barker Inlet, Outer Harbour and North Haven marina, reaching as far north as Port Gawler. The mangroves, seagrass, saltmarsh, tidal flats, tidal creeks and estuarine rivers in the sanctuary all provide vital habitat and food for the dolphins.

The Port Adelaide Council has developed a walking trail to provide visitors with an opportunity to watch the dolphins from the shore. Six interpretive signs are positioned along the waterfront, each providing details about the local area and the dolphins that can be seen there. Although the dolphins won’t appear on request, these locations have been carefully selected based on previous sightings.

If you want to get closer to the dolphins you can take one of the cruises that depart regularly from the famous Port Adelaide Lighthouse on Sundays, public holidays and during school holidays. It is also possible to hire a kayak or bring your own vessel, but you must abide by the approach distances for dolphins (136kb pdf) and obey all speed limits (265kb pdf).

As with bird watching, a notebook is a handy tool in which to record the dolphins’ individual features to help distinguish them from each other. Dolphins are playful and friendly creatures, but do not be tempted to enter their personal space or disrupt their natural behaviour.

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Our office is located above the Port Adelaide Visitor Information Centre at 66 Commercial Road, Port Adelaide. Please call us before you come as we may be working in the field!


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