My daughter, Izzy, wanted to do something special for Halloween this year and decided on a scary film for the evening and beach trip for the day. She was possibly wanting to rekindle memories of our early days in South Australia, when we made a sand pumpkin. It really was a novelty to us then to have beach weather on Halloween.
Heading for Semaphore
As she had no particular preferences, we headed for the nearest non-mangrove beach, Semaphore. At certain times of year the LeFevre Peninsula, where it's located, can have a lot of seaweed washed up, so the plan was that if that was the case we'd follow the coastline further south. As it happened, the beach was clear, so at Semaphore we stayed.
One of the great things about Adelaide’s beaches is that there is free parking both at the roadsides and in carparks, except for the resident permit areas which would cost you a fine. Other than at the busiest times, you can usually find a parking space fairly easily, because let's face it, we aren't the most popular tourist destination. The east coast of Australia is where most overseas visitors head.
Back in the early 20th century, Semaphore was the top tourist beach. Today this honour goes to Glenelg, which has all the modern amenities and trendy places to go. It even has a direct tram line to and from the city and being close to the airport means that you can watch and hear low flying planes landing and taking off. Yet what appeals to me about Semaphore is that it still retains something of that 1900s feel to it. They still operate the original carousel from its heydays in the 1920s. It wasn't open at the time of our visit, but it won't be long and the summer holidays start.
On the Beach
The approach to the beach is always striking to me, with Adelaide’s fine white sands.
I love that the dunes with their native flora frame the beach. You just have to be cautious in the summer months, because snakes make their homes there. I've never seen one, however, so they probably mostly prefer to keep out of the way of the people traffic. It's a good idea to stick to the paths for the sake of the flora as well as the potentially dangerous fauna.
Once through the windbreak offered by the shrubs on the dunes, we quickly got to experience just how windy the day was and a warm day turned chilly! Instead of using the towels for drying ourselves after a dip, we wrapped ourselves in them for warmth.
Holding our towels securely around us we made our way to the jetty. It was originally built back in 1860 and used to reach out to sea and even branched off much further than it does today. Unfortunately, every now and then the coastline will get hit by a severe storm and one of these took out the end of the jetty. They couldn't afford to rebuild it at the time, so it was shortened to its current length. I'm sure one day the sea will claim more of it, as happened a couple of years back with some other Adelaide coastal jetties. On these calmer days it still looks pretty sturdy, though.
The jetty is popular for fishing and halfway along there is a chart display legal size, bag and boat limits for the local sea life.
Up on the jetty we were even more exposed to the winds so we decided not to continue braving them to the end and headed back to the beach.
The sea got a cursory paddle while we turned to shell hunting. The shells seem to accumulate in patches according to size. Our first hunt was for bivalves with holes near the hinge edge for a project Izzy has been working on. The holes are caused by predatory moon snails which use their powerful, wide foot to hold onto the targeted mollusc while they drill in to access the meal inside.
The snail didn't quite get through on one of these.
While hunting for the remains of these victims, we were fortunate to come across the remains of one of the predators themselves, almost fully interred in the sand. My daughter spotted the swirl of the side of the shell poking out from the sand and I fully expected it to be just a fragment. Imagine my surprise when I had to work to pull the bulk of it out from its grave!
Another sign there is a strong moon snail community in the local seas is their gelatinous egg sacs sitting the sand. The first time we encountered these we wondered if they were some strange type of jellyfish.
Once we had some cockle shells that Izzy was happy with, we retraced our steps to a patch of tiny shells we'd spotted earlier.
Settling ourselves next to one of the jetty supports, so it would act as a wind break, we entertained ourselves searching through the shells, comparing and picking out any we felt were particularly striking. We became so engrossed that I didn't initially realise that a group of seagulls had also lined themselves up alongside us. I think they were also trying to catch a break from the wind!
At this time of year and day, most of the people on the beach were locals and there weren't many of them (just how I like it). Dogs can be walked on the beach here and owners are pretty good at picking up after them, which can't be said for all beaches. A couple of young mums were spending a bit of social time together near our small shell patch and I was reminded how one year olds like to put everything in their mouths! I expected her to pull more of a face at the mouthful of salty wet sand, but maybe it was enough that I was pulling one for her!
Arnold's Steam Train Kiosk
By this point we were ready for a little something to eat. I don't think Izzy felt like walking up to the main boulevard to see what cafes there were, so we opted for the food kiosk on the foreshore. We took a small detour to the car to drop off towels, collect my jacket and Izzy’s camera. Next stop was the deliciously yolk/mustard coloured toilets! Same colour inside as out and rather dated and cramped, but at least clean.
In the tourist season, and part time from October, there is the little Fort Glanville stream train which runs from the top of Semaphore jetty to Fort Glanville.
The small station sits right next to Arnold's Steam Train Kiosk, which probably explains the name of said kiosk.
As we continued our stroll to the kiosk we passed a gnarly, native shrub with a noisy minor feasting on the nectar in its cone shaped flowers. My tablet’s camera struggled to capture it very well, and Izzy hadn't gotten her camera out yet to help me out.
The kiosk offered good food at a good price. There were no embellishments, just basics. Interestingly they had some raw, vegan sweet options in the display case, but no obvious savoury vegan options on the main board. Well, maybe chips if they weren't cooked in the same oil as the seafood. I was very tempted by some of the vegan desserts, but couldn't even finish my meal, so I sadly can't say if they tasted as amazing as they looked.
As we ate, we were kept company by pigeons who also did a great job at cleaning up any spillages.
The place was relatively clean except for poor Bob the Builder on his digger. He looked like he'd said something inappropriate to a lady with a drink and got it thrown in his face
After lunch we took the opportunity to wander around the foreshore to see what else there was of interest. There are a lot of open grassy areas which are great for games and picnics, especially if you like them without the sand in your sandwiches. There are quite a few picnic benches too. Next to the kiosk is a children's play area.
When it opens for the summer season there will be the fairground area with the carousel and waterslide. We've never actually been in there when it's been open, but I'm pretty sure there will be costs associated and I avoid monetary costs as much as possible.
To the other side of the kiosk is what looks like a basket ball court with a sheltered picnic area in the middle of it. Perhaps the picnic area is removable. Next to that is a skate park.
Most of what is available here is free to use. There is even an area to chain you bike up if you want to cycle there. The dog friendliness means that dog poop bags are provided for your convenience too.
A Bit of War History and Memorials
Earlier, when looking towards the shore from the jetty, I'd noticed a memorial tower. These things usually have a bit of information displayed on plaques somewhere on them, so curiosity drew me to them.
It seems the naval gun is a new addition to the memorial exhibits; unveiled in August 2018. The ship it came from, “Protector,” now rests on a reef in Queensland as a breakwater. It looks like she had quite an interesting life, arriving in South Australia in 1884 and serving through two world wars, while also spending some time on loan to the US.
The anchor is a memorial to some sea captains. The plaque doesn't give much detail on them, so I don't know whether they are captains who died in war were lost at sea, or were just well known in their day. No dates are offered, but the writing style is pretty old fashioned, so I'd guess it was probably placed there at a similar time to the memorial tower, which was unveiled in 1925.
While the tower itself was unveiled in May 1925, to commemorate the fallen in the first world war, later plaques have been added to commemorate those who served in later wars. I was actually left wondering what went on with the building of the tower, because the stones laid near the bottom have the dates of April 1924, which is over a year before the official unveiling.
Off the actual beach there was a bit more shelter from that wind and the sun was giving us it's full heat again. So we headed for a sheltered area with lots of tables and benches. There were rows of seagulls already lined up in the shade there and the bird droppings everywhere indicated that this was a popular spot for them. Izzy decided she wanted to try and get some movement photos of them and started to throw some left over chips out. This turned the volume up to full blast! It's surprising how much louder seagulls sound in a partially enclosed area. Although some of them would take from our hands in flight the gulls themselves wouldn't come right up to us for the chips at ground level. However, a male pigeon would. He even started jumping on Izzy’s hand to get better access. Soon he was joined by another pigeon and they'd both jumped up to eat. As they were both male, they started fighting a bit when not distracted by food and even ended up battling on my daughter's lap as she tried to separate them!
It was an entertaining end to the day. We even managed to save a few of the chips to take home to our chickens!