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For a traditional beachside feel in a historic setting, head to the maritime Adelaide suburb of Semaphore.

By Marc Llewellyn

Charming Semaphore, a beachside suburb 14 kilometres (9 miles) from central Adelaide, has plenty of seaside character. A vibrant place with a strong maritime heritage, Semaphore is known for its vast expanse of golden sand and shallow sea, clusters of heritage buildings, traditional amusement park rides, and plenty of major events.

Don't miss

  • Check out the shops and cafés on Semaphore Road
  • Explore the foreshore and its many attractions
  • Attend one of Semaphore's exciting events

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Take a stroll along Semaphore Road

Semaphore Road is one of Adelaide's widest boulevards, home to heritage buildings, funky boutiques, antique shops, café, restaurants and pubs. Enjoy the beer garden at the Sweet Amber Brew Café, which serves brews from micro-breweries and showcases some of South Australia's best cheeses, cured meats and artisan breads. A historic pub worth popping into is The Fed on Semaphore, built in 1865. It offers good "pub grub" (Australian slang for pub food) and live music – think classic hits, blues and rock – on Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons. Semaphore Road ends at the grassy Semaphore Foreshore Reserve, where you'll find the beach, and beyond that, the emerald green sea.

Enjoy Semaphore Beach and the Esplanade

Semaphore Beach is a wide expanse of sand set against a backdrop of sand dunes. Its sandbars that stretch out into the sea ensure that the water remains relatively shallow for quite a distance; expect low, gentle waves. The Semaphore Jetty, built in 1860 as a berth for customs, pilot and quarantine boats, is a major landmark. Another standout is the stone Time Ball Tower, constructed in 1875 to enable ships at sea to align their chronometers, vital navigation instruments that determined longitude. The foreshore also has a mini-golf course, a 70 metre (230 foot) water slide, and the largest operating carousel in Australia, built in 1928. The foreshore forms part of the Coast Park Path, a 70 kilometre (44 mile) walking and cycling track along Adelaide's metropolitan coastline. A miniature steam train belonging to the Semaphore and Fort Glanville Tourist Railway travels for two kilometres (1.2 miles) along the foreshore. It leaves from the foot of the jetty.

Stay for a bite to eat

Right on the beachfront Esplanade is Semaphore institution, the Palais Hotel, a distinctive example of 1920s art deco architecture, overlooking the sea. The Beach Bar here serves freshly shucked oysters from South Australia's Coffin Bay (AUD$1.50 each), hearty burgers with chips (AUD$16.90 to $19.90), and inventive pizzas, such as the pulled beef pizza (AUD$18.90). It’s a great location for viewing sunsets, too. You'll find local produce on most of the menus around here. Head to The Corner Store, an eclectic, colourful café and provedore, for wholesome breakfast and lunch options prepared using technically challenging methods (if it's summer, ask for the spicy watermelon soup, AUD$11.50). Coffee here is made with fresh Jersey milk from the award-winning Alexandrina Farm nearby. Order a flat white for AUD$3.80, or a "bucket" (three shots of espresso) for AUD$6.50. Nearby, also on Semaphore Road, is Sarah’s Sister’s Sustainable Café, a vegetarian eatery serving South Australian wines and beers. It's set behind a historic shopfront and surrounded on three sides by the Semaphore Garden Centre. Try the wild greens and cheese crepes (AUD$15), which include local samphire (a tasty seaside succulent) and native spinach (also known as warrigal greens). Like The Corner Store, this eatery sources much of its produce from local school gardens, urban farmers and nearby producers.

Enjoy the local event calendar

Several major events take place at Semaphore during the year, including the Semaphore Summer Carnival. As well as impressive fireworks displays on New Year's Eve and Australia Day (a public holiday in Australia, celebrated on January 26), the carnival has traditional fairground rides and free entertainment for kids. It runs from mid December until the last Sunday in January. Another big event is the Semaphore Music Festival, held over the annual October Labour Day long weekend on the beach and Foreshore Reserve. Expect dozens of music performers from South Australia, as well as food trucks, carnival rides and local craft beers and wines. Other events include the Semaphore Greek Cultural Festival in mid January, the Adelaide International Kite Festival over the Easter long weekend, and the Semaphore Street Fair, on the last Sunday in November.

How to get there

Semaphore is about 30 minutes by taxi from central Adelaide. Alternatively, take the Adelaide Metro (Outer Harbor line) from Adelaide Railway Station on North Terrace (20 minutes) then a 333 bus to Semaphore (about 10 minutes).

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