Hugging the north bank of the Onkaparinga River where it flows into the Gulf of Saint Vincent, Port Noarlunga is a small seaside suburb around 30 kilometres south of Adelaide. It’s renowned for the natural beauty of its beach and historic township, together with an offshore reef teeming with marine life.
It was in the early 20th century that Port Noarlunga first emerged as a popular seaside getaway for Adelaideans, with summer amusement fairs and boating on the river estuary favourite activities. As transport options have improved, most notably the rail line built to Noarlunga Centre in 1978, and Adelaide’s population expanded, urban sprawl has seen the township become an outer suburb, home to permanent residents who commute to the city centre for work. It has managed to retain its early township charisma, with numerous heritage-listed buildings that include the Port Noarlunga Hotel, Sauerbier House, now a contemporary art space, and the impressive stone-built Perry Homestead. The beach remains Port Noarlunga’s biggest attraction, with a picturesque stretch of sand patrolled by the Port Noarlunga Surf Life Saving Club and an aquatic reserve that lies 400 metres offshore, home to more than 200 different marine plants and 60 fish species. Scuba divers can explore the reef along its self-guided diving trail, marked by glass plaques explaining the local marine ecosystem and its interactions. There are a cluster of cafes, a pub and a quintessential fish and chip shop set just back from the beach along Gawler Street and a large community playground in the south of the suburb. Adjacent to the Noarlunga Railway Station in the east lies the Colonnades shopping centre and cinema complex, while to the north of the suburb is the busy commercial strip of Beach Road in Christies Beach.
Port Noarlunga is served by public bus from Adelaide’s city centre, or by train to the Noarlunga Railway Station which lies just to the east. The suburb itself is quite compact and easily explored on foot, particularly along its picturesque esplanade which overlooks the ocean.
Originally inhabited by the Kaurna indigenous people, the first European known to explore the Onkaparinga/Ngangkiparri River was Captain Collet Barker in 1831 as he searched for an outlet from Lake Alexandrina. Port Noarlunga was first settled to ship produce from the market town of Noarlunga which lay just upstream, with a jetty constructed in 1855.