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Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary A Travel Guide

Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary: A Travel Guide

If photographing majestic waterbirds or discovering marine wonders through snorkeling is your definition of a trip for the ages, we got the place for you: the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary. 

With over 60 km of coastline charm, this wildlife haven sprawling with thousand-year-old mangrove forests, tidal flats, and salt marshes is a must-see spot for all travelers. 

Our article below will give you a glimpse of what you should expect in Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary, resulting in an unforgettable trip! 

Things to Know

Address: Dublin SA 5501
Operating Hours: Daily – 9 am to 5 pm
Contact Details: (08) 8115 4600

How to Get to Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary

How to Get to Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary

Fastest Way: https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=14dzf8eeNJpsSu6CHNC1hb6oWEF4j4cM&ll=-34.54585400847389%2C138.3676604855071&z=17

Distance: around 70 km

If you choose to go to Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary by car, go north-westbound on South Rd until you reach Princes Hwy. 

On Princes Hwy, go northward until you reach its intersection with Thompson Road where you should turn left. Follow Thompson Rd until you get to Port Prime Rd where you must go south until you arrive at the sanctuary.

Best Time to Visit

Best Time to Visit

Spring is the best time to visit the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary, as migratory birds return during the season, adding a burst of color and lively activity to this spot. 

Top Things to Do in Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary

Birdwatching at Thompson Beach

With gentle spring weather on our side, we went to Thompson Beach for a morning of birdwatching. Thousands of migratory shorebirds flock to the area between October and April, so we didn’t have to worry about not spotting one.

We even saw critically endangered species, like the majestic eastern curlew and the charismatic orange-legged ruddy turnstone, scanning the safe shallows like diners lining up for a buffet. 

Look for dolphins

Look for dolphins

Since the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary is just a fin’s length away from the International Bird Sanctuary, it’s no surprise that spotting dolphins is common here, especially during autumn. 

The Garden Island Boardwalk is the prime place to spot some. Don’t forget to bring binoculars to catch a closer glimpse of the friendly flippers’ antics!

Stroll along the Third Creek Trail in Thompson Beach

Stroll along the Third Creek Trail in Thompson Beach

As part of the Samphire Coast Shorebird Trails, The Third Creek Trail—spanning about 3.4 km in Thompson Beach—is one of the sanctuary’s well-kept secrets. 

It’s a moderately easy path with flat but sandy terrain. Completing this in 1 to 2 hrs isn’t an issue.

The main draws here are the migratory waterbirds and shorebirds along the way, but the edible samphires growing in low-lying saline areas are noteworthy too. 

These fascinating plants store the salt in their leaf tips, which dry up and break off, giving the landscape a burst of colors ranging from green to pink, red, and purple. 

So, if you capture a shot with a breathtaking background at the sanctuary, you can thank these fashionable samphires for adding that extra pop of color!

Hunt the geocaches hidden in the sanctuary  

Hunt the geocaches hidden in the sanctuary

With over 100 geocaches hidden within the sanctuary, going on a geocaching adventure here should be a no-brainer for bold explorers. However, it’s easier said than done, as they’re hidden well, and you must have a geocaching app to complete this quest. 

We advise doing this with a partner or companions, as geocaches are often perched on off-the-grid spots, forcing you to wander off beaten paths, where you might get lost. You may also bring a guide dog, as puppers are welcome in the sanctuary!

Go kayaking at St. Kilda’s

Kayaking at St Kilda’s offers scenic sea beauty. You can bring your kayak or hire one.

Just be on the lookout for the moody sooty oystercatchers, these big-billed birds that can be a real pain when they feel threatened. They rarely attack, but like avian rockstars, they go all out with their borderline ear-splitting squawking once startled.

In addition, keep an eye on the elegant black-winged stilt if you’re kayaking near shallow waters. You don’t want to scare them away from your camera lenses.

Look for bait during low tide

Look for bait during low tide

If you’re a huge fishing aficionado, the sanctuary’s beaches will provide you with much-needed bait during low tide. Parham Beach is a terrific place to start, but you can never go wrong with Thompson Beach too.

If you’re having trouble finding some, use the shorebirds and waterbirds as your guides. If they’re fixed to a certain area in the shallows, there’s a huge chance a school of bait fish is swimming there.

Take pictures of the wildlife along the coast

Shorebirds and waterbirds aren’t the only Insta-worthy animals in Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary. The coast offers more, some scalier and more colorful! 

For starters, there are raptors and bush birds. Take snaps of their aerial acrobatics and charming poses. 

The mesmerizing bitterbush blue butterflies add to the seaside allure with their gentle fluttering and predominantly azure hues. 

Wait for them to take flight and time your shots, ensuring the butterflies become the stunning focal point against the backdrop of the sea!

If you walk a little further, you might bump into shingleback lizards or other scaly species tiptoeing along the sandy shores. 

Capturing pics of them takes finesse and patience. These scaly scurriers bolt in an instance when they sense wildlife paparazzi!  

Have fun at the St Kilda Adventure Playground  

If you get bored at the beach and want some land-based action, we recommend the St Kilda Adventure Playground where the young and young-at-heart can unleash their inner adventurers.

It has plenty of fun playground equipment, such as towering forts and twisting slides. 

In addition, this spot is surrounded by lush greenery, towering trees, and tranquil coastal views. A great way to see the latter is to climb the pirate ship and use it as a vantage point!

Snorkel at Port Gawler

Snorkel at Port Gawler

You’ll mostly spend your time at Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary looking above the sky or toward the shoreline, but there’s also a world beneath the waves deserving of your attention. 

This is where Port Gawler comes in, a renowned snorkeling spot brimming with mangroves at the sanctuary’s northern end. 

If you aren’t willing to go deeper, you can just glide on the water’s surface and have staring contests with majestic black swans and blue wrens.

The real magic happens when you dip your head below the water’s surface, though. Our teammates did, and a vibrant world teeming with colorful anemones, delicate colonial sea squirts, lively crabs, and smooth-moving rays unfolded before our goggled eyes!

Visit the beaches after a storm

Visit the beaches after a storm

The sanctuary has a treasure trove of surprises. 

Visiting the beaches after a storm is a recommended activity here during winter, as an assortment of seashells, driftwood, and other marine remnants typically gets washed to the shore during colder months.

Some of our teammates found old necklaces, while others were stuck with piles of seaweed and tattered shoes or cloth. But, hey, it’s the thrill of the hunt making this activity enjoyable and not the reward—unless you get an expensive treasure!

Explore the St Kil­da Man­grove Trail and Inter­pre­tive Center

Exploring the St Kilda Mangrove Trail and Interpretive Center was educational. As we strolled the mangrove-lined trail, we saw many bird species, including herons, spoonbills, and even the elusive mangrove kingfisher. 

But, of course, it’s the resilient mangroves that steal the show here. These trees stand tall amid the salty waters, forming a labyrinth of twisted roots and offering refuge to an array of marine life like small crabs, speedy fish, and ever-shy mudskippers. 

Oh, and this is a flooded forest, so you better dress for the occasion! 

In addition, keep in mind that the trail may be subject to closure if weather conditions go south. Check the weather before visiting.

View a seaside sunset

View a seaside sunset

Sometimes, you just got to sit back, relax, and witness the golden sunset at the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary, an experience that never fails to ignite a sense of awe and wonder.

As the sun gracefully dips below the horizon, painting the sky with gold, orange, and pink hues, the sanctuary also comes alive with the sounds of nocturnal creatures stirring. 

Look closely, and you’ll catch glimpses of pelicans and white-bowed babblers gracefully silhouetted against the colorful canvas, creating a breathtaking display photographers dream of capturing.

Have a coastal picnic

Have a coastal picnic

Although staying overnight isn’t allowed at the sanctuary, our team still basked in seaside stillness by having a picnic. The sound of breaking waves is a great alternative to the bustle of more famous parklands.

For us, Port Gawler’s old jetty ruins provide the best spot for picnics, as it’s shadier than other sections of the sanctuary, plus there’s an element of history added to the spot. Just watch out for seagulls that might get attracted by your sandwiches.

Join the Friends of Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary  

Volunteering with the Friends of Adelaide Bird Sanctuary is an extraordinary opportunity to make a difference in the Adelaide Bird Sanctuary. 

Joining this passionate group of volunteers also allows you to connect with like-minded individuals. 

Moreover, it’s a chance to gain a bird’s-eye view of the sanctuary’s enchanting world as you monitor bird populations, conduct research, and maintain habitats.

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