photo-icon Meaghan Coles

Guides & Maps

A spring stroll with Keith Conlon

At Play Our Wellbeing People of Adelaide

Spring is the perfect season to enjoy an amble in the great outdoors and in Adelaide you can do that right here in the city. Wrapping the CBD and North Adelaide in a natural embrace, the Adelaide Park Lands can be explored by walkers and cyclists by following winding paths and trails that take in stunning views. 

Here’s a little inspiration for your next wander.

Keith Conlon has lived in the city for about 40 years and spent countless hours exploring the Park Lands by foot or on his treadly. A history enthusiast (he’s currently Chair of the South Australian Heritage Council) and nature lover – who better to take us on a tour of one his favourite city walking trails* and share, in his own words, what to discover along the way. 

Follow the map above and get Keith’s fascinating insights below.

*This is a self-guided trail, taking in parts of Botanic Park and Mistletoe Park / Tainmuntilla (Park 11), and can be easily walked or ridden by bike. How long it takes depends on how long you spend at each of point of interest or – like Keith – if you stop to chat with others on the pathway! We strolled it in about 30 minutes, stopping to take in the sights and sounds along the way, and read the many interpretive signs.

Start: Botanic Park – birthplace of a national movement

“I love the sense of the ‘then and now’ you get in Botanic Park. On one hand you come here to enjoy modern ‘wow’ experiences like WOMAD, but the place is also steeped in history. For example, everyone’s heard of the Salvos and their good work, but did you know the Salvation Army movement in Australia was started by two young fellows in Botanic Park in 1880?"

Close up of salvation army memorial stone in botanic park


“Persuaded by William Booth, the Salvo’s British founder, Edward Saunders and John Gore, had been doing a little informal preaching in Light Square, but after being ‘moved along’, they came to Botanic Park where, at an open-air meeting on 5 September 1880, Gore announced, ‘If there is any man here who hasn’t had a meal today let him come home with me.’

“That statement was the start of the movement here and the moment is marked by an inscribed cairn (stone), which you’ll find in front a fairly young tree, planted in 1985, that replaced the original one.

“This whole park is fascinating because it used to be where the colonial police kept their horses until Dr. Richard Schomburgk, one of the great directors of the Botanic Garden in the 19th century, decided the area ought to be more of a grand park or arboretum, with all sorts of planting. Some of the trees in here, like the big old Aleppo Pines along Hackney Road, are more than 140 years old.”

For more info on the Salvos and Botanic Park visit the Botanic Gardens of South Australia website.

Wander north to a ‘secret’ bridge

“If you head north from the cairn across Plane Tree Drive, you’ll hit a path that takes you down to the southern edge of the River Torrens / Karrawirra Pari where, before you get to Hackney Road, you’ll come across an attractive bridge. People who know it use it a lot, but for others it’s a bit of a secret surprise."

Keith conlon chats with brisbane visitors


“Built in 2010, the Sir Douglas Nicholls Bridge was named after South Australia’s first Aboriginal Governor (1976), famous as a footballer and parson. There's a bit of a theory that maybe this bridge was going to cater for all the tens of thousands of people coming to see the pandas when they had their cubs – which of course, we're still waiting for – but it's still a great addition to the Park Lands, connecting both sides of the Torrens. From here you can walk or ride all the way down to the Torrens Weir and back (about six kilometres) and not cross a road!”

Art abounds in Mistletoe Park / Tainmuntilla (Park 11)

“Turn left at the end of the bridge and stroll a little way down the River Torrens Linear Park Trail and you’ll come to the River Torrens Sculpture Park – home to some fascinating public art works which I love discovering in such a natural setting.

“One of my favourites is ‘River Markers’ – three galvanised iron sculptures by John Wood. I love their symbolism of the surrounding landscape. You have a water bird (it’s a stylized version of the pacific black duck), two native fish (the big-headed gudgeon and the blue spotted goby) and some native flora (river red gum leaves and flowers with kangaroo grass and rushes).

“There’s a detailed interpretive sign telling you about the sculptures a little further down. While you’re walking along the path here, be sure to look down as well as around. There’s a piece called ‘Landline/Timeline’ by Phillip Hind that’s set in the ground itself - running from the river, across the path and up the hill to the road.”

On the linear park trail


My ultimate Park Lands view

“Head west along the Linear Park Trail and eventually you’ll hit a sharp rise. This bit slows down a few bike riders! At the top, stop, catch your breath, face the river and turn left. I call this spot ‘The Lookout’ and it has my favourite view in the Park Lands, looking east up the last long reach of the Torrens Lake."

“The famous English landscaper Capability Brown went on about creating good views. Well, I think this view has all you need in a good landscape: water reflecting the surrounding trees on a still day, distance, and perspective. You might spot a bird flying past or hear a coot (a little black water bird) rustling in the reeds along the bank or one of the many Zoo animals!"

Riverbank flora


“This view is so natural that you could believe you were 50 kilometres away from the city, but you’re only about one kilometre from the GPO!”

A look to the past and the future

“Continuing west along the Linear Path Trail, you’ll soon spot another bridge crossing the river in the distance. This one is an oldie and, with Adelaide’s modern cityscape behind it, it shows a real contrast between the city’s heritage and contemporary architecture."

“Named after Queen Victoria’s husband, the Albert Bridge is a State Heritage Place. It was built in 1879 from a design by John Grainger, the father of the great Australian composer, Percy Grainger.

“With its ornate iron lacework, Albert Bridge is a striking example of a Victorian-era structure here in Adelaide and celebrates its 140th birthday in 2019. I reckon it’s the oldest bridge across the Torrens that's still with us. Others were built before but have long been washed away.”

Albert bridge ornate lacework


A peek at First Creek

“Walk over Albert Bridge on the left-hand side and head past the multi-coloured polychrome brick face of the original 1883 entrance to the Adelaide Zoo, and you’ll soon reach a trio of large Moreton Bay Fig Trees – the ones with the big exposed buttress roots."

Keith conlon under the moreton bag fig trees
photo-icon Meaghan Coles

DUCK UNDER THE TRIO OF MORETON BAY FIG TREES Just after the walkway down to the adelaide zoo entry.

“Head off the footpath, under the trees and peek east to spot (or hear) the gentle flow of First Creek, before it connects with the Torrens. It’s a modest ending for a creek that has a famous moment at Waterfall Gully, where water flows down the hills from up near Crafers and Mount Lofty. On its journey down to the Torrens, First Creek – which was once known as Green Hill Rivulet – can only be seen every now and then, in places likes Kensington, before disappearing under Kent Town and popping up again at the National Wine Centre. Then it has a nice little meander through the Botanic Garden and Botanic Park before ending here. Above it, you’ll see an old bridge that was built as part of the original Grand Carriageway entry to Botanic Park and is now a foot and bike path."

Finish: Adelaide Zoo entry

“From this point, backtrack slightly and take the walkway through to the new entry to the Adelaide Zoo, which takes you back into Botanic Park to complete your circuit!”

Discover more ways to walk and cycle your way through the glorious Adelaide Park Lands with our nature trails.

For more inspiration on how to make the most of spring in the city - check out our handy spring guide!

Article by

Skye Murtagh

Skye Murtagh

Skye is passionate about sharing stories from all walks of life. When she's not busy weaving beautiful words together, she's singing a line or two from her favourite song.