Seaside Village of Semaphore
sea and sand,
Semaphore is a fascinating and colourful seaside village, with a unique history of cultual diversity, harmony and strong community involvement. Established in the early colonial days as an area to service the visiting tall ships, Semaphore has always been one of the most popular beaches in South Australia, and today offers a welcoming seaside village atmosphere.
A popular escape for city dwellers, Semaphore has a fascinating history and heritage. With its variety of unique cafés, restaurants, galleries, gift and antique shops established over recent years, Semaphore has seen a re-emergence of its popularity, and its strong feeling of community, which even short term visitors regularly comment on.
For a century, the railway brought holidaymakers and day-trippers right down the middle of the seaside town's main street. After a decade or two in decline, Semaphore has bounced back with a collection of cafes, galleries and antique shops taking over a fine collection of nineteenth century buildings reminiscent of a big country town. The park down the middle of the shopping street adds to the atmosphere.
"Semaphore is heading for another heyday" Once it was a pivotal communications centre for the isolated colony of South Australia. The mail office on the Semaphore Road / Esplanade corner sorted the bags off the pilot boats. Vital commercial messages from London and precious personal news had taken months to arrive on the sailing ships coming into Semaphore Anchorage.
High on the sand hill still stands the Timeball Tower. Up to twenty or more ship's captains anchored offshore would wait for the big black disc to drop down its high pole at precisely 1.00pm each day. They needed to rate their chronometers to navigate their way across the oceans with South Australian wheat and wool.
The early shipping gave the town-to-be its name. "The father of Australian Theatre" George Coppin, was also a hotelier. He built the first in the area high on a sandhill. He added a tall flagpole nearby to signal to his Port Adelaide establishment, The White Horse Cellars, that a dingy of thirsty shipload of passengers were on their way into the Port River. He called it "The Semaphore".
Promenading along the main street is back in vogue. Two nineteenth century pubs underwent extensions and facelifts in the twenties, and now the Federal Hotel in particular is more likely to give a bed to backpackers from Birmingham than holiday farmers from Booborowie.
Semaphore Road also has its own East End. Around the old Wondergraph picture palace - now in full swing again as a three cinema complex- is another cluster of shops and eateries that give the strip a distinctive feel. The main street has gained an alternative, arty air that residents and visitors are very comfortable with. Off Semaphore Road there is a fascinating collection of fine old stone buildings - churches, grand homes, and humble cottages. They tell a story of a solid and separate town with its own strong identity. Its isolation across the swamps contributed to that.
The Semaphore Road renaissance is giving a boost to the Esplanade area too. The Palais is refurbished, and after a lazy lunch there, the traditional carousel, the miniature steam train ride, and a jetty stroll await.
A stroll around Semaphore is a must - join a guided walk with "Explore Semaphore" (book through the Port Adelaide Visitors Information Centre )
It all adds up to something new...Semaphore Style.
Semaphore is only 15 minutes from Adelaide Airport, or a short 17 km drive from the centre of ADELAIDE, via the Port Road (allow 25 minutes for the drive). Bus and train services run regularly from the city and suburban centres.
For more information on public transport in Adelaide and South Australia:
Visit the Passenger Transport Infocentre, 7am - 8pm, 7 days a week,
(corner of King William and Currie Streets, Adelaide).
Phone: (08) 8210 1000, or visit www.adelaidemetro.com.au