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  • Michael Waterhouse

The Metro Coastline

of South Australia is packed with some of the best beaches you’ll find anywhere in the world. One of the best things about Adelaide is its proximity to these fantastic coastal suburbs. The 40 km-long metropolitan coastline runs from Outer Harbour in the North all the way down to Hallett Cove.


European settlement of the Adelaide region began in the 1830’s. The site had been selected based on the extensive exploration and investigation of the coastline by Colonel Light. In making a final decision, Colonel Light was probably influenced by the wide belt of coastal dunes and wide sandy beaches stretching to the north and south. In fact, there was a continuous 30 kilometre stretch of sand dunes reaching from Seacliff to Outer Harbor, broken only at the Patawalonga Creek. These ranged in height up to’15 metres and averaged a width of between 200 and 300 metres. The Adelaide region included the coastal dunes, and offered settlers an abundant source of building materials, grazing land, timber for fuel, and residential land. As metropolitan settlement has expanded, particularly since the 1920’s, much of this dune belt has been developed for residential purposes. Much of this foreshore development occurred in the 1940’s, and major storms in the 1940’s and 50’s highlighted that the metropolitan coastline was far from stable. These storms created widespread damage to properties along the foreshore, and increased public awareness about the need to protect both public and private property due to the effects of the natural coastal processes.


Living in the western suburbs ever since I emigrated from the UK in 2006, the metro coastline is where I cut my teeth as a landscape photographer. Living and working in or near Brooklyn Park, meant I could jump in the car and be at Henley Beach or West Beach in under 10 minutes. This was something I did a lot after work if I thought there might be a good sunset, and I was pretty obsessed with looking at clouds in those early days. One of the best things to photograph for any beginner are jetties, and the coastal towns of Adelaide all seem to have one. They offer interesting compositions from the side, on top, underneath and looking out to sea or back towards land. I spent many an hour in those early days shooting sunsets around these man-made structures while I learnt the basics of capturing light and how to use my camera. Not having to worry too much about composition is a big help when you’re trying to get your head around things like aperture size, shutter speed, ISO and focusing. Henley Beach will always hold a special place in my heart as this was the first coastal place I became familiar with after arriving in Australia due to it’s location to where I lived, and the beach, jetty and town square are definitely photogenic enough for me to have captured hundreds of images of the place. A little further down the coast is West Beach, with the River Torrens outlet offering an interesting coastal scene with a good chance of pelicans popping up to pose for the odd photo. Semaphore is another favourite of mine, with the watch tower an additional point of interest to the jetty, and a bit further North, Largs with its beautiful old jetty along with one of my favourite buildings in Adelaide, The Largs Pier Hotel looks fantastic when the sun is out or the sky is all sorts of colours at sunset.


Heading south down the coast we have Glenelg, with its touristy vibe and beautiful marina. A little further along Brighton has one of the better looking jetties and the forshore has interesting art dotted along its edge. Seacliff and Marino have a nice tranquil feel with the rocks at Marino always offering foreground interest to any shots.



At the very end of the metro coastline, where the beach side suburbs blend into the Fluerieu Peninsula, sits Hallett Cove. An amazing geological site known for its international significance, and one of the best locations for taking photos anywhere in the state. With its unique rock formations and undulating cliffs, the place is a photographers paradise. The Sugarloaf, named for its resemblance to a mass of hard refined sugar, has its unique shape due to wind and erosion and always looks great under any light. Down on the actual water’s edge, photographers are rewarded with awesome views and depending on the tides, quite a lot of wave action for those longer exposures.

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