Sand dunes used to be found right along the coast of Gulf St Vincent from Outer Harbor to Brighton. Development has meant that the dunes (and to be fair we are not talking about Sahara type sand dunes here, but rather something significantly more modest) have been removed, built on, punctuated by roads, cycle and walking paths or otherwise compromised such that most, and in many cases, all of the native coastal vegetation and wildlife has been displaced. Re-vegetation programs at various spots along the coast has reversed this to some, very limited, degree.
One section of the dunes has, by and large, not been disturbed by development – Tennyson Dunes located between Grange and Semaphore. That said, walking paths and a lookout have been installed such that visitors can look at the dunes without causing damage to this extremely fragile environment. In the absence of signage or other advice to the contrary I did ride along the main path (getting off for steps). I later confirmed that this is permitted.
While Tennyson Dunes are the only remnant example of the natural dune habitat that once lined the coastline, gone are the surrounding tidal mangrove swamps, freshwater lagoons and seagrass meadows not least due to the dredging of a channel, (Breakout Creek), in 1934 to give the River Torrens uninterrupted access to the sea.
Today the dunes contain various native coastal plants not found anywhere else along the coast and while not extensive (22 hectares) they provide an important wildlife habitat and shelter, particularly for birds and small reptiles.
While I found passing through the dunes pleasant with great views out too sea and a nice alternative to riding along a short section (it can’t be fully avoided) of the rather busy Military Road, I can’t say they are a must see unless you have a stronger interest in native Australian plants and animals than I do or you are passing by, as I was.
For those who do have a stronger interest in native flora and fauna than I, there are boards indicating the range of plants (with pictures) you can find in the dunes together with a map showing where examples of each one can be found. A copy of this interpretative Tennyson Dunes Native Plant Trail, together with another pamphlet on Native Coastal Gardens, can be downloaded from http://www.tennyson.org.au/.
Given difficulty of access, Tennyson Beach is not as popular as other beaches along the coast though it is just as beautiful. Perhaps because it is a little more difficult to access it has long been a favourite for people of ‘alternative sexuality’.
While my pictures do not really depict it, housing has overtime encroached into the area. This in the main is bland, if not cheap, with the notable exception of Estcourt House, the subject of a separate review.
Directions: Midway between Grange and Semaphore – access from Military Road.