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November 14, 2016

Countdown: Top 5 alternate Adelaide locations

Spring is the season of new beginnings. At CityMag HQ, its [delayed] arrival has caused us to reflect on the new beginnings that never were for Adelaide: all the locations that were considered, but then rejected, as a site for our fine town.

  • Words and illustration: Owen Lindsay


Wikipedia describes John Hindmarsh’s governorship of South Australia as “an unfortunate episode in an otherwise distinguished career”, which is quite amusing when you consider the amount of shit here that’s proudly named after him. As Governor, Hindmarsh was tyrannical, greedy, and belligerent, with a bizarre, obnoxious hatred of “landlubbers”. Time and time again he butted heads with surveyor general Colonel William Light – and never more than when it came to selecting the location for the settlement of Adelaide.

Hindmarsh’s single most adamant demand was that Adelaide be built on a port. This was almost certainly because he wished to force men to wrestle with great white sharks while he watched from a convenient distance, likely obtaining some sort of strange personal jollies from beholding the murderous spectacle. Either way, Hindmarsh’s initial idea was to erect South Australia’s capital at the tuna paradise of Port Lincoln. What Port Lincoln had in fatty saltwater finfish, however, it lacked in fresh water. Col Light determined the latter was more important to the settlers’ continued existence than the former, and cheerfully vetoed Hindmarsh’s proposal.


Perhaps it’s not fair to include Monarto on this list, as it wasn’t technically ever going to be the location for Adelaide proper. It was, however, the proposed site of Premier Don Dunstan’s Adelaide Two; the bigger, better, funnier sequel to the hit classic. In 1970, Don was worried that the population of Adelaide would soon swell to a blow-out, and so hatched the idea of building a second, satellite city to the CBD’s south east. However, while the plans for the second Adelaide were grand – palatial housing, leisurely cycling paths, compact and human-scaled – what was missing was any sort of industry or reason for anyone to ever live there. The idea was consequently, mercifully, snuffed out. We did get a safari park instead though, which as far as consolation prizes go isn’t bad.


Another of Governor ‘no good ideas’ Hindmarsh’s ideas was to stick Adelaide on the magnificent tidal flats of Port Adelaide. It was not a good idea. Chief among the issues with planting a flag at the Port was that the location was basically a boggy swamp, teeming with mosquitos and worryingly prone to dipping underwater at high tide. So loathed was the Port among European settlers, in fact, that it became popularly known as ‘Port Misery’. Col Light, thankfully, quickly dismissed the dud proposal.

Nevertheless, Light threw Port Adelaide a bone by proposing a canal that would run from the Port right up to the Adelaide CBD. It was a scheme that was both demented and seemed to make oddly redundant the idea of building an inland city in the first place. Either way, the canal was never built, because it turns out excavating a 20km waterway would be one of the most expensive infrastructure projects ever undertaken by mankind. Instead we got the majestic Port Road, which is, in many ways, just as good.


There’s not much to say about Governor Hindmarsh’s final dud scheme, the creation of a settlement at Encounter Bay, other than to note that we could potentially have used Granite Island as a sort of penguin-rich Alcatraz for wayward east coast convicts, which would have been quite the hoot. Overall, though, Hindmarsh’s Encounter Bay proposal was so horrid that, in the words of History SA, “the idea and the man were soon dismissed”. Hindmarsh then went on to become Governor of a place called Heligoland, which is a scrubby little chunk of rock off the coast of Germany that offers 24/7 views of the ocean. Legend has it that it was there he finally found his jollies.


Kangaroo Island was the initial settlement point for the South Australia Company – and, in our controversial opinion, the European colonists should have stayed there. City-design-wise, the basic concept would have been the same: we’d have a town surrounded by an impenetrable barrier that by divine ordination must never be built upon. As for the much-vaunted objection of K.I. having no reliable source of fresh water: no problem! We could have just survived on the delicious, nourishing oils and juices of the native kangaroos.

Best of all would have been the name of our city: Kangaroo Island. With a name like that, think of the torrents of tourism bux in which we would be swimming today. Not convinced? Then consider the name by which mainland Aboriginal people knew the island: Karta – in English, ‘The Land of the Dead’. “I’m from the capital of South Australia,” you could say. “You know. The Land of the Dead.” We rest our case.

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