Park Lands Treasure Trail

Last updated 14 Sept, 2023

Uncover modern delights and incredible historical tales of the Park Lands. 

Walk the trail and immerse yourself in the places these incredible tales took place, then take our pop quiz to test your smarts!

Crowds of people lined up to regularly visit Snake Park, located in this corner of the Adelaide Park Lands from 1927. Guests were attracted by the impressive 200 species of serpents, some which would be fed live birds in front of the crowd.

The local newspapers reported incidents at the park including an occasion where a large python attempted to swallow a keeper during a demonstration. The incident was stopped by a brave guest who intervened by using his umbrella to free the keeper’s head from the jaws of the snake.

The park was expanded in size and scope to include a Koala Farm in 1936. The park then allowed guests to hold koalas which drew many famous personalities when they visited Adelaide. The expanded park housed not only koalas and snakes, but also seals balancing balls and camels pulling carts of guests.

The park was closed in 1960 and many of the animals were sent to the nearby Adelaide Zoo which had been in operation since 1883. Today, you can visit more than 3,000 animals and 250 different species at Adelaide Zoo.

Koala park
photo-icon State Library of South Australia, PRG 119/33/3/21

Dancing, flying and walking across the water — the seemingly impossible has been done when it comes to the River Torrens / Karrawirra Pari. The river has long been a social and artistic heart of the city.

A crowd of thousands lined the banks to watch people launch their home-made flying machines across the river at the 1975 Birdman Rally. The flying creations were made of everything from umbrellas to balsa wood. Although no one succeeded in making it all the way across at the rally, a different approach proved successful in 1986. A high-wire was stretched from the Adelaide Festival Theatre over to the opposite side of the river. Circus artist, Tim Coldwell impressed the crowds at the Adelaide Festival’s opening night when he deftly walked across the wire in a performance that has never since been repeated.

Theatrical activities aside, boats are an everyday fixture of the river. Vessels from row boats to royal barges have transported thousands of people along the glistening heart of the city. The beloved Popeye boats have been navigating the waterways since 1935 and once took Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip for a serene cruise, complete with a choir in tow! Today, you can paddle, row or ride a boat at many locations along the river.

Paddle boats
photo-icon Ryan Cantwell

This square has always been a significant location to the Kaurna people, the traditional custodians and owners of the Adelaide Plains. The Kaurna name for this square is Tarntanyangga, meaning ‘red kangaroo dreaming’. Many important cultural events and celebrations have taken place in this square including the first ever flying of the Australian Aboriginal flag.

Originally designed as a symbol to support land rights for Aboriginal people, the flag was flown in this square on 12 July 1971. This coincided with National Aboriginal and Islander Day, now NAIDOC week. The flag has since come to be a powerful symbol for reconciliation and the unity and identity of Aboriginal people.

The flag’s designer, Luritji man Harold Thomas, intended for the colours of his design to have distinct meanings. Black – represents the Aboriginal people of Australia. Yellow – represents the sun, the giver of life and protector. Red – represents the red earth, the red ochre and a spiritual relation to the land. Today, the flag flies permanently alongside the Australian flag above the square’s Reconciliation Plaza.

Aboriginal Flag

The first playground in the Adelaide Park Lands was like day care thanks to the guidance of full-time supervisors. Young single women were hired by the Education Department to care for the children who visited the Glover Playground. This was no small task — 5,000 children visited the playground each month in 1927.

The city’s first playground was built in 1918 when the annual Lord Mayor’s ball was cancelled in favour of instead spending the money on a playground. Lord Mayor Charles Glover proposed this to “promote the happiness and well-being of the children of the city”. The Glover Playground was built in the southern Adelaide Park Lands with wading pools, maypoles, swings and a supervisor’s hut, which still stands.

Originally the boys and girls were separated into different areas, which were combined by 1927 when the above photo was taken. However, all the way up until the 1970s only women and children were allowed near playgrounds. Today, you can visit more than 10 playspaces throughout the Adelaide Park Lands.

Playspace glover
photo-icon State Library of South Australia, B 4592

A national tree planting celebration, Arbor Day, kicked off right here in 1889 when 5,000 children marched in a musical parade to the southern end of the park.

757 lucky children were selected from the group to plant trees. In the decades since, these young trees have grown to create a majestic landscape which continues to evolve.Throughout Australia thousands of seedlings have been planted on June 20 as the Arbor Day celebrations continue.

Today, you can discover unique trees and creatures in every corner of the park. In the north east corner of the park you can stand beneath the impressive boughs of a Dragon’s Blood Tree. This striking tree has a wide canopy of sword shaped leaves and vibrant red sap. In contrast, one of the park’s smallest beauties is the rare Chequered Copper Butterfly. This orange marked insect was spotted fluttering around this park in 2011, after not being seen here for 50 years!

People walking parklands

Adelaide was the first city in Australia to be planned before colonial settlement began. In 1837, Colonel William Light designed the city plan and chose the location.

The instrument at the top of Light’s Memorial is a theodolite – used by surveyors to measure angles of planes. When Light had the lofty task of choosing the perfect position for Adelaide, he looked through the instrument’s telescope and decided on nestling the city right between the hills and the beach.

The Adelaide city was designed on central grid of one square mile with smaller grids making up North Adelaide. Included in the design were the Adelaide Park Lands, the green space around the city and six town squares.

In 1839, two years after Light arrived in South Australia, he died of tuberculosis. The importance of his work was celebrated, and he was given South Australia’s first official public funeral. Light is the first and only person to be buried within the city grid, in the square which bears his name.

Colonel light burial
photo-icon State Library of South Australia, PRG 280/1/16/361

Quiz: So you think you know the Park Lands?

Congratulations to the winners of the competition that ran with this trail until September 2020. All winners have claimed their prizes.