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Boating on the Torrens

Grundy Gardens (Park 12)

photo-icon A crowd on the banks of Torrens Lake watching a boat race, State Library of South Australia, PRG 280/1/3/336, circa 1918
photo-icon Boathouse, State Library of South Australia, B 47408, circa 1910
photo-icon Crowds of spectators near Jolley's boathouse, State Library of South Australia, PRG 280/1/8/20, circa 1913

Prior to the construction of the Torrens Weir in 1881, the River Torrens / Karrawirra Pari had become a neglected wasteland, but the damming of the river and creation of the Torrens Lake allowed for improvements to be made along the edges, and it became popular as a place to visit and for water activities like boating.

The “River Torrens Improvement Act, 1869, No 70” required the City of Adelaide Council to beautify the watercourse and edges for the purposes of public recreation, amusement, health and enjoyment. The land adjacent to this sign, comprising of boathouses and rowing sheds, was specifically designated to public use and recreation.

The row of boathouses includes Jolley’s Boathouse and Lounder’s Boathouse.

Jolley’s Boathouse is an Adelaide institution, known for running the Popeye fleet and paddleboats on the Torrens Lake. The original boathouse was constructed in the 1870s and was known as the William Jolley Boathouse. It was destroyed in a fire in 1914. In 1976, the Jolley family sold their Boathouse operations. It had been in their family for some 90 years.

Lounder’s Boathouse was constructed in 1913 for the purpose of building and repairing boats for sporting and recreational use on the Torrens Lake.

Boat building ceased in this structure in 1976. Lounder’s Boathouse was sympathetically restored in recent years, and now accommodates a café and office.

The Popeye cruises have operated from this building since 1937, and currently operate out of the rear section. In addition, the Boathouse originally featured a gabled structure to the east of building.

The River Torrens is known as Karrawirra Pari (Red Gum Forest River) in the Kaurna language. The Kaurna people are the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the Adelaide Plains

City of Adelaide acknowledges the traditional Country of the Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains and pays respect to Elders past and present. We recognise and respect their cultural heritage, beliefs and relationship with the land. We acknowledge that they are of continuing importance to the Kaurna people living today. We also extend that respect to other Aboriginal Language Groups and other First Nations.

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