A self-guided tour of the City of Adelaide Clipper Ship – Review
Do you have a Titanic fan among your crew? They’ll love experiencing being inside a genuine 1864 sailing ship, right here in Port Adelaide.
by Carla Caruso
Port Adelaide is home to the world’s oldest surviving clipper ship, City of Adelaide. Yup, the world. And after a recent closure to the public, self-guided tours on-board have now resumed.
For those not in the know (like me, until I climbed aboard), a clipper is a type of 19th-century merchant sailing vessel, designed for speed.
The City of Adelaide was recovered from Scotland after a 14-year, $6 million campaign by Adelaide volunteers to save it. The vessel arrived here in 2014, and there are plans underway for it to be the centre-piece of a seaport village. (Basically, the village will be the maritime equivalent of Ballarat’s Sovereign Hill. Read more here.)
But for now, my kids and their cousins were happy to explore the clipper alone at its new home at Port Adelaide’s Dock 2. (Previously, the ship was moored at Dock 1 but it had to make way for a housing development).
Here are some quick facts about the ship from the City of Adelaide website:
- An estimated 250,000 Australians can trace their ancestry to the clipper. (It carried immigrants from many locations including Cornwall, Germany, and Scandinavia.)
- Of composite construction (iron frame with timber hull), it was the pinnacle of sailing ship design.
- It’s the older of only two surviving composite clipper ships; the other being Cutty Sark in London.
- It made 23 return voyages from England to South Australia.
- It was among the fastest clippers on the London-Adelaide run, sharing the record of 65 days with Yatala, only later broken by the Torrens.
We had fun heading across the gangway and learning about the history on-board, including the ship’s stint as an isolation hospital for infectious diseases near Southampton. It also carried cargo for many of SA’s well-known firms like beverage manufacturer Bickford’s.
In 1864, Adelaide pharmacy owner Anne Bickford imported lime cordial as a health product for customers suffering scurvy. A decade later, the Bickford family diversified into producing their own cordials and soft drinks – including lime cordial – becoming the company we know today.
While the clipper tours are self-guided, there’s always a volunteer around to answer your questions. You might even be lucky enough to come across two volunteers – Julia Whittle and Meredith Reardon – who are great-great-granddaughters of the ship’s first captain.
The non-profit clipper organisation also runs a kids’ educational program, including sessions on building paper ship models inside Bickford’s bottles, and making battery-operated ship lanterns.
Touring the clipper costs $20 per adult or $30 for a couple. Kids are free.
While in the Port, we also enjoyed checking out some of the Wonderwalls’ murals on display and the Hart’s Mill Playground. Plus, in true seafaring spirit, while wandering, we caught sight of a dolphin frolicking about!
What we like about our tour
- It’s pretty cool to have the world’s oldest surviving clipper ship right here in Adelaide – available for you to explore.
- There’s easy parking, right outside the ship.
- Facilities on-site include toilets, an information centre, and a gift shop.
- You can make a real day of it at the Port, starting with a clipper ship tour, then checking out the area’s street art, playgrounds, and shops.
Things to consider
- The clipper is a unique place to explore and loaded with history.
- Inside the ship can be a little dark and restrictive for those who don’t like confined spaces.
Coffee and food options nearby
We dined at the recently reopened Folklore Cafe, by the water, but you can also check out other eateries on Commercial Road.
For more information and all enquiries please visit the City of Adelaide website.
What: Self-guided tour of the Clipper Ship City of Adelaide
When: 7 days a week, 10am to 3pm (weather permitting)
Where: Dock 2, Honey Street, Port Adelaide
Who: History buffs and adventurous families
All photos by Carla Caruso for Play & Go Adelaide
At Play & Go Adelaide we make every effort to provide accurate information to the best of our knowledge at the time of publication. We recommend confirming times, dates and details directly before making any plans as details may be subject to change.
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