Exploring the ‘Secret’ Spaces of Colonel Light Gardens | Review

Exploring the ‘Secret’ Spaces of Colonel Light Gardens in South Australia

Hidden lanes, parks and tennis courts make Colonel Light Gardens a quirky Adelaide suburb to visit. Such spaces have also inspired a podcast called Model Suburb.

by Carla Caruso

The suburb of Colonel Light Gardens is like Adelaide’s answer to Pleasantville.

Think wide, winding tree-lined streets, 1920s bungalows, and a family-friendly feel. Last year, The Advertiser named it the state’s most in-demand postcode.

Originally, the land – about 7km south of Adelaide’s CBD – was used for an army camp. But now it’s internationally recognised as a model garden suburb. Basically, this means it’s designed to have a park-like environment, oodles of open space, and a self-contained, village vibe.

2021 marks 100 years since its first land sales. But it’s what’s behind the suburb’s glossy façade that really makes it interesting…


Hidden spaces were a design feature added by then-town planner Charles Reade. Picture unpaved lanes between houses that don’t appear on maps, concealed tennis courts (hello, Reade Park Lawn Tennis Club), and internal reserves sandwiched between some homes.


Such spaces were designed to foster a sense of community and promote safe play for the kids, away from public view. They’re also practical in nature – utilities like stobie poles in the back lanes don’t mar the street vista, and children have a quicker, safer route to the local schools and playgrounds.  

It’s these ‘secret’ spaces which have inspired a podcast I’ve helped create, called Model Suburb. (The pod is an independent production. However, I received a Maggy Ragless Memorial Grant from the City of Mitcham to help produce it. Check out the first episode here.)

Cutting down CLG’s service lanes and through its inner reserves feels like stepping back in time. And there’s fun for the kids at the end – including the playground and bike jumps at Mortlock Park Oval (shared by the local schools, Goodwood Baseball Club, and more), and Portland Place Reserve.

No need to go to the Outback to go off-road … just grab your bike and sneakers and head to Colonel Light Gardens!

PS. Here’s a vid we did with a 360 camera, encompassing service lanes and inner reserves en-route to Mortlock Park


What we like about it:

  • The area’s known as Australia’s most complete example of an early 1900s garden suburb.
  • Its old-world charm – most of the houses were built within a decade of its design, giving it somewhat of a Lego-like, homogenous vibe.
  • You can take a heritage walk with local history buff Philip Knight. Visit the Colonel Light Gardens Heritage page on Facebook.
  • There are some cute shops along The Strand, including florist Ponder Posy and gift store Little Bohemian.

Things to consider:

  • Mortlock Park has public toilets, but Portland Place Reserve doesn’t. 

Coffee and food options nearby:

Local Crowd and Bond & Lane are back-street gems. Colonel Light Gardens Community RSL is another fave. Or head to Goodwood Road for a plethora of eateries, including Black Bird and Sumac Café.


Review by Carla Caruso

Click here for all the Best Playgrounds for Toddlers

See our Top Parks & Playgrounds Around Adelaide here.

For more information on the suburb, please visit the City of Mitcham website.

All photos by James Elsby 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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