North Arm Ships Graveyard

The Garden Island Ships’ Graveyard, in the North Arm of the Port Adelaide River, offers paddlers a chance to experience part of South Australia’s early maritime history. The 26 wrecks at Garden Island are part of one of the world’s largest and most diverse ships’ graveyards, boasting the remains of sailing ships, steamers, motor vessels, ferries, barges, dredgers and pontoons. A unique glimpse into our seafaring past.



Port Adelaide (14 km from Adelaide city)



5 km Allow 2-3hrs up to half a day

Difficulty Level

Difficulty Level

Easy – Moderate
Flatwater conditions.

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Trail 23

Paddling Trails South Australia Avenza mapsIf you have a smartphone or tablet you can download the free Avenza PDF Map app and have interactive paddling trail maps on hand when you need them. The app uses your device’s built-in GPS to plot your real-time location within the park onto a map. The app can be used without a network connection and without roaming charges. You can also measure area and distance, plot photos, and drop Placemark pins.

Trail Information

Launch Sites: 
Garden Island Boat ramp GPS: 34.8046 S; 138.5400 E
The boat ramp is often busy and powered craft may be encountered. Remember to give way to powered craft when in the boating channel.

Trail Notes:
The southern shore of Garden Island in the North Arm of the Port River is one of the largest and most diverse ships’ graveyards in the world. The Garden Island Ships  Graveyard contains vessels dating from 1856, the graveyard is a haven for birdlife and marine creatures. The ships are best seen by canoe or kayak.
The 26 wrecks at Garden Island are part of one of the world’s largest and most diverse ships’ graveyards. Boasting the remains of sailing ships, steamers, motor vessels, ferries, barges, dredgers and pontoons, the site provides a unique glimpse into our past.
The trail is marked by three on-water signs near the main group of wrecks, as well as two on-land signs at the Garden Island boat ramp.

Additional information is available here.
The remains of numerous ships lie in various places in Port Adelaide, with the majority in the Ships’ Graveyard in North Arm. When vessels were of no further use anything of use was stripped out before they were towed to their final resting places and abandoned. Some were broken up with explosives.
Launch from the Garden Island boat ramp and head east before turning right into North Arm. The first ship you come across is Santiago (see Points of Interest for more detail), an early iron ship. It is the oldest ship in the graveyard and the last to be abandoned there.
To the southwest is all that is left of the Dorothy H Sterling (see Points of Interest for more detail), a wooden vessel with iron keel. At low tide a sandbar is exposed to the west.
Continue westwards, taking care not to run aground on the sandbar along the northern shore. The prominent sternpost and rudder belong to Glaucus, and other vessels lie to its west. The last visible ship is Sunbeam, with Seminole submerged to its west.
In general, the lower the tide the more you will be able to see.
Spend time paddling among them before returning the way you came.

Points of Interest

Santiago Shipwreck
The Santiago is considered to be the oldest, intact iron-hull sailing vessel in the world. Launched in 1856 she mainly sailed between Liverpool and Chile for the Balfour Williamson shipping line. After various changes of ownership, the Adelaide Steamtug Company purchased her in 1901 and brought her to Adelaide where she was used for occasional salvage work and as a lighter. Eventually abandoned in 1945, sacrificial anodes are being used to try to stabilize the hull.

Dorothy H Stirling
The remains of the Dorothy H Stirling can be found at low tide now forming an island in the North Arm. She was a large six-masted wooden schooner built in 1920 in Portland, Oregon, USA. Originally named the Oregon Pine she was one of the largest sailing vessels built at the time. A victim of the Great Depression, her owners were unable to pay both harbour dues and wages of the crew so she was abandoned.

Garthneill Shipwreck (link to pdf)
The Garthneill was a 1470 ton, three-masted barque that was abandoned in the Adelaide Ships Graveyard in 1935.
238 ft long (72.6m) Originally named the Inverneill she was the twelfth vessel of the Inver Line. On the 6th July 1919, the Garthneill sailed from Melbourne for Bunbury, WA. Battling relentless gales, off Cape Ottaway the ship was forced south of Tasmania, the skipper, Captain J.H. Shippen turned east towards Cape Horn. When the vessel eventually arrived in Bunbury on 29 October she had almost circumnavigated the globe, covering 14,563 NM for the journey that should have been approx. 2000 NM. In August 1926 the vessel was sold to the Yorke Peninsula Barley Growers Association to become the only floating electric barley-grading mill and storeship in Australia

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Visiting the Ship’s Graveyard at low tide.
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Paddling Trail South Australia has a range of Paddling Trails to suit different abilities.

Know your ability

These are easy to access kayak and canoe trails through the Adelaide, Fleurieu Peninsula, Riverland, Murray River, and the Coorong.