I know that it didn't do the sand dunes any good...but it sure looked like a load of fun!
Other things have taken their place but childhood memories of these type of activities must be wonderful!
They seem like simple (but dangerous in our nanny state) times!
I know that there are PIA members who grew up in the Port Noarlunga area. I wonder if my own grandchildren will look back at today's pictures and remember the good times at the wooden fort, jetty jumping and canoeing on the river?
I hope so....
The days of the giant Port Noarlunga sandhills
June 12, 2016 7:00pmBOB BYRNEThe Advertiser
The Onkaparinga River at Port Noarlunga, with the giant sandhills in the background, in 1975
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FLYING down the giant Port Noarlunga sandhills on a stinking hot summer’s day, hanging on for dear life to a waxed-up sled, unable to stop and breathless, but at the same time filled with exhilaration at the speed.
This was a quintessential Adelaide beachside experience, growing up from the 1950s to the ’80s. When Pene O’Dea (nee Robinson) posted an old family photo on the Adelaide Remember When Facebook page recently, more than 150,000 people responded by viewing, sharing, liking and commenting.
Pene wrote: “This is where I grew up! Port Noarlunga sandhills. My parents ran the kiosk and boatshed. We lived in the house next door and my grandparents would stay in the cottage above on weekends.
Children slide down the sandhills beside the Onkaparinga River, at Port Noarlunga, in 1972. Picture: Pene O’Dea“Dad built hundreds of sand-sleds and once they were waxed, they’d fly down the hill and into the water. Fantastic childhood memory!”
Daman Fox responded: “I feel like crying. I can’t believe your dad made those sleds. What a legend! We used to pay two bucks for a sled and ride it all day. There was one particularly high and steeper part just a bit further south than the main hill and it was ‘ride it if you dare’. If you came off going down, it was a mouth and eyes full of sand and a painful cartwheeling stack.
“Those things picked up some serious speed.”
Pene O’Dea (nee Robinson), whose parents ran the kiosk and boatshed, goes for a slide in 1972.Pene O’Dea (nee Robinson) in the Onkaparinga River in 1972.
Thousands of other readers and posters joined in with memories of going to Port Noarlunga and the sandhills as children, then years later as teenagers and, eventually, as parents, taking their own children.
If you couldn’t afford the $2 for a sled, there was always the option of creating your own, fashioned from a cardboard box.
Some recalled the cardboard breaking up on the way down, resulting in a seriously burned backside from the hot sand.
It certainly brought back many pleasant childhood memories for Karen Stewart, who wrote: “Growing up, we had a shack right on the river and I still remember how we would pack up my aunt’s Packard and do what felt like a two-day drive from the city to Port Noarlunga every Boxing Day.
Daisy Robinson works behind the counter in the kiosk at the sandhills, Port Noarlunga.“We would hire sleds from the kiosk and buy a block of wax for thruppence (three pennies) to wax the sled, then spend all day trekking up the dunes to slide back down.”
“I would love a dollar now for every time I’ve climbed those sandhills and scoffed a buttered Bush biscuit. Those were the very best of times.”
For Dave Vince, they were amazing summer memories: “It was a long way up the sandhills but awesome sliding down. We used to saturate a sheet of masonite and put a curve into it so it dried like that. Two holes drilled in the front for a piece of rope and you had all the fun you could handle.”
There were many sorts of contraptions used to ride down the hills. Some made their own sleds from pieces of wood and rope.
People and children slide down the monster sandhill at Port Noarlunga in the 1960s.Tony Young recalled: “One day, we were there and some guys had polished up the bonnet of an FJ Holden. It got up enough speed to fly into the water and skimmed out into the river for quite a way before it finally sank.”
An inventive Rod Allen took a single water ski, removed the fin, drilled a hole in the front, added a ski rope with a wooden handle and waxed it up.
“The first time I went down the hill, I had so much speed up I went right across the river and into the swamp,” he wrote.
“It then took a great deal of effort and mud-crawling to get back to the water. I eventually got the hang of it and learned to do 180-degree turns into the river. Some really great childhood memories. If we were too tired to climb the hill in the afternoon, we’d fish for mullet and bream in the river.”
Port Noarlunga’s main street in 1961.It seems there was almost as much fun to be had in the Onkaparinga River, with posters writing of “hours spent fishing” and “floating in the water on old tractor tubes”.
Rod Cowin recalled one particular incident when, as a five-year-old living with his grandparents, he made a raft out of driftwood and rowed out into the river: “The raft fell to pieces about six feet from shore and I couldn’t swim.
“I eventually struggled to the beach while Gran was laughing her head off. I’m almost 80 now.”
So many memories of days spent out in the baking hot sun with no hat, wearing just bathers — no crash helmet, elbow or knee guards and certainly no brakes.
Boats for hire on the Onkaparinga River at Port Noarlunga.
The Port Noarlunga sandhills as they appear today.The Port Noarlunga sandhills are still there but these days a mere shadow of what they used to be. By the mid-1980s, they had begun to shrink because of degradation and pedestrian traffic. The local council decided the only way to save them from further damage was an extensive program that included fencing off the area, planting of shrubs and an absolute ban on walking on the dunes.
It was successful and what was left of the once giant sandhills was saved, but changed forever.
As poster Vanessa Dewar noted: “I certainly remember sliding down those sandhills when we first arrived in Adelaide in 1969.
“Now I live in Port Noarlunga and am so glad the hills have been saved from further erosion. A great playground next to the river is now a wonderful place for our own children to play.”
Bob Byrne is the author of Adelaide Remember When and posts memories of Adelaide every day on