The Star of Greece is both a shipwreck and a top restaurant/kiosk located at Port Willunga Beach in South Australia.
Port Willunga Beach is one of the best beaches in Adelaide, the capital of South Australia.
It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in town. This guide to Port Willunga Beach will hopefully convince you of that.
Port Willy as the locals call it has become a South Australian tourist icon for good reason. The beach is amazing!
Port Willunga is located on the Fleurieu Peninsula, a 50 minute drive south of Adelaide.
The big bonus is that is is only a 15 minute drive to the fabulous McLaren Vale wine region. It’s like a two for one deal.
Anyone into great food and wine who loves an awesome beach close by will be in foodie heaven at Port Willunga and nearby McLaren Vale.
Port Willunga beach is famous for the Star of Greece ship which tragically shipwrecked off the coast in 1888.
The iconic Star of Greece restaurant named after the shipwreck is another big attraction at Port Willunga Beach.
Then there are the old jetty pylons and caves on the beach which are great for Instagram pics.
The fabulous Port Willunga beach would have to be the biggest drawcard. If you want to feel as if you’re on a Greek Island in Australia then this is the place to be, trust me.
Port Willinga Beach
You can make out the old jetty pylons in the pic below.
The pic below shows you what the beach looks like when facing the other direction towards the Star of Greece restaurant.
Tip: There is a small car park high on the cliff just past the Star of Greece restaurant which is a great spot to park your car if you can get a spot. You can then look down and admire the great views before you make your way down to the beach. There is a park bench here as well which is great for sunset watching.
On a great day the water is like glass which is perfect for stand-up paddle boarders.
When you walk down the long ramp towards the old jetty pylons you’ll most likely be tempted to stop and take a pic. This pic alone reminds me of Greece.
Port Willunga Jetty Pylons
Some visitors probably think that these decaying pylons are the remnants of the legendary Star of Greece shipwreck. Wrong, they are actually the remnants of the old Port Willunga Jetty.
Everyone should take a pic of the old Port Willunga jetty pylons as this is Adelaide’s equivalent to the famous Shipwreck Beach in the Greek Islands.
The only difference is that instead of being in Zykanthos (Zante) in the Greek Islands you’ll be in Port Willunga close to the Star of Greece shipwreck.
These pylons that resemble burnt out matchsticks are arguably the most photographed location on the southern coastline.
Snorkelling around the pylons is a popular activity.
During the day you will see plenty of people trying to capture the perfect Insta-worthy photo!
In the 1860’s Port Willunga was the second largest port in South Australia. It was used primarily to transport large amounts of wheat and slate. How times change. Nowadays it makes for a great day trip especially during summer.
Port Willunga Beach Caves
Coming a close second to the old Port Willunga jetty pylons are the famous man-made caves! This is another must have pic for Instagram.
These caves dug into the cliff walls were used by fishermen to store their boats and equipment. You will find them directly behind the jetty pylons.
Entering one of the caves makes for a great shot as well. You can get very creative with these caves. People jumping in the air inside the caves and so on.
The caves are also favoured by beachgoers because of the natural shade they offer which is great on a hot day.
The man-made caves are very popular in summer so if you’re able to grab one consider yourself very lucky.
Bringing a beach umbrella, tent or canopy is the way to go though. The beach near the pylons is not the best section of the beach to go for a dip in the ocean. There are rocks in the water and they can be very slippery and prickly to walk on.
Snorkelers will enjoy the area around the pylons but the normal swimmer will find it rather uncomfortable when standing in the water near the pylons.
The beach is much better further down between the old jetty pylons and the Star of Greece restaurant because at one point the rocks disappear altogether. When it becomes a normal comfortable sandy beach in the ocean it’s so much more enjoyable.
Star of Greece Shipwreck
The Star of Greece is the name of a ship that wrecked about 200m off the beach at Port Willunga on Friday the 13th, July 1888.
At the time the stormy seas were reported to be 50 feet high (16 metres). The ship went down and 18 crew members ended up drowning including the captain from a crew of 28 men.
The Star of Greece Shipwreck remains on the ocean floor and is a popular diving and snorkelling spot when the tide is low, the water is calm and there is little wind.
Sand that covers the wreck comes and goes with changing weather conditions so you can never be sure what you’ll see.
Star of Greece Figurehead
Here we have the Star of Greece figurehead salvaged from the shipwreck which can be seen in the South Australian Maritime Museum.
The Star of Greece ship figurehead was of a Grecian noblewoman wearing a gold leaf coronet. She reminds me of Athena, Goddess of wisdom.
The Star of Greece ship was a three-masted iron ship built in Belfast, Ireland in 1868. It actually surprised me when I found out that the ship was not actually Greek.
Many ships were given names after different countries. The Star of Greece was part of the Star line owned by J.P. Corry & Co, often known as “Corry’s Irish Stars”.
The Star clippers were often called “Star of … (Country name)”. The beauty about these 19th century clipper ships were that they enabled full-length figureheads to be mounted at the bow.
Each Irish Star ship had a figurehead of a maiden dressed in the costume of the country after which the ship was named.
Figureheads ornamented the bow of a sailing ship because they were believed to offer the crew divine protection and a safe passage across often dangerous seas. In this case it didn’t do the ship any good.
I wonder if Poseidon (Neptune), God of the sea wanted to forever link this Greek noblewoman with Port Willunga Beach on purpose?
You can visit the Star of Greece figurehead at the South Australian Maritime Museum in Port Adelaide. This museum has the best collection of ship figureheads in Australia.
In the movie Jason and the Argonauts (1963), Jason talks to Hera who speaks to Jason through the ship’s figurehead.
This interesting museum really opened my eyes to the huge variety of figureheads out there. Another standout figurehead for me in the museum was of a knight in shining armour.
The Star of Greece figurehead was first salvaged by Mr Walter Kimber, the owner of the Seaview Hotel in Port Willunga and was positioned outside his home for many years. His widow wife presented it to the Nautical Museum after his death.
Location of the Star of Greece Shipwreck
The map below will show you where to find the Star of Greece Shipwreck. The Star of Greece wreck is located about 200m north of Lion Reef and is situated about 200m offshore.
During low tide on a good day part of the bow section is said to be what is visible above the surface of the water. To me it looked like a shark fin.
There is an underwater sign next to the Star of Greece wreck at the bottom of the sea which commemorates the loss of lives. If you’re a snorkeller or diver keep an eye out for it.
Star of Greece Restaurant and Kiosk
One of the state’s most prestigious restaurants, the Star of Greece is perched atop the limestone cliffs in a prime position between the two main ramps which lead down to the sandy beach.
The Star of Greece restaurant on the waterfront was first established in 1947 so it has a long history with Port Willunga. It was named after the Star of Greece shipwreck in 1888.
Star of Greece is made up of a fine dining restaurant perfect for special occasions, and also has an attached kiosk with a more relaxed vibe for wet and sandy beachgoers.
It’s not a Greek restaurant as most of us would expect with a name like Star of Greece but it does have some Mediterranean influence. If you enjoy seafood you should be pleased with the menu choices on offer.
McLaren Vale wines are readily available and this would be a great time to try them out being so close to the fabulous McLaren Vale wine region.
The small kiosk attached to the restaurant serves up fish & chips, burgers, coffee, drinks, and ice creams. It’s perfect for beachgoers who are hungry.
The salt and pepper squid is supposed to be very tasty. Apparently, the squid served at the kiosk is the same as that presented in the restaurant which seems too good to be true. This goes for the whiting as well. Sounds a bit fishy to me.
There are mixed reviews regarding the food quality, but the kiosk is a great way to get an idea of how tasty everything is without having to spend the big bucks.
Location: 1 The Esplanade, Port Willunga
Booking the Star of Greece
The Star of Greece kiosk doesn’t take bookings, but the tables under the shade and deck do turn over fairly quickly.
If you want to enjoy the fine dining restaurant you’d better book way in advance because this South Australian stalwart is booked out most weekends.
Port Willunga Beach is a popular place for weddings and all sorts of special occasions. You can only imagine how huge the demand is for this relatively small establishment.
Around late December to late January, you can enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner at the Star of Greece every day, except for Christmas day. Check out the Star of Greece website for more details. It can be closed during the winter months.
The South Australian Maritime Museum
The SA Maritime Museum has a wall full of ship figureheads but the Star of Greece figurehead situated in another room really does draw your attention more so than the others. She’s a beauty!
Another surprise regarding the museum was the number of kids in there who seemed to be having fun. How was this possible? Not what I expected at all.
I was actually thinking I would be the only one in there but there were quite a few visitors like maybe 50 people.
It wasn’t cheap to enter as the cost when I went was approximately $12 and that was because I purchased my ticket online and obtained a discount. If I had just shown up at the door they would have charged me $15 for an adult ticket. I felt it was a bit too expensive but I’m glad I went.
Spending 1-2 hours in the nautical museum which houses three floors of interactive exhibitions that brings to life the maritime history of South Australia was enough for me.
As part of the deal you can also climb up the red and white lighthouse which was once located at South Neptune Island in South Australia. I did note that you could enter the lighthouse alone for only $1.
The lighthouse is only a short walk down the road and offers expansive views over the river and Port Adelaide.
I just had to climb up those narrow stairs to take in the views for myself.
It seems very fitting that there is a connection with Neptune, the God of the sea, through South Neptune Island and the Star of Greece.
The Star of Greece is the most legendary shipwreck in Port Willunga but it isn’t the only one. There’s also the Ida which ran aground during a gale in 1857 loaded with copper on its way to Victoria. The Tempest smashed a hole in the middle of the jetty in 1914.
Star of Greece Anchor
One of the Star of Greece anchors salvaged from the wreck can be seen in the Esplanade at Semaphore. It is behind the Sea Captains Memorial in front of the jetty.
This memorial honours sea captains, officers and crewmen of sailing ships who visited Port Adelaide and helped shape its history.
In 1950, the residents of Semaphore chose a suitable memorial for sea captains.
They were fortunate enough to receive a Trotman’s Anchor from the Star of Greece donated by Messrs J. Dickson and W. Playfair.
Interesting story: There was a local radio contest at one time where you had to guess the sound of a noise. It was the sound of a chain connected to the Star of Greece anchor clanging. Someone actually guessed it after hints such as John Travolta, who was a Star of Greece. The winner even visited the anchor to see if they were able create the same sound which they did prior to phoning in. It’s amazing to think that John Travolta is connected to the Star of Greece.
Semaphore is a popular beachside destination and is one of Adelaide’s southern beaches. A short 5-10 minute drive from Port Adelaide will get you there. This beachside suburb has a similar type of feel to the beachside suburb of Glenelg in Adelaide.
Alternative access to Port Willunga Beach
Not many people walk all this way along the beach but you can get to this scenic spot by walking along the beach away from the jetty pylons. The other option is to drive and park your car in the carpark at the top of the cliffs.
There is a long ramp that connects the beach to the carpark near the cliffs.
If you want to drive here turn onto Bowering Hill Rd as shown in the map above. Turn left at the road just before Bowering Hill Rd turns to the right. At the end of the road you will see a large carpark with relatively few cars parked in it if any.
The views at this spot are fantastic like they are when you walk up or down the ramp.
Gull Rock, a small sandstone rock close to the cliffs is also close by. You need to walk back 100-200m in the other direction towards the corner of the cliffs if you want to see it.
Cormorant seabirds are often seen on top of the rock. You can see the rock in the far left of the picture above.
Gull Rock is also a popular cliff diving spot. If you go be sure to take extra care as the cliffs at Gull Rock, also known as Blanche Point, are quite steep. It can be a very dangerous spot. You definitely don’t want to slip and fall.
You can also get a great view of Gull rock with Maslin beach in the background close to the water’s edge. Walk from the Port Willunga Beach side around the cliffs until Gull Rock comes into view.
Stay for the Beautiful Sunset at Port Willunga Beach
The sunset in Port Willunga is another great photo opportunity. Expect to see quite a few eager sunbathers and sunset lovers taking videos and photos as the sun goes down.
It’s definitely worth the wait to see a beautiful sunset in Port Willunga.
During summer time there is plenty of time after the sun goes down to make your way back to Adelaide before it gets dark, or maybe you will want to go to Russel’s Pizza.
More places where you can eat close to Port Willunga
A good cheap place to eat is to go to the Home Grain Bakery (13 Old Coach Rd) which is only a short 5 minute drive away from Port Willunga Beach to Aldinga.
You can always buy a delicious sweet treat at the bakery in the morning before you head out to Port Willunga Beach to keep you energised throughout the day.
McLaren Vale is also not too far away. Maybe you should enjoy lunch in this fabulous wine region before visiting Port Willunga beach. Just make sure you only have one glass of wine if you’re driving.
Interestingly Willunga, not to be confused with Port Willunga, is another town about 11km away. It will take you about 10-15 minutes to get there.
This is where you can find The Golden Fleece Cafe, which reminds me of the golden fleece of ancient Greek mythology. It is located quite close to the Willunga Farmers Market which opens regularly on Saturday mornings till 12:30pm.
Russel’s Pizza is well established since 1992 and 100% worth a visit. They have an excellent reputation for serving up delicious wood-fired pizzas and local wines in a rustic setting.
They mainly open on Friday and Saturday nights so keep that in mind. Make sure you book ahead because it is a very popular pizza place. It’s a great place to visit after you see the stunning sunset at Port Willunga Beach.
Why am I telling you this? I’m starting to get food envy.
How to get to Port Willunga Beach
The best and most scenic way to get to Port Willunga Beach is to drive to Southport beach in Port Noarlunga first.
You can then drive along the coastal road to Moana Beach and from there onto Port Willunga via Old Coach Road.
As you drive down Old Coach Road, turn right onto Port Rd, the first main cross intersection just before the Home Grain Bakery in the small town of Aldinga.
Keep an eye out on the right side of the road for the diagonal running Port road (same name) which will take you straight to the Star of Greece restaurant. Refer to the map above. It’s easy to miss the turn if you’re not concentrating.
On the diagonal running Port Rd you will see a Port Willunga sign and a striking avenue of trees which have created an impressive archway. Soon after you’ll be somewhere very special.
Accessing Port Willunga Beach
The beach in Port Willunga has two main access points to get you down from the top of the cliffs.
The most scenic route down to the sand is via the long ramp (on the left side of the Star of Greece restaurant). This ramp will lead you to the old jetty pylon remains. (My recommendation)
The other option is to go down the shorter ramp at the northern end of the large car park. Possibly the better option if you want to have quick access to your vehicle.
Interesting point: Maslin Beach, the first nudist beach in Australia, is just around the corner from Port Willunga Beach. Don’t be a fool though and rush over thinking you’ll see some pretty ladies at Maslin beach. If you do you’re more likely to get a big shock. Port Willunga Beach is where the beauties go.
If you’re in Adelaide and want a cool place to visit, you now know where to go → Port Willunga Beach!
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