History

There’s really only one way to see Adelaide from the River Torrens and that’s on board the Popeye. We’ve been doing it for generations because the Popeye first started 75 years ago.

The “Popeye” boats are privately owned recreational ferries that operate on the lake between Elder Park and the Adelaide Zoo. The first boat was launched on the Torrens Lake by Gordon Watts in 1935. It was a 25-foot (7.6 m) boat, built on the banks of the River Torrens to hold up to 20 passengers and named Popeye 1.

Watts purchased a former Glenelg cruise boat in 1948 and placed it in service as Popeye 2. Over the next two years three new jarrah hulled boats were built at Port Adelaide; carrying 40 passengers each they were numbered Popeye 3 through Popeye 5.

Trips on the Popeyes from Elder Park to the zoo became a treasured family outing and the boats hosted weddings and other events.

In March 1962 Keith Altman, took over the Popeyes and introduced recreational paddle boats to the river. The Popeyes had a brush with royalty in March 1977 with Popeye 5 ferrying Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip followed by a choir in Popeye 4. Keith Altmann, ‘Popeye’ owner: “We turned one of the Popeyes into the Royal Barge. We took the hood off and put a platform up the back and the Queen and Duke sat back up there. That went off very well.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser officially launched three new fibreglass models named Popeyes I, II and III in 1982 as the wooden boats’ replacements.

In 2011, Tony and Lidija Shuman purchased the Popeye fleet and have worked tirelessly learning the ropes and hoping to make your experience an enjoyable and memorable event.

“Popeye brings a lot of memories back to people; especially the older generation bringing their children because they remember when they were kids their parents and grandparents used to take them up to the zoo on the boat.”

The Popeye is up there with the frog cake, the hills hoist and the Glenelg tram – they are all officially a State Heritage Icon.

So why not hop on the Popeye again soon….