Outings on a Sunday aren't the norm in our household, because it's quieter to go in the week when most of the population are at work or school. However, this was a hot day with cooler ones either side and if you're going to go to the beach you don't want it to be on the colder days. Cold days by the sea are colder than inland.

My eldest daughter had arranged to meet friends at Port Noarlunga beach and my youngest wanted to do something together, so I decided to take them down. From where we live it used to be nearly a two hour drive, but with the new expressways it only took us 1.5 hours to get there.

We arrived before 6pm and it was still 38°C (100°F). After finally finding a parking space on a side road, we stepped out of the car into a scorching sun which reminded us we'd still need to use caution to protect vulnerable skin which still hadn't had chance to adjust with the seesaw weather we've been having.

There would be no photos of empty beaches for us today, but still, it was a lovely view from the road as we walked down towards the shore.

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Under the jetty (pier) it was crowded with shade seekers, so my teenage daughters found a spot on a sloped area under a boardwalk, where they stripped down to their bathers and promptly abandoned me to go and find their friends. I got a quick wave from them moments later as they passed with one friend on their way to meet the others. There didn't seem much point hanging out on a steep slope with the seagulls, while they cleaned up the edible mess people had left, so I collected all the valuables together and headed for the pier.

On hot days like this the boards of the jetty become unbearable to walk on barefoot, so my sandals quickly went back on. The tide was high and it was pretty busy with youngsters jetty jumping around the steps at the halfway point. Along the edges people had fishing rods and crab nets going over into the water, up until the marked line that demanded, “NO FISHING PAST HERE.”

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I didn't think to check the signs for what sort of fishing was allowed, but I know at one point crab nets were banned here. You see, Port Noarlunga has an offshore reef which is part of a protected marine park. The pier effectively connects it to the land, so at the end you can look directly onto it and at low tide the reef is partially exposed.

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As I made my way towards the end of jetty, I watched snorkelers face down in the water, taking in the sights a bit closer. Where the anglers were, the water was looking churned and scummy, with brown oil slicks. I overheard one of the snorkelers complaining about the plastic smell of it as they swam through it to reach the main reef further out.

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The reef apparently has a couple of hundred plant species growing on it which attracts other sea life. I'm guessing this is probably much easier to see from in the water than above it.

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I looked Southward down the coastline to see if I could see the Onkaparinga River mouth. We tried to come this way last summer and found ourselves on the wrong beach, which ended up with me on a wild goose chase trying to find this particular estuary. As I made my way back to land and some shade, I tried to decide whether to start that quest for the Onkaparinga River or answer the call of my grumbling stomach.

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I snatched a photo of this curiosity at the end of the pier.

Passing back under the jetty, I passed a group of drunks making the most of the f word. Then from my shady slope I was blessed with the entertainment of watching the three men laying into one of the group, followed by making up with each other with lots of aggressive hugs and falling over. Meanwhile the seagulls slipped and slid on the slope as they went about their crumb cleaning duties.

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My eldest came to check on my loneliness level, so I brought up the suggestion of food. It took a little while, but everyone was rounded up and we stepped up onto the foreshore to the kiosk under Hortas for fish chips and nuggets, served by the loveliest lady.

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Foreshore decorations.

While waiting for the food some police cars arrived, to the delight of my eldest who decided she was going to go over and spectate in the hopes of seeing an arrest. It seemed the saga of the drunks was ongoing.

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The sun was getting low, so I decided to see if I could reach the Onkaparinga estuary before dark.

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As I walked south, the sun was getting lower to my right and the moon rose higher to my left, taking the tide back out with it. The reef was starting to peep up above the water line, in places.

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I picked up my pace, sticking to the wet sand which was easier to walk on, passing seagulls hunting for a few more morsels before dark. One skittered off a ahead of me, on what looked like short legs. It was running on stumps, feet taken by a predatory fish, maybe.

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A Labradoodle came charging towards me with a mischievous glint in its eye, shooting across the front of me at the last moment, showering my legs in droplets from its wet coat as it jumped back into the waves.

The balls of my feet began to get sore from the sand rubbing as I walked. This journey was feeling familiar. My last hunt for the Onkaparinga got painful on the feet too. As I walked, the flies seemed to multiply, dive bombing my ears and trying to crawl in if I paused to take a photo. I passed piles of seaweed emitting that distinctive over ripe seaweed smell.

Finally I approached a promising looking separation of the water which looked like it could be a part of the river running into the sea. I walked along in the water, the coolness soothing my feet.

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I reached my goal and slowed my pace. Families were playing and swimming there and the fly swarm around my head was at its largest. It's a beautiful place if you can disregard the flies. Unfortunately, on a day at the beach without wind, they're going to be around. Ironically, the reason the friends all chose this beach to visit was for the waves to body board on, but there were no waves this day with the wind taking a break. Most of the time the estuary is a safer spot for children to play in the water than in the crashing waves the sea usually produces.

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I strolled along the edge of the river, trying to get a few reasonable photos in the fading light with hands shaking as I tried to hold my camera steady while also holding onto my drink bottle, shoes, towel and jacket with a heavy handbag over my shoulder. It turned me back around to face north and I took that as a sign to head back to the pier and my daughters. I crossed a desert like stretch of sand which still had a fair amount of crust from the rainfall we'd had a few days previously, and wasn't forgiving to my already tender feet.

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The light got dimmer and the foreshore lights began to stand out.

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I picked up the pace once again and caught up with a young couple walking with a group of dogs, which were playing chase with one another into the waves and back out again. One of them picked up a ball and trotted up to me, dropping it at my feet, making the woman laugh as she looked at me with my full hands and told her baby that I couldn't throw the ball for them.

Back at the jetty my eldest was asking for ice cream and my youngest wanted to go down to the rock pools, which were appearing as the tide went out, to take some photos. So we stopped by the rocks and enjoyed the last bit of sunset. It was past 9pm anyway, so the kiosk was closed and they talked me into a stop at McDonald's on the way home.

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