The remains of at least 40 abandoned vessels lie embedded in silt and partially hidden by mangroves in the backwaters of the Port Adelaide River. The collection includes large and small sailing, steam and motor vessels, barges, pontoons and dredges.
The Port Adelaide graveyards are made up of five abandonment sites, including the Garden Island, Jervois Basin, Mutton Cove, Broad Creek and the Angas Inlet. The Garden Island graveyard is the largest site, with 25 known vessels to have been abandoned between 1909 and 1945.
As vessels within the Port fell into disrepair or were no longer viable, harbour authorities needed to cater for their disposal. South Australia's relatively shallow Gulf waters meant that scuttling at sea was not generally an option. The alternative was that most obsolete vessels were beached and broken up at various sites around Port Adelaide - some were completely salvaged but others were only partially scrapped.
Many ended their working days in Port Adelaide as storage hulks or lighters. The ending for other vessels were a little more inventive with some becoming a footbridge, a floating grain mill and a crayfish depot.