This Victorian Family’s 17-Year Glenelg Obsession

This Victorian Familys 17 Year Glenelg Obsession
Photos: Kate Elmes

Imagine holidaying in the same place, in the exact same location – for more than 17 years. That’s exactly what one Victorian family have been doing – taking many photos along the way. And it’s our very own Glenelg that has enchanted this South Australian-loving family.

Dr John Penry, his wife Kim and their three children have been making the near-annual pilgrimage to stay at Glenelg’s Seawall Apartments for the last 17 years.

“We’ve spent the last 11 years in the exact same apartment, as soon as our family expanded,” John says, down the phone line from Wisconsin, America, where he is currently based.

Is it an odd feeling to return to the same apartment in Glenelg each time?

“It definitely feels like a second home to the kids and us. We’ve been living in Victoria and America, but Adelaide – and Seawall, in particular – has a real homey feel for us.”

“Adelaide has a great sense of being comfortable with itself. It’s not trying too hard to be super flashy like Melbourne and Sydney.”

John and his wife Kim started visiting Glenelg when they were first engaged, coming to visit uni friends. They soon realised they were onto a good thing and made it a regular feature on their holiday schedule.

During their third visit, they discovered Seawall Apartments – and a decades and generations-long-relationship was formed. Their oldest daughter is nearly 17 years old now, so acts as a handy barometer for measuring their Seawall anniversary.

What is it about the Seawall Apartments that keep the Penry family coming back year in, year out? As well as the summer weather being far more reliable in Adelaide, John puts it down to location and people.

“It’s just the quirkiness, the position, the feel of the place – and that’s largely down to the people running the place. There is none of your cookie-cutter-stamped hotel environment here, it’s a family run business with heart and soul.”

That family is Rachael and her husband David, who have been managing the property for the best part of a decade. It was Rachael’s father Alan Osborne who founded Seawall in 1977. Alan was clearly a visionary, knowing that Glenelg had the potential to be a holiday destination, with a growing proliferation of restaurants and businesses, all while conveniently located near the Adelaide CBD.

“Rachael was 23 when we first met her, and we’ve developed a lifelong friendship with her and her husband David. Their prime investment is to make an environment that keeps people coming back. Obviously, it’s working!” John says.

Anyone who is familiar with the Glenelg seafront will recognise Seawall Apartments. The distinctive heritage buildings have their own unique flair, set among old and new builds that are characteristic of the mishmash of architectural styles in Glenelg.

“…long boozy lunch or dinner with friends enjoying South Australian produce and a beautiful glass of Adelaide Hills Chardonnay is one of our favourite things to do.”

Seawall’s 22 apartments are housed in seven distinct heritage buildings, updated with fresh and modern interiors with quirky vintage styling.

There is the School House apartment, that is part of an 1889 terrace, which operated as the Holdfast Bay Preparatory College from 1912 to 1937. The Spanish Deco-style Olive Court is dated from 1920, and the stained glass windowed Beach and Boat House apartments were built in 1910.

It’s that wonderful mix of heritage and time mapping that are so appealing to John and Kim, and their family photos have provided a near yearly snapshot of not only their own family, but also the evolution of Glenelg.

The family have engaged the services of South Australian-based photographer Kate Elmes, and do a family photo shoot each stay. The photos show the changing landscape of Glenelg, and the changing faces of their family too. The only constants are the happy grins, the beckoning beach and the surrounds of Seawall Apartments.

“Well, obviously we all remember Magic Mountain in its original incarnation. But watching the changes on Jetty Road and the gentrification of Glenelg has been fascinating. It’s a sad sort of nostalgia but for all that, it’s still a beach and a suburb that we love and we really enjoy the changes,” John says.

“Adelaide is a very easy place to be and live: the Central Market, the wine country, hills, beaches… It’s definitely on our minds in terms of retirement, but that’s a fair way off yet.”

The food and wine scene is also a strong pull for John and Kim.

“Everything we do tends to revolve around food and wine. I’d hesitate to call myself a foodie, but a long boozy lunch or dinner with friends enjoying South Australian produce and a beautiful glass of Adelaide Hills Chardonnay is one of our favourite things to do.”

Seawall Apartments celebrated its 40-year anniversary this year

“If you do the math(s), we’ve effectively spent about one year of our life together at the Seawall Apartments and Glenelg. It’s just got this village feeling to it,” John says.

“Adelaide has a great sense of being comfortable with itself, which we love. We’re already booked in for January 2018, we’re looking forward to coming home.”

Have you got any fond memories of Glenelg or secret places you love to stay? Let us know in the comments, below.

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