The $43 million revitalisation of one of South Australia’s greatest tourism drawcards has been delivered just in time for Christmas with thousands of visitors and locals set to enjoy the new Granite Island Causeway over summer.

And in a further boost for tourism and the economy, the re-opening signals the return of the iconic horse-drawn tram, which has provided passenger services for more than 120 years and remains a beloved piece of South Australian history.

Premier Steven Marshall – joined by Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Corey Wingard and Member for Finniss David Basham – officially opened the Causeway on Wednesday morning.

“The re-opening of the new Granite Island Causeway is a historic moment for our state and more specifically the Fleurieu Peninsula,” the Premier said.

“South Australia has the fastest growing economy in the nation and while COVID-19 has shinned a light on regional tourism, we are determined to continue to back business and local jobs through exciting and innovative projects such as this.

“The Causeway is an incredible and iconic landmark in this region and after our $43m investment we are opening it back up for South Australians to enjoy over Christmas and for generations to come.

“Families love making memories and the importance of the Granite Island Causeway for this cannot be overstated. We knew we had to make the upgrade and we’re so proud to deliver this project for South Australians.

“Importantly, this build also supported 43 full-time equivalent jobs each year over the life of the project and we know the flow-on effects will trickle throughout the Fleurieu Peninsula supporting local tourism and even more job opportunities.”

Minister Wingard commended the project team for completing the new Causeway on schedule despite challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“To deliver this crucial project on time for the community – and despite the virus – is a huge accomplishment that many South Australians will benefit from starting today,” Minister Wingard said.

“This new Causeway is yet another shining example of the Marshall Liberal Government’s dedication to investing in regional infrastructure.

“We are pumping record amounts of cash into regional projects and we’re just getting started.

“We know how important this Causeway is to the Fleurieu Peninsula community and we were never going to stand by and stick our heads in the sand like the former Labor government did for 16 years.”

Minister Basham said he was proud to see project finished, ready for a busy summer.

“In many ways the Granite Island Causeway – and horse-drawn tram – is the heartbeat of tourism in our region,” Minister Basham said.

“It means so much to people on the Fleurieu Peninsula because it’s a tourism centrepiece that brings everyone together.

“The impacts this will have on local businesses who rely on tourism dollars to make their livelihoods are huge.

“We’ve secured the future of the Granite Island Causeway and the future of our tourism industry.”

The Causeway features artwork designed by five local Ngarrindjeri – Ramindjeri artists, assisted by Cox Architecture.

The artwork has been sandblasted into the decking by South Australian company Bianco Precast, and tells Dreaming stories that are specific to the areas the Ngarrindjeri - Ramindjeri call Pultung (Victor Harbor), Kaikangk (Granite Island) and Longkuwa (The Bluff).

The existing Causeway will remain open to pedestrians until decommissioning works commence from February 2022, with completion expected at the end of that year.

Portions of the original Causeway will be retained at the Island and the mainland as viewing platforms.

Further works will be undertaken early next year to construct a new boat landing facility for the Causeway.

Public access to Granite Island and its facilities will be generally retained during the remaining works, with some intermittent short-term closures of the Causeway required to enable the works to be performed safely.