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7 parks in South Australia to go kayaking

Kayaking is a great way to enjoy coasts and rivers, and see wildlife. Try one of these spots for your next paddle.

If you’ve never been kayaking before, you’re missing a wonderful experience. The great thing is that it’s really easy for beginners to learn, so why not give it a try?

Go hard and fast to get your cardio, go slow to enjoy the scenery, or just float, relax and try your hand at fishing. Pack plenty of water and snacks, and wear a lifejacket, hat and sunblock, and you’ll be up for a great day out.

Here are some of our favourite places to dip a paddle in South Australia’s national parks.

1. Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary

Where to launch: Garden Island Boat Ramp

With a resident pod of dolphins, a 10,000-year-old mangrove forest, and the Ships’ Graveyard Maritime Heritage Trail, the Port River around Garden Island and North Arm is one of the most interesting places to go kayaking close to Adelaide. This place is known as the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary.

Paddle north-west from the boat ramp towards the Garden Island Yacht Club. On the far side of the river, you’ll see the entry to a winding channel between the mangroves. At high tide, you can follow the channel for 10 or 15 minutes and find out for yourself why this spot is known as ‘Little Amazon’.

Once you’ve explored the mangroves, paddle back past the boat ramp, then follow the Angas Channel and Eastern Passage to North Arm and the Ships’ Graveyard. Two of the most prominent wrecks are the iron-hulled Santiago and the remnants of the wooden schooner Dorothy H. Sterling.

Along the way, keep an eye out for the famous Port River dolphins. If you see them, stop paddling and wait. They are naturally curious, and will often come to you.

(Image courtesy of Cristina Vicente)

2. Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary National Park – Winaityinaityi Pangkara 

Where to launch: At the end of Port Gawler Road

The mangroves at Port Gawler are a lovely peaceful spot for kayaking. There are two places to launch your boat: the carpark near the historic jetty at the end of Port Gawler Road or a small shoulder about 100m before the carpark. Head west from the carpark about 700m to the river mouth, or east to explore the narrower parts of the channel. The mangroves are part of the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary, so they’re an ideal place to look for waterbirds, especially when the migratory shorebirds start to arrive in spring.

3. Onkaparinga River Recreation Park

Where to launch: Perry’s Bend kayak launch on River Road, Noarlunga Downs

Onkaparinga River Recreation Park is a great place for a leisurely paddle or some fishing – take your pick. Put your boat in the water at the dedicated kayak launch at Perry’s Bend, then make your way north towards the river mouth. Look out for waterbirds like pelicans, black swans and cormorants.

Top tip: Onkaparinga River is tidal, so if you launch at high tide, you’ll be able to carry your kayak straight down the ramp and put it into the water, avoiding the mud.

4. Encounter Marine Park

Where to launch: Near the Second Valley jetty, or near the Rapid Bay jetty

Whether you launch from Second Valley or Rapid Bay, Encounter Marine Park’s coastline is a treat to paddle. Follow the coast to the south-west and you’ll pass by stunning cliffs, sea caves to explore, and hidden beaches perfect for a rest and a swim. If you’re lucky, you might see long-nosed fur seals and dolphins, especially around Rapid Head.

If you’d like to extend your stay, there’s a caravan park at Second Valley, or beach camping at Rapid Bay.


5. Coorong National Park

Where to launch: Boat ramp on Beacon 19 Boat Ramp Road at Goolwa South, or Sugars Beach on Hindmarsh Island

The Coorong is a true South Australian icon. This unique place is listed under the Ramsar Convention as a Wetland of International Significance, providing feeding and breeding grounds for pelicans and dozens of other species of waterbirds.

The North Lagoon in Coorong National Park is a great spot for kayaking. If you launch from the Beacon 19 Boat Ramp, paddle towards the Murray Mouth. If you want a longer paddle, you could go on to the Godfreys Landing Campground, which is only accessible to boats and also has toilets and a walking trail. If you decide to launch at Sugars Beach near the Murray Mouth Lookout, paddle south-east around Bird Island and Mundoo Island towards Narrung.

Wherever you start, you’ll have a fantastic experience. There’s plenty of wildlife, so keep an eye out for waterbirds, birds of prey and long-nosed fur seals.

(Image courtesy of Brenton Clarke)

6. Murray River National Park

Lined with river red gums, the Katarapko section of Murray River National Park is an important breeding area for waterbirds and other native wildlife, making it a sensational spot for birdwatching.

There are lots of campsites with easy sloping banks in Katarapko Creek where it’s easy to put your kayak in the water.

Look out for waterbirds like egrets, spoonbills, cormorants and darters, and birds like red-rumped parrots, crimson rosellas, and brown tree creepers in the vegetation on shore. It’s also a great spot for a bit of fishing, but be aware of the seasonal closure for Murray cod.

For more tips for kayaking on the Murray check out our blog.


7. Coffin Bay National Park

Where to launch: kayak launch area near Yangie Bay Campground

Coffin Bay National Park, located on southern Eyre Peninsula, is renowned for its pristine coastal scenery, tranquil bays and abundant wildlife. It’s also home to Yangie Bay, which is quite sheltered and has slow water movement,  making it ideal for kayaking. You’ll paddle through the Yangie Bay Sanctuary Zone in Thorny Passage Marine Park, which acts as a nursery area for a number of fish species. If you look closely you can spot tiny fish jumping out of the water as you paddle by. The kayak launch area is conveniently located near the Yangie Bay Campground, which features 19 campsites, toilets and a picnic shelter. Make sure you book online to reserve your spot.


No kayak? No problem!

There are plenty of companies that can help you out with kayak hire or guided tours, like Adventure Kayaking SA for Garden Island and Rapid Bay, Easy Kayaks for the Onkaparinga River and Noarlunga Reef, Canoe the Coorong for the Coorong and Hindmarsh Island, or Canoe Adventures for the River Murray.

First time kayaking? These eight top tips will help you get started. Before you go, remember to check the National Parks and Wildlife Service SA website for the most up-to-date information about the park you plan to visit.

(Main image: Coorong National Park courtesy of SATC)

This story was originally posted in July 2018.


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