Paddlers in WA can explore the Ningaloo Reef, take a wildlife-spotting expedition via the Ord River in the Kimberley, or even rehearse for the Avon Decent in the Preston River rapids. For the less experienced, there are guided tours that encompass reefs, rivers or even a paddle between gorges.
WHERE TO GO
NorthWest | The Ord River is a breathtaking water adventure and a memorable way to enjoy the Kimberley (think crocodiles, waterfalls, Aboriginal art and native wildlife). Those with canoe or kayak experience can plan their own trip. Alternatively, choose a tour that suits you, through companies like Go Wild Adventure Tours or Gecko Canoeing. The stunning coastline can be celebrated with a Broome’s Turtle Kayak ride, which takes around three hours and is a great option for the family. There’s a whole heap of marine life that you just might cross paths with.
Coral Coast | Take in the spectacular sights of the Ningaloo Reef courtesy of numerous open-water tours. If paddling out to a snorkelling site, be sure to travel in pairs; also Ningaloo Marine Park is a protected site, so check the sanctuary zones and guidelines before paddling. If you’re savvy in a kayak, consider voyaging up the coast. A kayak with Wula Guda Nyinda Eco Adventures is one way to revel in the Shark Bay World Heritage Area. The tours also explore the culture ties of the Nhanda and Malgana Aboriginal people to the Shark Bay region. If you’re near Kalbarri, the Murchison River lets you enjoy the sight of ancient cliffs. For those four-wheel driving with their own kayak or canoe, you can head deep to the heart of the gorges. Alternately you can hire a three-person canoe from, or enjoy a safari with, Kalbarri Boat Hire and Canoe Safaris.
Perth Surrounds | The Avon River is a popular whitewater experience – August sees the celebrated annual Avon Descent, a 124km course that’s worth watching if you’re not quite ready to tackle it yourself. Sea kayaking is one way to take in Penguin and Seal islands, not far from Shoalwater Bay and Rockingham. Aside from sea lions and colonies of pelicans, if you’re lucky, you might catch sight of
a dolphin. The Murray River hosts a number of trails. Less than 90 minutes from the city, Lane Pool Reserve in Dwellingup allows you to hit the Murray River and take in the beautiful forest (fortunate travellers might even spot a quokka). The waterways near the city are popular for daytime kayaking experiences on the Swan River, which can take you down toward the south of WA. Kayaks can be hired from About Bike Hire at Point Fraser Reserve on the foreshore.
Golden Outback | If you’re travelling WA with your own gear, are experienced, and are looking for some canoeing, kayaking or sea kayaking adventures, check out the coastline around Esperance. National parks and beaches in the area might offer the opportunity you’re looking for, just be sure to check first to clarify the areas protected from traffic, and those cleared for kayaking and canoeing.
SouthWest | Preston River, Boyanup to Bunbury, will stretch your muscles with a 26km flat-water paddle, great for intermediate paddlers. When the water’s close to flood level (11.1m) in Boyanup, the river changes dramatically, becoming perfect for thrill-seekers and those who fancy a rehearsal for the Avon Descent. Harvey Dam is one of the best places for family fun in a canoe or kayak. When you’re paddling, don’t pass the line of buoys, and check the water level before entering. Put in at the boat ramp; there’s no boat access at the dam’s recreation area but there is parking, toilets, barbecues and a playground. To hit the white water on the Blackwood River, you’ll need a fair bit of paddling skill. Over the 7-8km paddle you’ll negotiate rapids, bends, rocks and submerged trees. It’s practical from a water level of 11.2m, but above 12m is ideal because most rocks are covered. Put in at the park in Bridgetown, just upstream of the bridge. The take-out point is Rocky Bluff, but the current is fast so approach with caution.
Photography Willerin Nannup.
Choose from one of many canoeing and kayaking packages in the Katherine region. The company also offers packages that incorporate bushwalking and trekking with your paddling adventure. 1800 634 319, geckocanoeing.com.au
Check out East Perth, the Swan Valley or Ascot Waters, by kayak. 0412 101 949, waterwanderers.com.au
Penguin Island Sea Kayak Tour
A full-day sea kayaking tour of Penguin Island with Rockingham Wild Encounters includes morning tea and a picnic lunch on the island. (08) 9591 1333, penguinisland.com.au
Take an eco-noeing tour on the Ord River. There are a number of tour options available. 1300 663 369, gowild.com.au
Choose from a number of different sea kayaking trips, from Monkey Mia to Ningaloo Reef, Broke Inlet, and Seal and Penguin islands. (08) 9259 0749, rivergods.com.au
Wula Guda Nyinda Eco Adventures
The kayak tour highlights the ties of the Nhanda and Malgana Aboriginal people to Gutharraguda (which is the Aboriginal name for Shark Bay, meaning ‘Two Rivers’).
0429 708 847, wulaguda.com.au
*Keep in mind some locations may be closed in certain months, while other popular tours may sell out. Be sure to call ahead/check in advance.
Photography Capricorn Sea Kayaking.
Ord River, The Kimberley
A breathtaking way to take in the beauty of the northwest region; there’s a lot of distance to cover as you glide past gorge country, revelling in such sights as river birds and water lilies.
Ningaloo Reef, Coral Coast
For many enjoying the Coral Coast, Ningaloo Marine Park rates as a must-see. The Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) has created a practical booklet for exploring the Ningaloo Reef. Download it for free from dec.wa.gov.au
Avon River, Northam
In the wet season, this is a bit of a paddling mecca. Bells Rapids, where the Avon and Swan meet, is a particular attraction. The river also plays host to the annual Avon Descent, a sporting event popular with competitors and spectators alike.
Harvey Dam, Harvey
A day on the water at Harvey Dam is a great opportunity for family fun. Fishing’s another drawcard, but check first because restrictions apply.
Murchison River, Kalbarri
If you’re travelling up north, the Murchison River is a beautiful place to paddle. To take in Kalbarri National Park, it’s suggested you check with park officers first. The annual Kalbarri Canoe and Cray Carnival is also fun.
Preston River, Boyanup to Bunbury
This flat-water paddle is a possible practice run for the Avon Descent
and a great ride for intermediate paddlers. Give the Bunbury visitor centre a buzz (staff will be able to help with any queries).
Blackwood River, Bridgetown
Great for a paddler with experience, there are some rapids and rocks
that make for an interesting ride. Put in at the park in Bridgetown, and take out at Rocky Bluff.
Murray River, Dwellingup region
In the Dwellingup region, the winding path of the Murray River with its whitewater rapids is a popular ride. Less intense waterway areas will suit those wanting a gentler pace.
Swan River, Perth surrounds
If you’re looking for a chance to kayak close to the city, the Swan River might suit your needs. There are a number of places you can hire equipment, as well as numerous tours available.
Enjoying the waterways of the southwest? Collie River offers a sometimes tricky ride. Highlights include the rapids near Honeymoon Pool, while Minninup Pool is a mild site to relax and picnic.
*Note that weather conditions can seriously impact the traversability
of particular waterways.