Paddling areas in SA

Paddling in South Australia



Despite being the driest state in the driest continent on earth, there are still a number of remarkably beautiful waterways in SA which are well worth exploring. Many of these locations are within the Adelaide metropolitan area or a short drive from the city.

West Lakes
West Lakes is a saltwater lake fed by tidal flows that flows out through the Bower Rd causeway in to the Port River. The lake is the most popular canoeing venue in Adelaide with club, state and national events being held there. It is home to Canoe SA, West Lakes Canoe Club (at Bower Rd) and the West Lakes Aquatics Centre (Dept of Education) and South Australian Sports Institute Kayak Program (on Military Rd). There is a 2000m canoeing / rowing course on the lake which is used for training and events.

The lake is open to the public and it can be accessed from many of the boat ramps and beaches. As power boats are excluded from the lake (except for safety purposes by permit) it is suitable for paddling in many craft.

The lake however can become very choppy particularly with the prevailing south-westerly sea breeze. Mornings are the best times to paddle as the wind is generally calmer.

Recommended canoeing launch points: Aquatic Reserve – Canoe SA Headquarters (Bower Rd), Dotterel Reserve (Dotterel Drive), Oarsman Reserve (Military Rd).

Situated in the middle of the lake is Deflin Island which is approximately 6km in circumference. The island provides significant protection from the wind and novice paddlers can enjoy paddling around the island on calmer days, or stay on the northern side of the West Lakes Boulevard bridges on windier days. A map of West Lakes is available below.

Port River / Barker Inlet
A very interesting area, with mangroves, birdlife, and perhaps dolphin sightings, is Barker Inlet. Most poular and best accessed from the Garden Island boat ramp. The area can have significant tidal flows and wind effect. You can check the tides via the Bureau of Meteorology website –

Garden Island is approximately 40 minutes behind the Outer Harbour tide time. Plan your trip based on the tides and conditions of the day. The South Australian Canoe Guides map series has produced a topographic paddlers map of Torrens Island and Environs. There is also an online resource with detailed information about paddling amongst the mangroves and wrecks. For more information please read the final article on this page.

Guided tours are available in the area with a number of professional guides such as Blue Water Sea Kayaking ( who can supply equipment, instruction and a detailed history of the area.

Glenelg – Patawolonga Lake
The Patawolonga Lake is also open to the public for recreational canoeing and kayaking. The lake is more shallow and narrower than West Lakes. It is however a great venue for novices. Holdfast Bay Canoe Club is based in the Scout Water Activities Building on the lakefront at Anderson Ave, Glenelg. Regular training and events are conducted at “The Pat”.

Onkaparinga River
The Onkaparinga River, between Old Noarlunga and the sea is a scenic venue and a pleasant paddle. The river is tidal and as such it pays to check the tides when planning your paddle as the tide can catch you out! At low tides the river can be very shallow although there is always a channel that can be paddled. The Onkaparinga Canoe Club is based at the end of Wearing St, Port Noarlunga which is also home to the Port Noarlunga Aquatic Centre (Dept of Education).  The river is good for day trips from Wearing St up to Market Reserve (Old Noarlunga) and return or vice versa depending on the tides. The distance from Wearing St to Market Reserve is approximately 7km.

Victor Harbor
Encounter Lakes is a man-made lake within a housing development. The lake is open to the public and can be accessed from several beaches arounf the lakefront. The lake is approximately 2km end to end and winds amongst the houses. It is very protected water and suitable for novices and families. Marathon and sprint paddlers can often be seen training on the lake as it provides an excellent safe training environment in most conditions.


Murray River and backwaters
The backwaters of the lower Murray River are unique in their desolate beauty and abundance of native flora and fauna. Only a few hours drive from Adelaide, paddlers will find themselves at the doorstep of a world built for smaller water craft. Adventure into the farthest reaches of Chowilla Game Reserve, paddle amongst the stark Red Gums of Loch Luna or spend a couple of days working along the waters of Katarapko Creek. All of these areas are part of the River Murray Canoe Guides series of maps. Each map has a large topographic print of the area and essential details such as where to paddle and local contacts. For more information about these and other maps in the South Australian Canoe Guides series, please read the last article on this page.

Guided tours and equipment are also available in this region from:

Canoe Adventures – Call Kym Werner – 04211 676 45 or go to or email:

Canoe the Riverland– Call Jim and Ruth Roberts- 0475 754 222 or email:

The Coorong National Park, home of the Ngarrindjeri Aboriginal people, is one of SA’s most beautiful locations. Whilst the sand dunes of Young Husband Peninsula protect the Coorong waters from the immense Southern Ocean, the area is still subject to strong weather and caution is advised when planning a trip in the area. It is recommended that paddlers use fully equipped sea kayaks as detailed in the Australian Canoeing Safety Guidelines and gather current information about the dredges which regularly function in the mouth of the Murray River.

As part of the ongoing South Australian Canoe Guides project, a series of three topographic maps have been developed into the Coorong Canoe Guides. For more information about these and other Canoe Guides please refer to the last article on this page.

Glenelg River (Nelson)
In the southeast, the Glenelg River is shared with Victoria. Parks Victoria have a detailed website for the area (Lower Glenelg River National Park) which can be accessed through

Sea Kayaking
For the sea paddler, the Fleurieu Peninsula, between Second Valley and Cape Jervis in particular, is worth a look, as is the Victor Harbor area.

Close to the city, the metropolitan coast is readily accessible.

The north coast of Kangaroo Island (either paddle across on a neap tide or take the ferry) is good: reasonably sheltered with many small bays for camping. The foot of Yorke Peninsula near Cape Spencer, with access out of Pondalowie Bay, is spectacular.

Farther afield, the Sir Joseph Banks Islands, out of Tumby Bay, are excellent. The islands south east of Port Lincoln (Thistle, etc.) are also good, but the area is exposed, with strong tidal flows.

Sea Kayak trips in SA – for video on youtube click here 

South Australian Canoe Guides
Canoe SA and its committees are also involved in the ongoing development and distribution of the Canoe Guide series. The Guides are currently being redrawn and reprinted, thanks to a combined effort by National Parks and Wildlife SA, the Office for Recreation and Sport, Heritage SA and Canoe South Australia.
The resource is designed to support the River Murray Canoe Guides for Katarapko, Chowilla, Loch Luna and Torrens Island & Environs which are available for purchase from the Canoe SA office and other listed retailers. They include a comprehensive topographic map and information on paddling trips ranging from one day to overnight camping trips.

The online resource includes information paddlers need to know when planning a canoeing or kayaking trip. It provides important information such as campsite location details, good access points to launch from, where to paddle and what to look out for. The resource also provides details which will help paddlers plan for a safe and enjoyable experience. All information is location specific and will be regularly updated.

The next phase currently in development with the Department for Environment and Heritage, the Office for Recreation and Sport, and Canoe South Australia is to incorporate signage along the listed trails. This project will rely on input from all three organisations and the paddling community, and aims to make paddling in these areas accessible to the general public.

River Murray Canoe Guides are available for Katarapko Creek (far left), Chowilla Creek (centre left) and Loch Luna/Chambers Creek (centre right). The Map on the (far right) of the page is the South Australian Canoe Guide – Torrens Island and Environs map which depicts the Port river waterway including the Barker Inlet. The latest addition to the project are the Coorong Canoe Guides which depict the Coorong National Park and surrounding waters across three easy to use maps.