West Lakes – Adelaide

West Lakes South Australia

Circumnavigate Delfin Island, West Lakes, departing from one of several convenient access points around the lake. The trip is approximately 6-7km in length and the paddler remains in relatively protected waters. However, be cautioned that winds from S to SW can generate challenging conditions near West Lakes Boulevard bridges at the southern end of Delfin Island.

Note: Although this waterway is described as West Lakes its official name is John Dyer Lake, named after a long time serving Mayor of Charles Sturt Council.

Paddle overview : West Lakes

circumnavigate Delfin Island

Nearest Town Port AdelaideView in google map
Paddle Distance Approx. 6-7 km
Paddle Time Allow at least 2hrs
Difficulty Easy – Moderate
Launch Aquatic reserve boat ramp
Facilities Toilets, picnic area, bike track, car parking
Waterway type Visit BOM for weather conditions
: Inexperienced paddlers may find conditions above fresh (17 knots) with S to SW wind particularly challenging. Strong winds from S to SW direction generate difficult conditions near the West Lakes Boulevard bridge at the southern end of Delphin Island. The hard walls in these areas result in clapotis – standing waves that can be difficult to navigate for inexperienced paddlers.
Note: Northern Basin – When Dragonboat Regattas are in progress keep a safe distance. Southern Basin – When A M Ramsay Regatta Course in use, keep to the access lane on the eastern boundary and do not cross finish-line when a race is in progress as this interferes with electronic photo-finish system.
Launch site Access point: Aquatic Reserve (GPS: 34.8535 S; 138.4996 E)
Inexperienced paddlers may find conditions above fresh (17 knots) with S to SW wind challenging.
Access point: Dotterel Drive Park (GPS: 34.8583 S; 138.4965 E)
access to West Lake off a sand beach.
Access point: Oarsman Reserve (GPS: 34.8751 S; 138.4851 E)
Caution: Rowing craft may travel at speed, both during regattas and at other times when training. Always keep an adequate look-out for approaching craft to avoid collision and the risk of serious injury.
Parking Aquatic Reserve has parking (for 50+ cars) some trailer parking.
Dotterel Drive Park has limited off-street parking.
Oarsman Reserve has parking (for 20 cars)


Aquatic Reserve: has shady trees, access to the lake off the beach, drinking water available, public toilet available 6.00am to 6.00pm, outdoor gym equipment available in the park, BMX track adjacent to Reserve
Short drive to cafes and restaurants on Port Road

Oarsmen Reserve: Public toilet, shady trees, picnic tables, drinking water available. Café with food and good coffee located here.
Oarsmen Reserve is on the AM Ramsay Regatta course, and the boat-ramp is approximately 200m from finish-line. When a regatta is in progress access to the lake may be limited from the reserve.
Note: Avoid crossing the buoyed course when a regatta is in progress. Especially avoid crossing the finish line when a race is in progress (even when not on the course proper) as it interferes with the automatic photo-finish timing system.

Dotterel Drive Park: has public toilets open 6:00am to 6:00pm daily and shady trees. There is a grassy area with picnic tables located nearby.

Trail Notes

The trail around Delfin island from the Aquatic Reserve is about 7 km and can be done in about one and a half hours.
There is often a lot of boat traffic on the lake so it is advisable to keep to the right hand side of the waterway. The only motorized boats permitted on the lake are the cruise boat moored at the hotel in the Southern basin and rescue boats for Regattas. Even so, the variety of paddle craft on the lake varies enormously from sit on tops (SOTs), stand up paddle boards (SUPs), rowing sculls, canoes and kayaks so it is advisable to be alert at all times to other craft in the area.
There are a number of beaches around the lake where stops can be made to take breaks.
Coffee and meals are available at OAR cafe (Oarsman reserve) and also from a number of venues on the West Lakes Mall side of the waterway.

Points of interest

Wests Lakes: West Lakes is a saltwater lake fed by tidal flows that flow out through the Bower Rd causeway into 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 Paddle South Australia, 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.

Situated in the middle of the lake is Delfin 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.

Port Misery: (Point A GPS: 34.8592 S; 138.5003 E)
The original site for the port of Adelaide when the colony was first established, became known as Port Misery due to the unpleasant conditions passengers had to endure. A plaque can be found fixed to a wall at this location.
New arrivals to South Australia started writing about their experience arriving at the new colony. Thomas Horton James in his book “Six Months in South Australia” and Alexander Tolmer were just two who wrote about the “myriads of mosquitoes,” and “eerie tangle of mangroves with black and viscous mud” that passengers were either carried through on the backs of sailors or had to struggle through on their own. “Their luggage thrown promiscuously on the muddy beach, and unless promptly removed, frequently damaged by the rising tide”.

“The shore is an uninhabitable swamp, ….  This is Port Adelaide! Port Misery would be a better name; for nothing in any part of the world can surpass it in everything that is wretched and inconvenient”.

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