Ultimate Guide to Kayaking Adelaide

In this ultimate guide to kayaking in Adelaide, we'll cover some of the most popular places to take your kayak in South Australia. You'll find some of these are familiar places, and perhaps discover something new.

The best places to go when kayaking Adelaide

Kayaking is an excellent way to explore South Australia, and you'll find there are several options for your kayaking adventures. The most visited location in the city for kayakers is the Adelaide dolphin sanctuary which covers an area of just under 200 square kilometres. This dolphin sanctuary is designed to protect the pod of about 30 dolphins that frequent the Torrens and Garden Islands. If you want to see native wildlife, you can explore the region yourself or go on one of the many dolphin sanctuary kayak tours. Taking a guided kayak tour can be the best way to see the region if you're new to the area or are yet to buy a kayak.

When you kayak around Adelaide, you'll be treated to some of the stunning coastlines and experience local Aboriginal Heritage. Kayaking through the lakes and rivers of South Australia will give you a good amount of experience and improve your kayaking skills. The rivers, lakes, and sea offer something for kayakers of all skill levels. If you're only just getting your feet wet with a kayak, you can look at the many tour operators in Adelaide and at popular camping and kayaking spots (e.g. Lake Alexandrina). If you're experienced in kayaking, you can enjoy the challenge of a lengthy paddle on the River Murray or go for an open-water crossing from Cape Jervis to Kangaroo Island.

Adelaide Rivers & Creeks

Murray River

While the Murray River is mainly associated with New South Wales and Victoria, it winds its way from the SA/NSW/Vic border until it empties into Lake Alexandrina. The Murray River (or River Murray if you live in South Australia) forms a part of the third largest river catchment in the world. 

The River Murray is navigable from Yarrawonga (Vic) to Goolwa (SA), and that gives you a little under 2000km of water to explore. A popular starting point when kayaking the Murray River is in the township of Murray Bridge (Sturt Reserve Boat Ramp) and then heading downstream towards Lake Alexandrina. If you plan on fishing in the river, Murray River Cod is a highly prized and sought after fish, with these freshwater monsters getting up to 1.8m in size!

Katarapko Creek

Katarapko Creek is a tributary of the Murray River. The creek separates from the Murray about a kilometre south of Berri and then rejoins it after passing through the Murray River National Park. The creek provides plenty of fishing opportunities, you'll find endless amounts of carp (which is illegal to return to the river after catching), and these are perfect for getting kids interested in fishing. The area is also well known for yabbies and other native fish.

When you're exploring the creek in your kayaks, you may find some submerged trees to combat, but these will not pose a significant problem if you go easy. The creek meanders through the national park giving you a prime position to look for Koalas and other native wildlife. Camping sites in the area can fill up fast, and booking ahead is highly recommended. It is possible to hire kayaks from Berri if you do not have your own.

You can launch from Berri Marina and make your way down and into Katarapko Creek. You can launch from the bank near your campsite if you're staying at Katarapko Creek Camping Ground.

Onkaparinga River

As hard as it might be to say, the Onkaparinga River offers any kayaker some premium paddling to experience local birdlife. You can start your adventures at the purpose-built kayak launching facility near the Noarlunga Wetlands Trail (off River Road).

Once you're on the creek, you have the choice of heading upstream and into Onkaparinga River Recreation Park or downstream towards South Port Beach. The area is filled with walking and biking trails, which is ideal if you're going with family members who are not that into kayaking. Dogs are welcome in the Onkaparinga River Recreation Park, but they'll need to be kept on a lead (no more than 2m) during their visit.

Port River

The Port Adelaide River (commonly called the Port River system) starts at West Lakes and winds through Port Adelaide until it empties into the Outer Harbour. The river has been in use for navigational purposes since 1836. A section of the Port River extends into the dolphin sanctuary, and you can make your way around the ancient mangrove forests of Torrens Island. If you're lucky, you'll meet the pod of dolphins that calls this section of Adelaide home. On the best day, you'll find there may be up to 300 dolphins in the region.

Port River is also the gateway to what is known as the ships' graveyard. In this part of the river, you'll find over 40 vessels that are slowly rusting away. There are old steamships and harbour craft, all from the 1800s to the 1950s. There is plenty of fish in the river system, including Bream, Mulloway, Salmon, and Flathead. You can talk to local bait shops about finding the best places to fish or join in on a kayak tour of the region.

As you pass the Torrens Island Power Station and into the calm waters of Angas Inlet, you'll find some relaxing and spectacular scenery. This area is very safe for kayaking, and you can launch from Garden Island Boat Ramp or off North Haven Beach.

Lakes in South Australia

West Lakes

If you're planning on kayaking in the West Lakes, you'll need to be mindful of any rowing exercises or regattas. However, at most times, the lake is free for use by all other people. You can launch from Aquatic Reserve, Oarsman Reserve, or Dotterel Drive Park. If you head up the lake to Delfin Island, you'll cover around 7km of kayaking if you launch from the Aquatic Reserve.

If you find the lake is busy with other boats, it is best to keep to the right side of any direction you're moving. As you make your way around the lake, you'll come across several beaches, and you can pull up to these at any time if you feel like a rest.

Lake Alexandrina

Lake Alexandrina is a fantastic place to take your kayaks. In these natural wetlands, you'll be pleased to find calm and gentle waters. You can paddle across the lake and enter Coorong National Park. While in the Coorong, you'll be treated to translucent waters as you glide across the surface. 

At only an hour drive from the heart of Adelaide, you'll have access to all that Lake Alexandrina offers. After you've been out kayaking for the day, you can cool off with a relaxing swim before heading into Milang for lunch or dinner. Many camping spots are dotted around the lake, and you can launch from the shoreline near your campsite. If you're only visiting for a day, you can launch from Wellington Boat Ramp or Mundoo Channel Boat Ramp.

Sea Kayaking in Adelaide

Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island is a prominent part of South Australia's coastline. If you're planning on making the crossing from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw, you'll need to put aside about 4-5 hours each way. With the sheer distance of the trip, coupled with kayaking in the Southern Ocean, it is best to choose a calm and relatively wind-free day.

The water in the channel is quite deep, so you'll be sharing the water with some huge fish. Kangaroo Island is a little over 20km from Cape Jervis, making for a very challenging paddle. After you reach Kangaroo Island, you can head up Chapman River. You'll find several camping spots along Chapman River, and you can rest here or book in to spend the night before heading back to the mainland.

If you're not up to the crossing, you can still find some excellent kayaking on Kangaroo Island. Harriet River is a popular destination for kayakers visiting the island. You can take in the tranquil water of the river and then cross over to explore the delights of Vivonne Bay. Tour operators are working in Vivonne, or you can take your gear and launch from Jetty Road or at the mouth of the river.

Garden Island

Garden Island is a very popular place to kayak, primarily thanks to the Adelaide dolphin sanctuary. You can make your way around the entire island and try to spot the thirty or so dolphins that make this ear their home. In addition to dolphins (as if they are not reason enough!), you'll find abundant marine life near the island. When you encounter the dolphins, they must be left alone, and you should only observe them from a distance.

If you are new to kayaking or have kids joining you on the water, you'll be pleased to find the waters are very tranquil and calm. You can launch from the Garden Island Boat Ramp, or if you'd like to go on a guided tour, you can book in for one with Dolphin Sanctuary Kayak Tours. Garden Island is also host to the Ships' Graveyard, and there are many wrecks to kayak past and explore.

Rapid Bay

Rapid Bay is best known for its incredibly long jetty. The original jetty opened in 1940 and was closed to the public in 2004. However, a new jetty has been built in the area, and it provides an excellent place to fish or go for a relaxing stroll. The old jetty is perfect for kayakers to explore. You can try your luck with a line and fish around the old pylons, or you can set your anchor and snorkel in the pristine waters.

In Rapid Bay, you'll come across several sunken shipwrecks, and you can launch your kayak directly off Rapid Bay Beach. You can camp nearby if you'd prefer to stay for a few days; otherwise, it is only about an hour's drive from Adelaide. The area is famous for hosting the Leafy Sea Dragon, among many other marine animals.

FAQ for kayaking Adelaide

Kayaking in South Australia

Where can I launch my kayak in Hindmarsh?

You can launch from most places along the banks of the River Torrens (Karrawirra Parri). One popular launching spot is from Bonython Park. This park has ample free parking, and you're only a short walk (150m) to the water. You can use a kayak trolley to make the journey to the water easier and save your arms for exploring the river.

How to access the Garden Island boat ramp?

The Garden Island boat ramp is open to vehicles. The boat ramp on Garen Island is very popular, and you may need to wait for it to be cleared of power craft. Otherwise, you can launch from the beach area. If you're planning on exploring the dolphin sanctuary, be mindful to keep your distance and note that the dolphins will not appear on a schedule. 

Can I launch a kayak anywhere?

There are few restrictions for using a kayak in South Australian waters. However, if you plan on kayaking in reservoirs (South Para, Warren Myponga, Bundaleer), it is best to familiarise yourself with the guidelines posted on the South Australian Government Website. Kayaks will need to be launched from designated areas only. Fishing is allowed at these reservoirs, but a permit is required.

Can you kayak on Mawson Lakes?

Mawson Lakes is open to kayaking; however, the water quality is not the best. If you are looking for a good spot close to home and need to practice your paddling style before tackling larger bodies of water, then this is a suitable option.

Fishing kayaking in Adelaide

Can you fish while kayaking?

Fishing from a kayak is an excellent way to target several fish species. You'll find that there are many advantages of fishing from a kayak that make it better than boat fishing and land-based fishing. Owning a kayak is substantially cheaper than a boat, and you can access more fishing spots due to the small size and manoeuvrability.

How do you fish while kayaking?

The best way to think about kayak fishing is to treat it like a moving pontoon. A sit-on-top kayak is incredibly stable, and you can stand on this to use it as a fishing platform. After you head out a few times, you'll get to know your craft and discover the best places to store your gear. 

Is it worth buying a kayak for fishing?

If you're thinking about buying a kayak for fishing, then you've probably considered the advantages. Kayaks do not need to be registered, nor do you need a license to operate one. You can store your kayak in a regular car garage (it'll even hang on the wall), and transport is easy with a set of roof racks. Kayaks can go in more places than a boat can, and you can easily navigate to a new location if the fish aren't biting in your spot (unlike land-based fishing).

Where are the fish biting Adelaide?

The fishing culture in Adelaide is very strong, and there are many places you can go to drop a line. If you're looking to get out of the city, the Fleurieu Peninsula offers some excellent places to fish. When planning a fishing trip, it's always best to familiarise yourself with the current guidelines for fishing in South Australia.


Rules for kayaking in South Australia

Where can you legally kayak?

There are very few restrictions on kayaking in Adelaide and South Australia. You can kayak on the reservoirs, but you'll need a permit for fishing, and you'll need to launch from the designated locations. By joining kayaking groups, you can find established routes and uncover more places to go kayaking.

Do you have to wear a life jacket in a kayak in SA?

All users of a kayak are required to wear a lifejacket while in South Australia. The South Australian Government has released a guide to help you choose which life jacket is best suited. By visiting their website, you can quickly determine the style and type of lifejacket required.

Where can I buy kayaks in Adelaide?

At Kayaks2Fish, you'll find an excellent assortment of kayaks to suit people of all skill levels. If you're interested in a versatile kayak that can be used for recreation and fishing, then choosing from our sit-on-top kayaks is perfect. There are several different kayak sizes available, and all of these can support a different amount of weight; perfect for anyone who likes to take a lot of fishing gear!

If you're planning on kayaking in the ocean, then a sea kayak will be an excellent option. Double kayaks are ideal for couples or a family with young children. If your kids are old enough to use their own kayak, you can buy one suited to their abilities. If you'd prefer to keep your hands free for fishing, then you can buy a pedal-powered kayak.

When buying your kayaks, you can look through all our accessories for items such as kayak trolleys or roof racks. If you're mainly using the kayak for fishing, you can buy a fish finder or night lighting if you plan on fishing after dark.

All our kayaks can be ordered directly through our online store. Your order can be sent to your home, or you can collect it from our Adelaide location. If you need any assistance in choosing a kayak, you can call our local team, and they'll provide their expert opinion on the best kayak for Adelaide.