Ultimate Guide to Kayaking Brisbane

In our ultimate guide to kayaking in Brisbane from Kayaks2Fish, we'll share our favourite locations and tips for kayaking and fishing in and around this fantastic city.

Brisbane and other nearby locations offer anyone on a kayak an astounding amount of natural and artificial structures to go kayaking. If you're interested in suburban kayaking, you have the beautiful Brisbane River. Sea kayaking is very close to the city, with several significant islands that you can easily circumnavigate. 

If you're interested in dropping a line to catch a few fish, then you'll be pleasantly surprised to know that you'll find Salmon, Bream, and Snapper in most parts of the Brisbane River. If you're looking to get out of the river and away from the city, then you can head into Moreton Bay and target Whiting and Bream.

The best places to go when kayaking Brisbane

Brisbane is a delightful city to visit on a kayak. You can cruise past the protected marine park or go for an adventure around the nearby islands. If you don't have your own gear or want to explore the area first, you can find kayak hire operators in the city and local beaches. 

In Brisbane River, the CityCat ferries are operating but provided you stay out of their lanes, they won't cause any issues. Brisbane offers plenty for anyone with a kayaking adventure spirit. Kayaking under the Story Bridge will give you a unique glimpse of this fantastic structure. Some say it rivals Sydney Harbour Bridge, although this is likely from people living in Brisbane! 

For a premium kayaking experience, you can find transparent kayaks for hire in some locations. These clear kayaks can give you front row seats to see all the wildlife as you cruise the waters. Night kayaking along the Brisbane River is possible, and we'd recommend having a lighting system set up on your kayak. These lighting systems will give you some light to see and provide a point of reference for others using the waterway.

Kayaking in Brisbane's Rivers and Creeks

In the heart of Brisbane, you'll find the Brisbane River (also known as Maiwar). The river is a tidal estuary with brackish water until you get to Mount Crosby Weir. The river winds about 350 km from Mount Stanley. Lake Wivenhoe was formed when the river was dammed in 1984, and it provides much of the drinking water for Brisbane residents.

A Short History of Brisbane River

The Brisbane River is navigable, and early settlers often travelled the river's length, fishing and admiring the region's natural beauty. The river has been dredged since the early 1860s to help provide passage from Brisbane to Ipswich. 

By 1875 the railway between these two cities was completed, and the river ceased being used as often. In the 1920s, transporting cargo on the river saw a fast deterioration of the water quality in the river. Due to the tidal nature of the river and possible contaminants, it is not advisable to swim in the Brisbane River.

Hot Kayaking Spots on the Brisbane River

The Brisbane River wraps around the city, and it's perfect for any kayak adventure; and being so close to the city, it is incredibly accessible. On your kayaking trip, you can go past the South Bank and up to Kangaroo Point Cliffs. This section of the river will give you brilliant views of the city during the day and night! 

Getting around Brisbane on the water is one of the best ways to see the city. You'll find there are several places to launch your kayak when heading out on the river. Our recommended launching places include CT White Park Kayak Launch, Riverside Drive Pontoon, and for further up the river, Colleges Crossing Boat Ramp.

North Pine River

If you're looking for adventure in the rivers around Brisbane, then North Pine River can tick all the boxes. This river system winds its way around the northern suburbs of Brisbane before it finally enters Moreton Bay. 

This river system extends for 54 km, and if you're lucky, you'll spot the tell-tale bubbles of the resident colony of platypus. As North Pine River is a tidal estuary, you may find that it is best for kayaking during a high tide. 

Launching places for the river include Young's Crossing and Lies Park. You can also enter the river from Barungwarra Boat Ramp and work your way down the South Pine River.

Tingalpa Creek

Tingalpa Creek offers some excellent paddling. This tidal river can see some dramatic changes between high and low tide. You may find it best to head up the river as the tide is coming in and then work with the current on the return journey. 

When the tide is low in Tingalpa Creek, you'll see more of the exposed bank, especially in the narrow sections. If you prefer to look at the trees and spot the fantastic array of native wildlife, then heading up this river on the incoming high tide is your best option. 

Getting into Tingalpa Creek is easy from Wellington Point Kayak Ramp if you don't mind adding an extra kilometre or two to your adventure. If you prefer, you can launch from Wynnum Redlands Canoe Club. The canoe club operates in the area frequently, and you can join if you like to be surrounded by like-minded individuals. 

If you're leaving from the Canoe Club, you'll find the creek runs for a little over 11km. You can spend up to four hours in the river if you'd like to take in the river at a leisurely pace.

Best family kayaking in Brisbane

Kayaking with the family can pose some interesting challenges. You may find children are not experienced enough for paddling in the ocean, and some will struggle in tidal rivers, while others may not want to come at all! 

Finding a good place to take the family out is always going to be difficult. Luckily Brisbane has developed the Walkabout Creek Discovery Centre.

Walkabout Creek & Enoggera Reservoir

The Walkabout Creek Discovery Centre is located just south of the D'Aguilar National Park. If you don't have your gear, then renting a kayak is possible from Walkabout Creek Adventures.

Hiring a kayak is perfect for seeing if your kids enjoy the hobby. Later on, you can grab your gear and start exploring other local areas, including South Bank, Victoria Point and Coochiemudlo Island! 

Walkabout Creek used to be known as Brisbane Forest Park. The area consists of Enoggera Reservoir and many walking trails leading through the D'Aguilar National Park. 

If your family wants to split their time between kayaking, walking, and many other activities in the region, Walkabout Creek has something for everyone. 

If you're looking for a place to launch your kayaks, then you'll find a good spot just behind the Walkabout Creek Discovery Centre along the Link Track. You can take your kayaks to any part of the dam, and you're welcome to stop for a swim in the calm waters.

Visiting Brisbane's Islands in a Kayak

Brisbane is home to the second and third largest sand islands in the world, North Stradbroke and Moreton Island. These two islands are a haven for anyone looking for a kayaking adventure. It is possible to go completely around these large sand islands, but many people stick to the shelter of the Moreton Bay region.

Moreton Island

One of the main attractions of Moreton Island for kayakers is the Tangalooma Wrecks (next to the Tangalooma Island Resort). The Queensland government scuttled these wrecks from 1963 to 1984, and there are 15 in total. The wrecks are host to all sorts of marine life and are perfect for snorkelling. 

If you don't have your own kayaking gear, you can hire transparent kayaks in the area. These kayaks are perfect for looking at the local marine life. You can even take them out at night, as they have onboard lighting installed. For those looking for guided tours of the area, you can book these with local operators. 

Boats are departing regularly if you're planning on hiring a kayak on Moreton Island. Otherwise, launch from Amity Point on North Stradbroke Island or Spinnaker Sound Boat Ramp at Bribie Island if you prefer to paddle yourself.

Bribie Island

Kayaking between the mainland and Bribie Island is perfect for kayakers looking for the ocean experience but finding waves slightly intimidating. You can launch from Sylvan Beach and paddle the sheltered location. This area is shallow and usually very calm, thanks to the mainland and Bribie Island protecting you from ocean winds. 

In these waters, you can often spot sea turtles and dugongs. Staying close to the Bribie Island side shoreline will be the best spot if you're looking for the most sheltered position. If you head north from Sylvan Beach, you'll reach Dux Creek and Banksia Beach Boat Ramp. You can stop here for lunch and enjoy something from the fish and chip shop. 

If you're looking for a multi-day trip, you can launch from Donnybrook Boat Ramp and head over to the camping spots. Booking a camping site can be organised through the DES (Department of Environment and Science) website.

North Stradbroke Island

North Stradbroke Island (Straddie for the locals) is a brilliant place to kayak, but you can pull up on one of the magnificent beaches and go for a wander. If you catch the ferry over, there are kayaks for hire on the island, but as it is reasonably close, you can kayak across Moreton Bay if you prefer. 

If you're heading to North Stradbroke Island from the mainland, you can launch from The Esplanade Kayaking Ramp near Weinam Creek. You can navigate your way around Garden Island and past Lamb and Karragarra Islands, and finally, you can circumnavigate Russell Island and make your return journey. 

Getting to North Stradbroke is all part of the fun when you're on a kayak, although it is best to keep out of any ferry lanes. There is an incredible number of small islands to explore, and you can pull up the kayaks at any one of them for a picnic; remember to take everything with you when you leave.

Coochiemudlo Island

Coochiemudlo Island is only about five square kilometres in size, but it is home to over four kilometres of beach space. Coochie (as the locals call it) is brilliant for the family, and it's an excellent place for a swim. You can kayak around the island in about an hour and a half - depending on how casual you take it. 

After you head around Coochie in your kayak, you can keep going north-east towards Goat Island, and onto Dunwich, before making the return journey around Peel Island. The ideal launching point for tackling Coochiemudlo Island is the Victoria Point Boat Ramp, or Toondah Harbour Boat Ramp if you want to head south along the coast for a while first.

Kayaking in Brisbane's Lakes

If you're looking for a large body of freshwater to get your kayak into, then visiting some of Brisbane's brilliant lakes is a great way to get started. Many of these lakes are artificial, and you can kayak on them without worrying about tides or trying to avoid ferries and other watercraft.

Lakes are the best places to start kayaking if you're new to the sport or have a young family in tow.

Forest Lake

With a perimeter of a little under three kilometres, Forest Lake can be an excellent place to take your family on a kayaking trip. If you're travelling with people that are not into kayaking, they can walk the perimeter track while you get out on the water for some fishing. 

Forest Lake is also home to the local Dragon Boat racing team, and if you'd like to show off your rowing prowess, you can always sign up to be a part of the squad! You can launch from any section of the lake, and there are many small jetties around the lake to make launching easier.

Lake Wivenhoe

At over 50 kilometres in length, Lake Wivenhoe is the second largest lake in Queensland. Three are several designated camping spots available if you are planning a multi-day visit to the lake. Kayaking at the dam is excellent for testing out new equipment or introducing someone new to the sport. The area is reasonably sheltered, and it is suitable for short or extended stays. 

You can launch your kayak from Billies Bay or choose either Logan Inlet or Hamon Cove. The water at these launching sites is shallow, allowing you to enter and exit without any issues. As the dam is large, you may find the wind can chop the water, so it may be best to stick to the bank if you're not that experienced. As you make your way around the lake, you'll have the chance to see plenty of native wildlife, and if you pick the right location, it can be reasonably quiet on the water.

Lake Kurwongbah

If you want to find a location on the north side of Brisbane that is far from any powered craft, then Lake Kurwongbah is the perfect spot. On the lake, the powerboats are restricted for use in certain zones, and only boats associated with the water-skiing clubs are allowed on the water.

You can launch your kayak from the south bank of Mick Hanfling Park. There is plenty of parking available, and you'll find toilets here if you need them! The grassy edge can make launching easier for new paddlers, kids, or if you haven't worked out all the kinks in your new setup. 

Lake Kurwongbah is a reasonably small lake at only about a 6km round trip from your launching site to the end and return. Fishing is available on the lake from your kayak, but you will need a permit, and fishing is restricted to Sunday - Wednesday. There are wash-down facilities in the area, and these are required to be used before and after to help stop the spread of any aquatic weeds in the area.

Frequently Asked Questions for kayaking Brisbane

Questions about Kayaking in Brisbane City

Can you kayak at night on the Brisbane River?

Having some lighting on your kayak is highly recommended when you paddle at night. The river may still be busy during this period, but the city's sights are often worth it.

Are you allowed to kayak on any river?

You can go kayaking on any river in Queensland. However, it may be best to stick to well-known locations. If you're heading into unknown waters, make sure you have some means of contacting others if you get into trouble.

What are the best kayak tours?

Many kayak tours are operating in Brisbane, and it depends on what you want to see. The transparent kayaks on Moreton Island are very popular. You can book in for a guided tour from local operators.

Can you put a kayak in the water anywhere?

Provided you can get in and out of your kayak safely. If you're not that confident, it may be best to stick to pontoons, jetties, and boat ramps.

Rules for Kayaking in Brisbane

Do I need a licence for kayaking in Brisbane?

There is no need for a license to go kayaking in Brisbane. It is best to familiarise yourself with any local waterway rules. If you're unsure, you can book in for a guided tour.

What time of year is best for kayaking in Queensland?

Queensland is well known for having some of the best weather in Australia. If you're from the southern states, heading out in the winter months can be excellent at about 11-21 degrees. You may find the summer conditions a little too much. But as you're surrounded by water, you can drop anchor and head in for a swim.

Safety & Kayaking in Brisbane

Is it safe to kayak in the Brisbane River?

Yes, the Brisbane River is safe for kayaking. The waterway can be busy, and you should keep out of the ferry lanes at all times. The river is the busiest close to the city, so that you can head upstream for a quieter experience.

What are the rules for kayaking in Qld?

Currently, Queensland does not have any legislation regarding life jackets on kayaks. However, in the interest of your safety, you should wear one at all times. Kayaks do not need to be registered unless they are powered by an outboard larger than 3kW or owned for professional purposes.

Where can you legally kayak?

The Queensland Government has put out several guides to help waterway users. You can find these on their website. Most lakes, rivers and the open sea are available for use by kayakers. However, if you're unfamiliar it may be best to ask a local information centre.

Kayaking Fishing in Brisbane

Is it worth buying a kayak for fishing?

Fishing from a kayak can get you to places that standard land-based and boat fishing cannot. If you've been land fishing for a while and you'd like to try fishing from the water, using a kayak offers you an inexpensive way of getting on the water. 

You can use accessories that most boats will use, such as anchors and fish finders. If you're not keen on paddling, you can buy pedal-powered kayaks to fit an electric outboard motor.

Where are the fish biting in Brisbane?

There are many healthy river systems in Brisbane, and you'll find fish in most of these. You can talk to local tackle shop operators for the best places to find good quality fish. Fishing around the islands of Moreton Bay will give you excellent results. You can also meet with other fishing kayakers and see where they think is the best place to drop a line.

Where can I buy single or double kayaks in Brisbane?

At Kayaks2Fish, we have a wide variety of single and double kayaks available in our online shop. We also have a brilliant selection of sea kayaks and pedal kayaks. All our kayaks can be shipped to your door, or you're welcome to collect them directly. We have collection locations in Brisbane, Gold Coast, and Rocklea.

All our kayaks can be fitted with a kayak trolley to help you get them in the water. To transport your kayak from home to the beach (or river), we'd recommend a good set of roof racks fitted out with kayak braces. Our kayaks are designed for stability, and these are perfect for experienced, novice, and young kayakers. 

As our kayaks are designed for fishing, they'll provide a solid base, and you can even stand up on them to cast into those tricky spots. If you need any assistance in choosing the right kayak, you can contact our team, and they'll provide you with the right advice. At Kayaks2Fish, we aim to see everyone on the water having an excellent time!