After exploring Australia for over a decade, by land air and sea, I’ve fallen in love with human-powered journeys that involve water. Be that kayaking the length of the Great Barrier Reef, outrigging around the islands of the Torres Strait, or paddling the waters around the southern tip of Tasmania, there’s something extremely raw and primaeval about taking to the water as the Master of your own destiny.

It’s pretty apt that the fourth line of the national anthem states “Our home is girt by sea” – which means there are literally thousands of epic locations around the coastline you can take to the water in a kayak and explore hidden backwaters.

After recollecting past adventures and dreaming of future endeavours, I’ve brought together a list of what I consider to be ten of the top kayaking journeys (short and long) around Aus. Some you’ll agree with, others maybe not. If you’ve got somewhere you prefer to launch and get away from the crowds, please comment and share it with our community.


1 – The Whitsundays, QLD

There’s something absolutely majestic about the azure blue waters that lap the beaches of the Whitsunday Islands which sets them apart as one of the prime locations to explore by boat – be that a five-metre kayak, bare-boat catamaran or 100ft superyacht. In my mind the smaller the better, as you get to explore the hidden coves and coral outcrops that could spell disaster for anything which draws more water than a couple of feet in the water.

Then there’s the Ngaro Sea Trail – a kayaking circuit through the Whitsunday Islands, which links a number of short sea kayaking routes and walking tracks on Whitsunday Island itself to Whitsunday Peak, Cairn and Whitehaven Beach (consistently voted as the No.1 beach in the world), giving you the perfect excuse to get onshore and explore. There’s even a taxi service (Scamper) that’ll drop you off, reprovision you throughout and collect you at the end in case the weather turns bad.

I’ve paddled this route a number of times and fell in love with it so much that we’ve built a Best Life Adventure expedition that takes in the best of it – with six days paddling around the islands, and a worthy overnight surprise at the end. If you’re keen to join us in paradise, check out our next expedition – Kayak the Whitsundays.

If you decide to visit between June and September, there’s the added benefit and you might see a humpback whale or two swimming alongside you.

Fitness level required: Level 3 – Active
Best time of year: August
Duration: One week
Best crew to go with: Friends and/or family


2 – Moreton Bay Islands, QLD

Just off the coast of Brisbane are the expansive waters of Moreton Bay, populated by 360 islands, that all lie between 1 and 10km offshore. Once you get away from the estuary of the Brisbane River – AKA the chocolate brown snake, the islands are a sea kayaker’s heaven.

Far from the hecticness of the city, you can paddle across shallow sand and mud flats teeming with bird and sea life, including dugongs, dolphins, stingrays and turtles. A short paddle from Victoria Point lies one of the yachtie’s favourites – Peel Island, with the expansive Horseshoe Bay – a perfect place to pull up to for lunch before heading across the channel to the east and North Stradbroke (or Straddie to the locals).

There are plenty of places you can only explore by kayak such as Green, St Helena and Coochiemudlo islands. The southern wilderness of Moreton Island is another day’s paddle away and offers a worthy coastline full of remote camping spots, hidden channels and crystal-clear water teeming with soldier crabs, stingrays, dugongs and other marine life.

It’s an adventure landscape that’s accessible to most experience levels and Best Life Adventures have run a three-day multi-island adventure for the last few years. If you’re interested in being part of the next one, find out more here, and bring a friend – Moreton Bay Wilderness Adventure.

Fitness level required: Level 3 – Active
Best time of year: May/September
Duration: 2-3 days
Best crew to go with: Friends or family, no paddling experience required, just an adventurous mind.


3 – Freycinet Peninsula, TAS

Heading down south to Tassie is always a good idea, as the landscape offers something completely different to every other part of the Australian mainland, and that’s just above the water. Stick your head below (prepare for brain freeze) and you’ll find kelp forests, abalone and even the odd seal.

The Freycinet Peninsula is dramatic and unique from the air and on land but if you want something totally different that’s far from the crowds, take to the water for a contrasting angle on the picture-perfect terrain that surrounds Wineglass Bay.

If you’re time-poor then a short paddle around Coles Bay will suffice but if you prefer to witness sunset and sunrise from a beachside location, head to Hazards Beach to camp, from where you can cross the isthmus to Wineglass Bay.

If you’re keen to paddle further and head off on a little expedition, then pack your kayak with some extended supplies and paddle across to little-visited Schouten Island and camp with the penguins and investigate the sea caves that punctuate the coastline.

Fitness level required: Level 2 – Moderate
Best time of year: January
Duration: 1-2 days
Best crew to go with: Friends


4 – Noosa Everglades, QLD

There are only two real Everglade systems in the world, and Queensland has one of them. It’s a serene stretch of water that’s the perfect place to practice your first overnight adventure.

Boreen Point on Lake Cootharaba is the starting point for what can be a simple day trip or a multi-day expedition. It’s only a short paddle from the shores of the lake to get to the southern outlet of the Everglade system at Fig Tree Point. From there it’s a stunning, disconnected-from-the-world paddle through overhanging melaleuca and casuarina forests into the backwaters of the river system before the river contracts into the Narrows, where paperbark trees hang over the water and, at times, the river can be so still you feel as though you’re sitting on a mirror.

There are nearly a dozen campsites, along the banks, with historic Harry’s Hut making a great lunch spot on Day One. The river continues for almost 40 km from here, so paddle as near or far as you like.

Best craft for the adventure? Definitely a kayak or canoe. I tried this with a packraft and the winds made it the most hectically tough few hours on the water, attempting to paddle back across the lake to Boreen. Never again!

Fitness level required: Level 2 – Moderate
Best time of year: October
Duration: 1-2 days
Best crew to go with: Friends or families


5 – Clarence River, NSW

It’s not only the coastline of Australia that has some magnificent journeys on water, there are also a few freshwater gems to consider. The Clarence River Canoe and Kayak Trail runs for over 195km through Nymboi and Binderay National Parks and is Australia’s longest mapped whitewater trail.

It’s a river system of changing conditions too, one moment you can be cruising along long glassy sections with barely a ripple, soaking up the beautiful scenery, the next moment you’ll be holding on for dear life through crunching Grade 3 and 4 rapids with names like Tombstone and Demolition Derby.

From whitewater kayaks to pack rafts and Canadian canoes – choose your preferred transport and head deep into the quiet country. There are many places to pull up and set camp too, and a good few operators to rent gear from should you need it. Find out all about it here.

Fitness level required: Level 2 – Moderate
(worth noting there are some pretty technical aspects to sections of this river)
Best time of year: Spring or Autumn
Duration: up to 7 days
Best crew to go with: Friends or families


6 – Hinchinbrook Island, QLD

Nestled on the tropically warm waters between Cairns and Townsville, Australia’s largest island national park offers completely contrasting adventures on its east and western flanks. Take the western route and you’re likely to be eaten by a huge saltwater crocodile, but paddle the eastern seaboard and you have one of the country’s most spectacular sea kayak trips.

The awe-inspiring multi-day Thorsborne Trail (a 32 km hike) full of steep peaks, freshwater waterfalls and palm-lined beaches is a worthy adventure in itself, but take to the water and you’ll be privy to a very special view of the towering, cloud-clad peaks that very few people get to see from the water. Pull ashore on wide sandy beaches and share campsites with hikers, and take short walks up to Zoe Falls and other refreshing stop-offs.

Once you reach the northern tip of the island, it’s then an island hop north to Mission Beach, where this adventure ends.

Fitness level required: Level 2 – Moderate
Best time of year: October
Duration: 7 days
Best crew to go with: An experienced operator like Coral Sea Kayaking


7 – Sydney Harbour Trail, NSW

Probably the most iconic harbour in the entire world, and famous for the sheer number of landmarks, it has to make the top ten for sheer Insta-worthiness. Slip down the beach at Rose Bay and head towards the Opera House and paddle beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge then make tracks to North Head before returning to Rose Bay. Depending on how many corners you decide to cut, you can travel anywhere from 15 to 30 km.

It’s a magnificent, glittering and hectic, adventure on the water, which after all is everything Sydney should be. If you prefer more sheltered waters then Middle Harbour, is more protected, with typically gentle morning conditions.

Fitness level required: Level 1 – Easy
Best time of year: February
Duration: 1-2 days
Best crew to go with: Sydney Harbour Kayaks offer everything you need to get on the water for the first time.



8 – Ningaloo Reef, WA

When I think of coral reefs in Australia, my mind goes to the Great Barrier Reef – I spent two years living and working on it so it’s natural right? But on the opposite side of Australia, there’s an equally magnificent stretch of coral coastline that’s perfectly set up for kayaking adventures – Ningaloo.

Along the beaches of Cape Range National Park, the chain of ribbon reefs run parallel to the land creating lake-like conditions that are perfect for paddling. The added benefit of planning a multiday expedition are the spectacular coral bommies, skitty reef sharks, large numbers of loggerhead turtles and dugongs and a plethora of reef fish. But one of the biggest drawcards to the region is the high frequency of visits by Whale Sharks between April and October.

Exmouth Adventure Co. run a range of trips on the reef, from day paddles to five-day trips exploring a new section of the reef each day.

Fitness level required: Level 2 – Moderate
Best time of year: June
Duration: 3-5 days
Best crew to go with: A local operator which saves expensive transport of your kayaking gear


9 – Murray River, NSW/VIC

It takes more than a few nights (usually up to two months) to paddle the length of Australia’s longest river, which flows for 2,500km from source to sea, but plenty of stretches are perfect for overnight trips. The main channel has many curious backwaters and tributaries that can be explored on a day trip from the access towns of Albury and Renmark. Summer rains can make the waters unpredictable, but once the levels subside, the winter months are ideal to dip a paddle and explore the Murray.

It’s also a good time with fewer boats and ridiculously annoying jetskis who share the water, and the longer days make it easier to get on the water to catch the glorious sunrises. It’s also a mystical time when the blankets of mist cover the river’s glassy surface. Slow-flowing and easy-going are words that describe the mood of the Murray, so it’s accessible to all ages and skill levels.

Fitness level required: Level 1 – Easy
Best time of year: May-August
Duration: 1 – 7 days, up to 60 days for the entire length
Best crew to go with: Good friends or expedition-minded people who’ll be as good after 20 days, as 2

10 Bass Strait, TAS

Ok, I put this one here as I’ve never done it, BUT REALLY WANT TO!

The Bass Strait ranks up there as one of THE top ocean crossings in the world and tops the list of many experienced ocean paddlers, many calling it the “Everest of the ocean”. In fact, it’s probably harder than summiting Everest as you have to carry your own gear, don’t have someone to forge the path in front of you and hold your hand, and certainly won’t enjoy barista coffee, gas heaters and foam mattresses like the majority of Everest-Egotists do these days. It’s real pioneering stuff.

Every April, when the weather is most stable, less than fifty experienced paddlers make the crossing traversing 320km of southern ocean conditions. It’s a case of island hopping all the way, but with large distances (up to 70km) between islands, and having to be fully self-supporting, it’s an adventure only to be undertaken by the most experienced and endurance-minded ocean paddlers.

Fitness level required: Level 4 – High (with open ocean experience)
Best time of year: April
Duration: anywhere from 14-25 days depending on weather conditions
Best crew to go with: A group of very experienced kayakers, with multiple skill sets and ocean knowledge.

Whatever journey you choose, setting off with the right gear and people around you is really important. Make sure you’ve tested your kayak and equipment a number of times before trusting it for anything more than an hour or two on the water. Carry a hand bilge pump and sponge, make sure you’re wearing a PFD and try to leave your phone turned off so you can really immerse yourself in the adventure. Remember you’re there for the escapism and disconnection from your everyday life.

Have a blast on the water or come and join us for one of our bespoke kayaking adventures – we love time on the water here at Best Life Adventures.

We also design and deliver bespoke water-based adventures, so if you’ve had the desire but never the drive to do it yourself, please send us an email ([email protected]) and start the conversation. We’ll make the magic happen for you.

Open chat
🏴 Welcome to Best Life Adventures

How can I help you?