The Nine Best Kayaking Spots Across Sydney
See Sydney sparkle from the water.
January 03, 2023
You've seen Sydney and its surrounds from rooftop bars, strategically positioned restaurants and mountaintops. But jump in a kayak to discover Sydney's stunning natural landscapes from a whole new perspective — as you skim across the local waterways at human-powered pace. Here are nine of the best locations for kayaking in Sydney whether you're alone or with a few mates — from tranquil National Park-flanked rivers to secretive sections of the harbour.
HAWKESBURY RIVER, BROOKLYN
Inspiration for Kate Grenville's The Secret River and muse to John Williamson, the mighty Hawkesbury flows for 120 kilometres — starting from its head at the confluence of the Nepean and Grose Rivers to its mouth near Broken Bay. Grab a kayak at Brooklyn and set off to see as much — or as little — of it as you desire. If you only have a few hours to spare, try circumnavigating Dangar Island. Hawkesbury River Kayaks can take care of gear needs and are open daily (with pre-booking a must).
PITTWATER ESTUARY, BAYVIEW
Pittwater has all the beauty of its more famous counterpart, Sydney Harbour, but a much smaller population. On the eastern side, the Northern Beaches peninsula limits development and, on the western, the Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park stops it altogether. In fact, several spots, like Coasters Retreat, are only accessible by water. So expect your secret beaches to feel even more clandestine than usual, and don't be surprised to find dolphins crossing your path. Bayviews' Paddlecraft, located in Pittwater's south, is currently open for pre-booked kayak rentals only, while Pittwater Kayak Tours offers group kayak excursions in the area. And why not make a weekend of it with our favourite Airbnbs in the area?
NEPEAN RIVER, PENRITH
Beginning at Robertson in the Southern Highlands and ending 100 kilometres later — where it combines with the Grose River to form the Hawkesbury — Nepean stops millions of Sydneysiders from going thirsty. Its best bit for paddling is the 25-kilometre stretch between Penrith and the Junction Reserve. It's tide-free, which allows you to travel in any direction you like. On the way, you'll pass through the stunning Nepean Gorge, which towers as high as 150 metres at some points. Keep an eye out for wombats, wallabies, pelicans, kingfishers and eagles. Rental kayaks can be found at Horizon Line for $15–60 per day for a single depending on how long you take it out for.
MANLY WHARF, MANLY
Paddling around Manly means meeting fairy penguins, pulling up on secluded beaches and, if you're in action shortly after a downpour, quite possibly standing under a waterfall. The stunning waters of North Harbour can be traversed in anywhere from one to eight hours, and the calm water means no prior kayaking experience is necessary. Take snacks with you to enjoy on the water, or grab lunch from one of Manly's many beachside takeaway spots. Manly Kayak Centre will hire you a single for $25 per hour or a double for $45 per hour, with a maximum of four hours on offer. Booking is essential on weekends.
SPIT BRIDGE, MIDDLE HARBOUR
From Spit Bridge, Middle Harbour is your proverbial oyster. And you might well strike a literal one, too. Tiny golden beaches and waterfront parks are abundant here. Head westwards to explore beautifully protected bays like Willoughby and Sailors, or go further afield to Middle Cove. Meanwhile, on the east side, you'll find Chinamans Beach, Clontarf and Balmoral. For a bigger challenge, take on Grotto Point and make your way to Manly. Sydney Harbour Kayaks can sort out a kayak hire for you any day of the week, starting from $25 per hour.
ROZELLE BAY AND SURROUNDS, INNER WEST
For an urban escape, get started in Sydney's Rozelle Bay. From there, the scope of your journey will depend on how much time — and strength — you have stored up. Newbies (or those feeling lazy) needn't go far — there's always the option of dropping into Blackwattle Bay for a leisurely stroll around the water. Meanwhile, keen paddlers can set about conquering the Balmain Peninsula, passing Cockatoo and Rodd islands along the way. HBR PNY can organise a kayak for you, starting at $57 for three hours (per person).
ROSE BAY, EASTERN SUBURBS
From Rose Bay, you have two options for a day on the water. On one hand, you can cling to the calm, shallow waters near the shore, travelling either northeast towards Vaucluse or west towards Point Piper. On the other, you can grit your teeth and make your way across the deep blue for Shark Island. Go on a weekday and there's every chance you'll have the island all to yourself. You need a National Park entry ticket to land, which is doable for seven bucks by calling ahead. Kayaks are available at Rose Bay Aquatic Hire, with one-hour bookings costing $25 for a single and $50 for doubles.
WORONORA RIVER, SUTHERLAND SHIRE
For a river that's essentially in the suburbs, the 36-kilometre-long Woronora transports you into an incredible variety of pristine natural beauty. Thankfully, much of it is flanked by the Dharawal State Conservation Area, as well as the Heathcote and Royal National Parks. Expect beaches, rocky platforms, thick forest and, in the middle reaches, steep banks. Leave time to explore tributaries like Loftus Creek (when the tide is high) or venture as far as Georges River. Kayaks, canoes and paddle boats are available for hire at The Boatshed starting at $30 for single kayaks (with every additional hour costing $10) and $50 for an hour on a peddle boat.
BUNDEENA, ROYAL NATIONAL PARK
It's at Bundeena, just south of Cronulla, that Sydney gives way to the Royal National Park. Spend all day gliding around Port Hacking's impossibly clear waters and lazing about on pretty beaches, or get more daring with a trip up South West Arm Creek. Further west, the 26-kilometre-long Hacking River offers a more extended trek. Bundeena Outdoor Adventures is on hand to supply you with everything you need for a day on the water in this region. Singles are $25 for one hour or $60 for four, while doubles are priced at $50 and $120 (respectively). The company also runs regular kayak adventure tours around the area.
Top image: Destination NSW
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