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Published August 6th 2018
A guide to kid friendly places to paddle around Adelaide
Wondering where you can launch the kids on the kayaks they got for Christmas or their birthday? Look no further than these family-friendly spots which have been selected for their suitability in the right conditions, so you can confidently take the kids out kayaking on the water, sometimes with dolphins! Please, make sure you read the safety bit at the end but don't fear, kayaking is easy, safe, and adventurous fun for the whole family!
1. Garden Island
Kayaking among the mangroves - courtesy Adventure Kayak SA website
You get to Garden Island by heading up the curiously named 'Grand Trunkway' from Port Adelaide. Cross the bridge over the North Arm of the Port River and turn right to pass Torrens Island Power Station to the shallow and calm waters of Angas Inlet. Not only is there a clean and calm environment to paddle in, but launching your kayak from the beach is easy. There is a boat ramp here but it's quite safe as the motorised water traffic has a restricted speed limit in the area. The foreshore is grassed and has shelters, barbecues and toilets so you can stay a while and enjoy a picnic and take a walk along the nearby mangrove boardwalk but make sure you bring your mozzie repellent, it is a mangrove after all. The bonus at Garden Island is that (most times) you'll be sharing the water with the Port River dolphins who call the area home!
If you'd prefer to take a guided tour or hire a kayak, get in touch with Phillip Doddrige from Adventure Kayaking SA, he says that "our tours offer experiences even "locals" don't know exist. If you are from Adelaide enjoy a spectacular short holiday without leaving home! Paddling at the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary and Ships Graveyard and seeing the Port River Dolphins has been voted one of top four must-do experiences in Adelaide." They use one, two, three and four person kayaks specifically chosen so that your experience is one of enjoying the places you explore and the company of the people you are with. Their guides are friendly and fully accredited, carry first-aid kits and are trained in emergency response. They are the only operator in Adelaide to provide kayaks at the water's edge.
Garden Island Dolphin Tour - Adventure Kayaking SA - used with permission
For many Adelaide families, the mighty Murray River is only an hour away up the freeway. Head straight to Sturt Reserve at Murray Bridge. It features excellent parking, barbecue facilities, playgrounds and toilets, and wide-open spaces with long gentle banks to launch your kayak or canoe. You can splash around the historic wharf and bridge precinct, follow these canoe trails, or explore Long Island a little further downstream. A great way to enjoy some social kayaking on the Murray is to join Floatfest on the river every April and help them break some world records for having the most paddlers on the river at once! The organisers of Floatfest even ensure the river is free of the usual traffic, so everyone can participate! This is a great spot to learn extra paddling skills and rules as you share the water with ski boats, jet-ski's, houseboats, sailboats, and paddle-wheelers the rest of the year.
3. Warren Reservoir
Warren Reservoir Bridge - by Clayton Shaw uploaded to Warren Reservoir Fishing Facebook - used with permission
Also an hour away from Adelaide, this idyllic spot is an excellent retreat into the hills away from the hustle and bustle. Warren reservoir is just outside of Williamstown on the road to Birdwood. Once closed to the public, this water supply reservoir is now open to all fisherfolk, including those on kayaks! To use the reservoir, you must first purchase a permit from Recfish SA. That money has been invested in making the Warren a very accessible place (wheelchair paths and facilities have been installed) featuring picnic tables, launching facilities and toilets. If you just want to give the Warren a try, three-day permits are available for $10.
4. West Lakes
Man-made shore at West Lakes - By Kokoda Bill - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17783901
These man-made salt water lakes are especially excellent for families. West Lakes offers a wide range of launching opportunities for everyone in its sheltered waters, with plenty of parks and amenities scattered all around. If the wind is too strong in one part, you can always find a more protected area. Paddle SA's headquarters on Military Road offers a safe and easy launching area, other excellent spots are Dotterel Drive, and Oarsman Reserve on Military Rd.
5. Port Noarlunga
Kayaks lined up along the Onkaparinga - Photo: Easy Kayaks Facebook
For most of the year, the Onkaparinga River estuary offers excellent paddling conditions. Easy Kayaks is based in Port Noarlunga and has the best knowledge of the local conditions. This recent article has some excellent detail about what they have to offer. For those families who also like to go fishing, the Onkaparinga offers excellent fishing for kids and adults alike.
Locations further afield
There are plenty of other excellent family kayaking spots a bit further from Adelaide, like Second Valley and Rapid Bay, the beautiful Coorong and Murray River lakes region, and the Yorke Peninsula. However, weather conditions play a big part in how suitable these locations are for the little ones.
Kayaking is fun but it's your responsibility to adhere to safety regulations and laws in South Australia. The risk in most activities described is solely yours. The SA rules are available here, but don't stress about the rules making it all too hard, they're just common sense and all the equipment you'll need is widely available in stores. The minimum equipment you'll need (in addition to a kayak obviously) is a paddle and PFD (Personal Flotation Device) which you have to wear at all times while on the water. The rest of the gear is all about transport, storage, comfort, and adaptability, and is up to you.
There are plans to open other reservoirs around Adelaide for recreational boating and picnicking and we'll soon have more beautiful spots around Adelaide to go for a paddle!