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Kayaking Upper Noosa River

Home > Sunshine Coast > Adventure | Boating | National Parks | Nature | Walks
by Roz Glazebrook (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer living in Brisbane. I love bushwalking, kayaking, wildlife, history and travel.
Published May 1st 2018
A relaxing kayaking trip
It had been a long time since I had kayaked the Upper Noosa River in the Cooloola Recreation Area of the Great Sandy National Park before a recent three-day trip. I had previously done it in a hired canoe about 25 years ago and another time in one of my old white water kayaks with a group of friends about 16 years ago. I loved the area and always wanted to go back. When I saw a trip on the Brisbane Bushwalkers website, I signed up straight away.

view up river from campsite 3
view up river from campsite 3


We met at a cafe in Pomona on a recent Friday morning. There were only three of us. We drove to the canoe launch site at Elanda Point, packed up our kayaks and headed off across Lake Coothabara. The other two had great sea kayaks that even had sails. I had had a challenge fitting all my gear into my tiny very old white water kayak. I managed to just get it all in, including a tent, sleeping bag, food for three days, water, clothes and cooking equipment. The Lake is 12 km x 6 km, and is the largest of the Noosa Lakes. It is very shallow with an average depth of 1.5metres.

Kayaks on jetty at campsite 3
Kayaks on jetty at campsite 3


At campsite 3 many years ago
At campsite 3 many years ago


The best thing I ever did was get a small fixed keel attached underneath the back of my kayak, which really helped me steer in a straight line. Before I did this, my kayak used to keep trying to turn all the time, and I used to spend lots of energy trying to correct it. It was pretty choppy going across the lake as the wind came up. I was glad when we arrived at Kinaba information centre, where we had a short rest and look around.

Canooing the Upper Noosa River
Canooing the Upper Noosa River years ago


The Kinaba Information Centre has a great display of maps and photos showing the history, flora and fauna of the area.

We then headed off for our first campsite at campsite 3 stopping again for a short time at Harry's hut on the way. The distance from Elanda Point to Camps Site 3 was 19 kilometres.

Campsite 3
Campsite 3


The trip brought back lots of lovely memories for me. The river was just as beautiful as I remembered it, especially paddling through the beautiful Everglades section and seeing all the birdlife on the river. You can only get to the Noosa Everglades on foot or by boat. The only vehicle access into the area is a public campground at Harry's Hut. We paddled through the Noosa Everglades, which is one of only two Everglades systems on Earth. This area has amazing reflections in the water.

Campsite 3 tents
Campsite 3 tents


We had booked our campsites online through National Parks. It cost us $6.35 camping fee per night each.

[LINK=https://www.npsr.qld.gov.au/parks/cooloola/pdf/noosa-river-map.pdf] Upper Noosa River Access Map. Cooloola Recreation Area, Great Sandy National Park

Campsite 3 is set in an open forest filled with melaleuca, casuarina, bloodwood and eucalypt species. The campsite can cope with up to twenty-five campers, but we had it all to ourselves. The last time I camped there, my now thirty-one-year-old son was a young boy. There are walking tracks from this campsite back to campsites 1 and 2 and also to the Cooloola Sand patch.

On track to Sandpatch
On track to Sandpatch


David set up a tarp over our table so we could keep dry while cooking our evening meal, as it was raining on and off. There was a water tank at this campsite, but we managed to collect fresh rainwater straight from the tarp. There was also a tap at our Figtree Point campsite, but it is advisable to treat water before drinking it.

Cooloola Sand Patch
Cooloola Sand Patch


A bush turkey hung around hoping we would forget to put our food away, but we were onto him. It had been a very long time since I'd paddled so far in one day, so I was pretty tired. I was a lot slower than the others in their streamlined sea kayaks but I loved just cruising slowly down the river enjoying the environment. We enjoyed a nice dinner and wine and went to bed early. I slept very well.

Banksia on track to Sand Patch
Banksia on track to Sand Patch


On Saturday we walked the twelve-kilometre return track to the Cooloola Sand Patch. It was an enjoyable easy walk with spectacular views across to Noosa and Mt Cooroora at Pomona. We had views of all the surrounding oceans, rivers and lakes.

Fungi on track to Sand Patch
Fungi on track to Sand Patch


The sandy track passed by beautiful ferns, banksias and lovely large fungi on some trees. We walked through blackbutt and scribbly gum forests and woodlands with an understorey of grass trees. The sand patch is two kilometres long. It felt like we were walking in a desert.

Walking on the Sand Patch
Walking on the Sand Patch


When we arrived back at camp the scrub turkey had struck and carried off some of our stuff. I'm not sure if the bird took my brand new sunscreen tube or not but I never saw it again. I may have dropped it somewhere in the bush, so if anyone finds it please let me know. David lost one of his hats too.

Kayaks at jetty Campsite 3
Kayaks at jetty Campsite 3


After an early lunch, we packed up camp and headed off for our second campsite at Figtree Point. I left before, the others because I knew they would catch up and overtake me. They stayed behind for a swim. I'd seen the posters in the toilets warning about bull sharks in the river, so I gave swimming a miss.

Canooing Noosa River years ago
Canooing Noosa River years ago


We stopped for a short time at Harry's Hut on the way back. The campsite there was empty. I think the weather had put people off, but apart from a few showers over the weekend, it wasn't too bad. We only had to paddle through one electrical storm from Harry's Hut to our campsite at Figtree Point.

Figtree Point
Figtree Point


It was very relaxing paddling through the Noosa Everglades watching sea eagles soaring overhead and pelicans and cormorants along the river. We even saw a sleepy tawny frogmouth high in the trees. The lovely reflections on the river were just as beautiful as I remembered. The river water is stained black from tea trees, and the black water creates a mirror-like surface. The Everglades is famed for the beauty of reflections in the water.

River from Figtree Point
River from Figtree Point


There were a few young backpackers in canoes paddling to a pickup spot at Figtree Point. They were really enjoying themselves paddling through the storm, but I was a bit concerned about some of the young men who didn't seem to be very co-coordinated. They were fooling around and I saw one of them fall out. They weren't wearing life jackets and I hoped he could swim. It was close to shore and he quickly climbed back into the canoe.

Figtree Point. Loading the boats
Figtree Point. Loading the boa


It reminded me of a canoe trip I did years ago in Nepal. We had just finished walking the Annapurna Circuit and decided to take our Nepalese porters and guides for a canoe trip on the Lake at Pokhara. They were standing up in the canoes and were almost tipping over. We had to yell at them to sit down. We found out later they couldn't swim and had never been in a boat before. I hate to think what would have happened if the boats had capsized in the middle of the deep lake.

Jetty at dusk Figtree Point
Jetty at dusk Figtree Point


After the launch left to take the wet backpackers back to Noosa or Boreen Point, we had the whole campsite to ourselves. The mosquitoes were pretty vicious at this campsite. They were very hungry and even bit us through our clothes. You definitely need to have a mosquito-proof tent.

My old kayak
My old kayak


The last day we tackled Lake Coothabara again. The crossing was very rough with big winds and huge waves. I was glad I had put my neoprene skirt on. It was a pretty tight fit as I had put on weight since I bought it about thirty years ago when I used to kayak down rapids in North Queensland.

The river
The river


My kayak coped well, but I was very tired when I finally paddled into Elanda Point. We did have a short break on the way across at Mill Point. It was interesting looking at the information here and relics of the old logging days.

Noosa River Foreshore
Noosa River Foreshore


It was good psychologically for me knowing the lake was so shallow, otherwise, it could have been scary battling the big seas in my small kayak. It was the roughest crossing out of my previous trips. After packing the cars we headed to Boreen Point hotel for a well-earned coffee and cold drink before heading home.

Toilets at campsite 3
Toilets at campsite 3


If you don't have your own kayak or canoe, you can hire them from Elanda Point or Boreen Point. It is also possible to drive into Harry's Hut and camp there to start your trip. This means you miss out crossing Lake Coothabara. I did do this once with some friends. At that time the road was pretty bad and I remember one of my friend's cars got bogged on the muddy road. I'm not sure what the road is like now. I remember if you went there you hoped it didn't rain as the road out again became impassable. If Lake Coothabara is very rough, you can arrange to get picked up by a water taxi from Elanda Point or Boreen Point. The breeze strengthens from the south during most days, so it's good to try and get across it early in the morning.

View on way to Sand Patch
View on way to Sand Patch


It was an unforgettable trip. I hope it doesn't take me so long to do it again.

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Why? Relaxing outdoor activity
When: Anytime
Where: Upper Noosa River
Cost: Camping fees, boat hire if necessary
Your Comment
Wow wonderful trip and photos. But sounds tiring. Well done!
by hdona (score: 2|155) 71 days ago
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