Stand up and paddle from Mullumbimby to Brunswick Heads
How do you catch up with friends? for a walk? over a coffee? at the pub? If you find these activities banal, then this day trip is for you. Stand up paddle boarding is a sport that has taken over the waterways of the world, and not surprisingly. It's easy to learn (most beginners become competent with an hour of practice), and it's a healthy social activity, a great thing to do while you chat with friends.
Stand up paddle board along the beautiful Brunswick River from Mullumbimby to Brunswick Heads Map courtesy of Brunswick Heads Chamber of Commerce
The Gold Coast boasts lovely waterways suitable for stand up paddle boarding, such as Currumbin Creek, the Broadwater, and the Tweed River. But these can get busy, especially on the weekends. A little further afield, just 30 minutes drive from Coolangatta, is the Brunswick River. On this river is a delightful ten kilometer stretch–winding downstream from Mullumbimby to Brunswick Heads–that is just perfect for stand up paddle boarding.
The paddle takes about two hours, at a leisurely pace and with a stop or two along the way. A convenient place to enter the river is east of the bridge at Heritage Park, Mullumbimby. Here the river is narrow and shaded. Around the first bend, signs of human settlement disappear and the wilderness surrounds. Choruses of birds sing. Watchful eagles swoop. Jittery fish leap. Keep your eyes peeled for loggerhead and green turtles. As you meander down the river, you'll enjoy stunning views to the north of Mt Chincogan and Mt Warning.
After a while, you'll pass the Mullumbimby sports and camp ground on your right, and then, around the half way mark, the entrance to Kings Creek, also on your right. The river widens, and you know you're on the home straight when you hear traffic noise from the Pacific Highway. The section around Mangrove Island and leading toward the Pacific Highway bridge can be challenging when a strong north easterly blows (in which case, tuck in close to the northern bank of the river). After you pass under the Pacific Highway, Brunswick Heads Nature Reserve and Readings Bay are on your left. The water is clear and inviting here. Opposite Readings Bay is the entrance to Simpsons Creek and the 'finish line'. Congratulations. You made it.
Along the bank of the Brunswick River, there are several muddy sand beaches where you can pause for a rest
The paddle would also be enjoyable on a kayak, surf-ski, or canoe. And, if you are competitive, there is a race–the Mullum2Bruns Paddle–that is held in May each year. In this event in 2013, over 800 paddlers made their way down the river in all manner of un-motorised craft.
This day trip requires an element of planning; nothing onerous, but enough to heighten the sense of adventure.
First, check the tide times in the Tide Tables. This is important. Do this before you confirm a time and date for your paddle. You want the tide racing with you, not against you. That is, you want the tide ebbing (going out), not flowing (coming in). Mullumbimby is upstream so be sure to allow an hour or two lag in the tide.
Second, arrange transport. Unless you paddle back up the river, where you finish will be 10 kilometers from where you started. My friend and I didn't like our chances of hitching a ride back to Mullumbimby, particularly with 10 foot boards in tow, so we each drove a car. Let's call them Car A and Car B. We met at Brunswick Heads and sorted our equipment: what we needed before and for the paddle went into Car A; what we needed after the paddle went into Car B. We parked Car B near Simpsons Creek at Brunswick Heads and drove to Mullumbimby where we left Car A and set off down the river. When we finished the paddle at Brunswick Heads, we drove Car B to Mullumbimby and enjoyed lunch at a local cafe before collecting Car A and heading home. It sounds more complicated than it was. But, still, the easiest option would have been to invite along a non-paddler to drop us at the start and collect us at the finish.
It might be difficult to hitch a ride back to your car with two ten foot stand up paddle boards in tow
Third, pack light and smart. Wear a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Carry water. We also carried a dry bag with snacks, a camera, a phone, and the keys to both cars (important). It's a good idea to have a first aid kit in the car.