I have written several articles on great canoeing spots near Brisbane. Just ninety minutes drive from Brisbane, Cudgen Creek in Northern NSW is my top pick for novices or those with young families. With beautiful clear waters, it's also an ideal place for swimming and stand up paddle boarding.
Just a short walk or cycle from central Kingscliff along the Cudgen Creek Boardwalk, it's very accessible. If you're bringing your own canoe or stand up paddle board, there is also plenty of parking at Ed Parker Rotary Park.
Don't be put off if you don't have your own equipment. Watersports Guru rents out kayaks and stand up paddle boards from the side of the Creek by the bridge. For beginners, they also run various kayak tours, including a guided paddle to an osprey nest.
If you're paddling without a guide, you can choose to cross under the bridge and head upstream to enjoy a remote wilderness experience. Watch out for kids jumping off the bridge into the water below! The waters are flat with reflections of casuarina tree swamp, paperbark trees and some sub tropical rainforest. Look out for ospreys and sea eagles.
Alternatively you can head downstream toward the sea and enjoy a more urban paddle. Check out the holiday apartments lining one side of the Creek and spot cyclists along the boardwalk. You'll also see plenty of pelicans.
There are some lovely mini beaches to stop off at for a picnic. The water is shallow here so it's a great place for children to play. The Creek is very clean and clear and in summer it's beautiful temperature for a swim. We paddled here during the Christmas holidays and there was a lovely holiday atmosphere with lots of families swimming, building sandcastles and playing around on canoes and inflatables.
Why not make a weekend of it in Kingscliff? There are plenty of cafes and restaurants to try and miles of pristine surf beach. If you go on the second or fourth Saturday of the month, be sure to check out the Kingscliff Markets (click here to read my review).