Where to go if you’ve never been before?

It remains a mystery to me why more people in South East Queensland aren’t paddlers.  We are after all blessed with great weather, beautiful scenery and a plethora of places to dip a paddle.  In fact, ask any experienced paddler and I’ll bet they can rattle off at least 20 great spots to get on the water without raising a sweat!

I’m the same!  Give me an audience and I will cheerfully expound the virtues of the many and varied places around our region that I like to paddle on.  However, quantity or indeed quality, are not the problems we sometimes face.  The real challenge can be providing a location for first timers on the water in an environment that is allows them to gain confidence and truly enjoy the experience.

With this in mind I present my top five list of places I’d take a newbie.

Number 1: Brisbane River: Twin Bridges

This place is number one for some very good reasons.  It’s easy to access, picturesque and has a 3km long stretch of water with very little current.  Access is gained by driving down beside the low bridge on the Wivenhoe Pocket Road and launching from the gravelly beach on the river’s edge.  The water is shallow and the ground underfoot is gravel or sand and not mud.

There is no tide here so the level is fairly constant throughout the year and the low current flow means it’s perfect for doing a return trip (no need to do a car shuttle).  There is abundant wildlife along the stretch of water between Twin Bridges and Lowood Bend.  Return trip is approximately 8km in total, last month’s article on Canoe Go Paddling featured an easy 6km return trip suitable for families.

Number 2: Lake Kurwongbah

On Brisbane’s north, Lake Kurwongbah is one of two water supply dams in the area.  With new changes to SEQwater recreation policy, motorised watercraft are now banned from the lake, making it a great paddling destination.

Access to the lake is from Mick Hanfling Park on the Southern Bank and it’s only a short walk to the grassy edge from the carpark to launch.  There are toilet facilities available on site and plenty of parking.  This really is one of the easier spots to launch from in the region, the grassy banks make getting into a kayak or canoe feel comfortable and safe for new paddlers and the adjacent stretch of water is ideal for gaining confidence in a new boat.

Lake Kurwonbah is a long narrow lake with plenty of sheltered coves to explore.  It offers good sheltered paddling on windy days and is great for return trips to and from Mick Hanfling park.  From launch site to the end of the dam and back is approximately 6km.

Number 3: Wyaralong Dam

Heading south you will find my third paddling destination, Wyaralong Dam.  It is located between Beaudesert and Boonah and is SEQwater’s newest dam, being completed in 2011.  It’s famous for filling up completely after only 25 days of being built!

Wyaralong, like Kurwongbah, is a non-motorised watercraft dam, although you will share it from time to time with rowers.  It is also one of my favourite spots to canoe camp, offering an amazing bush camp site up on the slopes of Mount Joyce.  This is the reason it’s one of my favourites!

Access to the dam is very easy with a boat ramp and adjacent grassy banks making unloading and launching a breeze.  The launch area has toilet facilities and excellent bbq / picnic shelters for after paddling refreshments.

Wyaralong is a large T-shaped dam with many coves and islands to explore.  It’s a great destination for new paddlers, although it can be challenging in the open sections during high winds. It’s a good idea to check the wind forecast prior to setting off on this dam, although once across the section closest to the wall the dam becomes very sheltered.  Return trips can be from 6km return to up to 30km return, there really are a lot of options on this dam!

Number 4: Wivenhoe Dam: Billies Bay

If you want options then my next pick is for you!  Wivenhoe dam offers a range of paddling options from long open water trips to sheltered bays overlooked by wooded hills.  My pick of launch sites is Billies Bay for its water access.  Like the other two dams, access is from a grassy bank beside a boat ramp a short walk from the car park.  The water is shallow and clear at the launch site and easy to comfortable enter or exit your paddling craft.

Wivenhoe is a large dam and as such can suffer from wind chop (wind blowing up waves on the water) so it’s always a good idea to choose a site that has options to allow for this.  Billies Bay is located such that paddlers can follow the dam north or south and explore the inlets on the eastern bank, head west and visit the camping areas on the western bank or head east into the sheltered and very scenic Billies bay / Kipper Creek area of the dam.

Billies Bay is on my list because it’s not as frequented by visitors as the other sites and has a sheltered area for inexperienced paddlers on very windy days.  The wildlife in this area is plentiful and with fewer visitors they are more frequently seen.

Number 5: Tingalpa and Lota Creeks

Just to show there are no favourites my last paddling destination is on the coast and has salt water!  Tingalpa Creek is the boundary between Brisbane and Redlands councils.  It is a tidal estuary that flows from the Leslie Harrison dam into Waterloo Bay between Manly and Thorneside.  By far the best launch site is on the southern bank at the boat ramp beside Wynnum Redlands Canoe Club.  It’s located directly across from the confluence with Lota Creek and offers a great paddling trip at high tide.

Tingalpa and Lota creek are both very tidal and best enjoyed 2 hours either side of high tide.  At this stage of the tide a great time can be had paddling in between the Grey Mangroves at the confluence of the two creeks.  It is quite common to see the local Brahminy Kites in this creek as well as other bird and marine life.

Be aware that the tidal pull can be quite strong in these creeks, so plan trips that work with it wherever possible.  I have taken novice paddlers up Lota Creek with an incoming tide and back again once it turned on quite a few occasions with great success.  It’s a great way to extend the distance of a paddle and see one of the prettier spots in suburban Brisbane!  From Tingalpa creek canoe ramp and up as far Lota Creek as navigable is about a 6km return trip.  With tide assist it’s an easy 1.5hour duration.

Honourable Mention: Enoggera Reservoir

I would have loved to include this on my top five but it has a couple of problems that make it less than ideal.  Firstly, the access track is in excess of 400m and a bit of hike.  If you don’t have a trolley for your canoe or kayak its quite a chore to get them to the water.

Secondly the launch area is crammed in beside the swimming reserve and on busy days it’s quite a challenge getting in and away.  It’s also a nuisance if you want to remain close to shore whilst familiarising yourself with a new boat.  It’s a shame really because Enoggera is very picturesque and very accessible to central Brisbane.  Hopefully there are plans afoot to improve the access for paddlers to this fantastic little dam.

If you’d like to know more about paddling destinations in SEQ jump onto one of the many free online guidebooks like www.upstreampaddle.com or call Natureline Australia on 07 3390 4106 and one of our friendly staff will give you some free advice on where to go and what equipment you will need.

Happy paddling everyone!