Paddlers could spend months exploring the beautiful and thrilling waterways found throughout NSW and the ACT. With over 890 great beaches along the NSW coastline and a massive network of rivers and creeks in both states, they are a kayaker’s paradise. This guide offers the best of both worlds - whether you are keen for some rough whitewater or you prefer a nice tranquil paddle.

Barrington River (whitewater kayaking)

Where: Manning River catchment, Upper Hunter district

Difficulty Level: Easy, intermediate, difficult (grade 1 - grade 3)

If you fancy some whitewater action, Barrington River can be tackled by both beginners (only in some sections) and those who are more experienced. In general the river produces grade 1 and 2 rapids but can sometimes get up to grade 3 depending on the volume of water. To make the most of your ride you should start at the upper Barrington section where you will find the best rapids (only attempt this if you are an experienced paddler). For this more difficult area, the best launching spot is from Scone Road or Barrington tops where you can access Barrington River and Kerripit River. There are a lot of private properties that will block access at certain parts of the road, so be respectful and don’t trespass. Once you find a place to launch yourself you can enjoy the awesome rapids and really have some fun. If you want to tackle the entire trip it is about 30km - be warned, it's a long day of paddling. Less experienced paddlers should stick to the Lower Section, between the Barrington Reserve and the Rocky Crossing, where there are a few grade 1 rapids and flatter water (still great fun). There are also a number of tour groups that can take you out onto the rapids.

Sydney Harbour (laid back kayaking)

Where: Sydney, NSW

Difficulty Level: Easy, intermediate

If you are kayaking in NSW you can’t go past the iconic Sydney Harbour. Paddling the Harbour gives you a sense of adventure as you explore hidden beaches, see the wilderness of the foreshore and look at the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge from a whole new perspective. You can explore on your own, although you won’t be able to enter some areas without a licensed guide and it can also be dangerous due to high traffic in some parts. If you are unfamiliar with the area we would recommend hiring a guide so you can get the most out of your trip and find the best places to explore.

Nymboida River (whitewater kayaking)

Where: Clarence River catchment, Northern Rivers

Difficulty Level: Difficult, very difficult (grade 3 - grade 5 rapids)

Alright brave souls - this one’s for you. Strap your kayak to your car, pack in your mates and head to Nymboida River. If you are an experienced paddler and you want to tackle some tricky rapids; this river is a great ride. When the water levels are at their best you can experience some impressive rapids that have a few great drops. If you aren’t experienced there are canoe and kayak centres that can take you out onto the river where you can enjoy Grade 1 to Grade 3 rapids.The best time to paddle the Nymboida is from December to May - Easter often provides the perfect conditions. You can keep track of the water levels on the Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology website.

Lake Burley Griffin, ACT (laid back kayaking)

Where: Canberra

Difficulty Level: Easy

Care for a smooth paddle through central Canberra? Lake Burley Griffin makes for a relaxing kayaking adventure and is a popular destination for rowing, sailing, windsurfing, canoeing, kayaking, dragon boating - you name it. With 40.5 km of shoreline you can also give yourself a decent workout and spend a big chunk of your day cruising around the massive expanse of water. There are two islands on the lake; one called Aspen Island (located in the Central Basin) and the other Springbank Island (located in the West Basin). If you want to, you can jump out of your kayak and explore the island; but make sure it is secure and won’t get nicked! Once you’ve exhausted yourself there are plenty of parks around the lake where you can chill out, have a bite to eat and recover.

Northern Coastal Gems (sea kayaking)

Where: NSW Coast

Difficulty level: Easy, intermediate

We couldn’t complete this guide without mentioning just a few of the great kayaking spots along the NSW coast.

Byron Bay: If you are keen to enjoy the crystal clear beaches and vibrant surf culture of a trendy coastal town, you’re going to want to visit Byron Bay.

Kingscliff: Although not as well known as Byron Bay, Kingscliff is an awesome little beach town with great surf beaches and beautiful creeks to paddle.

Newcastle: Are you hanging out for a spot of kayak surfing? If the answer is yes, Newcastle is right up your alley. This harbour city is home to some amazing surfing beaches including Nobbys Beach and Merewether Beach.

Remember: If you plan on going on a kayaking adventure it is always best to take a mate and tell people where you are headed.

Last updated: 1st April 2014

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