Kayaking the Noosa Everglades

kayaking noosa everglades kayak tour overnight camping

Kayaking the Noosa Everglades

As the sun slowly rises above the tree canopy of the Noosa Everglades and native birds fill the air with their morning songs, we stop paddling and find ourselves floating on clouds. It’s 4:45 am and as our eyes begin to adjust to the morning light, a river of perfect reflections make it hard to tell where the water ends and the sky begins.

In an instant, the exhaustion and fatigue from the previous day’s paddling melt away, replaced by a sense of tranquility often only reached during a Balinese yoga retreat. Welcome to one of Australia’s best kept secrets; kayaking in the Noosa Everglades.

noosa everglades kayak

Noosa Everglades: The River of Mirrors.

The Noosa Everglades

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While many seekers of pristine wilderness are drawn to Noosa National Park and the walking trails from Laguna Bay to Hell’s Gates, I urge you to head a little further out to the Noosa Everglades.

Hidden within the Cooloola section of the Great Sandy National Park, the Noosa Everglades are a tropical wetland and one of only two everglades systems in the world. It’s also one of Australia’s most diverse ecosystems, boasting over 40% of the country’s bird species.

While anyone on a time limit, or those not feeling so adventurous, can explore part of these ancient waters by boat, to get the full experience we chose the self guided overnight kayak adventure offered by Kanu Kapers. We liked the idea of self guided so we could prep and take all our own food and overnight so we could experience the perfect reflections on a calm morning with soft golden light. But the most popular options are the half-day self guided kayak and canoe options that give you a great taster for what the area has to offer.

Healthy Meal Prep for Overnight Kayak in the Noosa Everglades.

Food Prep for an Overnight Kayak Adventure

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Ok, so what do you take food-wise on an overnight kayak adventure in the middle of nowhere when you need to provide all of your own meals? Well, for us it was one lunch, one dinner and one breakfast, plus fruit and nut snacks and water. Add in some condiments, supplements and cutlery and as long as you can fit it in a small esky, you are good to go. I made all our meals the day before and packed it into a freezer bag the morning of our trip.

But rookie mistake on our part: I forgot ice. And the few little freezer blocks I packed were no match for the Queensland summer sun. Next time… Our cold chicken salad lunch just made it, and we had a small camper stove (provided by Kanu Kapers) to reheat our spicy mince and vegetable hash for dinner. It’s recommended you take 2-3L of water per person per day – between us we had about 7L in total, which was plenty.

noosa everglades kayak map

Map of Noosa Everglades Kayak Tour Route.

The Journey to Camp 2

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The Launch from Elanda Point:

A short drive from Kanu Kapers HQ at Boreen Point, we found ourselves knee-deep in the waters of Lake Cootharaba at the Elanda Point launch site. After kitting out our bright yellow submarine double sea kayak with all our gear, we were given a trusty map and a brief intro to the basics of kayaking by former Kayak Champion, and founder of Kanu Kapers, Vivienne Golding.

We made it across Lake Cootharaba… just.

Crossing Lake Cootharaba:

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This part we like to call ‘the relationship tester’. Why? Picture two people struggling to paddle in sync across a windy lake for an hour with not much else to keep them occupied. It’s a bit of a hard slog to be honest.

Kinaba Info Centre and Fig Tree Point:

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Once across the lake you can pick up the paddle pace through much calmer waters of the Noosa River. And with the added scenery of purple waterlilies, pelicans and blue dragonflies, it’s a stunning ecosystem that makes the lake slog all worth it.

The Narrows: River of Mirrors.

The Narrows:

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The crown jewel of the Noosa Everglades is this narrow stretch of water with overhanging trees and perfect reflections. It’s here you first appreciate why this place is called the “River of Mirrors”. You will want to slow the pace through here so you can take in the beauty before you.

The perfect lunch stop at Harry’s Hut:

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Or it might have been had we had the sense to actually stop here. But, some lousy map-reading (yep, it was me) had us thinking Camp 2 was “just around the corner”. Unless you are much fitter than we are, Harry’s Hut is an excellent spot to give the arms a rest, stretch the legs and enjoy a much needed break.

Around the corner to Camp 2:

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After more than a few “it’s just around the corner” assurances from the navigator in the front (yes, it was me again), our battle against the wind was finally won after 4.5 hours and 16 km of non-stop paddling. To say we were exhausted might be a slight understatement. But, in our defence, we had picked a hot and humid Summer day and the wind had done us no favours on what should be a pretty calm paddle.

Noosa Everglades Healthy Picnic Camp 2 Kayak Overnight Tour

Perfect picnic spot in the Noosa Everglades.

Stop, Picnic Time!

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Having arrived at camp by 2:30pm feeling pretty hangry (hungry-angry), and with the place completely to ourselves, we decided to set up our tent and our healthy homemade picnic with million dollar Noosa River views as our reward. We may or may not have done a little skinny-dipping. Hey, they said ‘pack lightly’!

Camp 2 is pretty basic. But it does have a toilet and tank (non-drinking) water which will both come in handy. We skipped the hike to the Cooloola Sand Patch and spent the afternoon enjoying the serenity (i.e no internet or phone reception) and resting our biceps.

It’s a New Dawn, It’s a New Day:

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The golden morning light, a glassy river and having the place to ourselves was one of the main reasons we chose the overnight kayak option (lazy morning sleep-ins are also an option). And it didn’t disappoint. Having fought the choppy river the day before, it was amazing to see the Noosa Everglades completely still and perfect reflections as far as the eye could see.

Kayak Noosa Everglades Sunrise Reflections Overnight Tour

Sunrise reflections on the Noosa Everglades.

Noosa Everglades Reflections River Mirrors Kayak Overnight Tour

Perfect Reflections: the River of Mirrors.

The Deserted River Return:

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Starting on the water at dawn, we took our time taking photographs of rugged tree formations reflected near the river’s edge and the sunrise as it crept over the canopy of trees. This is exactly what we had hoped for. And yet somehow it exceeded even our very high expectations. In the 4 hours and 16 km it took us to reach the landing point, we didn’t see another soul. Just us and one of the most diverse ecosystems in the country. This is what bliss feels like.

kayak noosa everglades river reflections morning

Even more reflections on the Noosa Everglades.

Healthy Travel Tips

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1. Pack all of your own healthy meals and take ice or lots of freezer blocks to keep your food cool. Kanu Kapers provide a camp stove you can use to cook or reheat.
2. Allow 2-3 litres of water per person, per day. We used a 2L Camelbak and 1.5L bottle each.
3. Natural insect repellant is a must. Choose an essential oil based product that contains eucalyptus, lemongrass, lavender, tea tree, clove, sandalwood, mint and/or citronella. Watch out for neem-based products, they don’t seem to work very well.
4. Natural sunscreen, long-sleeved clothing and a hat for sun protection. You will be spending lots of time in the midday Australian sun and it’s brutal. Look for a natural sunscreen product that contains zinc oxide.
5. Delicate hands? I used my gym-gloves to avoid blisters from the long-distance paddling and they were perfect.

About Kanu Kapers & Noosa

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Kanu Kapers offer half, one, two and three day guided and self guided tours in their easy to paddle and ultra stable sea kayaks. I highly recommend the overnight stay. It’s very likely you will get to enjoy The Narrows completely alone in the morning. And the scenery is totally worth it. Head to Kanu Kapers’ website to learn more.

To find out more about what else is on offer in Noosa, head to visitnoosa.com.au and get your wanderlust on!

5 Comments
  • lorraine bird
    Posted at 23:07h, 07 April Reply

    Wow! we loved it all so much we decided to live out our remaining years on the banks of Lake Cootharaba; thus allowing us to explore the whole of the Noosa River with its lakes, creeks, camping areas and settlements/ towns. That decision was 11 years ago and here we are thoroughly enjoying the peace, the tranquility, the ambience of the pristine & colourfull waters of Lake Cootharaba from the vantage of Boreen Pt. Picture this…lazy days with our dog, ‘Shirl’, lying in its cool waters under the shade of our spreading Melaleuca trees while munching on locally caught flathead & homemade potato scallops from the local cafe, while watching the multihull championship sailing boats catch the breezes, common in the early afternoons before the delightful colours of sunset are splashed across the sky & lake: a photographers’ dream come true.
    Now is the time to take ‘timeout’, relax & take a ‘slow tour’ of the Noosa River System: a World Heritage Listed Freshwater River in the pristine Cooloola National Park. A part of S.E. Qld. not to be missed!

    • Me & My Travel Bugs
      Posted at 08:54h, 24 April Reply

      We totally agree Lorraine, it’s an incredible part of the world!

  • Claire
    Posted at 05:57h, 22 June Reply

    This looks super blissful! Question please, can you bring your own kayak and paddle or have to join a tour?
    Thanks!

    • Me & My Travel Bugs
      Posted at 19:11h, 22 June Reply

      Hi Claire, you definitely can! If you’re planning an overnight adventure make sure to book your camping permit with Queensland National Parks Booking Service before you go.

      • Claire
        Posted at 21:27h, 22 June Reply

        Thanks😊

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