Bermagui River

There’s an unwritten law that says anyone who hears of a waterway with a name that refers to paddling must go paddling on it. The Bermagui River’s name is derived from the Aboriginal Dyirringanj word permageua which means canoe with paddles. Go on. Add it to your to do list.

WATERWAY Bermagui River, Nutleys Creek
REGION South Coast, NSW
DISTANCE 16 kilometres
TIME 3.5 hours
START Boat ramp, Bermagui River Park, Bridge Street, Bermagui
GPS DMS: 36° 25′ 30.3″ S, 150° 3′ 53.4″ E
DD: -36.425083, 150.064833
FINISH Return to start
PARKING Large parking area
TOILET Near start
CONDITIONS Open areas, tidal, light traffic, shallow areas
FISHING Blackfish, bream, flathead, leatherjacket, tailor, trevally, whiting

Bermagui River Map

The town of Bermagui has a long-standing international reputation for being a great place to go fishing. This is largely due to the big game fish like marlin and tuna that are reeled in offshore but there’s a lot to encourage the river-based recreational angler too, such as flathead, bream, whiting, blackfish, trevally, leatherjacket, and tailor. Pelicans and silver gulls are clearly not oblivious to this because they gather hungrily at the boat ramps.

Bermagui River Photo 1

Even if you don’t fish, there’s a good chance the Bermagui River could become one of your favourite paddling destinations. It is incredibly picturesque and there are many changes in scenery over a comparatively short distance.

The Bermagui River is tidal and the state of the tide will have a major impact on your day on the water. The tidal flow can be very strong and some areas empty out completely at low tide. The best time to start is about one hour before high tide. Tide times for Bermagui are published on the Bureau of Meteorology website.

There are several places where you can launch a kayak, canoe or stand up paddleboard but I think the ramp in Bermagui River Park on Bridge Street is the best. There are toilets nearby and it isn’t as busy as the ramp in the boat harbour.

Go to the left after launching to head upstream. The channel isn’t marked but the water is wonderfully clean and crystal clear so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding it. If in any doubt, stay on the right of the waterway until you come to the first left-hand bend and then move to the left until you come to a sharp right-hand bend. Beyond that, you shouldn’t run into trouble if you stay in the middle of the waterway.

There are a number of oyster leases in the Bermagui River. They are quite visible and can easily be avoided but it should be noted that oyster covered rocks provide obstructions in two places. These are marked on the map but you need to be alert because they can be hard to avoid if you don’t notice them until the last second and the tide is running strongly.

Grey mangroves adorn the river banks and sand flats for much of this trip. They are the star of the greenery early on but they are relegated to a supporting role when much larger eucalypts of the Murrah Flora Reserves tower over their heads upstream of Rose Bay (see map). The grassy fields of grazing land eventually throw their hat into the ring as the final element of the verdant scenery of the Bermagui River.

The Bermagui River is formed by the confluence of Nutleys Creek and Coolagolite Creek. This is around 7 kilometres from where you started. It isn’t generally possible to paddle too far into Coolagolite Creek to the right, but you can paddle into Nutleys Creek for at least another kilometre.

Exposed river beds decorated with rounded river rocks are always a nice place to have a break without having to intrude into surrounding private land and that’s exactly what you’ll find at the navigable limit of Nutleys Creek. It is well worth pausing there for a while to bask in the peace and quiet of the rural countryside before you head back to town.

Bermagui River Photo 2

“It’s never crowded along the extra mile.” Wayne Dyer

EAT Saltwater, 59 Lamont Street, Bermagui, (02) 6493 4328
DRINK Bermagui Beach Hotel, 10 Lamont St, Bermagui, (02) 6493 4206
SLEEP South Coast Holiday Park, 1 Lamont St, Bermagui, (02) 6493 3222