Every now and again you find a paddling destination where it is clear that the community understands the awesomeness of paddle sports because they provide paddlers with everything they need to have a great time on the water. Merimbula is one of those destinations.
|WATERWAY||Merimbula Lake, Boggy Creek|
|REGION||South Coast, NSW|
|DISTANCE||Up to 15 kilometres|
|TIME||Up to 4 hours|
|START||Beach near Mitchies Jetty, Fishpen Road, Merimbula|
|GPS||DMS: 36° 53′ 37.9″ S, 149° 55′ 5.2″ E
DD: -36.893872, 149.918113
|FINISH||Return to start|
|PARKING||Small parking area|
|TOILET||Mitchies Jetty, Spencer Park, Top Lake Boathouse|
|CONDITIONS||Open areas, tidal, light traffic, shallow areas|
|FISHING||Bream, flathead, mullet, trevally, tailor, whiting|
This trip around Merimbula Lake was researched with the kind assistance and delightful company of the SCARPPers (South Coast Amateur Recreational Peer Paddlers) group. It is an exploration of the entire waterway that makes the best use of the tide in terms of both water depth and tidal flow, and which provides a fantastic opportunity for a mid-paddle break at Sunsets Kiosk in the Top Lake Boathouse (see map).
The state of the tide is very important. Merimbula Lake is very shallow in a lot of areas and currents can be extremely strong, particularly in the vicinity of the Market Street Bridge. The best time to launch is an hour before high tide at Merimbula Lake – Bridge as published on the WillyWeather website.
This trip starts and ends on a soft sandy beach adjacent to Fishpen Road just west of Mitchies Jetty where there are numerous parking spaces and easy access to the water. If for any reason you are unable to launch from there, two alternatives are the Top Lake Boathouse on Lakewood Drive (GPS: 36° 53′ 28.4″ S, 149° 53′ 30.9″ E) and Spencer Park on Main Street (GPS: 36° 53′ 18.6″ S, 149° 55′ 11.0″ E). However, the first of these will leave you unable to experience optimal tidal conditions and the second involves a long carry across the sand if the tide is low.
There are several paddle craft rental options for people who are unable to use their own equipment. A full list of operators can be found on the Canoeing, Kayaking & SUP page of the Sapphire Coast Tourism website.
Launch and follow the near shoreline to the left. Excellent metal sculptures of pelicans decorate this area. These are the work of award-winning sculptor Richard Moffat who also created the extremely impressive ‘Nest’ sculpture on top of Dairy Farmers Hill at the National Arboretum Canberra.
You will soon see the point where Market Street Bridge crosses the waterway. Head directly for that. This is the place where you move from the bottom lake into the top lake.
The next stage is an anti-clockwise lap of the top lake, which is home to abundant oyster farms, stunning seagrass meadows, and an array of wonderful water birds. If the tide is high, take the opportunity to trace the path of the Merimbula Boardwalk west along the northern edge waterway. Otherwise, the only option is to follow the channel through the oyster beds. This is marked on the map with a dashed line.
For a change of atmosphere, make sure to explore Boggy Creek at the northwest corner of the lake. Its mouth is well-guarded by oyster beds but there are a couple of ways through. There are some shallow rocky areas but if the tide is high, you might be able to make it all the way to where the Princes Highway crosses the creek.
Continue around the lake until you see the southern arm on your right. This looks tempting but it is very shallow so it is usually best avoided. Paddle past its entrance and then return to the bottom lake via the Market Street Bridge. There are a lot of oyster beds around but you shouldn’t run into any if you stick to the path shown on the map.
Finally, follow the well-marked main channel around the northern part of the bottom lake until you see the bright pink and turquoise Mitchies Jetty. It’s an appropriately colourful way to end a brightly-coloured day in Merimbula.
“Pursuing your passions makes you more interesting, and interesting people are enchanting.” Guy Kawasaki
|EAT||The Waterfront Café, 2 Merimbula Dr, Merimbula, (02) 6495 2211|
|DRINK||Lakeview Hotel, 1 Market Street, Merimbula, (02) 6495 1202|
|SLEEP||Tween Waters Hol Park, Dunns Lane, Merimbula, (02) 6495 1530|