WORDS: Fiona Willett
The Wide Bay region is synonymous with its mightiest natural asset: the Mary River. In the Gympie region, the Mary meanders through Gympie’s outer lying hinterland area, the Mary Valley, and continues on through Tiaro in the Fraser Coast region. Gympie’s little piece of the river is perfect for paddlers looking for fresh air, open green space, rare wildlife, and best of all: challenge.
“The Mary Valley offers a natural playground.”
Ian Harling knows the Mary River tributaries well. Ian has run his tourism business, Ride on Mary, from the Mary Valley since 2009 and during this time he’s guided many people on the river.
“The Mary Valley is a beautiful place to visit for those that love nature – forests, waterfalls, creeks, river, and mountains. You get to enjoy the friendliness of the small towns and villages,” he said.
In September 2015, Council released the 10-year Gympie Canoe and Kayak Strategy; a report that outlined the need for the community and tourists to have better recreational access to the river. The report made comparisons between Australia’s relatively new recreational water tourism scene and the kayaking sector in the United States and Canada; highlighting our river’s status as one of Gympie’s major water sports opportunities.
Data collected in this report clearly showed a community need for new infrastructure. A community survey collected responses across the region, with 81% stating they’re attracted to the use of the Mary River because of its proximity to their home. A total of 89% of respondents agreed there wasn’t enough access to the Mary River or its tributaries. Businesses such as Ian’s provided valuable feedback on proposed launch points and highlighted the pros and cons of accessing certain parts of the Mary.
In November 2017, six new canoe and kayak launch points were opened between Imbil and the Gympie Town Centre. Design of the points considered factors critical to all-abilities, all-ages kayaking and focused on the physical and unique nature of the Mary and its tributaries, public access to the waterways and the kind of people who might be looking to use it. Design elements, parking areas, and launch infrastructure included flood considerations to cater for periods of wet weather.
“There’s been a boom in kayaking in the area in the past decade,” Ian said.
“The Mary Valley has been a growing destination for those wanting to escape the rat race for a few days and what better way to wind down and relax than cruising down the river in a kayak.”
Launch points in Gympie can be accessed via Attie Sullivan Park (adjacent to the Normanby Bridge on Mary Valley Road) and the Gympie Weir, (near Kidd Bridge on River Terrace). This course is the perfect 2.2 kilometre one-way downstream paddle for beginners, running adjacent to a purpose-built hiking trail that follows the riverbank at water-level and just a few kilometres from shops, cafes, and attractions in the city centre. The trail feels worlds away considering its proximity to civilisation.
For those looking for a longer day out on the water, the Mary Valley launch points are nestled in the quiet cottage towns of Imbil and Kandanga. Here, paddlers can jump in and out of the water at designated spots and they can also stop for a coffee, some local cheese or produce during their trip.
The new Imbil launch points can be accessed at Bert Smith Memorial Park (on Lambert Hyne Drive) and upstream on Yabba Creek Road (400m west of Mathias St). This trail is a picturesque 2km paddle one-way or a great out and back paddle from either location. Or, launch from Kandanga Weir (adjacent to the old Valley Rattler car park on Kandanga Creek Rd) for a picturesque 2km out and back trip.
When you ask Ian what it is about the Mary that sets it apart, his answer is simple.
“It’s for those who want to do something different and to get back to nature.”
You can find maps and more information about getting out and about in the Gympie region on the Gympie Regional Council website.