37 great paddle trails
Finding a great place to go kayaking, canoeing, or stand up paddleboarding in the Northern Rivers regions of New South Wales is easy with Global Paddler. All you need to do is pick a number on our trip locator map and click or tap on the trail name with the same number in the list below. The Global Paddler guide for your chosen paddle trail will then be displayed.
Each Global Paddler guide includes a map, colour photographs, logistical details, a route description, local points of interest, quirky facts, and recommended places to eat, drink, and stay the night so that every day you spend on the water is fantastic.
- Cobaki Creek
Cobaki Creek is the most northerly paddling destination in New South Wales. The name suggests a single waterway but this trip actually takes in three creeks and the scenic Cobaki Broadwater as well. Throw a few islands into the mix and the result is a venue with a plethora of possibilities.
- Terranora Broadwater
Terranora Broadwater is a tidal lagoon linked to the Tweed River two kilometres from where it spills into the Coral Sea. Side creeks, islands, and the convenience of the Seagulls Club right beside the water ensure that this is a fantastic multidimensional paddling experience.
- Cudgen Creek
Cudgen Creek runs south from the urban development of increasingly cosmopolitan Kingscliff to the sanctuary of the wonderfully preserved Cudgen Nature Reserve; an important refuge for koalas, sea turtles, and many other natives.
- Stotts Island
It almost defies belief that the largest remnant of sub-tropical floodplain rainforest in New South Wales should be on a little island in the Tweed River between Murwillumbah and the coast but that’s exactly where you’ll find this rare and precious jewel.
- Tygalgah Island
Our planet is constantly in a state of flux with its features reshaped over time. This island is at the heart of a volcanic landscape at the junction of two rivers carved by flooding rains. It is an amazing opportunity to witness the results of eons of change.
- Dunbible Creek
Being present at the coming together of two flowing freshwater rivers and watching them swap stories about their amazing journeys is always an experience to treasure. Water is life and there is great comfort in dwelling in places where it is abundant. Byangum is one of those places.
- Hastings Point
Hastings Point is a beauty spot on the lip of the Coral Sea. It is home to the heavenly waters of Cudgera Creek and Christies Creek. These estuaries are wonderfully non-threatening venues for beginners and fantastic places for experienced paddlers to relax and go with the flow.
The passage of time turns countless traditions and events into hidden secrets but the inquiring and imaginative mind can still find historical whispers in the landscape and there are several of those in and around the waterways of Pottsville.
- Clarrie Hall Dam
Peaceful Clarrie Hall is wrapped in blankets of thick forest and cradled in the protective arms of Wulambiny Momoli, the towering patriarch of mountains. Its many arms offer a different view every time you visit. Clarrie Hall may not be the largest lake in NSW, but it might just be the most scenic.
- Marshalls Creek
Marshalls Creek is a symphony in four movements – ‘Shallow Waters’, ‘Leafy Corridors’, ‘Seaside Sanctuary’, and ‘Ancient Rainforest’, that is played with a paddle and magnificent support from the Mother Nature Philharmonic Orchestra.
- Brunswick River
No one can deny that the Byron Shire is an incredibly alluring part of NSW, but to really appreciate its inner beauty you need to grab a kayak, canoe, or stand up paddleboard and take the scenic route from Brunswick Heads to Mullumbimby.
- Simpsons Creek
Simpsons Creek is a favourite destination of Northern Rivers paddlers. It’s a little waterway that runs south from the delightful village of Brunswick Heads into Tyagarah Nature Reserve; a protected coastal haven for sub-tropical flora and fauna.
- Toonumbar Dam
Camping in beautiful bushland right next to the water is icing on the cake for any paddling adventure. Toonumbar Dam has that and more. Wonderful wildlife, gorgeous geology, and fantastic fishing are all great reasons to stay for more than just one day.
More often than not, the best way to find out what makes a region tick is to ask the locals where they like to go in their spare time. For people from Lismore to Ballina, Byron Bay, and beyond, an increasingly regular answer to that question is Eltham.
Ride historic bow waves from the commercial centre of the Northern Rivers region of NSW to one of the last remnants of what was once the largest subtropical lowland rainforest in eastern Australia and you will find there is a lot more to Lismore than meets the eye.
- Leycester Creek
Leycester Creek follows a winding 69 kilometre path from the dizzy heights of the Tweed Volcano caldera rim to its meeting with the Wilsons River in the City of Lismore. Come with us as we take a look at the delightful final stages of that journey.
- Maguires Creek
Maguires Creek is a picturesque stream in the volcanically formed and agriculturally scenic Teven Valley just outside of Ballina. Up until now, it has managed to avoid detection by Google Maps or tourism guides of any kind but the beans are about to be spilled.
- Emigrant Creek
Looking down from a bridge, a creek is a symbol of infinite possibility. It disappears into a secret world of landscapes and creatures you can only imagine. Leave the bridge and plunge bow first into this one’s remarkable journey.
- North Creek
Anyone can simply launch into a waterway and go for a paddle, but to find all the really cool stuff you need the advice of a local who has been there many times before. As I ran kayak tours on North Creek for several years, the local in this case is me.
- Ballina Island
Did you know that Ballina is actually an island? This trail takes you all the way around the island and through a refreshingly diverse range of environments. There’s a historic manmade canal, a sheltered creek, an expansive river, and even some waves you can catch.
- Tuckean Nature Reserve
Tuckean Nature Reserve is a protected wetland interspersed with an enticing array of paddler-friendly canals. These waterways are blessed with a huge variety of birds and lined with lilies that produce an amazing blanket of purple flowers in spring.
- Jabour Weir
Casino is best known for beef production and art deco architecture but the true topaz in its tiara is the long stretch of fresh Richmond River water behind Jabour Weir. It is a provider of life-sustaining water for the town, essential habitat for wildlife, and a superb venue for paddling.
The Richmond River is never going to win the prize for the fastest way to get from Casino to Coraki but if you are paddle-fit, up for a challenge, and you value the joy that comes from allowing a long trip to evolve in an unhurried way then you will love everything about this secluded stretch of water.
There aren’t many who can say they have seen a koala in the wild, and even fewer can boast of seeing them from the water, but if you paddle north up the Wilsons River from Coraki you’ll get the amazing opportunity to add your name to both those lists twenty times over.
Little Woodburn is too shy to trumpet its best features to the world. It calls itself Traveller’s Rest like it is resigned to being a stopover rather than a destination. But don’t be fooled. Now that the highway no longer runs through town, its waterfront position and paddling potential are pure gold.
Broadwater is a small town on the Richmond River, 20 kilometres upstream from Ballina. If you’re struggling to put a face to the name, you might know it better from the column of steam and smell of molasses from its sugar mill. Yes, Broadwater is Sugar Town.
- Bungawalbin Creek
Some people like winding country roads and others prefer long straight freeways. If you are the country road type then secluded and peaceful Bungawalbin Creek will no doubt find a place at the top of your list of favourite paddling destinations.
- Evans River
The Evans River ebbs and flows between the Coral Sea at Evans Head and Tuckombil Canal at Woodburn. With tranquil streams, a secret waterfall, astonishing wildlife, more fish than you can poke a rod at, and the blessings of not one, but two national parks, this truly is a paddler’s paradise.
- Jerusalem Creek
Jerusalem Creek has the perfect blend of accessibility and isolation. A well-equipped campground and convenient launching pontoon deep inside the Bundjalung National Park make it something close to heaven for the nature-loving paddler.
- Esk River
Many places lay claim to the ‘wilderness’ title but on the NSW coast, only three have been officially recognised as worthy of that distinction. One of those provides a wonderfully natural setting for this memorable paddle up the enticing Esk River.
- Warregah Island
A paddle around Warregah Island is a tour of New South Wales sugar country north of Maclean that features a rare Australian thong tree, historical sugar cane barge remains, and the chance to venture deep inside magical Mangrove Creek.
- Broadwater Creek
Extraordinary is the place beyond obvious. Broadwater Creek is a hidden waterway down a dusty dirt road. You would be unlikely to find it unless you live locally or you have been looking for new places to paddle for a very long time. It is decidedly unobvious and unquestionably extraordinary.
- Sportsmans Creek
Sportsmans Creek flows into the Clarence River at Lawrence. This is a paddle from its historic weir into the Everlasting Swamp National Park which is home to one of the largest coastal floodplain wetlands in New South Wales and a refuge for a staggering array of wildlife.
- Orara River Mouth
Just around the corner from you now, there is somewhere beautiful that few people ever see and even fewer people talk about. A well-kept secret. Just around the corner from Grafton, that place is the mouth of the Orara River. Prepare to be included in the Grafton circle of trust.
- Lake Arragan
Perfection is so much more delicious when its existence is fleeting and hard to predict. The birth of a butterfly. A wildflower in bloom. Lake Arragan in its full glory. All of these things occur regularly but being there to witness them requires an element of planning and a touch of good luck.
- Sandon River
The Sandon River is the holiday destination you thought only existed in dreams. Glazed eyes and hushed reverential tones are common when people recount Sandon stories from their youth. The often full campground is a sure sign the secret is out, but this is still a beautiful and well-preserved spot.