As leisurely outdoor fun goes, there’s nothing quite like a peaceful paddle through nature.
If like many of us, you’ve fallen in love with gliding through the water on a canoe, kayak or stand up paddleboard (SUP), then let your sense of adventure guide you along to our backyard in the Coorong.
This laid-back part of South Australia has a variety of trails (on land and water) that will take you off the beaten track and into a wilderness wonderland including protected waters, abundant native birdlife, untouched lagoons, small (if existent at all) crowds and some of the best Aussie backdrops you’ll ever see.
Our patch along the lower reaches of the Murray River has to be the best, because you can easily meander from the Mighty Murray, out to the Lower Lakes (Albert and Alexandrina) and finally in to the Coorong, (trust us, you’ll have no trouble finding somewhere to wet your kayak). Oh – and depending on your starting location (and if you have the stamina) you might even make it to somewhere near the Southern Ocean as well – just nearby Salt Creek where the world-famous Storm Boy was filmed.
And let’s not forget to mention the points of interest in between these waterways. There’s so much you can look forward to while you’re exploring the Murray River, Lakes and Coorong; great places to eat, rich history to unfold, iconic landmarks to visit, as well as some hidden gems waiting to be discovered.
Pack the paddles and stay for the week.
If you’ve been looking forward to testing out the new kayak you received for Christmas, then the Lower Murray Canoe Trail between Tailem Bend and Wellington is the ideal place to start. Spanning 21km in length, you can choose from 4 sections to suit your ability and fitness level (beginners, amateurs and skill levels in between). Don’t worry about getting lost, the trail has educational and navigational signage along the way.
Section 1 and 4 of the trail will guide you through the backwaters and a small wetland – both populated with beautiful birdlife. If you’re planning to make a day out of paddling the trail, pack some lunch with you and include section 2 of the trail in your journey. Here you can stopover at Dickson Reserve to fuel up with your picnic lunch and have a swim. If you’re looking to cast a fishing line, try section 3 of the trail at Fred’s Landing (an ideal location for fishing).
If you have a thirst for adventure, and love a new challenge, then add a treasure hunt to your paddling journey. The trail creators have added extra Geocaches along the trail (*for those unaware, Geocaching is a treasure hunt activity using marked GPS coordinates).
Further south, launch your vessel along the banks of Lake Albert in Meningie (Lake Albert Paddle hires out stand up paddle boards, kayaks and other watercraft in case you arrived empty handed). The protected waters of the lake are shallow and still, making for one of the BEST places to float and watch the sun set. Here you can paddle past birdlife (twitchers should pack their waterproof binoculars), watching the sailing community float by, or kids splashing in for a swim from one of the local haunts.
Then moving on again, and to let you in on the ultimate place that exudes that feeling of escape – the Coorong National Park. With close to 500 square kilometres to explore, over 150km of lagoons to paddle through and the rugged Southern Ocean coastline, you’ll find plenty of spots to leisurely paddle with our wildlife.
Luckily the Coorong is less than a 2-hour drive from Adelaide, making it an ideal escape from the city for a weekend getaway. OR if you’re travelling here from interstate along the Princes Highway, it’s already en-route towards Adelaide – a great opportunity to get out and stretch your legs.
New to kayaking? Check out these tips from Good Living.
If walking or cycling is more your style, then you’ll be keen to mark your path on the newly opened sections of the 450km Murray Coorong Trail, which links our river communities together. Of course, you won’t be able to explore this particular trail by kayak, so strap on your walking shoes or trade the paddle for the handlebars of a bike.
The sections of the trail around the Coorong area – which are open and ready to use – include Mowantjie Willauwar (near Tailem Bend), the Meningie Pelican Path to the edge of the Coorong (the paths runs along the edge of Lake Albert and onwards to Noonameena). There’s also the beauty of the rugged Coorong National Park, which you can take in via an easy 1.2km walk through the Jack Point Pelican Observatory Walk to a local pelican breeding ground – during breeding season, it’s not uncommon to find the island flocked in white.
Whether you’re walking, paddling, cycling or driving through – you should pencil in some time to visit the noteworthy lakeside towns of Narrung and Raukkan. Here you’ll have the opportunity to visit the historic Point Malcolm Lighthouse (the only inland lighthouse in the southern hemisphere), learn about the history of inventor and author David Unaipon and see the iconic 1869 church found on the Australian $50 note.
Just outside of Tailem Bend, following the direction towards Meningie are two hidden gems – so discrete they’re easy to miss if you’re not keeping an eye out for them.
Mowantjie Willauwar Conservation Park will bring you close to our native wildlife and flora. People of all fitness levels can explore the trails by foot or bike, with some areas that are even pram friendly (parents rejoice!). Watch a video of the park here.
In Wellington East opposite the marina is Pangarinda Botanic Garden (pictured) – a section of Crown Land used to conserve some of Australia’s most threatened flora. Take a walk along the path and see the striking variety of colour native plant life, trees and the birds living around the garden.
Meningie’s lake front is a haven for recreational activities and landmarks, including a bird viewing platform (great for birdwatching AND taking in the sunset), a giant pelican sculpture, jetty and BBQ area. You can also hire bikes for FREE from the Meningie Visitor Information Centre and cycle along the Pelican Path, part of the Murray Coorong Trail.
If you’ve got the little ones with you, one thing you absolutely NEED to check out is the Storm Boy-inspired nature playground (pictured), and if you have the time, stick around to watch the sun setting across Lake Albert with the pelicans drifting across the water (hint: it looks even better while floating around on a kayak).
Nonetheless, it’s impossible to be bored here when there’s activities that will cater to everyone’s needs. You’re bordering on Storm Boy country after all.
When it’s time for food, we’d recommend trying the new brewery in Meningie. Coorong Brewing Co has fast become a favourite go-to for locals and day trippers. With views of Lake Albert from the outdoor dining area, and ever-changing seasonal menu, it’s a great spot to visit all year round.
We looove our coffee – and with all of the activities on offer, it’s an essential. One of our region’s greatest coffee shops resides right here in Tailem Bend, known as Little Local Co. The team serve up speciality coffee, cold drinks, ridiculous good baked treats – and they have you covered with fantastic grab and go options too!
Our tip: A unique and immersive experience that embodies the Coorong’s seafood culture, is the ‘Catch and Eat’ tour with the team at Coorong Wild Seafood. Here, you can join owners Glen and Tracy out amongst the Coorong on their fishing boat and learn how Glen catches Coorong Mullet – which they prepare and cook up for you as fresh as you like it!
Just a side-note: if you’re even remotely keen on motorsport, or just love to be one of the first to see new things, make a worthwhile stop at The Bend Motorsport Park (just before you make the turn off the Dukes Highway to Meningie, continue driving 3kms south east and you can’t miss it!). On your visit you’ll understand why the park was crowned ‘Motorsport Facility of the Year’ award in 2019.
With an annual event calendar as choc full as theirs (even on weekdays), there’s no doubt you’ll catch some action on the track. Or with their range of driver experiences and karting, you can get behind the wheel (or passenger seat) and tackle the world-class track. Over by Pit Lane is the Apex Bar and FUEL Restaurant – satisfy your hunger while peering over the uninterrupted views of the track. And while most people think you need to book in a specialised tour or event to visit – this isn’t the case. You can visit anytime during daylight hours, with the bar, restaurant and coffee machine open 7 days for refreshments.
There’s a lot to uncover in the Coorong, so strap the kayak to the roof, book a few extra nights and come explore with us.