From spotting crocodiles on the Daintree to white-water rafting on the Nymboida, there are plenty of adventures to be had on rivers across.
As the weather in Australia’s southern states turns colder, and a day at the beach becomes less attractive, perhaps it’s time to head inland and explore Australia’s waterways? From cruises into tubing and croc-watching in Far North Queensland, the country’s rivers and creeks are a giant adventure playground waiting to be explored…
Where? Far North Queensland
The Daintree River is something of a dividing line between civilisation and the untamed wilderness of the Cape York Peninsula. The rainforests to the north almost certainly hide species that mankind has yet to discover, and the river itself isn’t exactly free of beasties. Birds fly overhead, pythons dangle from trees and any thoughts of going for a refreshing swim are cancelled out by what lies in the water. This is crocodile central, and while the scenery is gorgeous, it’s the croc-spotting in a worryingly small boat that makes a Daintree cruise truly memorable.
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BOOK YOUR OWN ADVENTUREThe following sites are usually my first port of call when booking a trip - so I recommend them as somewhere to start when booking your own holiday.
HOTELS: Hotels.com (£) or Agoda (£)
FLIGHTS: Skyscanner (£) Kayak or Roundtheworldflights.com
CAR HIRE: Car Rentals (£)
GUIDE BOOKS: Amazon (£)
TOURS AND ACTIVITIES: Viator (£)
Details: One hour croc-watching trips with Bruce Belcher’s Daintree River Cruises (00 61 (0)7 4098 7717) cost $25.
Where? Perth, WA
Most wine tours are conducted in mini buses, but in Perth you can use the Swan River as the highway and a kayak as transport. The Sandalfords and Houghton wineries are easily accessed from the river, and it’s possible to combine the indulgence of generous wine and cheese sampling with some proper muscle-building exercise as you haul yourself downstream.
Details: Rivergods (00 61 (0)8 9259 0749) offers the wine tasting by kayak tour for $95 per person.
Where? Echuca, Victoria
Despite none of the Murray technically being in Victoria (the state boundary is the high water mark on the Victorian bank), the majority of the great Murray River towns are there. Echuca is arguably the most fascinating of them, and it’s the perfect place to hop on board a paddle steamer. A number of these old river carthorses have been restored and offer pleasure cruises from the giant wooden wharf at the Port of Echuca. Checking out the bird and plantlife along the Murray as the boats chug along is a treat, but spare a thought for the poor, sweaty soul down below who has to keep chucking fuel into the engine.
Details: The Port of Echuca (00 61 (0)3 5482 4248) Heritage package, including a one hour paddle steamer cruise, costs $42.80.
Where? Near Bellingen, NSW coast
For mixing scenery with shock factor, there can be fewer better places in Australia than the Nymboida. The river makes its way through stunning forest landscapes and the odd canyon on its way towards the ocean – but the water’s passage isn’t always smooth. A series of Grade 3 and 4 rapids line the route – and while they’re hardly death-defying, they’re challenging enough to get the heart going. In terms of a rafting adventure, it offers the perfect mix – time to drift along enjoying it, interspersed with thrills that’ll have you grinning like a simpleton.
Details: Wildwater Adventures (00 61 (0)2 6653 2067) picks up from Bellingen YHA for a one day rafting adventure. It costs $135 including morning tea and lunch.
Where? Goldsborough Valley, near Cairns
If fighting through white water doesn’t appeal, then the more sedate alternative is just as much fun. River tubing is the art of sitting inside a giant, inflatable tyre inner tube as you casually float downstream. On the Mulgrave River, you’ve got a few more aggressive stretches of water to combat, but on the whole it’s about being taken along by the current for a couple of hours, enjoying the rainforest scenery.
Details: Foaming Fury (00 61 1800 801 540) offers tubing trips from Cairns – with approximately two hours on the river – for $69.
Where? Adelaide, South Australia
You’d have to squint really, really hard to convince yourself that Adelaide is a southern hemisphere Venice, but at least the gondolas are authentic. There’s a delicious absurdity to being gently paddled along the placid waters of the Torrens in a gondola imported from, but the city views, twittering birds and glass of wine should relax you into the O Sole Mio vibe.
Details: The Adelaide Gondola Company (00 61 (0)8 8358 1800) offers 40 minute trips for $110 and hour-long gondola rides for $135.
Where? Strahan, Tasmania
For postcard scenery, the Gordon River in western Tasmania is tough to top. The water can seem like a blue, glassy mirror and the surrounding rainforest and craggy mountains make you feel very small indeed. In short, there are fewer better places for a day cruise. The boat heads through Hell’s Gate – the tiny entrance where Macquarie Harbour opens into the sea, and around world class salmon farms. There’s also a stop off with walking tour at the notorious Sarah Island convict settlement.
Details: Book the six hour cruise through Pure Tasmania (00 61 1800 420 155) for $90.
Where? Noosa, Sunshine Coast, Queensland
The Hawaiian sport of stand-up paddle surfing has taken on in Noosa in a big way, and sickeningly healthy types can be found propelling themselves along the waterways that adjoin the Noosa River every morning. In theory, it’s quite simple, you stand on an oversized surfboard and paddle yourself along. Maintaining balance isn’t that straightforward, however, and you’ll have a few dips in the water before you graduate to the river proper and the proper surf off the beach.
Details: Two hour lessons/ tours with Stand Up Paddle Surfing (00 61 (0)412 175 217) cost $50
Where? Alice Springs, Northern Territory
Who says you need water to have river-based entertainment? You certainly don’t in Alice, if the world’s weirdest regatta is anything to go by. During Henley-on-Todd, boats (including one sponsored by the YHA) are raced Flintstones-style along the dry river bed. The winners are decided on foot-power rather the oar power…
Details: The 2011 Regatta takes place on August 20.
Where? The Blue Mountains,
The Blue Mountains is a hotbed for canyoning, the sport that takes going downriver to new levels. The premise is simple – you follow the creek or river through canyons by whatever means possible. Sometimes this involves abseiling, sometimes it involves leaps of faith from great heights and sometimes it involves sliding down waterfalls. Degrees of difficulty vary massively, but there are some relatively fun routes throughout the river system of the Blue Mountains to go along with the brutes. The Sheep Dip and Rocky Creek trip is a comparative trip to the playground, and should have you shouting “wheee” as you slide down the rocks.
Details: River Deep Mountain High (00 61 (0)2 4782 6109) offers the combined Sheep Dip and Rocky Creek trip for $185.
This article was originally written for Backpacker Essentials.
This post was kindly funded by Roundtheworldflights.com