As the sun slowly rises above the tree canopy of the Noosa Everglades and native birds fill the air with their morning songs, we stop paddling and find ourselves floating on clouds. It’s 4:45 am and as our eyes begin to adjust to the morning light, a river of perfect reflections make it hard to tell where the water ends and the sky begins.
In an instant, the exhaustion and fatigue from the previous day’s paddling melt away, replaced by a sense of tranquility often only reached during a Balinese yoga retreat. Welcome to one of Australia’s best kept secrets; kayaking in the Noosa Everglades.
While many seekers of pristine wilderness are drawn to Noosa National Park and the walking trails from Laguna Bay to Hell’s Gates, I urge you to head a little further out to the Noosa Everglades.
Hidden within the Cooloola section of the Great Sandy National Park, the Noosa Everglades are a tropical wetland and one of only two everglades systems in the world. It’s also one of Australia’s most diverse ecosystems, boasting over 40% of the country’s bird species.
While anyone on a time limit, or those not feeling so adventurous, can explore part of these ancient waters by boat, to get the full experience we chose the self-guided overnight kayak adventure offered by Kanu Kapers. We liked the idea of self-guided so we could prep and take all our own food and overnight so we could experience the perfect reflections on a calm morning with soft golden light. But the most popular options are the half-day self-guided kayak and canoe options that give you a great taster for what the area has to offer.
Noosa Everglades: The River of Mirrors
A short drive from Kanu Kapers HQ at Boreen Point, we found ourselves knee-deep in the waters of Lake Cootharaba at the Elanda Point launch site. After kitting out our bright yellow submarine double sea kayak with all our gear, we were given a trusty map and a brief intro to the basics of kayaking by former Kayak Champion, and founder of Kanu Kapers, Vivienne Golding.
This part we like to call ‘the relationship tester’. Why? Picture two people struggling to paddle in sync across a windy lake for an hour with not much else to keep them occupied. It’s a bit of a hard slog to be honest.
We made it across Lake Cootharaba (relationship intact)… just.
Once across the lake you can pick up the paddle pace through much calmer waters of the Noosa River. And with the added scenery of purple waterlilies, pelicans and blue dragonflies, it’s a stunning ecosystem that makes the lake slog worth the effort.
The crown jewel of the Noosa Everglades is this narrow stretch of water with overhanging trees and perfect reflections. It’s here you first appreciate why this place is called the “River of Mirrors”. You will want to slow the pace through here so you can take in the beauty before you.
Or it might have been had we had the sense to actually stop here. But, some lousy map-reading (yep, it was me) had us thinking Camp 2 was “just around the corner”. Unless you are much fitter than we are, Harry’s Hut is an excellent spot to give the arms a rest, stretch the legs and enjoy a much needed break.
After more than a few “it’s just around the corner” assurances from the navigator in the front (yes, it was me again), our battle against the wind was finally won after 4.5 hours and 16 km of non-stop paddling. To say we were exhausted is an understatement. But, in our defence, we had picked a hot and humid Summer day and the wind had done us no favours on what should be a pretty calm paddle.
STOP, PICNIC TIME!
Having arrived at camp by 2:30pm feeling pretty hangry (hungry-angry), and with the place completely to ourselves, we decided to set up our tent and our healthy homemade picnic with million dollar Noosa River views as our reward. We may or may not have done a little skinny-dipping - they did say to ‘pack lightly’! Camp 2 is pretty basic. But it does have a toilet and tank (non-drinking) water which will both come in handy. We skipped the hike to the Cooloola Sand Patch and spent the afternoon enjoying the serenity (i.e no internet or phone reception) and resting our biceps.
Perfect picnic spot in the Noosa Everglades
The golden morning light, a glassy river and having the place to ourselves was one of the main reasons we chose the overnight kayak option (lazy morning sleep-ins are also an option). And it didn’t disappoint. Having fought the choppy river the day before, it was amazing to see the Noosa Everglades completely still and perfect reflections as far as the eye could see.
Sunrise reflections on the Noosa Everglades
Starting on the water at dawn, we took our time taking photographs of rugged tree formations reflected near the river’s edge and the sunrise as it crept over the canopy of trees. This is exactly what we had hoped for. And yet somehow it exceeded even our very high expectations. In the 4 hours and 16 km it took us to reach the landing point, we didn’t see another soul. Just us and one of the most diverse ecosystems in the country. This is what bliss feels like.
Perfect Reflections: the River of Mirrors