While Melbourne is perhaps better known for its coffee culture, the variety of waterways in and around the city provide an unusual way to experience beautiful Victoria by kayak. From the sea to rivers and lakes and along the Great Ocean Road, let us take you through the best places to kayak in Victoria, either independently or joining one of the many tours.
Lower Yarra River
You don't need to travel far for the best experience in your kayak. The Yarra River is the icon of Melbourne's city centre, hosting a wide variety of water sports. The flat water in the CBD makes the Lower Yarra suitable for all paddling levels as it winds its way through the heart of Melbourne.
Launch your kayak from the Botanic Gardens near Morrell's Bridge, then paddle up the river towards Herron Island or down to the Docklands. If you end your tour at the Rowing Sheds, you will finish directly across the river from Federation Square.
You needn't restrict yourself to a daytime paddle on the Lower Yarra with night time tours available. There is a famous moonlight tour, which not only includes the paddling gear and guide, but also a fish and chips dinner.
Upper Yarra River
You'll need to be a more experienced paddler for the upper part of the Yarra River, as it features grade I to III rapids. Warrandyte is only 25 minutes from Melbourne, but still feels remote as you paddle your way through the bushland.
The most popular stretch of the river is from Homestead Road to Wittons Reserve. Beginner kayakers can join a guided river tour to experience this stretch of river safely.
This recommendation is one more for Victoria rather than Melbourne - you are looking at a 3.5-hour drive from the city to Gippsland. However, we make no apologies, as the Gippsland Lakes offer the best kayaking Victoria has to offer.
If you make it a weekend experience, you will have hundreds of spots to launch your kayak tour. We suggest joining a guided tour to enjoy the waters off Ninety Mile Beach - this spot is one of the most unspoilt stretches in the world. Look out for local sealife such as seals and dolphins.
If you prefer a lazy day on a lake, launch your kayak at the Lakes Entrance instead for the flatter water.
The Glenelg River Canoe Trail might be over 4 hours from Melbourne, but it's worth the journey for a long weekend paddle.
The full trail takes 4 days with overnight camping, but there are 3-day and day trip options as well for those with limited time.
The beautiful journey takes you through the Lower Glenelg National Park and you'll be able to see the abundant wildlife that calls the park home.
Moving from rivers to the sea, a 25-minute drive from Melbourne will find you in Williamstown, in a perfect spot for laidback sea kayaking. The calm water of Port Phillip Bay is where Melbourne's first port was established in 1837.
Suitable for all levels, the calm and sheltered waters offer a gentle ride as you keep your eyes peeled for dolphins. You can also launch from the ramp at Williamstown and Newport Anglers' Club.
St Kilda Beach
Another spot to tour with your sea kayak is from St Kilda Beach, only a short 30-minute journey from Melbourne. Join one of the guided tours to paddle around the pier and towards the breakwater - here you will see the little penguins who have made the area their home.
This journey will also give you a view of Hobson's Bay and Williamstown across the water. It makes for a beautiful day trip.
The Mornington Peninsula is just over an hour South of Melbourne.
For less experienced paddlers or families, we recommend you head to the beaches on the bay side, as the gentler waves offer a more relaxed paddle than the surf on the front beaches.
If you begin at the clear water of Sorrento and paddle up past Portsea towards Point Nepean for your tour, you will come across the dolphin sanctuary. Dolphins might even swim alongside your kayaks. Other wildlife includes seals and penguins.
Safety first: if you paddle out yourself, don't kayak across The Rip, or consider joining one of the guided tours so you can focus on looking at the wildlife.
Apollo Bay, Great Ocean Road
The 2.5-hour drive to Apollo Bay is worth it to reach this kayaking hotspot on the Great Ocean Road. Take your sea kayak into the Marengo Reefs Marine Sanctuary and head out to Little Henty Reef - a protected reef system around 150m offshore.
Out there, you will find spots to see beautiful sealife including seaweed gardens, colourful corals and sea urchins. If you're really lucky, the local fur seal colony might come and say hello.
If you're looking for more places to take your kayak on the Great Ocean Road, consider Anglesea and Lorne as launching spots. These are both closer to Melbourne than Apollo Bay.
Bonus: safely kayaking at night
If you're looking to use your kayak or sea kayak for a night time adventure, consider our top safety tips before taking to the water:
- Tours: For less experienced paddlers, we would recommend joining one of the many night time tours, to ensure you have expertise paddling with you.
- Buoyancy aids or lifejackets: these are essential paddling equipment, but particularly important at night. In the dark, it is easier to get separated from your kayak, and a night rescue will likely take longer.
- Remain vigilant at all times for other water craft, remembering that their wakes can be delayed in hitting you as they pass.
- Dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature. Read our guide to dressing for kayaking.
- Light it up: you need to be able to see your way as you kayak, but also be visible to other craft. Kayaks at night should have a white light on the rear. Also attach lights to your person, whether they're a strobe, torch or light stick.
- Plan: make sure you tour locations you know, and leave a plan with family and friends in case of emergencies. If you're not confident, then join one of the many tours instead.
Looking to experience other kayak destinations in Australia?
Victoria isn't the only place to explore in Australia with your kayak. See our other Australia paddle guides, below:
- Looking for another night time paddle? Read our guide to kayaking Brisbane
- Want more adventures in your sea kayak? Learn more about kayaking the Gold Coast
- Join one of the famous kayak tours in Sydney. Consider our top tips for kayaking Sydney
- If you want to kayak through another Australia city, read about kayaking Perth
- Wanting to experience another famous kayaking lake? Consider the capital, Canberra