If like Brooke, you prefer to stand up paddle board (SUP) away from the waves of the ocean, these SUP spots around Sydney are for you. Lakes, creeks, and rivers make for calm and serene stand up paddle boarding spots, and these are some of the best close to the city.
We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the Country on which this adventure takes place who have occupied and cared for this land for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.
A Love Affair With SUPing
A few years ago I spotted a screwed up ALDI specials brochure on the train. Yelling at me from the front page was a $299 inflatable paddleboard. For the first time in my life, that weekend I got up at the crack of dawn – not for an adventure – but to join the throngs of an ALDI sale.
Somehow, after queuing for what felt like an eternity, having a staredown with a woman who clearly wasn’t going to walk away empty-handed, and questioning my own humanity in the process, I succeeded. I got my hands on the last stand up paddle board in the store.
Eagerly, I headed to Sydney’s Northern Beaches to catch up with my friend Corrine who’d also beaten the odds to get her hands on one. After spending what felt like 500 hours pumping up our new found best friends we set sail (rather wobbly I must admit) onto Narrabeen Lake.
My love of SUP was born. Well, kind of.
As much as I loved the somewhat sheltered shores of Narrabeen Lake, it turns out that I didn’t much love paddling on the open ocean. The waves, the wind, and the constant looming threat of being eaten by a shark (I’M SORRY. I’M BRITISH, I JUST CAN’T HELP IT) took away everything I loved about SUPing – the peace, the serenity, and the calm.
My irrational fear of the ocean saw me leave my hard-fought bargain at home far more than I hoped. Or, travelling miles up the coast to reach my favourite flatwater paddle spot, Myall Lakes.
But, enough was enough! I wanted to paddle. And I wanted to paddle without having to travel three hours for it. On a mission, I fell down a rabbit hole of SUP research and stumbled across Sydney-based female adventure community She SUPs.
Founded by kickass SUP-lover Vikki Weston, She SUPs opened my eyes to a whole host of places to paddle near Sydney if the ocean just ain’t your thang.
In 2019, Vikki stand-up paddle boarded 30 waterways in Sydney in 30 days to encourage more women to take up stand up paddle boarding and demonstrate the amazing paddle destinations we have right on our doorstep.
During her adventure, Vikki compiled a list of 50 waterways to paddle, but after a bit of mild coercion, I got her to narrow it down to her top five. So, whatcha waiting for? Grab your board and get paddling.
Read more: Remember to leave no trace!
Best SUP Spots Around Sydney
1. McCarrs Creek Reserve
Suburb: Church Point
McCarrs Creek Reserve is an easy (and safe) way to explore Pittwater in Sydney’s North, without all the crazy boat traffic.
It’s a beautiful paddle spot with Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park on your left-hand side as you paddle north towards Scotland Island. Plus, the reserve makes a great place for a post-paddle BBQ or picnic.
2. Middle Harbour Creek
Launching from Davidson Park and heading away from Roseville Bridge unlocks a hidden gem within Sydney’s Middle Harbour.
Within moments of paddling up Middle Harbour Creek, you’ll feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere with only hikers on the nearby footpaths alongside the creek, and the fish below you for company.
3. Narrabeen Lake
Narrabeen Lake is always a crowd favourite and it’s easy to see why.
With multiple corners to explore, islands to paddle around, stingrays below you, sea eagles above, this spot has a bit of everything. A secret gem at Narrabeen Lakes is Deep Creek. Only accessible at high tide, this hidden creek is well worth checking out.
4. Swallow Rock on Hacking River
Suburb: Grays Point
Heading further south, you can launch your SUP from Swallow Rock to go exploring along the Hacking River.
There are two options here, either turn right and paddle deeper into the stunning Royal National Park, or cross the waterway and head up Muddy Creek to find a small waterfall.
5. Cabbage Tree Basin
While many people might have been to Bundeena for a picnic or a spot of kayaking, few know about the secret creek at the back of Cabbage Tree Basin. Paddling amongst the mangroves, you’ll find yourself in one of the most protected paddle spots in the whole of Sydney.
Disclaimer from Vikki herself: she guarantees you’ll fall in love with it!
Whether you have an ALDI special like me or the best board in the whole of the land, stand up paddle boarding is one helluva way to discover the city surrounds. If you’re gonna hit the water though make sure you stay safe by following a few golden rules.
– Always check the weather – you want calm waters and minimal wind. If it’s looking rough, rearrange for another day (remember, a sunny day doesn’t necessarily mean a SUP day)
– Always pump your board up to the recommended paddle PSI and give it a check before you hit the water to make sure it’s all in working order
– Check the tides – even lakes and rivers can be tidal, so do your research
– Wear a personal flotation device
– Paddle with a mate if you can and make sure you leave your plans, route, and expected return time with someone on dry land
– Wear an ankle leash to make sure your board stays with you
– At some point, you’re going to fall – practice makes perfect. Get yourself used to it by throwing yourself off the board a few times in safe water and getting back on. That way, when it happens for real, you’ll be cool as a cucumber as you clamber back on board and paddle off like the pro you are
– If in doubt, go for a lesson at your local SUP school. A lesson will give you the skills and knowledge to understand your paddling environment, perfect your paddle stroke to avoid injury and ultimately empower you to set out on some awesome stand up paddle boarding adventures
Photos thanks to She SUPs