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.

One Inflatable Board Later

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 an inflatable board of her own. 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. 

 

5 Best Places to Stand Up Paddle Board Around Sydney (Out of The Ocean), photo by She SUPs, Cabbage Tree Basin

 

For the Love of Paddle Boarding

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 water.

Maybe this is common with beginner paddlers? Maybe I’m just fussy and need the entire package – flat water, all the gear, and the perfect board – in order to enjoy it? Am I a paddle boarding elitist? What am I going to be like when I join the ranks of advanced paddlers if I’m already starting to talk about premium boards and the perfect conditions?

My irrational fear of the ocean saw me leave my hard-fought bargain paddle board at home far more than I hoped. I was worried about rough surf waves and missing out on the peace and serenity of a calm paddle. Falling off repeatedly in front of other beach goers was also a pretty big deterrent! I ended up travelling miles up the coast to reach my favourite flat water paddling spot – perfect for beginner paddlers by the way! – Myall Lakes.

 

 

Paddle Board In Sydney

But, enough was enough! I wanted to paddle. And I wanted to paddle without having to travel three hours for it. I wanted to paddle board in Sydney, dammit! 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 solid boards, inflatable boards, rigid boards, narrow boards, lighter boards, premium boards, carbon fiber boards, solid boards…(there are a LOT of different types of SUP boards!) and get paddling!

Read more: Remember to leave no trace!

 

5 Best Places to Stand Up Paddle Board Around Sydney (Out of The Ocean), photo by She SUPs, Middle Harbour

Best Places to SUP 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 boarding spot with Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park on your left-hand side as you paddle north towards Scotland Island. Paddling towards Church Bay makes for a great day on the water. If you like waterfalls, you might want to make it a day trip and plan a paddle to Lovett Bay. There’s a beach area where you and your mates can leave your stand up paddleboards while and you go on a short walk to see the waterfall up close.

Plus, the reserve makes a great place for a post-paddle BBQ or picnic. If you’ve got a four-legged pal who likes to join you on the board (advanced paddler alert!), there’s an off-leash dog area at the reserve too.

2. Middle Harbour Creek

Suburb: Forestville

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.

As you paddle on the smooth calm water, you’ll observe mangroves and wide variety of birdlife. Listen for herons, sea eagles, and even cormorants. Your paddling performance doesn’t matter out here – there’s no one watching. It’s just you and the wildlife.

 

3. Narrabeen Lake

Suburb: Narrabeen

Narrabeen Lake (also called Narrabeen Lagoon) 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. Beginner paddlers right through to advanced paddlers will love it here.

You’ll see all manner of paddle boards out on the water and it’s a great opportunity for beginners to learn from experienced paddlers, observe different inflatable SUP set ups, and see other boards in action.

A secret gem at Narrabeen Lakes is Deep Creek. Only accessible at high tide, this hidden creek is well worth checking out. You don’t need to plan a route to enjoy your visit at Narrabeen Lagoon though – it is a gorgeous spot to paddle board.

Don’t have a paddle board of your own yet? This spot is perfect for you as you can hire an inflatable SUP from ProKayaks at Narrabeen Lagoon. This is even useful if you have a SUP but don’t yet have a roof rack or a means of transporting it.

 

4. Swallow Rock on Hacking River

Suburb: Grays Point

Heading further south, you can launch your inflatable 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.

A great perk of Swallows Rock Reserve are the provided fresh water taps so that you can rinse your board. Many people recommend bringing a hose to make the process less awkward. The reserve also has free BBQs, toilets, and a boat ramp.

5. Cabbage Tree Basin

Suburb: Bundeena

Cabbage Tree Basin is located between the coastal towns of Bundeena and Maianbar and is surrounded by Royal National Park.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 on your inflatable SUP amongst the mangroves, you’ll find yourself in one of the most protected paddle spots in the whole of Sydney – hello flat water! Get ready to glide!

This is another location where inflatable models of SUP are available for hire. Look up Bundeena Kayaks to organise a paddle board for your day out on the water. They’re located at Bonnie Vale Picnic Grounds – which is the ideal place to set off from anyway.

The inlet at Bonnie Vale has quite shallow water so you’ll want to time your paddle for high tide, or within a few hours of it, to avoid getting stuck on the bottom! If you’ve got a board with a removable center fin – this is one place that feature will really shine.

Disclaimer from Vikki of She SUPs herself: she guarantees you’ll fall in love with it!

 

SUP Safety Tips

Whether you have an ALDI special like me or the best stand up paddle 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 – flat water or ocean surf – make sure you stay safe by following a few golden rules.

  • Always check the weather before you go SUPing – you want calm, flat water and minimal wind. If it’s looking rough out there (particularly in the ocean) rearrange for another day (remember, a sunny day doesn’t necessarily mean an ideal SUP day)
  • Always pump your inflatable SUP to the recommended paddle PSI – I know the manual pump can be a drainer sometimes but your board will perform best at optimum inflation. You should also give your paddle board an overall check before you hit the water to make sure it’s in good working order. This means looking at the hull shape to make sure there’s no wear, making sure you have your repair kit handy, and checking fins.
  • Check the tides – even lakes and rivers can be tidal, so do your research
  • Wear a personal flotation device – it doesn’t matter if you’re on a tight budget, you can’t bargain with safety. This is a non-negotiable for every person on an inflatable SUP and rigid board
  • Paddle with a mate – Aside from being much more fun to explore in a group, paddle boarding with friends is much better from a safety perspective. Make sure you leave your plans, route, and expected return time with someone on dry land. Checking each others paddle boards before you set off can be a good way of making sure your safety checks are thorough, somehow it makes you pay more attention when it’s not your own
  • Wear an ankle leash when you’re on your SUP – This is to make sure that your paddle boards don’t drift off when you fall off (let’s face it, we all fall off at some point!)
  • At some point, you’re going to fall off your paddle board – practice makes perfect. Get yourself used to falling 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 in paddle boarding 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

FAQs Paddle Boards

Should I buy or hire a paddle board?

The best approach to paddle boards is to try before you buy! Nothing beats hands on testing. They’re readily available to hire, most commonly from Kayak Hire places. Paddle boards are widely available for purchase at all major outdoor adventure stores. You’ll want to try out a rigid board (solid boards) as well as inflatable boards to see if you have a preference.

What’s the difference between solid boards and inflatable SUP boards?

Solid boards are more rigid paddle boards than inflatable boards. Solid boards ride a bit lower in the water too and feel like a more stable board. When it comes to SUP boards, everyone has different preferences. Some may feel safer on a solid board, while others prefer most inflatable models instead because they’re a bit lighter, easier to balance on, and take up less space when deflated.

Is there a benefit to wider boards over narrower boards?

Wider boards can be easier to balance on, but you need to balance this with the boards glide performance. The wider the board, the more sluggishly it will move through the water. Wide boards also tend to be more stable. This is why inflatable SUPs are typically used in beginner SUP classes – inflatable SUPs are wider boards with excellent stability. If you’re looking for the fastest board out there, it’ll be one of the narrower boards.

What’s the best place to go stand up paddle boarding in Sydney?

There are so many great places to go stand up paddling in Sydney! This list above of five great places to paddle are all great places that you and your mates can take your paddle boards. It’s come from a person who has paddled in over 50 waterways in Sydney so you can rely on it.

What accessories do I need for my stand up paddle board?

There are a few basic accessories that will make your SUP experience a bit smoother. A carry bag and a roof rack will help with transporting your board and keeping it protected. An electric pump will make it easier to inflate your board. You might like to get a deck pad for added stability and grip on the board. Do your research, ask around, and you’ll soon find the accessories that suit you.

Photos thanks to She SUPs

We’ve shared these recommendations because we genuinely rate them and want you to enjoy them too. Our writers use a mix of personal experience and research to compile these lists, and they’re also encouraged to be honest when things aren’t up to scratch. For more information on our approach, check out our Editorial Standards.