New South Wales is absolutely teeming with rivers (439 to be precise!) each opening up an enticing world of adventures to those ambitious enough to pack some basic essentials and go exploring. Here is everything you need to know for you next river adventures…

Afraid that you have no idea how to paddle?

Fear not my friend, fear not – whether you’re someone so experienced you were paddling before you could crawl, or instead someone with major problems getting into a canoe without going arse over tit, there is something for everyone out there!

Our favourite way to explore these rivers is in low-cost inflatable dingy’s with enough supplies to, well, sink a small vessel. Yes, those ones you pinged around the swimming pool in when you were a kid. It might sound a little crazy but seriously, it’s more fun than a midnight skinny dip.

Doing these trips self-guided is by and large more adventurous, however for some of the journey’s listed below you should be prepared in terms of fitness, water, food and the daily distances you’re covering.

If you’re quivering at the thought of flying solo, you can always choose to go with a local tour company whose experts can ensure your trip is safe, fun and as dry as possible!

We Are Explorers Group Shot on the Kangaroo Valley Weekend

We’ve picked out the best 6 rivers to escape to for the weekend and experience with you and your mates, most within only a couple of hours from Sydney.

Each weave their way through the incredible maze of pristine national parks, presenting entirely different but mouth-watering landscapes; from steep pre-historic gorges and rainforests to tranquil backwaters amongst world heritage listed wilderness. Happy Exploring!

# 1 Kangaroo Valley

2 hours South of Sydney | suitable for beginners

One of our favourite spots to explore in NSW, it’s an unspoilt paradise barely 2 hours south of Sydney. It’s beauty really has to be seen to be believed. The best way we can recommend experiencing this is through Kangaroo Valley Safari’s, a tour company who’ll pack you up with trusty canoes and all the essentials needed to see it all self-guided (and pick you up at the end!). With peaceful camp-spots and caves you can call home for the night, this is hands down one of the best weekend river trips in NSW.

# 2 Barrington River

2 hours North of Sydney | suitable for intermediate and experienced

If you’ve got a hankering for some rapids, then this one’s got your name on it. Start the 30km trip from the Upper Barrington section (launch from Scone Road where you can access Barrington River and Kerripit). There are lots of private properties that block access from the road so don’t trespass and have the decency to ask when you launch – there’s nothing worse than an angry shotgun wielding farmer.

Colo River Trip-14

# 3 Ku-Ring-Gai National Park

Less than 1 hour North of Sydney | suitable for beginners

On the fringe of North Sydney suburbia lies a playground that provides the perfect vagabonding fix for the Sydney sider. We did it recently and had an insanely fun time. The Hawkesbury River widens quickly as you approach the sea, but the tributaries that feed into it are superb. Twilight cruising through over overhanging gum forests knowing the city lights of Sydney are only minutes away is pretty darn cool.

# 4 Nymbodia River

6 hours North of Sydney | suitable for experienced paddlers

This is a world-class rated rafting river. Best explored between December and May when the water levels are at their punchiest, this one’s not for the faint hearted. That said, if you’re reluctant to go at it alone there are plenty of tour companies there who offer multi-day white water rafting trips through the furious grade 4 and 5 rapids. It’s stunningly beautiful, so a weekend spent travelling through the dramatic granite gorges and rainforest lined river banks is an unforgettable experience.

Colo River Trip-32

# 5 Kosciusko National Park

5 hours South of Sydney | suitable for beginners to experienced

Now this is dramatic high country. With soaring mountain peaks and alpine herbfields, this wilderness is a breeding ground for adventurous opportunities. The Australian Alps allow for many forms of self-reliant recreation, kayaking being one of our absolute favourites. The Snowy River is where the fun’s at, so all you need to do is decide on what sort of adventure you feel like, because this awe-inspiring place has the lot.

colo river adventure, gorge, kayak, raft

# 6 Colo River

2 hours West of Sydney | suitable for beginners to experienced

65km from Sydney, this one is the perfect combination of short-lived grade 1-3 rapid sections and gentle meandering through the Blue Mountains wilderness area. It’s desolate, gob-smackingly impressive and one heck of a weekend adventure. The dense foliage plays host to a showcase of Australia’s animal kingdom which if you’re lucky you’ll see, if you’re unlucky you’ll feel! We ventured there recently and completed an epic 2 day adventure.

myall lakes kayaking

Other resources for planning your own trip:

  • Safety Resources – It’s absolutely essential that you are well prepared and mitigate the numerous risks when heading on these weekend river escapes. Please read these prior to embarking on your own adventure.
  • Waterways Guide – incredible resource for exploring and paddling NSW’s waterways
  • Canoe and Kayak Trails – NSW Government have produced some really thorough downloadable pdf guides for exploring some of NSW’s inland rivers

It’s always tough narrowing it down to a measly six. Have I missed anything?