Paddling the Upper Noosa River

One of the two vessels undertaking our tour of the ‘Noosa Everglades’
One of the two vessels undertaking our tour of the ‘Noosa Everglades’

My final day tour of this trip was a trip to the Upper Noosa River to kayak along what is sometimes referred to as the ‘Noosa Everglades’. Several times during the trip I read that the Noosa Everglades is one of only two Everglades in the world. Given my background in tourism and heritage management, the claim piqued my interest. But more on that later.

Lilies on the edge of the Upper Noosa River

The day began with a characteristically efficient courtesy pick up from my accommodation. Again, I was touring with The Discovery Group, which had taken me to Fraser Island the day before. Again, the tour began at their Habitat Noosa site, about a 25 minute drive from town, on the shores of Lake Cootharaba.

Lake Cootharaba on the Upper Noosa River

By the time we were embarked onto two vessels for the cruise across the Lake to the start of the Noosa River proper, there were about two busloads of us, including a number of families with very small children and a lot of international tourists. I found myself on the vessel without the small children, and our guide, while maintaining the height of professionalism, did suggest quietly that we might have the better deal.

A channel on the waterways of Lake Cootharaba
A jetty near Kinaba Island, the start of our kayaking route
Getting into the Canadian-style kayaks for the paddle upstream

The deal with the kayaking, our guide informed us, was that roughly half the total group would paddle upstream around 5km to the picnic ground at Harry’s Hut, where we would swap and those who rode up on the tour boats would paddle back down to Kinaba Island.

Happy kayakers setting off upstream
My view for our kayaking adventure up the Noosa River

I was allocated a three-seater with two young women, one from England and one from Germany.

Our guide asked me ‘you can steer a canoe, right?’.

‘Yes’, I said, possibly lying a bit.

Paddling up the Noosa River

My companion from England, seated in the middle of the canoe, was quite a good paddler. However she’d missed the bit about me being in charge of steering, and every so often she would decide she needed to steer, and energetically deploy her paddle accordingly. She clearly didn’t have much experience in watercraft and the result of her interventions was that we tended to veer alarmingly in the wrong direction, sometimes into the bank or into the path of other canoes.

Kayaking up the Noosa River

Our friend from Germany seemed to have decided that as she was sitting at the front, her main role was that of figurehead. She occasionally dipped her paddle gently into the water to stop it drying out, but contributed little in the way of forward momentum to our little craft.

At one point my English friend asked her pointedly ‘you do know how to hold that paddle, don’t you?” A sudden flurry of paddling got us to our destination.

Melaleuccas on the Upper Noosa River
A three seater kayak on the way to Harry’s Hut
Kayaking up the Noosa River
Melaleuccas on the Upper Noosa River
Kayaking up the Noosa River
Having a swim at Harry’s Hut on the Noosa River

On arriving at Harry’s Hut, a slightly chaotic scene awaited us, with other passengers and most of the families and small children in the river having a swim, which they seemed to be noisily enjoying. Whether this was a good mix with a bunch of kayaks operated by inexperienced paddlers was a great idea, I’ll leave to the reader’s imagination. However no one appeared to get hurt, and soon those who wished to were paddling back down the river.

Cruising down the Noosa River from Harry’s Hut

After a rest and a welcome cuppa, we piled back into our cruise vessel for the leisurely and very scenic trip back down the channel.

Upper Noosa River
Cruising the Noosa River above Lake Cootharaba
The Noosa River above Lake Cootharaba
The Noosa River above Lake Cootharaba
A paddle boarder fishing on the Upper Noosa River

Once back at Kinaba Island, the kayaks were stowed ashore and we headed back across the lake to Habitat Noosa, where lunch and the option of a brew from their onsite boutique brewery awaited.

Cruising the Noosa River above Lake Cootharaba

Back to the Everglades question

Searching for Noosa Everglades brings up a range of tourism booking sites, tour operators, accommodation options and a page on the website of Sunshine Coast Tourism, which states:

“The Noosa Everglades are one of only two Everglades in the world. For the ultimate in serene tranquility, the area is best explored on an eco-cruise or in a kayak. Marvel at the reflections of the flora on the banks of the water that appear like a mirage. There are banksias, tea trees, melaleucas, reeds and water lilies. Or spot some of the forty-four percent of Australian bird species that visit or live in the area from pelicans, ducks, cormorants, eagles or a rare jabiru.”

However I haven’t been able to find any reference to Everglades on the websites of Queensland National Parks or on the Noosa Shire Council, each of which publishes details of their management plans including the natural and heritage values of their wetlands and waterways. The website for the Noosa Biosphere also does not mention Everglades, while it does refer in detail to the significance of the area’s waterways and wetlands.

My research into what is an ‘Everglade’ suggests that it is a specific geographic area of wetland in Florida, although some dictionary definitions suggest the term may be used more generally for an area of marshland, which hardly limits the application to just two areas globally.

I did contact my tour operator and Sunshine Coast Tourism m with a polite request for what meaning and significance they attach to the term. I’ll update this page if they respond.


Upper Noosa River – or is it the Noosa Everglades?

There is no doubt that the waterways of the Noosa River and the wider Great Sandy National Park are significant for their natural, heritage and cultural values, which are detailed in the various sites and reports referenced here.

Whether such specific meaning and exclusivity can be attached to the term ‘Noosa Everglades’ is less clear, and it may be a short-hand way of expressing the significance of the area. However it seems to me that in adopting a term most closely associated with a geographically specific wetland in North America, the practice is selling the region short.

It is definitely worth visiting and appreciating on its own unique terms.


Management Plans and Statements of Significance



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