Onkaparinga River explorer South Australia

The Onkaparinga Paddle Trail offers an opportunity to explore a waterway most view from the bridges which criss-cross its length. A half day’s paddle can take you up the waterway from the sea to the town of Old Noarlunga, providing views of the abundant birdlife, with opportunities for photography, exploring backwaters, and even fishing. 

Alternatively this paddle can be done in the opposite direction, from Old Noarlunga travelling to the sea.

Paddle overview : Onkaparinga River explorer

Onkaparinga Paddle Trail

Region Adelaide Region
Nearest Town Port Noarlunga (31km from Adelaide) – View in google map
Distance Approx. 11 km (22km return)
Paddle Time Allow at least 2hrs – half day
Difficulty Easy – Moderate
Facilities Cafes and Restaurants
Parking and Toilets
Playgrounds and Parks
Conditions Visit BOM for weather conditions
Conditions Flatwater – see caution below
Parking Parking is available at all launch sites except River Road Park where parking is limited.
National and recreation park link Onkaparinga River Recreation Park


Note: at low tide numerous sandbars are exposed. Inexperienced paddlers should exercise care around bridge pontoons during periods of high water flow (in particular when the tide is receding) to avoid capsize.
Always check wind and tidal information prior to departure.

Trail Notes

Launch Sites:
Wearing Street (GPS: 35.1519 S; 138.4719 E )
From Saltfleet St turn into Clarke St and left into Wearing Street. Parking and access to the Onkaparinga River is from the car park at the end of Wearing street.

Jubilee Park (public) Boat Ramp (GPS: 35.1523 S; 138.4733 E)
This is on the opposite side of the river from the Wearing Street boat ramp but has more parking available

Market Square Reserve (if traveling from Old Noarlunga) (GPS: 35.1807 S; 138.5016 E)
This launch site can be muddy at low tide.
If traveling south on the M2 – South Road, enter the township by taking the Patapinda Road exit and follow the road around until you enter the township, Market Square Reserve is on the right with the Noarlunga Institute Hall on the corner.

River Road Park (GPS: 35.1530 S; 138.4892 E)
From Main South Rd take the turnoff Patapinda Road, turn left onto River Road, travel approx. 1.5kms turn left into Onkaparinga Recreation Park.
This launch point provides approx. 2kms paddle to the historic township of Old Noarlunga. The river becomes unnavigable approx. 1 km after passing under Main South Road bridge. Note: It is approx. 5km paddle to mouth (one-way) passing the Encounter Marine Park Sanctuary Zone (wetland) where paddlers can explore the backwaters at high tide.

Trail Points:
The Onkaparinga River is tidal so variations in flow are dependent on tides. This paddle trail can be tackled from either direction with the choice depending on the tidal flow and in this way tailored to suit the skill and fitness of participants.
Always check the wind and tidal information prior to departure.
For those wishing to learn moving water skills the river mouth with an outgoing tide is a good safe place to learn and practice.
The Onkaparinga River provides an access point to Onkaparinga River National and Recreation Parks which include a network of cycle paths and walking trails.

Travelling to the mouth from Old Noarlunga
Market Square Reserve is the community hub of Old Noarlunga. First settled in 1840 the area was a fruit and vegetable growing district for the early colony. From here at high tide the river is navigable upstream for approx 500m, downstream it is approx. 12kms to the mouth. Time your visit to take advantage of the movement of the tide.

Trail 17


picnicParkingCafeParkBBQToiletsWalking trails
Cafes and restaurants are a short drive to Port Noarlunga.
Toilet facilities can be found at the Wearing Street launch site, also at Old Noarlunga and Jubilee Park.
Market Square has limited parking and toilets, also shady trees, a grassed area with picnic tables and BBQ in a covered area.

Points of interest

  1. Access point to Onkaparinga River Recreation Park including walking trails and cycle paths.
  2. Encounter Marine Park
    A sanctuary zone, part of the Encounter Marine Park can be found around Port Noarlunga and the Onkaparinga River. At this location the Encounter Marine Park covers an area to the south of the Onkaparinga River, the Noarlunga Reef and a wetland section of the Onkaparinga River. Sanctuary zones protect all animals and plants from harm and are set aside for conservation and recreation.  No fishing or removal of plants or animals is allowed, however recreational activities such as boating, diving, surfing and swimming are welcome.
  3. The Onkaparinga Canoe Club clubrooms are adjacent to the Wearing St parking area.
  4. Port Noarlunga Aquatic Centre also has a shed that opens onto the carpark.


Read this safety information page
before your paddling trip.


How to use maps and contact
Paddling Trails South Australia.


View the Paddling trail regions
within South Australia


Trails Adelaide Onkaparinga River

Paddling Trail South Australia has range of Paddling Trails to suit different abilities. These are easy to access kayak and canoe trails through the Adelaide, Fleurieu Peninsula, Riverland, Murray River and the Coorong.