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Kayaking in Byron Bay

Woman kayak with dolphins


Paddling out into the serenity of the big blue as the stunning coastline unfolds before your eyes, kayaking in Byron Bay is one of those rare experiences that will fill you with wonder and many stories to tell.

Rich in marine life, these shimmering waters teem with life and are framed by landmarks rich in history that stretches back long before Byron Bay got its name.

To offer some insight, we asked Kurt from GoSea Kayaks, a Byron local born-and-bred in these waters, to tell us what makes kayaking and this coastal landscape so special.

Discover why kayaking is a must-do Byron Bay adventure.

Cape Byron – A Marine Amphitheatre

Enclosed by the Cape Byron headland, on top of which Cape Byron Lighthouse continues to offer its warning of the boundary of land and sea, the Cape Byron Marine Park is a protected area of ocean. It incorporates Julian Rocks—an important site for the local Arakwal people—a number of reefs and the stretch of coastline that lines the eastern side of Byron Bay.

It’s a stunning section of Australia’s East Coast, as Kurt remarks:

“When Mother Nature created Byron she was having a good day.”

Beyond the beaches, the marine park is best explored by kayak. Paddling out allows you to see the whole of this coastline from the water, as well as visiting significant landmarks out there, such as Julian Rocks and the various reefs.

Part of the vibrancy of the marine life here is down to its geographic location. Cape Byron is a meeting point, where warm waters from the north meet cooler southern waters as part of the East Australian Current (EAC).

Made famous by the film Finding Nemo, one role of the EAC is to transport tropical flora and fauna south into southern temperate zones during the summer, leading to temporary influxes of marine life (see below).

Dolphins in Byron Bay and Julian Rocks

The Marine Life of Byron Bay

Arguably the best known marine life in Byron Bay is the resident pod of dolphins, often sighted surfing the waves of Cape Byron.

The team at GoSea Kayak are so confident that you’ll get to see these dolphins when you’re out kayaking in Byron Bay that they offer a ‘dolphin guarantee’. So, if your group doesn’t see a dolphin, all of you get to go on another kayaking tour for free.

Eagle-eyed visitors can also spot turtles and manta rays, the latter best seen snorkelling or diving near Julian Rocks. Here, as found across the numerous reefs that line this coast, brightly-coloured tropical and sub-tropical fish skitter through the blue waters in these areas protected from the ferocity of the open ocean.

Of the temporary visitors, the most famous are the Humpback whales who pass north in May and June and return south during August and September. They are migrating north to give birth in the waters around The Whitsundays and, as they return to the cooler waters to hunt, they are accompanied by their young.

This slower swim south leads to whales being more playful – a beautiful spectacle to witness unclose in a kayak!

Yet there are other migrations of note. Grey Nurse Sharks are most populous here in winter, though their numbers have dwindled in recent years, now listed critically endangered. Leopard Sharks can also be spotted around Julian Rocks at certain times of year.

Kayaking in Byron Bay with dolphins and Cape Byron Lighthouse

Kayaking in Byron Bay

Getting out into the bay on a kayak is not just a fast way to reach Julian Rocks or a good workout, as Kurt tells us:

“It can be a really deep experience for customers.”

Paddling away from the coast with the experienced and knowledgeable guides from GoSea Kayaks, all of whom are qualified coastal guides, offers unique insights into Australia’s most easterly point. As they regale you with stories of this place, they’ll keep an expert eye out for the marine life that will make up many of the stories you’ll recount later over dinner.

GoSea Kayak offer a range of tours, both in the bay and inland through the stunning river systems.

To discover the waters between Byron Bay and Julian Rocks, join a Dolphin Kayak Tour.

But if you’d rather explore the tidal Brunswick River, coasting along the gently flowing waters overlooked by Mount Chincogan, join their local Indigenous Guides for a River Kayak Tour

Having local Arakwal guides offers something special for both guide and visitor, as Kurt explains:

“The beautiful thing about that is they get to basically live their culture.”

Whichever tour you choose, kayaking in Byron Bay really is a must-do experience and an accessible adventure that will fill you with wonder for nature and stories for the evening.

Check out our in-depth guides for more inspiration on what to see in Byron Bay or adventures to choose from.

With thanks to GoSea Kayak for supplying the video and offering insight into kayaking in Byron Bay.

Want more inspiration for things to do in Byron Bay? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Byron Bay.

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