Complete Guide to Kayaking with Dogs in Australia

Last updated on 10 June, 2023

One of the best things we did was buy a kayak on our travels around Australia with our dog, Chika. Kayaking with dogs is not only possible – it is fun and allows you access to places you would otherwise not see.

By paddling along rivers and creeks, out on the ocean and lakes, there are spectacular landscapes, sealife (turtles, dolphins and seals) and birdlife to see and adventures to have. To do it with your dog is a bonus and lets you see so much more in different places around Australia.

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A Complete Guide to Kayaking with Dogs in Australia

What Dog Kayak Accessories or Safety Gear Should I Have for My Dog?

The must have kayak accessory for your dog is a dog PFD. A dog life jacket will help your dog to stay afloat and swim. In addition, many come with a handle on the top of the life jacket that is useful if you need to pull your dog back onto your kayak.

Dog life jackets can be purchased from any well known outdoor or fishing store.

Additionally, for you, we recommend:

  • a small dry bag for your car keys and phone,
  • a large dry bag for items such as towels and swimmers,
  • snorkel gear,
  • water bottle,
  • waterproof camera with an adjustable wristband, and
  • D clips to attach everything to anchor points on your kayak so they cannot fall overboard. 
kayaking with dogs

How Do I Secure My Dog in a Kayak?

Securing your dog in your kayak or canoe is sometimes necessary. Dogs are known to fall or jump overboard. Having your dog tethered will mean you can pull your dog to the side of your kayak and lift them back onto the kayak.

The first time we took Chika in our kayak after she fell in, she swam back to shore where it was shrubby and nearly impossible to land our kayak to get to her. After that, until she got comfortable in the kayak and understood to swim back to the kayak, we tethered her with a length of rope.

We recommend tethering your dog to you rather than to your canoe if there is any risk it may sink if capsized.

How to Train Your Dog to Kayak?

Many dogs take to kayaking effortlessly. For those dogs that need some initial training try these steps:  

  • Step 1: Introduce your dog to the kayak on the ground. Let your dog sniff the kayak, get on it and reward any interest to build a positive association.
  • Step 2: With the kayak on the ground or in shallow water close to shore, encourage your dog to get onto the kayak on command. If you have a small dog, you may lift them onto the kayak. Be patient and use whatever treat your dog highly values if necessary. 
  • Step 3: Next is for your dog to learn their spot in your canoe. We found up the front is best where you can keep an eye on them. 
  • Step 4: Start with a few short paddles in calm waters and concentrate on getting your dog to stay in its designated spot. A dog that moves around while you are trying to paddle is annoying and can be unsafe. 
  • Step 5: Teach your dog to swim back to the side of your kayak and not to shore. We tied a rope to Chika’s dog life jacket and gently pulled her towards our kayak each time she fell in. Soon she got the idea what to do. 

Your dog does not have to like the water to learn to kayak and enjoy it. Our dog is no fan of water deep enough to swim, but she loves being on the kayak. 

Will a Dog Jump Out of a Kayak?

Odds are your dog will jump out of your kayak. Some will do it because they love the water and want to swim. Others may be unsure of the kayak and want to swim back to shore.

The best action is to start with short paddles. Your dog can learn to become confident in the kayak with time.

How Do I Get My Dog to Stay in a Kayak?

The best way to get your dog to stay in a kayak is to build your dog’s confidence:

  • Give direct and clear commands for your dog to sit in their designated spot. 
  • Let your dog sit close to you or on your lap for a sense of security. 
  • Reward the behaviour you want from your dog.
  • Start with short, fun paddles. 

How Do I Make My Kayak Dog Friendly?

The best way to make your kayak dog friendly is at the point of purchase. Buying a kayak that is big enough for you and your dog and is stable will help immensely.

It is not always necessary to do anything more to make your kayak or canoe dog friendly. Putting a blanket or padding in the bottom of a sit-in kayak or canoe with an uneven bottom will make your dog more comfortable.

Where Can You Kayak with Your Dog?

Dog Friendly Places to Kayak in Australia with Your Own Kayak

Below are our favourite dog-friendly kayaking spots we have done around Australia. Please note the list requires your own kayak and is not an exhaustive list of everywhere you can kayak with a dog in Australia.

Dog Friendly Kayaking Queensland

Kayak out to and around the dog friendly Double Island (Palm Cove) with our self guided paddle guide to explore a sea cave and isolated beaches, see sea turtles and snorkel a small reef.

In the far northwest of Queensland, at the dog friendly Adels Grove (Lawn Hill) campground, paddle up the creek with your dog. If you are fortunate, you could come across a freshwater crocodile and see lots of bird life.

Corella Dam is one of our favourite places we kayaked with Chika and a brilliant dog friendly free campground midway between Mount Isa and Cloncurry. Kayaking out on the dam at sunset is breathtaking. There are also freshwater crocodiles.

canoe with dogs

Dog friendly Horseshoe Bay on Magnetic Island is an incredibly picturesque place to go kayaking. If you are lucky, there is a chance you could see dolphins and sea turtles.

Kayaking with Dogs in New South Wales

Nepean Gorge is stunning with its towering tree covered cliffs. One of Penrith’s hidden gems, launch at River Park Boat Ramp, Trench Reserve and kayak upstream with your dog into the gorge. It is a two hour paddle each way or more, depending on how far you wish to go.

Belongi Creek at Byron Bay is a quiet, beautiful creek with exceptionally high numbers of water birds. Kayaking with your dog here is incredibly peaceful and easy.

Wonboyn Lake on the NSW coast, just over the border from Victoria, is surrounded by a (mostly) untouched landscape. Enjoy a paddle across the lake with your dog passing oyster racks and enjoying the peacefulness.

At Nambucca Heads, with a kayak suitable for dogs, you can take your dog on to the alluring waters of the estuary or the Nambucca River. We paddled here a few times, each time in a different direction. 

Kayaking with Dogs in Victoria

A dog kayaking out on Lake Wellington may not be that unusual, but when we found ourselves surrounded by a pod of dolphins, that was most unexpected. According to locals, the pod visits regularly and are much loved.

dog friendly kayaking

Kayaking with Dogs in Tasmania

As we have travelled around Australia, many places have had the wow factor. Boat Harbour was where we kayaked using another couple’s kayak and became convinced we needed our own. We loved being out on the calm, tranquil aqua sea.

Sea kayaking with our dog at Musselroe Bay in Tasmania on a calm afternoon as the sunset is one of the best paddles we have ever done. Sometimes it is about the timing as much as it is the location.

Little Swanport Conversation Area is full of history. The waterway here is a lovely place to paddle. Go out among the oyster farms and enjoy time on the water with your dog.

Kayaking with Dogs in South Australia

Kayaking with your dog at Rapid Bay will have you seeing fur seals! Launch near the old jetty and head out around the headland. Before you know it, you will have fur seals swimming around your kayak. Please only take your dog if they will not bark at the seals.

Kayaking with Dogs in Western Australia

Lake Argyle is impressive. Kayaking on the massive lake system with your dog is allowed. We preferred the paddle up the Ord River, which took us through stunning gorges and we saw freshwater crocodiles. Set off from the small boat launch next to the Ord River Hydro Power Station. How far you go is up to you, the river goes to Kununurra.

dogs on kayak

There are a plethora of places to go kayaking with dogs around Australia. We have paddled in countless rivers and creeks, offshore from many beaches and across numerous lakes. Generally, outside of national parks and marine parks, most waterways are dog friendly. There are exceptions, so always be on the lookout for signage and abide by any restrictions.

We have thoroughly enjoyed our kayaking adventures with Chika as we have travelled around Australia with her. We hope you are encouraged to do the same with your dog.


dog friendly kayaking

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