Kayak camping, Wooli, NSW

Since buying my first kayak a couple of years ago, I’ve always wanted to go kayak camping. During the Australia Day long weekend of 2015 I made my way to Wooli NSW.

Kayak fully packed for an overnight camp, on the banks of the Wooli Wooli River (near the south boat ramp)
Setting off from Wooli Wooli River’s south boat ramp

My current kayak is a Barracuda Beachcomber Ultralight. It’s a great kayak for both ocean and rivers. Compared to my old Mantra Palani kayak, the Beachcomber is: 86cm longer; 17cm thinner; 15kg lighter!

Wooli Wooli River
Looking across to the camp area from the mainland

Arriving at the south-most end of Wooli Rd, I parked the car and scoped out the scene. My camp spot can easily be seen from the mainland. In the photo above the camp spot is on the grass above the sandy river side area.

Outgoing tide, mouth of the Wooli Wooli River
Outgoing tide, mouth of the Wooli Wooli River

The photo above is taken from the breakwall near Wooli Beach. Over the other side is Jones Beach.

When kayaking anywhere near a point where a river meets the ocean, I always check out the tide and how the water is flowing. Arriving here late in the afternoon, there was a strong outgoing tide. This kind of tide could take a kayak out to sea very easily, as it’d be almost impossible to paddle against the tide.

When the tide is calmer, or if you have a boat, you can land at Jones Beach, which is very secluded as is only accessible by water.

Wooli Beach
Wooli Beach

After checking out the conditions I parked my car at the south boat ramp along Wooli Rd and pushed off into the Wooli Wooli River. From the boat ramp to the camp spot is only a few hundred metres – but the point of today’s trip wasn’t a long kayaking session, it was to test out my kayak camping setup.

Destination: camping on the Wooli Wooli River
Destination: camping on the Wooli Wooli River

At around 5PM I landed at the camp spot. It was low tide and the tide was still going out.

I sat for a few minutes and enjoyed a beer while looking out across the river. A few guys were playing drunken river football force-em-backs, and one nearly got swept out with the tide (he had a beer in one hand).

My gear for kayak camping
All the gear for one night of camping Click to view full size photo

Full list of gear for an overnight kayak camp

Then I laid out absolutely everything (minus the stubbie I drank earlier) that I packed in the kayak. You can click the photo above to view the full size image. Here’s a full list of the gear:

  • Crazy Creek Hex 2.0 Powerlounger
  • BlackWolf Standard Full self-inflating sleeping mat
  • BlackWolf Deluxe self-inflating pillow
  • Compact 5°C sleeping bag
  • Single swag/tent
  • 3x3m hiking refuge shelter
  • Hiking stove
  • Companion propane cartridge
  • Companion Pro Nano Duo Hiking Cookset
  • Cutlery and utensils
  • Hiking fold-able bucket
  • Detergent, scourer, tea towel
  • Food and drink:
    • 1 x can of soup, 1 x can of spaghetti
    • 2 bread rolls
    • Banana and apple
    • Chocolate and snacks
    • Greek salad
    • Back Country Cuisine instant Spaghetti Bolognaise
    • 1 hip flask (with VSOP Cognac)
    • 2 small bottles of soda water
    • 1 lime
    • 4 x 1l bottles of water
    • Coffee sachets and sugar
  • Rope
  • Emergency rain jacket
  • Head torch and two other torches
  • Gerber machete
  • Titanium diving knife
  • Trowel
  • First aid kit
  • Citronella candles, 2 packets of matches, emergency flint
  • Bushmans insect repellent spray, insect repellent roll on
  • CB radio: waterproof and float-able
  • Toilet paper, paper towels
  • DSLR camera, waterproof camera bag (plus spare batteries and SD card)
  • Magazine and a book
  • 6 x sand tent pegs
  • Towel
  • 1 change of clothes
  • Kayak hand water pump
  • Kayak paddle float
  • Life vest

Some great gear

I recently got some of this gear new, so here are some quick thoughts:

Crazy Creek Hex 2.0 Powerlounger: This is the blue chair in the photo above, it is very compact and rolls up to about the same size as the hiking shelter. It’s quite comfortable, and can be laid fully flat and placed under the mattress at night for added comfort.

BlackWolf Standard Full self-inflating sleeping mat: The best self-inflating mat I’ve had. I paid $150 for it at Coffs Outdoor World. It passed the “I can’t feel the ground when laying down” test.

Companion Pro Nano Duo Hiking Cookset: this set (also pictured below, grey with green handles) is very lightweight and contains 2 pots and 2 bowls. Inside the set is a fold-able hiking bucket, detergent, scourer and the hiking stove itself.

Back Country Cuisine Spaghetti Bolognaise: MRE style, this takes up very little room and is very light. Just add boiling water, stir and sit for 10 minutes, then eat straight from the packet. I had this with a bread roll and greek salad. Next time though I’ll bring some salt and pepper.

Lessons learned: what I’ll do different next time

  • The camp pillow was terrible, so next time instead I’ll bring a normal pillow and stuff it into a compression bag.
  • More of the instant meals (or MRE) and less larger canned food.
  • I actually left my small cooler bag with a couple of 200ml milks at home, so next time I’ll bring this and have a decent coffee and cereal for breakfast.
  • Replace the normal towel with a microfiber one.
  • The tent takes up quite a bit of room, so I’ll get a more compact bivy or 1 person hiking tent.
A quick kayak camping dinner: instant spaghetti bolagnaise
A quick kayak camping dinner: instant spaghetti bolagnaise

As the tide was reaching its lowest point in the late afternoon the soldier crabs came out to play.

To the right of the yellow warning sign in the photo below is the river mouth. The warning sign says that this channel is dangerous and life vests are compulsory.

Wooli Wooli River at low tide, warning sign at mouth
Looking across to the river mouth, soldier crabs running around in the foreground

The hiking shelter has guy ropes built into it, so I just found a couple of tree branches and propped it all up, setting my tent up underneath it. I secured the kayak to a tree with a bike lock – chances are low that anyone would come out and steal it. Getting stuck without a paddle is one thing, but without a kayak would be a whole different story…

Kayak secured to a tree, shelter and swag setup
Kayak secured to a tree, shelter and swag setup

Some quiet solitude at sunset… After dinner I had a few cognacs and read, then got to bed for an early night.

Looking to the mainland across the Wooli Wooli River
My view for the sunset

I was all packed and pushed off again by about 7:30AM (after a milk-less coffee and canned spaghetti for breakfast).

All my rubbish was kept to one plastic bag, and besides the footprints in the sand – you wouldn’t know I was there!

Leave without a trace: kayak camping
The most important thing: leave without a trace. This is the camp site when I left in the morning.

Map of the camp spot on the Wooli Wooli River. The blue boat icon is the boat ramp and the yellow house icon is the camp spot.

Aerial view of Wooli Wooli River boat ramp and camp spot
Boat ramp (top) and camp site (bottom)

If you like fishing, be sure to read the signs at the boat ramp. This entire area is basically a national park and there are restrictions on where you can fish.

At the boat ramp there is also a sign with information about the local emergency radio frequencies and phone numbers.

Verdict: kayak camping at Wooli NSW

This was a great first camp. I’ll keep exploring the area and try for some longer distance paddles next time.

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