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Boating On Australian Inland Waterways

The term ‘Inland boating’, as used here, is intended to cover all types of pleasure boating in craft which can be enjoyed by relatively inexperienced persons without venturing into the open sea. The notes cover boating on rivers and lakes and also some information where appropriate regarding coastal estuaries or bays and areas protected by off shore islands.

The information is listed on a state by state basis. More detailed information about each state can be obtained from their respective tourism authorities (which are indicated in the relevant section). There are many boating facilities on the Murray River. It forms the border between New South Wales and Victoria, and flows through South Australia. A separate page covers this river. A short page on safe travelling has been included.

Murray Mildura
Houseboats on the Murray River at Mildura

The Australian Canal Society wishes all of our waterways visitors enjoyable, safe and rewarding holidays. While the Society has endeavoured to ensure the accuracy of all of the information, no responsibility can be accepted for any errors. If you have any suggestions for improvements, or more up to date information, email us.

There are numerous rivers and lakes in Australia that can provide the visitor with varied and rewarding holiday experiences in various price ranges. Access along Australian rivers and on lakes is virtually unrestricted except for the obvious places such as near military/naval installations, and storage dams for clean water.

Generally, if you leave the water to enter land that is not publicly accessible nor is Crown land, you will have to seek permission of the land owner particularly if you wish to camp or bury rubbish. You should not have any problems if you respect the needs of farmers and other landowners, leave the environment as you find it and are courteous to people with reason to enquire about your actions.

Houseboats: Modern houseboats are built as flat bottomed boats and are quite spacious and quite mobile. They are designed for relaxed holidaying and cruising for between two and eight people.

Cruisers: Conventional drive yourself cruisers are more powerful than houseboats and are best used if comfort is not most important and long distances are to be travelled. Those on hire for overnight stops generally have four or more berths.

Crewed excursion boats: These vary in size and type but are much larger. They are available for day trips as well as holidays of some weeks and offer the opportunity to meet other people in a relaxed atmosphere. Passengers are served their food and are free to enjoy the scenery without any responsibility for handling the boat.

Canoes: These can be hired for day trips or overnight tours. There are some places suitable for canoeing which are not mentioned in these pages. The reader should contact the various state canoeing associations.

The Australian States’ Waterways

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Safety Precautions

Remote Areas
Visitors should realise that inland excursions can, possibly, take them hundreds of kilometres away from habitation. It is essential that sufficient water and food are taken. Typically none will be available along the way. A first aid kit is also essential. Parties making excursions away from settled areas should always include at least two responsible adults. In outback areas you are advised not to leave settlements without advice from an experienced, local person. Travellers should be aware that mobile i.e. cell phones, other than satellite phones, often do not operate outside main centres or off major transport routes. EPIRBs (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons) can be useful in an emergency. EPIRBs can be bought or hired.

Overseas visitors should also be warned that maps of uninhabited and featureless areas are drawn at scales that show huge distances as quite small.

As the northern part of Australia is tropical and the central latitudes are temperate, there will be many more insects than Europeans would expect. You might be aware that flies are very persistent in summer because they seek the moisture on the skin of humans in hot, dry weather. Personal insect repellents are routinely used in Queensland and New South Wales during summer. You should avoid bringing insects into shops and homes by always closing screen doors behind you when you enter or leave.

If you want to swim in rivers or the sea you should check with a local person first, preferably a tourist industry person as to the safety. River flow and tides are an obvious hazard that should be checked. In northern Queensland rivers, crocodiles have killed people. In other areas, sharks are killers.

Quite short exposure to tropical sun can cause serious burns. In temperate climates in the middle of the day it might take about one hour for fair skinned people to suffer uncomfortable burns. Visitors should realise that the effects will not be apparent until the evening. Medically, the effects are considered to be equivalent to a scald and can lead to hospitalisation if blistering occurs. Always wear sunscreen, available from chemists (drug stores) or supermarkets, on all exposed areas including on the ears, the back of the neck and particularly the nose. Always wear a broad brimmed hat as often as possible. Remember that the upward reflection from water doubles the intensity of sunlight so that if you are cruising, hats are only partly effective. Combined sunscreen and insect repellent preparations are available.

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