Kayaking in Byron Bay: The Complete Guide
See Byron from a different perspective on a guided kayak tour and get a closer look at its resident dolphins and turtles, plus heaps of other marine life.
Kayaking in Byron Bay is a fantastic way to experience the natural beauty of Cape Byron Marine Park. Getting out onto the water gives you a totally different perspective of the bay and its stunning beaches, but the star attraction is the wealth of marine life that’s waiting for you.
The marine park’s resident dolphins are naturally inquisitive and will often surface near and swim with kayak groups. The bay is also home to several species of turtles that might pop up for a breath and check out the colourful kayaks in their backyard.
And if you’re really lucky, between late May and early November, you might spot humpback whales, which pass through Byron en route to their breeding grounds along the Queensland coast.
If you’re keen to spend some time on the ocean, here’s everything you need to know to experience one of our favourite things to do in Byron Bay and have the best time doing it.
Guided kayak tours
The easiest and safest way to go kayaking in Byron Bay is by booking a guided tour. A two to three-hour kayaking adventure gives you the best chance of spotting the resident marine life, and you’ll also learn some local history as you paddle to the headland of Cape Byron. The coastal scenery is stunning and you’ll get a unique view of the iconic Byron Bay lighthouse perched above the most easterly point of mainland Australia as you go.
What to expect on a kayak tour
Both of the companies we’ve recommended below offer very similar tours, so you’ll have a similar experience with either.
At the beginning of each tour, the adventure kicks off with a safety briefing on Clarke’s Beach. The team will distribute life vests and helmets, provide safety instructions, and will then pair you up for the two-person sit-on-top kayaks. Don’t worry about experience as the guides go over everything you need to know, including paddling techniques and what to do if the kayak capsizes.
An instructor will then help you launch your kayak into the surf, where you’ll paddle your way through the incoming waves and into calmer waters. Keep an eye out for green, loggerhead, or hawksbill turtles, especially when passing a rock shelf known as Turtle Town, which your guide will point out.
As the group heads further out in the bay, you may also see the resident bottlenose dolphins who often show up to swim and play around the kayaks.
The tour continues past Wategos Beach, where you’ll stop for drinks and snacks, and then, conditions permitting, head out to the cape. Here you’ll see the iconic Cape Byron Lighthouse overlooking the bay at the easternmost point of the Australian mainland.
Dolphin or whale sightings are the main draw for the tour, so much so that both companies offer a guarantee that if you don’t see a dolphin, turtle, or whale, you get a free return trip.
The paddle back provides more thrills as the team leaders explain how to catch waves to finish the ride into the shore. Following the tour, you can access and download photos of your group’s adventure.
The best companies for kayaking in Byron Bay
Two established providers offer excellent Byron Bay kayaking experiences: Go Sea Kayak Byron Bay and Cape Byron Kayaks. Both companies offer similar tours and we’d have no hesitation recommending either, so here’s a little about each to help you decide.
Cape Byron Kayaks
Established in 1995, Cape Byron Kayaks is the original Byron kayak experience. All of Cape Byron Kayaks’ guides are skilled watermen and have excellent local knowledge of Byron Bay and its marine life, including dolphins, which they spot on over 90% of their tours.
The team run tours run daily, with departure times adjusted seasonally. In summer, tours leave at 8:30 am to beat the heat and north winds, and then at 1:00 pm for the afternoon tour. In the winter, morning tours leave later at 10:00 am to miss the southwest winds, which drop off around 10.30 am, and then at 1:30 pm in the afternoon.
A three-hour kayak trip with Cape Byron Kayaks includes guide services, kayak rental, safety equipment (helmets and life jackets, plus wetsuits in colder weather), access to Cape Byron Headland National Park, and secure storage facilities for your belongings. You’ll also get downloadable tour photos after your trip and all the Tim Tam chocolate treats you can eat during the drink and snacks stop!
Go Sea Kayak Byron Bay
The knowledgeable guides at Go Sea Kayak Byron Bay have a profound respect for nature and the environment, and the company has won gold in the New South Wales Tourism Awards for Ecotourism in 2018 and 2019. They know the area’s marine life intimately and are skilled in maximising opportunities to see them during your visit.
Go Sea Kayak also hires local aboriginal guides, which adds a unique dimension to their tours as guides explain local Aboriginal stories and sacred places.
Tours depart twice daily at 9:30 am and 1:30 pm and last around two to two and a half hours. In addition, Go Sea Kayak offers 6:00 am sunrise tours on certain days of the year.
Included in your tour price are professional guide services, kayak rental, all safety gear, including life vests, helmets, and wetsuits in winter, plus secure storage for your belongings on-shore. During your trip, you’ll have morning or afternoon drinks and snacks and, afterwards, free access to downloadable photos of your adventure.
Do I need to be super fit to do a Byron Bay kayak tour?
No, a moderate level of fitness is fine. While it’s definitely a workout for your arms, the groups take regular breaks from paddling and cater to all experience and fitness levels.
Can children join the adventure?
Absolutely. Children aged five and up can join in the fun as long as they’re accompanied by an adult.
What should I wear and take with me?
Your guides will have you covered with all the essential equipment, but choosing the right clothing and accessories to bring with you is important to ensure you fully enjoy your day. Here’s a suggested list of what to wear and what to take:
- Swimwear or clothes you don’t mind getting wet
- A hat and sunglasses to protect your face and eyes from the sun
- A towel to dry off and dry clothes to change into afterwards
- Strong sunscreen – essential given you’ll be out on the water which reflects the sunlight
- A water bottle to keep hydrated
- A waterproof camera that can attach to your life vest or clothes
I’m flying solo – can I still join a kayak tour?
Yes. Both companies mostly use double kayaks, but if you’re travelling solo or have an odd-numbered group, they will pair you up with another solo paddler or a tour guide.
Tell your friends about kayaking in Byron Bay
So that’s everything you need to know to have an amazing time kayaking in Byron Bay! If you think this article would be helpful to someone else, feel free to share it – just use the social buttons at the top of the page.