The Noosa Everglades: A lesson in how to self drive your boat into a frightening waterway.

My husband has a long history of risk-taking behaviours (many of them boat related) which I won’t list here because let’s face it- I don’t have the time for that kind of encyclopaedic epic. If you want a little taster though, you can read about how he nearly killed us all in Arnhem Land (it’s towards the end of the post) crossing a crocodile filled river before it was safe to do so while a hundred people looked on. Good times.

Map courtesy of


Anyway, with all this prior knowledge under my fragile grip on life, when he suggested we drive the boat up to the Noosa Everglades for a look around my adrenal glands kicked into overdrive and I started to make every excuse under the delightful sunshine not to go:

everglades 1
The Noosa Everglades: I was really keen to avoid this. You can see why- it’s awful.

“It’s too far away- surely we don’t have enough petrol?”

“The kids will get bored, heaven forbid!”

“The tide’s wrong- it’s too shallow and we’ll get stuck in the middle of Lake Cootharaba!!”

“Isn’t it illegal for motor-borne craft to go past the Kinaba Information Centre??”

“There are only strawberries, a camembert, crackers and chocolate croissants left in the lunch box- we’ll starve.”

“What if there are crocodiles?”

kiss on the boat
Clearly feeling the danger of the Noosa River.

Yep, clutching at straws there towards the end but I kid you not, I did float all of these excuses past the Captain from my vantage point at the back of the boat (where I could watch any subtle changes in the outboard motor indicating DOOM was upon us).

We’d been putting around the Noosa River all morning, near the mouth and the Frying Pan and whilst the winter sun had been shining the winter wind had also been blowing in a slightly unpleasant way. As we left the river mouth and headed upstream, the wind dropped and ever bitten by the wanderlust bug, Fiela kept peering around every bend in the river until, uncontainable, the Everglades idea was floated.

Cootharabe pelicans
Pelicans of Lake Cootharaba, Mt Tinbeerwah to the left.

It was coming up to a high tide, so really, it was the best time to try and cross Lake Cootharaba. The lake is very shallow, but it has a sandy bottom and clear markers showing the deepest and only course across. The hardest part to negotiate at around 50cm deep is right in front of the Kinaba Information Centre: even as we cautiously navigated our way across the shallow water we watched as a guy gunned his boat’s engine in an attempt to launch himself out of the sand he was stuck in. By this stage however, I was feeling better about it all: we’d just watched the seemingly enormous Noosa Everglades Tour Boat cruise overtake us, loaded with people. I realised that if a boat that big can get up the river, our little Quintrex was hardly ill-equipped for it.

Anyway, once we’d traversed the lake and finally started to ascend the upper reaches of the Noosa River, the most beautiful landscape opened up in front of us. From the exposed, salty lake we entered the narrow tea-tree stained river. The wind stopped and all we could here was the slow putt of the engine and bird calls.

everglades 2
The Noosa River and the Everglades.

Being part of the Noosa Biosphere and the Great Sandy National Park this part of the Noosa River is pristine and beautiful. The melaleuca forests and cabbage tree palms shield the water from wind: the result is a mirrored effect which was truly a balm to any battered soul after the lake crossing (which wasn’t even that bad- I’m such a Nana!).

We drove up to Fig Tree Point, a camp site for tents only and hopped out for lunch amongst tall gums, just us and the currawongs. This National Parks campsite is beautifully maintained, and only accessible via the river or walking tracks. We ate our camembert, lay down on the huge log seats and stared up at the leafy canopy- a world away from the flotilla of pleasure craft on the lower part of the river.

fig tree point
The idyllic Fig Tree Point campground.

The water is a tea-stained colour this far up river, and whilst it was too cold for a swim this day, we’ll definitely be coming back up this way when the weather is hot and the river is busy. A few more kilometres up the river is Harry’s Hut, a campsite accessible to 4WDs and our camper, a trip we’ll be doing come the summer months.


On the way back we stopped off at Jew Hole, the very bottom of Lake Cootharaba, for a “quick” fish. The sunset was spectacular, the fishing ho hum and since we actually had run out of food, it was time to go home. The only casualty for the day was my sense of self- preservation: whilst waiting for the fish to bite the Coastguard zoomed past us with a boat in tow- we thought the poor buggers were just fishing in an odd spot on the lake, turns out they’d broken down or ran out of petrol. Seems I’ll have to start trusting the Captain a little bit more… eek!

Copy of Top of Lake Cootharaba
The kids. Making a ruckus because they’re so bored and frightened.

NB: Please consult tides and local conditions before attempting a crossing of Lake Cootharaba!

2 thoughts on “The Noosa Everglades: A lesson in how to self drive your boat into a frightening waterway.

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