Canoeing in the Noosa Everglades

While visiting Noosa in July, I took my two boys on a kayak trip into the Noosa Everglades.  Located in the Great Sandy National Park, the upper reaches of the Noosa River are a network of waterways, rivers, lakes and marshes and are best explored by kayak or canoe. The Everglades are situated in the Noosa Biosphere, which is one of Australia’s most diverse ecosystems and includes more than 40 per cent of the country’s bird species.

We drove about 20 km from Noosa to Booreen Point on Lake Cootharaba and crossed the lake in a larger boat to the mouth of the Upper Noosa River, where we changed to canoes, and continued into the Everglades by canoe. Lake Cootharaba is one of three large lakes connected to the Noosa River, the others are Lake Cooroibah and Lake Weyba.

Lake Cootharaba

The banks of the river are a mix of swampy grassland and subtropical forest, with patches of rainforest. There are lots of banksia trees and tea-trees. The tea-trees stain the water a deep brown colour from the tannin in their leaves. The Tea Tree, Melaleuca alternifolia, is an Australian native plant, and its leaves are also used to produce tea-tree oil, prized for its it’s anti-bacterial and anti-fungal prowess.

Upper Noosa River


When we reached the historic Harry’s Hut, we stopped for a swim in the river. Under the water, it looks as though we are swimming coca-cola, and more than a metre or so down, it is essentially black, as no sunlight penetrates the tannin-saturated water.

Known as the River of Mirrors because of the amazing reflections in the water, the Noosa Everglades is a 60km stretch of pristine waters, magnificent flora and fauna and narrow waterways.

Most of the information online about the Noosa Everglades describes it as one of the only two Everglades in the world – the other being the much better known Florida Everglades. Various definitions of Everglade are given, most refer to subtropical wetlands characterised by swampy grasslands and branching waterways. I thought it was implausible that there would only be two Everglades in the world.  I did some research via Dr Google, and my conclusion is that “everglades” is not a technical term for a particular type of ecosystem as I initially assumed, but is a made up name that was given to the Florida Everglades.  One of the early English surveyors in Florida coined the name “River Glades” using the word “glade” which is a Middle English word meaning a “bright space, an open space; an open or cleared space in a forest. This was later changed to “Everglades.  I also found a website that said it is thought the term Everglade was first used to describe part of the extensive water way and wetlands of the Noosa River by tour guides, presumably hoping to piggy-back on the well known Florida Everglades.

And I think it is only in Australia, that the Noosa Everglades are considered “one of the only two”.  According to and many American websites, there is only one Everglades in the world.  The Florida Everglades are about 100 miles long, and cover 1900 square kilometres.  The Noosa Everglades are about 60 km long, and cover around 700 square kilometres.  So my rough calculation says that the Noosa Everglades is about one third the size of the Florida Everglades.

As we returned across Lake Cootharaba at the end of the day, we were told that the local Aboriginal tribe told early settlers that in ancient times there were two large stone statues, rather like the Easter Island statues, on the shore of the lake.  Maybe that is just a story for the tourists, maybe the statues are buried in the sand somewhere in the sandhills between the lake and the ocean.