Kayaking in fresh water within South Australia has its limitations. Yet for those prepared to travel, there are some sensational waters not too far away. Within a comfortable five hour drive from Adelaide, you will find the Grampians National Park with a number of picturesque lakes lying within its heart and surrounds.
If you have a long weekend up your sleeve, it's no hassle to load up the Kayaks; set off early and arrive by lunch time to be at any one of a number of comfortable accommodation lodgings in and around the immediate area.
In nearby Stawell you will find a town with a magnificent main street view of the Grampians; you will also find a friendly little town famous for the Stawell Gift, Australia's oldest and richest short distance running race run annually on any given Easter weekend. Be sure to drop into the main street's sports store if you are looking for any last minute outdoor gear. On a recent fly fishing trip when calling ahead to see whether they were open on Sunday mornings, the owner said that they weren't; however if we arrived and needed anything, we could just simply call in when we got to Stawell and they would come in and open the shop for us. Now that is great customer service.
Hall's Gap and Lake Fyan's Holiday Park, as well as a number of B&Bs in-between, offer a number of comfortable lodgings within close proximity to the lakes. Arrive at lunchtime (and you will still have ample time to unpack); you can soon be on the water at lakes Bellfield, Fyans or Wartook. With the afternoon free, you can get enough paddling in to blow off the cobwebs of the working week. With a new found appetite make sure you have researched what you will do for dinner prior to your kayaking experience.
After dark, you don't want to be driving too far afield as the area does abound with an abundance of Kangaroos. Hall's Gap has a pub and a number of small cafes, pizza bars and restaurants. The best piece of advice I can give you when eating here is to check with each eating house in the area prior to showing up to grab a bite to eat as sometimes some of these food-based establishments close a bit early.
During daylight hours a good coffee can be enjoyed at the small shopping centre with a couple of decent cafes with friendly service and a good bakery on offer. The small clothes shop in the small shopping centre overlooked by the massive craggy hillscape often has a rack of bargain outdoor wet weather gear and the owner's friendly nature has helped us part with significant dollars on NZ outdoor clothing on each and every visit here.
Hall's Gap is like a small ski village except someone forgot to dump any snow near it. People walk around with hiking sticks instead of ski stocks. Merrell is the preferred footwear and everyone seems to have just completed an epic pilgrimage somewhere. Groups stand waiting for their call to walk. It is a land of Mountain Design, Paddy Palin and Kathmandu, with quite a bit of Ray's Outdoors thrown in for good measure.
Back to the lakes which are easily accessible, with the best public launch facilities found on the southern edge of Lake Fyans; the boat ramp at Wartook and the western shore of Lake Bellfield. The weather in the Grampians can be unpredictable and you should be prepared for all it can throw at you. The lakes can blow up rough, and thus it is advisable to only kayak within your experience and craft's ability and always with the appropriate safety equipment and never go alone.
All three lakes mentioned are quite different. Wartook is the highest of the three lying up in the National Park and whilst picturesque is a very cold water lake, and as such should be respected. The surrounding bush is akin to some Tasmanian Lakes and in high water makes for stunning paddling along its shores. Abundant wildlife can be seen on most days.
Lake Fyans is a lowland lake and is fed from Lake Bellfield. All lakes currently are at the highest levels for over a decade, making paddling spectacular amongst old dead eucalypts; flooded margins and island reed beds. Fyan's has one of the most intoxicating backdrops you could ever wish to kayak within a soul cleanser and a really enjoyable experience. Birdlife is prolific with Greater Crested Grebes, Mountain Duck and even Sacred Kingfishers.
Lake Bellfield unfortunately has had a huge influx of clay from flooded roads and wash outs as a result of the 2011 floods. This has left clay in suspension through the lake causing a brown colour akin to the Murray. It is usually crystal clear. There is no knowledge of when these clay particles may drop out of suspension which is not a problem to the kayaker, however the usually superb trout fishing has slowed to a standstill. All the lakes offer superb fishing for Brown and Rainbow Trout and Redfin.