Stand Up Paddleboarding at Sarina Beach

Sarina Beach at Sunrise

Sarina Beach has a lot going for it as a destination to stand up paddleboard. It is a beautiful and relatively unknown beach in central Queensland, Australia. It has calm and relatively flat waters due to the protection from the Great Barrier Reef. There is nearby camping for an easy stop over on a road trip. It also has it’s own Surf Lifesaving Club and is a patrolled beach.

The Main Points

  • Location – Sarina Beach, Mackay Region, Queensland Australia
  • SUP – Own Drift Rigid, Frangipani 
  • Cost – Free access Conditions – Saltwater sandy beach
  • Other users – Minimal other users
  • Entry Point – Sandy beach, Surf Life Savers,
  • Surrounding amenities/Bathroom, campgrounds and hotel, small convenience store with takeaway food. 17km inland is the town of Sarina with supermarkets, pubs and cafes.
The waters edge at Sarina Beach with hill in the background
A quiet beach visited mainly by locals

A Wee Blether

However – in this day and age of deferred responsibility, this location does come with a caveat.  It should go without saying that each location mentioned in this blog should be assessed by the individual before entering the water. This is one of the few locations mentioned so far that actually has a surf life saving club on the beach and this resource should be used by people unfamiliar with the area.

I am going to draw your attention to the image below which has a list of hazards to be aware of for Sarina Beach if you intend to stand up paddleboard or entering the water in any way.

Beach hazards of Sarina Beach

We have already discussed the hazards of swimming in tropical coastal waters in Australia between the months of November to May in the Rose Bay and Horseshoe Bay posts due to Marine Stingers or harmful species of jellyfish.

But the observant reader will notice the top right icon which is of a crocodile. Now before you go thinking that I am suggesting you SUP in crocodile infested waters take a deep breath and read on!

looking at Sarina Beach through branches
Sarina Beach with long stretches of white sandy beach


Firstly I would like to say that Sarina Beach is considered a swimming beach. The Surf Life Saving Australia Beach Safe website calls it  ‘A relatively safe, patrolled beach when waves are less than 0.5 m. Be careful when waves exceed 0.5 m as they can produce rips, particularly at low tide.’ 

Sarina Beach was my local and I have Paddleboarded there more frequently than any location in the world. Again you probably think I am crazy but I did my research FIRST!!! I consulted with the local surf lifesaving club who patrol the beach about the dangers of paddleboarding at Sarina Beach. It was their firm belief that paddleboarding was safe at that particular time of year in those conditions. Not only do the Surf Life Savers enter the water during their training but one of the guys I spoke to said that he frequently swam along the length of the beach over the 20 years that he had lived in the area.

Still waters at Sarina Beach with early morning sun perfect paddleboarding conditions
On a calm day you can see out to the islands

It turns out that crocodile sightings on Sarina beach are very rare. While salt water crocodiles can be found in the ocean on occasion, their more favoured environment are estuaries where they have more camouflage.

Wikipedia states ‘Saltwater crocodiles generally spend the tropical wet season (summer) in freshwater swamps and rivers, moving downstream to estuaries in the dry season (winter). Crocodiles compete fiercely with each other for territory, with dominant males in particular occupying the most eligible stretches of freshwater creeks and streams. Junior crocodiles are thus forced into marginal river systems and sometimes into the ocean.’

So any crocodiles in ocean environments are more likely to be smaller juveniles looking for new territory. Crocodiles are more mobile in the summer months which is the off season for tourism as the winter is a more pleasant time to visit the northern parts of Australia.

Sunrise over ocean with foliage in foreground
A stunning sunrise over Sarina Beach


Having said all of this I still very much want to reinforce that you should ALWAYS check local conditions prior to entering the water. This is especially the case if you are not familiar with the area that you are intending to Stand Up Paddleboard in.

While the beach at Sarina is patrolled the Estuary to the south isn’t. My neighbours paddled there but I didn’t feel safe doing so and kept to the patrolled area which is monitored for crocodile presence.

Sunset over the coastal estuary
Although beautiful the estuary isn’t patrolled and is closer to potential crocodile habitat

Dangerous Locals

Outside of Australia our wildlife gets a pretty bad rap. Since living in Scotland I have become used to one of two responses when people hear my accent. The first is ‘what are you doing living here – the WEATHER!!!’ The second is ‘I’d love to go to Australia but the sharks/snakes/spiders/crocodiles’ or other animal that evokes fear in the heart of non Australians. I would like to share here that I am not a huge fan of any of these creatures myself. However I would like to do my bit in setting the record straight.

Mist over the coastal estuary in the early morning light
A misty view of the estuary

In preparing for this article I did a bit of research. Being one of the 20+million Australians who have successfully inhabited Australia and lived to tell the tail! From 2008-2017 there were on average under 7 fatalities per year from all of these creatures put together. To put this in perspective in the United Kingdom there are 170,000 deaths a year from cardiovascular disease. WOW!!! According to 80% of these are preventable.

Sun shining through clouds during sunrise at Sarina Beach at low tide
Sunrise over Sarina Beach

There are over 24,000 times more deaths in Britain from cardiovascular disease each year than there are deaths from animals in Australia.

So statistically over indulging in fish & chips and burgers can be more deadly than Australian wildlife!  I am not saying that interactions with wildlife are not dangerous, but just like educating yourself on poor eating habits, arming yourself with knowledge about local conditions allows you to make an informed decision about potential dangers.

If you are visiting the Mackay area in September check out the Sarina Beach Coconut Festival.


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