10. Lower Yarra River, Melbourne
The Yarra River is an icon of the Melbourne CBD, and plays host to all sorts of watersports – including, of course, kayaking. The flat waters of the lower Yarra, which runs through the heart of the city, are a paddler's playground. Grab your vessel and hit the water at the Botanic Gardens launch near Morrell's Bridge, then paddle up towards Herron Island or down to the Docklands.
Not keen to go it alone? There are heaps of companies offer kayak tours as a unique alternative way of getting to know the city. Check out Kayak Melbourne's City Sights tour for $82, or their popular Moonlight Tour for $99 (prices include all paddling gear plus water and a guide – and fish and chips for the night-time cruisers!)
If you want to shift from the river to the sea, a quick 25-minute drive to Williamstown will put you in a perfect spot for some laidback kayaking within the calm waters of Port Phillip Bay. The area was established as Melbourne's first port in 1837, and is a great launching spot for those new to kayaking.
The generally calm sheltered waters offer up an easy ride as you paddle around Point Gellibrand – be sure to keep an eye out for dolphins! Or head around the bend to Williamstown beach and launch from the ramp at the Williamstown and Newport Anglers' Club.
When you're done working up an appetite, head back to shore for some of the area's famed fish and chips.
8. Gippsland Lakes
Okay, so this one's not exactly "close" to Melbourne – you're looking at around a 3.5-hour drive – but it's well worth the trip for some of the best kayaking that the area has to offer. Make a weekend of it and you'll be treated to literally hundreds of spots from which to launch your kayaking adventure.
Hire some gear or join a guided tour and explore the waters of popular Ninety Mile Beach – one of the longest unspoilt stretches of sand you'll find in the world. You might just catch a glimpse of the local seals and dolphins that play in the area, which is teeming with marine life. Or launch your vessel at Lakes Entrance and spend a lazy day exploring the still and serene waters of the lakes.
7. St Kilda Beach, Melbourne
Back towards the heart of the city you'll find St Kilda – a buzzing locale and a favourite amongst locals and visitors alike, not only for its beautiful beach but also its thriving nightlife and cafe culture. Take a sea kayak out on the water for a guided tour, paddle around the pier, and head towards the breakwater to catch a glimpse of the little penguin colony that calls the area home.
Even without the cute seabirds, the view of Hobson's Bay and Williamstown from across the water makes for a beautiful day at sea – all a half hour from the city.
6. Lake Nagambie
This lake is the site for numerous kayaking championship competitions during the year – so you know you know it's a good spot to launch your vessel. Around an hour and 40 minutes' drive north of Melbourne, Lake Nagambie has an abundance of wildlife to spot as you navigate around the calm waters. It's also a hotspot for for fishing, sailing, water-skiing and swimming, making it a great location for a family day out.
When you're done paddling, take a stroll around the vibrant town of Nagambie, which sits on the shores of the lake, or visit the local wineries in the cool-climate region.
5. Barwon Heads
When the tide is out, pick up some kayaking gear (or bring your own) and head out on the sparkling water of Barwon Heads. An hour and a half out of Melbourne, on the southern coast of the Bellarine Peninsula, just south of Geelong, this quiet beach and estuary offers keen paddlers a quintessential Aussie summer spot.
Paddle at your own pace along the pristine estuary where the Barwon River meets the sea, glide past the jetty and stop in at the quaint blue restaurant its end, At The Heads, for lunch.
4. Lake Wendouree, Ballarat
An hour and a half's drive north-west of Melbourne CBD, in the city of Ballarat, Lake Wendouree was the site of the canoeing, kayaking and rowing events of the 1956 Olympics, and is still a popular spot amongst locals and tourists alike for water sports of all kind today.
Glide along the placid waters beside black swans, ducks, dusky moorhens, purple swamphens, cormorants and other birdlife that call this spot home. If you time your visit right, you can also take a stroll around the Lakeside Farmers Market on the second and fourth Saturday morning of each month and pick up some of the region's fresh local produce.
3. Upper Yarra, Warrandyte
More experienced kayakers looking for a bumpier ride should head up to Warrandyte and check out the upper part of the Yarra. It's not a long trek – just 26 minutes from Melbourne – but the grade I to III rapids will get whet your adventure whistle.
While it's pretty close to the city, the popular stretch of river from Homestead Road to Wittons Reserve can feel remote as you paddle your way through beautiful dense bushland.
If you're new to kayaking but want to take on some tamer rapids, there are plenty of providers offering guided river tours in Warrandyte.
2. Apollo Bay, Great Ocean Road
What makes this kayaking hotspot so special is the Marengo Reefs Marine Sanctuary. Hire some gear (if you don't have your own) and paddle out to the area, around 150m offshore, to the protected reef system known as Little Henty Reef. You'll be rewarded with views of the abundant sea life – think sea beautiful seaweed gardens colourful soft corals, sponge gardens and sea urchins.
But the real treat is the local fur seal colony who – if you're lucky – might take a break from lying around on the rocks in the sun and come to say hello.
1. Mornington Peninsula
For a safer, calmer ride on the stunning Mornington Peninsula, choose from the pristine beaches on the bay side – the gentler waters offer a more relaxing experience than the pounding surf on the front beaches.
Start at the sparkling, crystal-clear waters of Sorrento and paddle up past Portsea towards Point Nepean, where you'll find the dolphin sanctuary – and maybe even glide along with bottlenose and common dolphins swimming alongside you. You may also spot seals, penguins and more out on the water.
If you're taking yourself out for the journey, please don't kayak across The Rip; or consider joining a guided tour so all you have to worry about is looking out for local wildlife!