Activities on the river

The River Torrens / Karrawirra Parri is the main waterway which runs through Adelaide, dissecting the Adelaide city centre from North Adelaide.

The river has long been a place to meet and socialise for the Kaurna people. They called it Karrawirra Parri, meaning “river of the Red Gum forest” referring to the dense eucalyptus forest that used to line the banks prior to European settlement.

This tradition continues today, as Adelaide residents and visitors alike enjoy a range of activities along the banks and on the waters, which contributes to their health, wellbeing, and enjoyment of the city.

Activities on the water

Torrens Lake, the section of the river from the Weir to Frome Street bridge, is an ideal destination for a range of water activities. Rowing, dragon boating and canoe/kayaking are all popular, as is model powerboat racing. Torrens Lake is managed by the City of Adelaide and there are a number of commercial tour operators who operate on this section of the river.

It should be noted, that swimming, water skiing, and activities involving “primary body contact” are not permitted due to the condition of the water. You are encouraged to obey all signage, particularly when the lake is closed, and use the waterway at your own risk.

Recreational kayaking and canoeing

Kayaking and canoeing is a great way to get fit and explore the waterway. You are permitted to use the Torrens Lake for recreational kayaking and canoeing, subject to the following conditions:

  • wearing a lifejacket (PFD) is compulsory
  • you must enter/exit the river from one of the designated rowing landings along the Torrens Lake. View map of landing locations
  • should you capsize or get wet, it is highly recommended that you shower and change clothes as soon as possible, due to the water quality
  • the use of motorised vessels is not permitted
  • you must follow the conditions and recommendations from the Department for Infrastructure and Transport (DIT) Marine Safety SA.

Remember! There is strictly no access to the lake/river when it has been officially closed. Signage is clearly placed around the course of the river.

Organisational and commercial use


Groups who are an educational institution and/or incorporated and not-for-profit recreation and sports organisations who are affiliated with the respective peak body will be eligible to apply for a River Torrens Activity Licence.


There are licensing fees applicable to a River Torrens Activity Licence. Fees differ depending on the type of activity on the water. Please refer to Council Fees and Charges Schedule.

Please contact the Customer Centre on 8203 7203 for further details regarding specific fees.

How to apply

You can complete a River Torrens activity licence application online.

The licence period is from 1 September to 31 August each year and renewed annually. You will be asked to provide the dates and times you want to use the river.

The following must be submitted with your annual licence application:

  • evidence in the form of a “Certificate of Currency” for $20million public liability insurance. This policy must name City of Adelaide as an Interested Party
  • certification from a qualified boat builder/repairer that the vessels are seaworthy.

Note: Applications and licences are subject to the capacity of the river. 

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  1. Conditions apply within the River Torrens Activity Licence.
  2. The Harbors & Navigation Act 1992 also applies to River Torrens Activity licence holders.
  3. Licensees are required to obey reasonable requests from City of Adelaide Officers.
  4. The River Torrens water quality may deteriorate and there can be times when the Lake is closed to all users. All licence holders (with the exception of Popeye) are expected to observe the lake closure.
  5. The following are the current River Torrens Activity licence holders:
    1. River Torrens activity licence holder 
    2. Park Lands commercial business licence holders

Need more information?

If you have any questions about activities on the river, please contact the Customer Service Representative team between 8:30 am to 5:00 pm, Monday to Friday.

8203 7575