Back to the faces

Hayley Kennedy

Shute Harbour, Central Queensland (including Mackay/ Isaac/ Whitsunday)

One of the first sea kayaking businesses in the country, Salty Dog Sea Kayaking was established in the Whitsundays in 1997. The family-owned and operated business has worked hard over the last 2 decades to offer a range of unique adventure tourism experiences in a unique part of the world.

My name's Hayley Kennedy, my business is Salty Dog Sea Kayaking, and we're based in Shute Harbour in the Whitsundays.

I'd describe my business as an adventure sea kayaking business. We run a variety of guided tours as well as sea kayak hire.

My background is completely unrelated to what I do now; I was a pastry chef for 10 years. I was then a croupier for a year or so, and one day my husband and I decided we wanted to do something that we really enjoyed, and we got completely out of what we did and decided to open up a sea kayaking business.

What is it like being my own boss? It's very rewarding and usually satisfying, sometimes frustrating, and almost always exhausting.

In 2017 we did get a Queensland Government grant and that assisted us with our digital marketing.

What do I love most about working in the Whitsundays? What is not to love about it?

Hayley and Neil Kennedy met at the Townsville Outrigger Canoeing Club and their mutual love of water sports shaped their decision to establish one of Australia's first sea kayaking operations. They chose the Whitsundays because of its natural beauty, suitability for kayaking and a climate which allowed the business to run year-round. Salty Dog Sea Kayaking began operating in April 1997, starting out with just 3 kayaks, a trailer and a minibus. Joining Outrigger Whitsunday, a local water sports club, was a fast and easy way for Hayley and Neil to connect with the locals, but cold-calling booking agents and accommodation providers to promote the business was another matter. At the time, many of them did not know what kayaking was with the sport being in its infancy in Australia.

Wanting to expand into multi-day kayak tours, Hayley and Neil worked with the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service to help re-establish closed island campsites. This has allowed what is now one of their most sought after tours – a 6 day expedition with kayaking, snorkeling, swimming and camping in some of the area's most pristine locations.

Today, they operate with more than 70 kayaks, offering half and full-day tours from their base in Shute Harbour. The company's sea kayaking guides are chosen carefully, as much for their outgoing personality, local knowledge and love of nature as their kayaking ability. The company's busiest period is winter, as Australians from the southern states head north to escape the cold. The increasing popularity of the Whitsundays region to cruise ships has also boosted the bottom line. One of the most innovative client-generating initiatives the company has worked hard on was tapping into the schools market. Salty Dog Sea Kayaking has proved popular with students and the company has secured advance bookings with numerous local, state, interstate and international schools as repeat customers.

More information

Meet the faces