Can you believe this is what we used to do in Canberra?

Tim Gavel 21 December 2021 91
Lake George. Photo: Bradley Pillans.

Lake George: once home to the Canberra Yacht Club. Photo: Bradley Pillans.

As Lake George approaches a depth a generation of Canberrans have never witnessed, it brings back memories for many of a bygone era when the lake was home to the Canberra Yacht Club.

The Canberra Yacht Club operated from Geary’s Gap on Lake George with the Royal Military College. The club was formed in 1959 and hosted many regattas on Lake George.

I remember speaking to Sir James Hardy in my role as an MC at a Canberra Yacht Club function as he spoke about coming to Lake George to compete in competitions run by the CYC.

The club moved to Canberra in the summer of 1964-65 when Lake Burley Griffin was established. Despite the amount of water now filling Lake George, it would be impossible to ever race there again because of the number of submerged fences littering the lakebed.

The place on which Lake Burley Griffin now takes prominence, on the Acton site, was previously the home for many of Canberra’s sporting teams and clubs, including Royal Canberra and Federal Golf Clubs, the Canberra Racecourse and sporting fields.

Canberry Fair

As it was: Canberry Fair, Watson. Photo: The Canberra Page.

When I came to Canberra in the 1980s, Canberry Fair in Watson was nearing the end of its days as a theme park, but in its short life, it made an enormous impact on the people of the city.

It had a bit of everything: a theme park, a historical village, an ornamental lagoon, oversized bird boats and there was a pub, Clancy’s. Canberry Fair was particularly popular as a wedding venue and a site for children’s parties. There are reports that on New Year’s Eve in 1981, the year in which the park opened, 20,000 people converged on the site to celebrate the New Year.

Apartments now populate the area.

Starlight sign. Photo: Zango.

Starlight drive-in sign at Watson. Photo: Zango.

Across the road was the Starlight Twin Drive-in, which closed in 1993. The concept of sitting in your car with the speaker box watching a movie may seem foreign to anybody born in the past 30 years, but back then, it was seen as an absolute treat.

The drive-in sign is still there, but apartments surround it, where once the drive-in existed.

Another highlight in Canberra in the late 1980s to mid-1990s was lawn bowls. Our venue was the Canberra City Bowling Club at Braddon until it too made way for development – the fate of bowls clubs across Australia.

There was also the golf driving range at Lyneham, which are now apartments. The driving range was adjacent to Next Gen and the Yowani Golf Club.

These days it is hard to imagine sailing on Lake George. And it’s equally difficult envisaging playing golf or going to the races on the Acton site, or going to a wedding at Canberry Fair, or even watching a movie at the drive-in cinema at Watson. These are all distant memories. Vital, though, as our city expands and changes at a rapid rate.


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91 Responses to Can you believe this is what we used to do in Canberra?
Smithers Smithers 2:47 am 09 Jan 22

I remember Canberry fair, strangely my mum’s house purchased in 2019 actually sits upon where the fair was. Yowani golf club was the first licensed venue I had a beer and played the Cardies(pokies now) with a fake birth certificate, I was 15 , feb
1993. The drive in , one of the earliest memories I have . Cherished

Tammy Griffith Tammy Griffith 5:49 am 02 Jan 22

I remember that 😀

Elwyn Larkin Elwyn Larkin 9:43 am 31 Dec 21

Yes. I saw that article. We went there quite a few times. It was so great

Kym Hunter Kym Hunter 6:11 am 31 Dec 21

I remember my nana taking me and younger sister on swans, and nan having to stop my sister from jumping in cause ride broke down in the middle of the pond. And Clancy's was great. The music was something I remember as well

lafh lafh 10:42 pm 30 Dec 21

I miss this place.

Shasha Caldwell Shasha Caldwell 7:02 pm 30 Dec 21

I had forgotten about the swans at Canberra fair. Do remember going to a concert there and having my first cigarette. Was such a rebel then. Not.

    Catharina Reynolds Catharina Reynolds 8:39 pm 30 Dec 21

    Shasha Caldwell the swans were lovely ☺️

Catharina Reynolds Catharina Reynolds 6:44 pm 30 Dec 21

I so remember Tim ! It was really fun 😊

    Andrew Cusack Andrew Cusack 1:55 am 31 Dec 21

    Yes I worked there for 3 yrs.. We were all young and had Fun.. Its a pitty that Management Closed it down..All about Greed...

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 6:33 pm 30 Dec 21

Not all memories of sailing on Lake George were happy –

https://the-riotact.com/the-story-of-the-duntroon-cadet-drownings-on-lake-george/11000

But on the broader point of this piece, a smaller and less affluent (on paper) Canberra may have had more options for people whose idea of a good time is something other than being glued to an electronic screen or wandering around a shopping mall, or sitting in a queue of traffic to get into a shopping mall.

Sarah Burns Sarah Burns 6:11 pm 30 Dec 21

I had a birthday party there, in the fairy room 🤣

HSewell HSewell 4:59 pm 30 Dec 21

No shortage of rose-coloured glasses in the comments today!

Allison Laidlaw Allison Laidlaw 4:07 pm 30 Dec 21

I loved going to Canberra fair as a kid and then when I was older the pub Clancys. Would go to Clancys of a Friday and Saturday night b4 heading into civic.. was great fun

Kim Wadey Kim Wadey 2:49 pm 30 Dec 21

I love our beautiful city. But what’s the point of expanding it if families can’t afford to buy here, and if they do manage to buy there are no places to create beautiful memories… having all been torn down… to make way for housing… that families can’t afford.

Sandra Smith Sandra Smith 12:50 pm 30 Dec 21

Oh yes. Remember those and also Canberry Fair and Clancy's pub also Rehwinkles.

Erin Nugent Erin Nugent 12:16 pm 30 Dec 21

One of my first memories

Mel Liss Mel Liss 8:39 am 30 Dec 21

We still have the merry-go-round but who remembers the yellow double decker bus cafe? Or was it red?? Best raisin toast!

    Emma Jane Hockey Emma Jane Hockey 11:18 pm 08 Jan 22

    Yes I remember getting the best hot dogs from the double decker bus Cafe near the merry go round.

Agnieszka Nish Kowalska Agnieszka Nish Kowalska 10:33 pm 29 Dec 21

Memories 😌

Julia Rollings Julia Rollings 10:18 pm 29 Dec 21

Sunday in the Park in Commonwealth Park during summer. A great day out with the kids.

The Birdman Rally at Regatta Point.

Two Drive-ins, the Starlight and the Sundown.

    Barry John Rollings Barry John Rollings 7:32 am 30 Dec 21

    Julia Rollings liked the Starlight much more than The Sundown for some reason. If you were going to some blockbuster like The Poseidon, you did the smart thing; avoided the northbound queue trying to get in, zipped up the road as if headed for Goulburn, then chucked a u/ey and headed back toward Canberra for a much faster entry from the left turn lane.

    Julia Rollings Julia Rollings 8:01 am 30 Dec 21

    Barry - if you grew up in Hackett, like I did, and didn’t have the funds - you went in a carload of teenagers and parked outside the Starlight fence. Safer than trying to sneak entry in the boot.

    If one of you had read the book or already seen the movie, you got to narrate for everyone! I saw Jaws and The Exorcist this way.

    Naomi Merritt Naomi Merritt 9:15 am 30 Dec 21

    Loved the drive-in. So many great nights with friends.

    I had my wedding reception at Canberry Fair.

    I think putt-putt golf in Dickson should rate a mention too - many hours lost there.

Hayley Nicholls Hayley Nicholls 10:16 pm 29 Dec 21

David Davidand Moira Symons moira

Milo McMartin Milo McMartin 10:01 pm 29 Dec 21

The Gravatron and the Cockroaches Mc Trauts Emmac Ph

Angela Batchelor Angela Batchelor 9:29 pm 29 Dec 21

Wow what a throwback- remember the Birdman Rally?

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