They’ve been a peak Canberra experience for decades, but the paddle boats on Lake Burley Griffin have finally paddled their last.
The National Capital Authority (NCA) has announced the boats have “reached the end of their operational life and have been discontinued”.
“The NCA is exploring options to showcase the boats as a treasured part of Canberra’s history and heritage and will provide more information in due course,” CEO Sally Barnes said.
The current fleet of boats arrived in the 1980s but sat dormant from 2014 until 2019, until the founder of GoBoat Canberra, Nick Tyrrell, approached the NCA with a plan to bring them back to life, so Capital Paddle was born.
“Getting the boats back out onto the water was a massive undertaking,” Nick recalls.
“We were certainly up for the challenge because we knew the experience it would afford locals and visitors would be worth it.”
New parts were sourced, the boats refurbished from the bottom up, and sure enough, the crowds returned.
“There were lines of people waiting to go out on one every hot summer day,” Nick says.
“The paddle boats have successfully brought thousands of people back to the lake, and for some, it was a chance to relive their childhood memories and create new ones with their families.”
But every year since, finding replacement parts for the boats has become a tougher task.
“The paddle boats are around a half-century old, and while we recognise there is a lot of nostalgia attached to them, it is no longer viable to continue operating them in a safe and sustainable way,” Nick says.
Meanwhile, GoBoat Canberra, launched in 2017 with a fleet of eight electric-powered picnic boats at the Kingston Foreshore, has since more than doubled in size and opened a second location near Queen Elizabeth Terrace.
Nick says this remains a joint commitment with the NCA to make sure the lake remains fun and accessible.
“I am passionate about helping people create affordable and accessible lifelong memories on our lake,” he says.
“Even though the NCA is retiring the old paddle boats, there are still plenty of opportunities for people to get on the lake, and I encourage people to come and check out what’s on offer.”
The paddle boats will not be available for hire this season while the NCA decides how to preserve them as part of Canberra’s history.