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Kayak tours and the secret wonder of exploring our lake up close

By Glynis Quinlan - 14 October 2017 0

My daughter, Natasha Quinlan, and I in a kayak near the Pavillion. Photo by Graham Tupper.

I have a secret to tell you – Canberra has a beautiful lake!

Now I am not after a medal for stating the blindingly obvious but instead challenging you to consider whether you’ve actually seen Lake Burley Griffin from the water.

Plenty of people walk/jog/cycle around the lake, most of us drive past it regularly and some have seen it from the air. However, there aren’t too many opportunities to really see it from the perspective of actually being on it.

That’s all changing with the new guided pedal-drive kayak tours starting up, as well as GoBoats – self-drive electric picnic boats – taking to the water in a few weeks’ time.

And I have to say I’m glad. What our lake needs is more life and what Canberrans need is more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.

Last Saturday I decided to try the guided kayak tours out for myself and I have to say the experience was delightful – and plain good fun!

It was a lovely sunny day and my 20-year-old daughter Natasha (visiting from Sydney) and I decided to combine a trip to Floriade with an adventure on the water.

We met up with the tour operator and intrepid guide Graham Tupper at the pebbly beach near the RG Menzies statue (I now know where that is!) and took up the special ‘two for one’ introductory offer for RiotACT readers.

Because I’m a bargain-hunter of old, I’d worked out that this would mean that it would cost $10 each for the half-hour tour and $17.50 each for the full-hour tour – a good deal in my book.

Get in quickly if you want to take advantage of it because this weekend (today and tomorrow) is the final time it is offered – the details are in my previous article found by clicking here. If you can’t make it though, the normal costs are very reasonable too.

Graham Tupper on kayak

Graham Tupper operates the guided kayak tours. Photo by Glynis Quinlan.

We decided to go on the one-hour tour with Graham, and a young couple went out in one of the other kayaks.

The first thing to note is that the pedal-driven kayaks are of high-quality, only involve some easy legwork (no exhausting use of a paddle), and are very easy to operate with a straightforward steering mechanism that even made sense to me (although of course I still got my daughter to steer).

One of the special features of the pedal-driven kayak is that they are ‘hands-free’ and so you can cruise around while taking photos, using binoculars or even enjoying snacks. I decided to really test this out by taking along my good camera and indulging my passion for photography (check out my istockphoto page for more on that).

I am happy to say that this worked like a breeze and my camera never appeared at risk of getting wet. There’s even a special place on the kayak to keep mobile phones and wallets safe and dry if that suits.

So, snapping away with my camera and making light-hearted conversation with my daughter (who for some reason didn’t think she should be the only one to do the pedalling), we set off on our tour.

Setting our own pace, we glided through the water and did a circuit of the central lake including Aspen Island and the National Carillion (bell tower) and the Captain Cook water jet (which happened not to be on at the time but usually is).

The National Carillion (bell tower) and Aspen Island. Photo by Glynis Quinlan.

The National Carillion (bell tower) and Aspen Island. Photo by Glynis Quinlan.

Along the way, we enjoyed views of Canberra’s iconic attractions such as Old Parliament House, the Australian War Memorial, the National Library, the Carillion and, of course, Telstra Tower.

Anzac Parade and the Australian War Memorial as seen from the water. Photo by Glynis Quinlan.

Anzac Parade and the Australian War Memorial as seen from the water. Photo by Glynis Quinlan.

Views of Telstra Tower from the water. Photo by Glynis Quinlan.

Views of Telstra Tower from the water. Photo by Glynis Quinlan.

Now I have to confess that – with the exception of guided tours of paintings by my favourite artists at the National Gallery – I normally avoid doing anything that has the word ‘guided’ in it as I like to do my own thing and experience places for myself without people telling me what to think.

Travelling overseas, my poor patient husband has been the fall guy on more than one occasion as the kids and I left him to politely listen to the tour guide while we made a hasty escape.

I am happy to say that no such evasive behaviour was needed with Graham, who knows how to be interesting and to let you know pertinent historical facts about some of the key landmarks but for much of the time gives you your own space to soak up the experience.

Without Graham, I might have just been aimlessly cruising around the lake and not really taking things in. Graham gave our tour direction, as well as insights into the things we were seeing – with him gathering the small group together at a few key locations to explain more about some of the landmarks.

Natasha Quinlan kayaking, with Graham Tupper in the distance. Photo by Glynis Quinlan.

Natasha Quinlan kayaking, with Graham Tupper in the distance. Photo by Glynis Quinlan.

As an added bonus, he also showed us black swans – as well as a place he had seen a water rat just that morning. Graham had explained to me earlier that the kayaks are so quiet that you can glide right up to birds on the water and see them up close. A true delight for nature lovers.

Getting up close to black swans on the lake. Photo by Glynis Quinlan.

Getting up close to black swans on the lake. Photo by Glynis Quinlan.

Graham added further to the experience by taking photos of Tash and me in the kayak, as well as of the other couple, and emailing them through that night.

We returned to shore after the tour relaxed, happy and with a new understanding of what our lake is really like. It’s quite a serene and beautiful attraction while also tying our whole city together. The lake may be manmade but it is still magical and there’s something about water and sunlight that just makes you feel good. All in all, it’s an experience I’d highly recommend.

I’d actually met Graham for the first time that day and, as you can probably tell from my article, found him to be a heck of a nice guy.

Starting a new business like this in Canberra can be quite tough in the early stages but Graham is really filling a hole in the market and deserves to do well.

I found myself getting excited about the potential for photography tours, New Year’s Eve fireworks tours and so on.

For now, however, there are special and ultra-cheap introductory tours this weekend, and the regular one-hour tours and two-hour sunset tours have now also been launched (these need to be booked ahead).

Go to www.canberraurbanadventures.com for more details or contact Graham on 0421 140 401 or email him at info@canberraurbanadventures.com.

Have you been out on Lake Burley Griffin? How did you find the experience? Should more be done to promote opportunities to get out on the lake? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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