Summer is a time when as Canberrans we awake from our long winter hibernation and venture outdoors to explore every nook and cranny of our region, from the mountains to the coast.
Over the next couple of weeks, I will share with you my favourite summer activities. Today, I reveal my top three soft adventures. These aren’t for the hardcore daredevils, rather suitable for anyone who is reasonably fit and a competent swimmer. Just don’t forget the sunscreen.
With crystal clear waters and white sands, Jervis Bay is a haven for snorkellers.
In fact, over the Christmas holidays there’s probably more chance you’ll bump into one of your work colleagues, head down, flippers up, at popular haunts of Green Patch and Huskisson, than chatting around the water cooler in the office.
However, if you are prepared to jump on a boat, you will be rewarded with some hidden secrets to explore like the spectacular sea caves south of Point Perpendicular. And what’s more, as it’s beyond the reach of most regular beachgoers, you’ll have no crowds to contend with.
Expect: To snorkel through sea caves. James Bond eat your heart out!
Did You Know? You’ll need to jump on a boat to access the sea caves.
Look out for: In the waters of Jervis Bay, divers and snorkelers regularly spot large pods of dolphins, Wobbegong sharks, smooth black rays, and giant cuttle fish.
Tim’s Tip: If you are a novice snorkeller practise in a Canberra pool before you head down the coast. Maybe ask Santa for your own mask and flippers.
What you’ll need: Most operators will be able to provide you with all the equipment you need, just take a sense of adventure.
Suitable for: All levels of experience, but you need to be a capable swimmer. If you are feeling extra adventurous, you can even book a learn-to-dive course.
Take me there: Several charters operate in and around Jervis Bay, see www.shoalhaven.com
We’ve all done it, inflated a cheap air mattress and without a care in the world jumped in a river and allowed the current to take you downstream. The only catch (apart from the risk of a puncture on a sharp rock) is you can’t go too far unless you want to walk all the way back up river or you have someone to pick you up. However, the folk at Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa in the Snowy Mountains have taken liloing to an all new level. What’s more, they’ve given it the fancy name of river sledding.
Expect: A fun guided float along an alpine stream. Depending on water levels, some sections of the river will be shallow so you may have to wade part of the way.
Did You Know? Don’t worry about a puncture – these aren’t el cheapo K-Mart mattresses, these are heavy-duty sleds, purpose designed and built in New Zealand for running river rapids.
Look out for: In the bigger pools of water, it’s so clear you may even spot a platypus frolicking in the shallows or brown trout swimming beneath you. Really!
Tim’s tip: Follow your guide so you don’t get in trouble, especially when you reach the Grade 3 rapids including the Devils Elbow, the Washing Machine and the Coffin. Don’t worry, they aren’t as bad as they sound.
What you’ll need? Nothing, just yourself. Make sure you wear the wet suit, booties, gloves and helmet provided.
Suitable for: No experience necessary as your guide will teach you how to use your sled. You could even combine your trip to the mountains with a ride along the knock-out Thredbo Valley Track Extension that recently featured in this column.
Take me there:Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa operates a 2.5-hour, 4km river sled adventure along the Thredbo River between Thredbo Diggings and Bullocks Hut, from December to February (weather and river levels dependent). Cost: From $95 pp, includes all gear and guide. You don’t need to be a guest at the resort to participate. To book, call 02 6451 3000 or visit www.lakecrackenback.com.au. Lake Crackenback is located on The Alpine Way between Jindabyne and Thredbo.
Don the snorkel, slip on the flippers and take the plunge into the briny with Montague Island’s resident seal colonies. Depending on the season, between 400 and 2000 Australian and New Zealand fur seals hang out among the rocky outcrops and in the clear waters of this small island, near Narooma. Watch the seals twist, spiral and frolic with astounding agility.
Expect: The sight of a steady stream of silver bubbles rising from a seal, back-dropped by the deep blue of the water.
Did You Know? The New Zealand seals are a little more relaxed and not quite as active as the Australian fur seals which have a habit of luring you into deeper water for a bit of fun.
Look out for: You may also be lucky enough to eyeball a manta ray or a Port Jackson shark.
Tim’s Tip: Take a few bars of chocolate. No, not to feed the seals, but to replenish your own energy after the snorkel.
What you’ll need: Nothing, just yourself. All gear provided.
Suitable for: Any age but you must be experienced with snorkelling unassisted in the open ocean.
Take me there: There are a number of operators which offer a snorkelling or diving experience with the seals at Montague Island. Visit www.visitnsw.com and search for ‘Dive Narooma dive’ for a list of operators.
Last week’s exposé (Does the ghost of Hamilton Hume haunt this Cottage?) on things that go bump in the night at Cooma Cottage in Yass has flushed out reports of recent unexplained encounters.
“Due to the things I’ve seen and heard, I believe the cottage is definitely haunted,” says Lizzie McIntosh, a new volunteer guide at the National Trust property and former home to explorer Hamilton Hume.
“I have seen the ghost of a man in the front window looking out to the stables, once at night and once in the day,” she reports. “It was a male wearing glasses so maybe it was a doctor from the days when it was a tuberculosis sanatorium.”
Interestingly it was next to another window in which The Canberra Times of December 4, 1990 reported “a pane of glass exploded; the fragments strewn on the veranda outside the window suggesting a force from inside rather than out”.
Lizzie also claims to have seen the ghost of a lady in the historic bungalow. “Just last month, I noticed red mist on the outside of a window and then during a tour I saw a lady standing in the doorway of the same room, long dress and bonnet on her head, for about two seconds,” she reveals.
”She was definitely nothing harmful, I think she was there to see who was in ‘her’ house and what they were up to,” reports Lizzie, who explains, “I found a photo of Elizabeth Hume, Hamilton’s wife, and the vision I saw had the same facial features as Elizabeth, so it may have been her, who knows?”
Despite her unexplained sightings, Lizzie loves working at the Yass landmark. “I really enjoy volunteering here, especially because of the sense of history and the connection to Hamilton Hume, the explorer of Hume and Hovell fame”.
Cooma Cottage is at 756 Yass Valley Way, Yass. Open Friday to Sunday from 10am-4pm. Entry $10pp, free for National Trust members. Closed for Christmas from December 22 to January 11.