With the Canberra Balloon Spectacular 2021 just over a month away (6-14 March), I have updated the list of the best viewing spots around the lake. I have listed 14, with the locations numbered on the map and descriptions below.
Other than in a balloon, being out on the lake in a kayak, GoBoat or other watercraft provides some of the best viewing. However, if you are restricted to land then the locations listed below are some excellent vantage points. Canberrans will be familiar with these suggestions but if you are from out of town they might be of assistance.
You can capture some great photos from any of the above locations but bear in mind that hot-air balloon flights are highly weather dependent and balloons can only take off in slight winds. Weather conditions must be near perfect for a launch to occur. If there is any sign of a potentially non-safe flight, then the launch will be cancelled.
Hot-Air Balloons are a type of aircraft that rely on basic scientific principles to fly. Warm air rises over cooler air; thus the balloon is able to rise when the burner is lit. To help balloons rise, thermals need to be absent or at low activity. They are least active in the early morning, just after sunrise, and early in the evening. Therefore launches are scheduled between 6:30AM - 8AM & between 7 PM - 8:30PM during the evening (although there are no evening flights scheduled during the Canberra Balloon Spectacular).
Prior to flight, a "Piball" (or “pilot balloon") will be released. This is a helium filled balloon that lets the pilots know the general direction of the wind. This is the way the pilot’s balloon will drift. Wind directions do change based on height from the ground (especially if a front is in the area) and pilots must rely on (and know the direction of) the winds aloft. A balloon must also be able to land once in the air so the decision for "Go" or "No Go" for launch must take both the take-off, flight, and a safe landing into consideration.
Here is some weather information on ballooning flights.
Launch sites for Kayaks, Canoes, SUPs and other watercraft
A dry summer saw a significant drop in the level of Lake Burley Griffin but things are back to normal after some good rain and around its 40+ kms of shoreline are plenty of publicly accessible places to launch your craft. Below are some you might like to try. Above are photos of the locations. Not included are commercial operators listed here and Rowing Clubs around the lake, which are for members only. Full details are at Rowing ACT and new members are always welcome.
Molonglo Reach - next to the Burley Griffin Canoe Club - there is a small pontoon and a section of sandy riverbank for easy launch of canoes, kayaks and SUPs. The area also has public toilets, picnic tables and parking.
Grevillea Park (between The Boathouse restaurant and Capital Lakes Rowing Club). - A long sandy stretch of shoreline with parking. There is also a ramp for launching powerboats or sail boats.
Kingston Foreshore – this is Canberra’s only absolute waterfront residential development. Although there is no shore as such, since retaining walls were necessary to create the area’s boat harbour and surrounding waterfront, a small jetty was included in the design. This is adjacent to the “Walt & Burley” restaurant and bar and easily accessible for residents and visitors and includes a couple of racks to stow kayaks. Also, a second floating jetty is under construction as part of the Sapphire apartment complex to be completed later this year.
Bowen Park - A small jetty suitable for kayaks/SUPs just near the new ‘On Lake Café’. There is free parking and public toilets nearby.
Aspen Island A small beach adjacent to the National Carillon. Access is via a footbridge. There is paid parking through the week and free on the weekends (please check signs for details). There are picnic tables and public toilets nearby.
Commonwealth Place – A curved wet dock located on Queen Elizabeth Terrace between the Segway hire shop and Elixir Café.
Regatta Point - Centrally located but a bit of a hike from the carpark. There is a jetty and small gravel beach. This is where you could hire paddle boats last summer.
Henry Rolland Park – Opened in 2018, this section of waterfront has been developed to include barbecue and picnic facilities, outdoor fitness equipment, lawn areas for play or relaxation. The park is also connected to a brand new 150m boardwalk that has two timber jetties and a wet dock for canoe and kayak access.
New Acton - Small ramp and gravel beach adjacent to the jetty and site of the original paddle boat hire and lake cruise business. This just along the shore from Henry Rolland Park. Soon to be redeveloped but for the moment there is parking and public toilets nearby.
Lotus Bay - This is along the bay from the Canberra Yacht Club and Canberra Dragon Boat Association and has a wooden jetty and ramp for sailboats and powerboats and a sandy beach for kayaks, canoes, and SUPs. There is restaurant, bar and facilities (for members) at the Southern Cross Yacht Club restaurant as well as public toilets nearby and ample parking.
Acton Peninsula – A jetty and small sand/gravel area on the western side behind the National Museum of Australia.
Yarralumla Beach - Yarralumla Beach is a popular location on the southern shoreline of Lake Burley Griffin. Close to the suburb of Yarralumla it is popular with swimmers, and ideal for kayaks and other small craft. West Lake to the north is popular with wind surfers. Yarralumla Beach has a generous sandy beach, designated swimming enclosure with swimming platforms, ample free parking, toilets and barbecues. It is 15 minutes from the city centre of Canberra.
Yarralumla Bay – Yarralumla Bay is a busy hub of watercraft activities situated on the south west shores of Lake Burley Griffin. Several rowing and sailing clubs are situated on both sides of the bay. Kayaks and stand-up paddle boards can be hired from the YMCA Paddle Hub on the eastern side of the bay.
Orana Bay – This is the next bay to the west of Yarralumla Bay. There is a public jetty on the eastern shore and a boat ramp.
Black Mountain Peninsula - A prominent bushland area on the north-western section of the lake, accessible by road with playgrounds, walking paths and picnic areas with BBQs and facilities. Home to several rowing clubs with a beach and boat ramps and several pontoons on the western side.
Weston Park East - sheltered bay and designated swimming beach, protected from the prevailing north westerly winds. Located on the shores of Tarcoola Reach, this area has a swimming enclosure with pontoons, a generous beach, BBQ’s, toilets and parking.
Kurrajong Point – Located at the end of the Weston Park peninsula with a sandy beach and parking for around 20 vehicles.
Weston Park West - Looking towards the rowing lanes, Weston Park West is a great location for spectators to watch rowing events which are held along Yarramundi Reach. Weston Park offers a large playground, barbeques, picnic facilities, ample parking and toilets and is only 20 minutes from the centre of Canberra. There are a few floating pontoons and accessible areas for launching kayaks and SUPs.
Acacia Inlet - Located at the northern end of the long stretch of water between Yarramundi Reach and Weston Park West is a small jetty and fixed long concrete dock. They are mainly used for rowers during time trials and competitions but if there are no events being held then they can be used to launch kayaks, canoes, SUPs etc.
"As most of you are already aware, the lake level has dropped down to approximately 300mm below normal lake level over the last 8 weeks. This is primarily due to low flows into the lake combined with evaporation and abstraction from the lake for irrigation. Abstraction for the lake is administered by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) under the ACT Government. The National Capital Authority (NCA) contacted the EPA in late November to request activation of low level water restrictions for abstractors and, together with other abstractors, have adjusted the extraction rate to assist in managing the lake level.
The long range forecast for the ACT remains hot and dry over the summer period and we are likely to see the lake level drop lower in the coming months. Please be aware that lower lake levels might make use of boat ramps and other lake infrastructure problematic. Please assess the suitability of boat ramps before attempting to launch a boat. During this period we ask that you remain aware of hazards that might arise while the lake level is low.
The NCA will continue to monitor the lake level and work with the EPA to control abstraction from the lake in the coming months."
Above information provided courtesy NCA.
The effect on the lake is quite noticeable in the above photos taken at Lotus Bay, near the Canberra Yacht Club in Yarralumla, and the photo of the waterline in Central Basin near the National Gallery of Australia. Using the bushes (marked with a red arrow) as a guide, you can clearly see how far the water has receded from the shore since 6 October 2019.
ORU - unfold for adventure
Remember the ship in a bottle from your childhood? Now, thanks to a genius from San Francisco, you can have a kayak in a box. Or, more accurately, the kayak is the box!
The Oru kayak is an origami inspired vessel that folds from a flat pack (with carry strap), into a stylish, sturdy, lightweight and durable kayak in a matter of minutes, and one that you can take virtually anywhere. No need for roof racks as with hard shell kayaks, and it will fit under your bed, in a closet/wardrobe or the boot of your car.
The inventor and founder of Oru Kayak, Anton Willis, had a fascination with origami, the Japanese art of folding paper into three dimensional shapes and figures. He was also a keen paddler, but after moving to the San Francisco bay area in 2002 he faced the difficulty of getting to the outdoors from a large congested city, let alone storing a large kayak in his apartment.
After reading a 2007 article in The New Yorker magazine about a physicist with an interest in origami, Anton wondered if a kayak could fold up like a piece of paper? He started making miniature ones out of folded paper, then cardboard and eventually a full-sized version from corrugated plastic. There was a lot of interest from friends, so he decided to make a business out of his idea. The design was quite challenging and the first one sank, but he persevered and after about 25 iterations it was ready for market.
In 2012 Oru was a three-person company. Through a Kickstarter campaign they initially sought $80,000 in seed money to set up a manufacturing facility but raised nearly $450,000. They were thrilled of course, but it meant they were faced with the daunting task of building and delivering five times as many kayaks as planned.
It was a great problem for a new company to have, but it also meant a steep learning curve—about everything from designing assembly facilities to setting up efficient operations to understanding international customs regulations. The first kayaks shipped in the northern Spring of 2013 to rave reviews. They were also able to gain valuable insight after reaching a deal with an investor from the ABC’s “Shark Tank” program in 2014.
To this day the kayaks are designed and manufactured in the United States (in Southern California) which gives Anton and his team hands-on access to the production process, ensuring that every Oru Kayak meets high standards for safety, design, and performance. It also makes the prototyping process for new models much faster.
Oru kayaks are sold around the world and now Australia has its own distributor, Yugen Adventure - the website has full specs of the range of Oru kayaks and accessories as well as videos of this ingenious product in action.
Yugen was founded by Michelle Tommosgard and launched in Sydney in January this year. Michelle was introduced to the Oru kayak while travelling in Scandinavia, and it was love at first sight. Captivated by the elegance and simplicity of its design, together with its portability and storage convenience she realised it was a product tailor made for city dwellers who craved the outdoors and anyone else who liked to paddle without the expense or inconvenience associated with full-sized hard-shell kayaks.
There are currently three models available in the Oru range, with a new tandem called the Haven due in mid-2019.
Beach LT – The Beach is great for day trips, picnics, and casual fun with family and friends.
Bay ST - The original Oru Kayak that's withstood the test of time. Launched on Kickstarter, sold by retailers around the world, and in the permanent collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Stable enough for beginners, while fast and sporty for expert kayakers. Plenty of room to stash gear for day trips and short camping excursions. Transforming it from box to boat takes just a few minutes.
Coast XT - The new standard for spontaneous adventures. Designed for rugged expeditions in surf and wind.
The Haven (new for 2019) - The Haven is a folding tandem with impeccable performance and unmatched portability that easily converts to a single-seater high performance kayak with the switch of a few buckles, for those times when you just want to fly solo for a bit. The Haven combines the stability and quick setup of the Beach LT with the performance and speed of the Coast XT - it's a boat with endless possibilities.
Assembly takes probably 25 minutes the first couple of times but usually under 15 minutes with practice, and even less time to fold it up. With a fold cycle of 20,000 times, even with daily use, an Oru could last decades.
The incredible Oru kayak is now available in Australia thanks to Yugen Adventure and we hope to bring you a more comprehensive test from Lake Burley Griffin soon.
If you can’t wait to try your very own Oru kayak have a look at Yugen’s website and, like me, you’ll think …. “I want one!” Click below to view the range and get a 10% discount at checkout.
Someone who often joins me “on patrol in the Green Hornet” is Mike Bremers, with his stylish red and white 5-metre kayak, Kakadu. At least once a week we enjoy taking to the waters of Lake Burley Griffin to photograph some of the amazing sunrises, striking landmarks and buildings around the shore, the odd rower, the plentiful wildlife or simply get a bit of exercise to keep our aging frames operational.
I only recently discovered that, as well as a keen kayaker with a wealth of experience, Mike is a famous author.
Ever had those days where you want to keep paddling? Had the urge to see what’s around just one more bend in the river, one more photo to take before the day ends, but family or work commitments rudely intruded? Well now, using your imagination and a copy of Murray-Darling Journeys you can. Written by Mike and his daughter, Angela, Murray-Darling Journeys is a fascinating glimpse into the history of significant journeys in human powered craft ( i.e. by rowing or paddling) on the rivers of the Murray-Darling Basin over the past 200 years.
Angela loves history and her master’s thesis was the subject of this book. During her research, she discovered many interesting stories about real people traveling the rivers over the years, and thought those stories deserved to be recorded for posterity. With Mike having paddled his kayak along the length of the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers and parts of several other rivers mentioned in the book, his experience made for a winning combination and the book soon took shape. Mike’s infectious enthusiasm has encouraged many others to travel the rivers. But of course, not without a copy of Murray-Darling Journeys.
It’s not only an enjoyable read but a comprehensive reference work to boot. There are over 430 accounts of journeys from exploration, surveying, the paddle steamer trade, recreation, the gold rush, the Great Depression to fund raising. Also included are a map, a list of river distances, a bibliography and an extensive list of references.
From the humorous to the hair-raising, these journeys are a testament to the ingenuity and determination of our forebears. Often undertaken with little knowledge of what lay ahead, even fewer resources and no fear. One example is the trip Jack Robson made in 1936 down the Tumut, Murrumbidgee and Murray rivers to Goolwa SA, in a self-made 12 ft galvanized iron canoe. He suffered injury, rapids, attacks by feral pigs, thefts of food by goats, hunger, was shot at, even hospitalized but kept going. And he managed it without a mobile phone or credit card. Jack went on to become one of the famous "Rats of Tobruk" in WW2, and this expedition no doubt helped condition him for his wartime adventures.
The book brings to life long forgotten journeys that reflect the times in which they occurred and make you feel like you are still paddling long after your kayak or canoe is packed away. So, grab a copy and sit under a tree or in a comfortable chair, enjoy it with a meal and glass of wine, or read It in bed and fall asleep to the trickling sound of the Murray-Darling rivers.
Here is a link to the website where the book can be ordered: www.murraydarlingjourneys.id.au/
If you know someone who enjoys the odd paddle or watery adventure, this could be an ideal Christmas gift.
Mike also has a Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/murraydarlingjourneys/
Mike was recently part of the Byadbo Wilderness expedition; a 70km trip down the Snowy river. You can read about that adventure here: http://www.johnevans.id.au/wp/18-23-october-2018-snowy-river-paddle-byadbo-wilderness-expedition-paddling-through-the-past/
My interest in kayaking is fairly recent. My initial foray into the pastime was with an inflatable Intex Challenger K1 (the original Green Hornet), which served me well for a couple of years and still gets an occasional outing. When it was time to upgrade to a hard shell kayak I was faced with a daunting choice before finally settling upon a Quest 10 by the Canadian company, Riot Kayaks.
I was after something that was reasonably priced, well made, roomy, stable, comfortable with adequate storage compartments, space for my camera gear, and brightly coloured. The latter feature was mainly for safety, as Lake Burley Griffin is home to all manner of craft such as sailing boats, stand-up-paddle boards, commercial tour operators, rowing sculls and dragon boats to name a few. And of course, kayaks. Thankfully not all at once, but the thought of being cut in half by a rowing eight is not a pleasant one. Anyhow the Riot ticked all the boxes. And at just 15kg it is light enough to get on and off the car's roof racks on my own.
I've used it about 100 times since January (it's my exercise machine) and it has performed admirably. On the water it's quite versatile for a short (3m/10ft) boat. Thanks to is multi-chine hull and Greenland bow it maintains course quite well and turns and leans effortlessly, though if the wind picks up and the waves build it can become a bit of a challenge, but that's part of the fun. Nevertheless, in relatively calm waters it is very enjoyable and I can maintain a relaxing 4-6kmr + with little effort. As I like to take a camera and photograph everything from sunrises to rowers and sailing boats I was surprised at how stable it is. The last thing I want is to capsize and watch my camera and lenses sink out of sight.
The Riot Quest 10 is made from rotomolded polyethylene by Riot's Cross-Max process. It combines by-design reinforcement with the natural mechanical qualities of HDPE to provide the right balance between stiffness, weight, durability, and quality of finish. The Quest 10 has a number of features that make it a worthwhile purchase (or gift, in my case :)). It has a roomy cockpit, molded thigh braces and adjustable foot pegs, a comfortable padded seat with adjustable back rest, and a storage net in the foot-well for personal items. There is a foam buoyancy pad in the bow, and a sealed watertight rear storage compartment so the craft will float if capsized. It's rated at 148kgs. I weigh 80kgs so there is ample reserve for gear and supplies. There are two drain plugs to get rid of any water at the end of a day's paddling. Another nice touch is a flush mounted fishing rod holder. Carry handles and deck rigging finish off the package.
It is quite possible to spend $thousands on kayaks if you have the means and inclination but for a beginner like me, the Riot Quest 10 has been a quality introduction to the sport and I would recommend it to anyone. Mine was $570 from C-Kayak Canberra (in January this year) and it came with a free paddle.
Having lived in Canberra for decades, I've only recently discovered the joys of kayaking. My craft of choice, the trusty Green Hornet (in fact a "Quest 10" manufactured by Canadian company, Riot) provides an ideal platform to photograph lake landscapes, the occasional event on the water and other items of interest.