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One of the most common requests this column receives is for suggested day trips from Canberra.
There are so many tempting places to explore within a few hours drive of Canberra. There's the rugged bushranging country to our west; the cool, fresh air of Snowies to our south and of course the pristine beaches and lagoons on our south coast.
When I visited earlier this week, I had the entire precinct to myself. Bliss.
However, one of my favourite summer daytrips is to the dramatic escarpment country of the Southern Highlands – it's an easy and picturesque drive, not over-crowded and best of all boasts some spectacularly situated waterholes to cool off in. Although my suggested drive isn't an official tourist route, I like to call it 'The Waterfall Way' as it features three wonderful waterfalls, one that is well known and two hidden gems.
Stop 1: Fitzroy Falls: an easy two-hour (180-kilometre) drive from Canberra via the Federal, Hume and Illawarra highways. Turn off at Moss Vale and follow the Nowra Road to the falls.
The most famous of the three falls, right next to a major road, this natural wonder is well visited all year. A short boardwalk from the visitors' centre leads you to several vantage points where you can watch, mesmerised, as the Yarrunga Creek plunges 81 metres over a precipitous sandstone escarpment into the valley below. The main lookout is directly above the falls (beware if you are prone to vertigo) while two other lookouts a short walk away give different perspectives. There is a small charge for parking.
Although the water flow is not as big as when first 'discovered' by pioneer Charles Throsby in the 1820s (due to a dam further upstream today), the falls have only been known to dry up once in living memory.
Stop 2: Belmore Falls: about 15 minutes' drive (11km) from Fitzroy Falls via Myra Vale? Road and Belmore Falls Road (partially unsealed) but suitable for 2WD. Beware any oncoming traffic.
My favourite of the three waterfalls, Belmore features two free falls of the Barrengarry Creek totalling more than a 100m drop from the escarpment deep into the valley below. The falls are accessed via a very pretty drive through a mix of rolling green hills and national park along a partially unsealed road. Pull up at the first car park you reach, where a 1km (easy) loop walking track leads you to two lofty vantage points. The first is Hindmarsh Lookout which commands expansive views over Kangaroo Valley and beyond. If you follow the walking track along the rim (don't worry, there's a fence) it'll take you to the main falls lookout.
When I visited earlier this week, I had the entire precinct to myself. Bliss. Just on the car park side of the causeway above the falls is a small pull-out bay. If you park here and stroll about 50m upstream, there's a lovely waterhole in which to take a dip.
Stop 3: Carrington Falls: about 30 minutes' drive (20km) from Belmore Falls via Belmore Falls Road (partially unsealed), Illawarra Highway, Jamberoo Mountain Road and Carrington Falls Road (also partially unsealed, but suitable for 2WD).
Cascading 50m into upper Kangaroo Valley, although not as high as Fitzroy, nor Belmore, the more remote location of these falls adds to their natural appeal.
There's plenty of parking here and a 30-minute loop (easy) walking track to a series of lookouts. While soaking up the views here earlier this week the mid-morning light painted a series of rainbows on the cliffs below. Just where the track turns back near the top of the falls is a natural rockpool. It's not signposted but it's a popular spot with locals on a hot summer's day. Take your deckchair and relax or slip on the togs for a refreshing dip. Don't go too close to the edge, and stay clear of the water after or during rain – this is the top of a waterfall after all.
The surrounds are also a perfect spot for birdwatchers, so be sure to look for the green catbird and fan-tailed cuckoo. Also keep an eye out on the forest floor for collections of blue objects, the telltale signs of the nest of a male satin bowerbird trying to impress the ladies.
From Carrington Falls, it's about a two-hour drive back to Canberra via Moss Vale.
Drive time: My suggested route takes about 4.5 to 5 hours (400km). You should allow an hour to explore each waterfall, plus another hour or so for lunch.
Tummy tempters: Take a picnic or stop at one of the many cafes in Robertson or Burrawang for lunch, my pick of which would be the deck of the Burrawang General Store Cafe (11 Hoddle St, Ph 02 4886 4496) for a late breakfast or morning tea at Pizzas in the Mist (42 Hoddle St, Ph 02 4885 1799) in Robertson for lunch or dinner.
Don't forget: To stop at The Robertson Pie Shop (4400 Illawarra Hwy, Ph 02 4885 1330) for one of its famous pies that were recently taste-tested in this column (Great Pie Drive, 20 July, 2013).
AUSTRALIA DAY – Tim's Top 3
While there are so many fun ways to celebrate Australia Day in Canberra tomorrow (see australiaday.org.au/act or phone 132 281 if you missed last Saturday's Australia Day liftout in The Canberra Times), if you are travelling further afield for the long weekend there's no reason to miss out on all the action.
After careful consideration of all sorts of contenders, from lamingtons on the lawns of historic Berrima Courthouse to a billycart derby in Goulburn, here are my 'Top 3 Australia Day' events in our region. The first is uplifting, the second record-breaking (hopefully) and the other is well . . . somewhat different.
1. Climb Mt Kosie on Aussie Day
What: Australia's Highest Australia Day BBQ.
Where: Thredbo (a three-hour drive from Canberra) and Mount Kosciuszko.
Time: Chairlift opens at 8.30am and will transport you from Thredbo Valley to Top Station for the start of the walk.? Alternatively, a guided walk from top of the chairlift begins at 8.50am. A free BBQ at Rawsons Pass (about two-thirds of the way to the summit) starts at 9am. The return walk from the top of the chairlift to the summit takes four to six hours and is 13km long (you'll need moderate fitness).
Cost: $30 for chairlift. Free BBQ and Thredbo Resort activities – gold coin donations encouraged for charity.
Don't miss: The Australian poetry reading at the peak of Mt Kosciuszko at midday (I reckon A. B. 'Banjo' Paterson's The Man from Snowy River is a shoo-in to feature).
Don't forget: Clothes for all occasions. Mountain weather can change suddenly.
2. World record attempt
What: Surf The Bay Surf School is organising an attempt at the Guinness world record for the number of surfers riding a single wave together.
Where: North Broulee Beach (with holiday traffic, allows 2½ hours from Canberra).
Spectators: There will also be lots of onshore entertainment with a covers band, jumping castle, beach cricket, volleyball, raffles, prize giveaways and? great food and drink options.
Did you know?: South Africa holds the record, set in 2009, with 110 surfers.
Surfers: Register at surfthebay.com.au. At the time of writing there were already more than 110 registered surfers, so as long as everyone can get on the same wave, the record should be broken.
3. Slip on your birthday suit
What: A clothing optional Volleyball Day (I warned you my third tip was going to be different).
Where: Armands Beach (10km south of Bermagui).
Time: From 10.30am–4pm.
Uniforms: If not the one you were born in, the organisers (Armands Beach Leisure Group) assure me you are still most welcome to attend in what you are comfortable with.
Expect: Volleyball, petanque (for the less energetic) and swimming. Cool drinks and a sausage sizzle will be available for a small donation.
Don't forget: Lots of sunscreen, hat and beach umbrella.
Did you know? The beach is named after a Frenchman who owned a nearby farm and swam nude at the beach regularly. In the 1930s nude cricket matches were held at the beach and in 1993 the Bega Valley Shire Council declared it legally clothes optional.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter: @TimYowie or write c/o The Canberra Times, 9 Pirie Street, Fyshwick. A selection of past columns is available at canberratimes.com.au/travel/blog/yowie-man.