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Summer 2019 - Ahoy! Shoalhaven Gorge

It’s a new year and time for a new summer adventure. 2018 was the year of hiking every season, so for 2019 we will be experiencing other forms of overnight adventure, starting with the ultimate form of self-propelled summer transport - the humble canoe.

For our summer 2019 adventure we’re exploring the magnificent Shoalhaven Gorge… not trudging away on foot but gliding calmly through the water in canoes. We have a big team with Daisy (9), Mary (6) and mum Emma. It’s also a bit of a reunion with “Crazy” Chris and Rory (9) – who joined us in our Blue Mountains adventure last Autumn - plus Rory’s sister Ava (11) and their grandfather Carlo, who is visiting from Scotland for the summer. It’s a multi-generational aquatic expedition.


For a two day canoe trip we need some canoes - but we don’t have any canoes - so Chris shopped around and found the Kangaroo Valley Adventure Company, they had good value canoe rentals ($95 per person for two days). Chris booked four boats which accommodates an adult and a child in each boat and plenty of room for camping gear.


On Saturday morning we start the adventure at Glenmack Holiday park in Kangaroo Valley, where Dion from KVAC supplies us with PFD’s, paddles and a couple of large barrels to keep the gear dry. Then we load into a bus and Dion drives us, our canoes and all our camping gear to Tallowa Dam, about twenty kilometres out of town.

After a briefing and some basic paddling instruction Dion hits the road and we are ready to cast off into the big blue, aiming for a campsite about 10km west of the dam.


Shoalhaven Gorge is formed on the upper Shoalhaven river near where it meets the Kangaroo river, the river was dammed in 1976 to provide water to the Shoalhavem region. Featuring magnificent sandstone walls and forest it is a haven for birdlife and is supposedly good for recreational fishing, with Bass, perch and carp.

It's an extremely hot day and the water provides relief for the kids, who are able to dive overboard to cool off. Chris brought water canons, making the adventure into an epic sea battle. The kids have seemingly forgotten their paddling lessons and are concentrating on manning the canon as each adult takes care of the paddling duties.


After stopping for lunch and a quick swim we continue on into the "Ghost Forest" an area of stringy bark trees that were drowned when the river was dammed. We weave silently between the old trees imagining what the site was like before the dam was built.

About three kilometres further we approach the area that we plan to camp, there are a series of informal campsites on the shore, some with toilets and some that just seem to be flat areas between the trees. The team are hot and exhausted so we land at the first appropriate site. Chris, Rory and I then cast off to explore a bit further to see if there is a better option. The nearest site with amenities is already taken by another group so we head back to the team and set up camp.



In the middle of the night some very strong wind gusts blow through the gorge, starting as a distant whoosing sound and ending up shaking all the tents. Chris and Rory - bivvying out under an old hootchie - have a bit of a rough night.

But the morning is cool and still and we have a long day of paddling ahead. We need to have breakfast, pack up camp and paddle back to the dam to meet Dion from Kangaroo Valley Adventure Company by 3pm.

On the return voyage we are hit with a headwind and end up tacking into the lee of the hills to avoid being blown off course, this means we are criss-crossing the river multiple times adding to the overall distance. We stop for a quick lunch break near the "ghost forest" and continue the arduous paddle into the wind.

We arrive at the dam in time to meet Dion. We're exhausted but in high spirits and looking forward to a cold drink and a pub feed at the Kangaroo Valley hotel. The canoes are loaded up and we board the bus and head back into the valley.

We were planning to camp at the Bendeela campground - a free camping area outside the town - but Dion invites us to camp the night at the Glenmack Holiday park, with showers, a swimming pool, a giant jumping pillow and conveniently located a short walk from the pub, it was a luxurious option we couldn't refuse.


This is the first time we have had a canoe trip as a family group and it was an ideal location to try it out. The kids were able to sit back while the adults paddled and the large size of the canoes meant we could carry a lot of luxuries that you can only dream of when you're hiking. Fresh food, cold beers, water, fishing rods... the canoe is like the Landrover of flatwater.

We probably paddled about 3-4 hours each day and the rest of the time was spent swimming, or relaxing around the camp. The water canons were a great addition to the trip adding a lot of fun for the kids. And the location of the Shoalhaven Gorge - and the Kangaroo Valley - are a beautiful part of New South Wales.

All up it was a memorable and fun experience had by all - including three generations of adventurers.


Dion and the folks from Kangaroo Valley Adventure Company were awesome and I highly recommend them, check out the website:

And for more information about adventures in the Shoalhaven area check out:

The author wishes to acknowledge the Wodi Wodi people of the Yuin nation who are the traditional custodians of the land featured in this article.

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