New to Canberra, I love exploring this city and the secrets that it holds with my family.
Published January 2nd 2017
Update April 13th 2018
The jet now operates between 11am - 2pm daily.
Get an unexpected shower if the wind blows your way
When visitors drive around Canberra for the first time, it is often a surprise to see a spectacular water jet shooting high up into the air above the city. What exactly is it? Where does it come from? The Captain Cook Memorial Jet is a single water jet that ceremoniously shoots water 147 metres up into the air every day between 2pm - 4pm, on Lake Burley Griffin. At full strength, it sends up a massive three tonnes of water at approximately 260 kms an hour. If you are driving along Commonwealth Bridge nearby, it is a picturesque view - and often a shock at the 2pm lift off!
It was built by the Commonwealth Government in 1970 to commemorate the Bicentenary of Captain James Cooks' first sighting of the east coast of Australia. It accompanies The Captain Cook Memorial metal sculpture, located on the side of the lake, which shows Captain Cooks journeys around the world. Queen Elizabeth II officially opened both the jet and the Captain Cook Memorial 47 years ago, and the water show remains a favourite event every day in the Capital.
For the people of Canberra, the water jet is a welcome sight. It has been plagued by water pump problems for the last couple of years, however at the time of writing in January 2017, it is back working again - like an old friend who we haven't seen for some time. In the Summer months it is also a way to cool down on the lakes foreshore. If the wind is blowing from the right direction, people walking along the lakes edge can get an unexpected shower...or drench!
...getting caught in the spray...which is freezing!
If you stand back to watch the wind and waterspray, like we did after our drench, it is rewarding to see the huge smiles on the faces of the joggers as they run through it, happy to have an instant cool down. The water is pumped up from the lake, which isn't suitable for swimming or drinking, so perhaps keep that in mind when you go under the spray. If you are interested in the underground workings of this jet, once again going strong after 47 years, see here.
There is plenty of parking near the jet and around Commonwealth Park nearby, for the many tourists who stop to get a photo. It is a popular vantage point, with many of Canberra's iconic landmarks located behind it. Due to the height of the jet, it can also be seen from all areas of the lake and the Parliamentary Triangle, over the two hours it is on display. It is an impressive, and unexpected sight for most people as they enjoy their pursuits around the lake and exploration of the city.
The Captain Cook Memorial itself is located on the lakeside pathway near the jet, at Regatta Point. This memorial is fascinating to walk around, with signage explaining all of Captain Cooks voyages and represented in one stunning sculpture. It is interesting to visibly see the paths he travelled and areas he discovered. As you look down into it, it also has an extensive water feature underneath, which creates a relaxing sound as you walk around its perimeter. If you have an interest in Captain Cooks travels, the National Museum of Australia, located just 5 minutes drive from the water jet, has his magnifier and navigational instruments he used on display.
Whilst in the area, why not walk up the grassy slope behind the memorial up to Regatta Point, which is part of Commonwealth Park. Take a walk through the Canberra and Region Visitors Centre or stop for a coffee at The Deck café, which is a relaxing venue to sit back and enjoy the water jet in all its glory. This whole area has a lot to offer, with a variety of different ways to experience both Captain Cook Memorials and this part of the lake. Why not run, bike ride, walk or just simply sit and enjoy the water show over Lake Burley Griffin, this weekend.
With such picturesque views, it may be hard to leave.