I was on Google Maps at work, looking for a project site when a co-worker told me that if I zoom out she can show me a "really cute boathouse". "You can hire a rowboat and then somewhere down here you can see bats" she elaborates. So when one of my friends and I were planning an outing 'row boating' immediately popped into my head. After a serious (It was actually more serious than I would like to admit) conversation about what does one wear whilst row boating we decided that was the way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon.
As soon as I got out of the car, I felt that it was going to be a good day. Trees and greenery surrounded us and we even walked past a mini outdoor amphitheater. Entering Fairfield Park Boathouse is a bit like stepping back in time… in style.
Fairfield Pak boathouse was built in 1908 as a picnic, camping and refreshment area. While it has undergone a couple of restorations including being raised 12 feet to minimize flood damage, the boathouse still preserves its historic ambience.
If the architecture itself didn't suggest its historic roots, little wooden plaques hung everywhere on the premises remind us of a fun frivolous era ; "Blankets for when you are cold", "Cushions for your pets" and "Parasols for the ladies". But don't be fooled by the aged looking nature of these plaques, they are very much relevant as these things are actually available on a first come first serve basis. To add to the carnival like atmosphere, there is even a candy floss machine.
We were told by the friendly staff that a 'Gentlemen's rowing skiff' is the most stable of the different boating options available. You can also hire canoes or kayaks depending on your mood/skill/'style'. Since neither my friend nor I had rowed before we decided to go for the most stable option. After retrieving our life jackets and oars we sauntered along to the jetty where the row boats were neatly tied up. Being complete beginners, undocking and getting ourselves going was a bit difficult at first. If you do feel like you need help you can always ask the staff to assist you.
Once we were down the river and we got the hang of synchronised rowing (we had an oar each) it became quite relaxing. Let's not mention the couple of times where we unintentionally rowed straight to the bank and the one time we did a three sixty turn to avoid another boat. But I promise, after a good ten minutes of boating acrobatics we settled into a very fine rhythm of rowing gently down the stream.
I didn't get to see any bats, but we did see bandicoots and ducks. There was even a baby coot that kept following us and we were extremely excited to have a groupie (even though it was probably just looking for food). After a good hour of rowing and singing the soundtrack of Pocahontas, we got back to shore and tied up our boat with a very 'un-nautical' knot.
Rowing can be hunger inducing work and luckily the food at the boathouse did not disappoint. We shared a pizza among the two of us and it was delicious. It was so delicious it inspired us to also get cake and tea from the teahouse which turned out be a brilliant idea. The food wasn't cheap, but it wasn't overly priced either. Accounting the experience and ambiance, I would say its good value.
This is definitely something to do on a lazy weekend, when you are looking for some excitement. We drove there, but fear not it is accessible by public transport and is only a 15 minute walk from the Fairfield Train Station.