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"We tried... skippering a GoBoat Canberra on Lake Burley Griffin"

Launched in Copenhagen in 2014, GoBoats are self-drive, Scandinavian picnic boats for hire, with no boat license required. The stylish boats have popped up at venues across Denmark, Sweden and London. Lake Burley Griffin was the obvious next choice.

GoBoat Canberra arrived in the nation's capital in November 2017, after owner Nick Tyrrell and his wife first discovered them when in Stockholm for a friend's wedding.

The boats are docked at Trevillian Quay at Kingston Foreshore - there are eight in the total fleet - and the biggest coup is you don't need a boat license to be the skipper; anyone can hire them.

Owner Nick invited us for a spin when the first boat arrived on the lake, after its long journey from the factory in Croatia. With my captain's hat firmly on, I stepped down into the boat from the jetty. It's a little bit of a step, but even recovering from surgery for a broken foot, I had no trouble getting in.


I had never driven a boat before - unsurprisingly you're more likely to find me relaxing on a boat, with the wind in my hair and glass of champas in my hand. Nick assured me it would take less than five minutes for me to get the hang of the steering, and he wasn't wrong. You rotate the handle one way to go, the other way to stop, and move it left and right to steer. It's as simple as it sounds.

The boats, which are constructed from 80 per cent recycled PET bottles, have a table in the middle and seating around the outside, seating up to eight people, including the skipper who sits at the back. They're also dog friendly.

Food and drinks are BYO, and there's plenty of table space for a picnic spread, plus four drink holders for if things get a bit choppy. The boats are licensed, so take the bubbly, but for the skipper the same blood alcohol limit laws apply as to drivers of vehicles.

The boats don't go particularly fast - which was one of the requirements to make the boats available to those without a license. Navigating through the quay at the Foreshore it simple, but it feels like you're moving quickly because the buildings are close. But once you're out on the lake, things feel much slower. It takes a lot longer to get places than you might think - GoBoat Canberra has a map which will give you a good idea of where you get to in your allocated time.

There's only one major rule, which is that you must have the boat back on time, ready for the next booking. It's actually something which, if you're not paying attention, is harder to stick to than you might think. But with the late fee at $50 per 15 minutes overtime, it's something you'd want to stick to.

For some, seeing the price has been a deterrent, but when you break it down, as long as you've got a group, it's quite reasonable. Rental starts at $95 for one hour, $169 for two hours, or $239 for three. Between eight people, for two hours, it's around $20 each. Which is about the same as a movie ticket.

I'd only ever been out on the lake twice - once to try out dragon boating and once stand-up paddleboarding - and while I had enjoyed both of those, it was nice to be out there in a relaxing capacity and able to soak up the views. I've always thought the lake was underutilised, and this is a great way for anyone to get out there. Plus who doesn't love their day with a side of Scandinavian chic?

Verdict: I absolutely loved being out on the lake and getting to cruise around. Canberra is stunning from the lake - and being on the boat provides a really different view of all the national monuments. In my opinion it's also one of the best picnic spots around. The only thing I would suggest is definitely bring a hat - it can get quite hot in the sun.

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