There's escaping the city for an afternoon, and then there's driving 20 minutes down a dirt road to a secluded river and hopping into a canoe. In this canoe, it's quiet, very still. The Kangaroo Valley's bushland surrounds you, ascending on either side of the waterway, creating a landscape that's punctuated only by the occasional kingfisher flapping by or a solitary trout breaking the surface with a small splash.
And I haven't even mentioned the best bit: this canoe is filled with wine. And snacks. So as you're floating down the river — minimal paddling is necessary — you'll be able to pop a bottle of local sparkling and tuck into a few canapés. Maybe you'll try a glass of top-notch sparkling Riesling from Mittagong's Artemis Wines and a yabby roll with native lime mayo supplied by The Loch in nearby Berrima.
As you might have guessed, this isn't an ordinary off-you-go oar-bearing experience. This one is part of WildFEST, a new three-day celebration of the food, drink and wilderness of NSW's Southern Highlands. Led by experienced paddler Travis Frenay, the Canoes, Champagne and Canapés experience will lead you along the Kangaroo River in a custom-built double canoe, through the sunken forest and past a convict-built sandstone wall. Travis has an insane amount of knowledge on the area and will be able to answer pretty much anything you throw at him.
There will be three sessions a day (9am, noon and 3pm) on October 27, 28 and 29. The whole thing sets off from Beehive Point and takes around two to three hours. Prices are on the heftier side at $195 each, but includes all food, wine and equipment. Plus, this part of the Valley isn't highly accessible for people without their own gear, so it's a great (and bloody delightful) way to explore the area on the water.
Note: if weather conditions suggest your rusty old sedan won't make it there and back, the organisers may provide transport down the dirt road. But if it's dry, you're all good. It's part of the adventure.
Canoes, Champagne and Canapés will run on October 27–29 from Beehive Point, Kangaroo Valley. For more info and to buy tickets, visit wildfest.com.au.