‘Steering is going to be a challenge’: a beginner’s guide to river tubing

‘Steering is going to be a challenge’: a beginner’s guide to river tubing

Most Australians associate the Yarra River with the sludge-like sludge which flows through Melbourne’s central district. The Yarra River didn’t look this way before. If you follow the river upstream to its source, in the Yarra Ranges National Park, it is a vista of verdant forest, clean air, and bubbling cold rapids.

Here is the section of the Yarra where we will be tubing – that is, rolling along the river in a tyre-tube.

Richard and Simone run the Warburton Motel, which is located on the edge of Warburton’s lush green bush. The Warburton Motel was renovated by Richard and Simone, who bought it before the pandemic. It is now a vibrant, community-oriented retreat with restored bathrooms from 1966. Bike and Hike, the adventure arm of Bike and Hike, is run from their garage. The idea is that it is more fun to walk or ride for a while, or in this case, to float down a river, than to go back and forth or to repeat the same river section over and over.

You can go tubing by yourself. Richard, driving us upriver with his van, points out children who are doing just that. They push off from behind a line of tents at the riverside campground and tumble down the rapids.

If you have an old truck tire, it’s easy to get started tubing. But if you wanted to invest in a specialized kit, the cost would be around $120. You’d also need a paddle and at least $60. And a life jacket that costs between $40 and $100, depending on whether you wear one.

Bike and Hike, however, will not only provide all the necessary equipment at a lower cost ($47.50 for each person), but they’ll also drive you upstream so that you can focus on what you love: paddling downstream.

As I push off from the launch point, a small clearing on the river’s edge, I realize that steering will be a challenge. The current pulls me downriver, and I am immediately caught by it. However, reclining on a rubber raft in order to paddle is not a good idea. Whoops.

I take about half of the ride to master the technique of paddling on one side of my tube and using strategic spinning in circles to avoid obstacles. After I learned to steer myself clear of snags, overhanging branches, and snags without spinning out completely, I was able to appreciate the beauty of the river. It’s beautiful. The trees are enormous and majestic. My companion points out the sacred kingfisher diving into the rushing waters for prey. Just a little farther on, we see a pair of rufous fantails swooping about us and grabbing insects. Then, I must start paddling frantically again to avoid hitting a tree. My advice: Wear shoes.

The time goes by quickly. When we finally climb out, we’re happy, drenched, and buzzing from adrenaline.

We could have driven to Warburton and back the same day as we arrived, but instead, we opted to stay overnight. Accommodation in the town is available at the recently renovated Alpine Retreat Hotel (from $176 per night).

For those not interested in water, there’s a bike path that runs along the old railway line from the main street to Lilydale. There’s also a riverside walk, which is more gentle for those less active. Silva Coffee Roasters offers a coffee-tasting experience for the return trip the following morning (similar to wine tasting but without sleepiness).

There are also many quirky trash-and-treasure stores and vintage shops in the town that haven’t been completely emptied. I look through the store, keeping my eyes open for old truck tires.

Guardian Australia stayed at the Alpine Retreat Hotel in Warburton and Bike & Hike/Warburton Motel.

This article was revised on 17 January 2022. The Yarra River’s source lies in the Yarra Ranges National Park, not the Dandenong Ranges.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *