Camping afloat in style
  |  First Published: April 2004

THIS month we will do something completely different which isn’t camping in the purest sense but, for keen anglers, it is way better.

Ever wondered what it would be like to have fishing at your doorstep 24 hours a day and the ability to move from place to place and just keep on fishing? While at the same time She Who Must Be Obeyed is relaxing, swimming and having a great time – and even the kids are kept entertained?

Such places exist only in dreams, you say. Think again: Houseboats are fabulous. There are many places up and down the coast where you can hire a houseboat and motor off to find your own peaceful piece of paradise and totally relax. Or you can fish yourself into a coma. Either, way you have a great time.

The Clyde River at Batemans Bay on the beautiful South Coast is where this little adventure takes place and, to be frank, I had reservations about a houseboat weekend. My wife gets sick standing on the pontoons at the boat show and the kids get a bit squeamish, too – they must get it from their mother. So I wasn’t sure whether I would have to put them up in a motel for the weekend while I went up the river.

Clyde River Houseboats were the people we settled on as they have a choice of eight- or 10-berth boats and as there were two families totalling eight people, we settled on the larger 10-berth.

Those of you who have always thought about taking a weekend off and getting away from it all on a houseboat – don’t put it off any longer, it’s terrific. You don’t need prior experience but if you have some knowledge of river systems and boats it will allow you to get the hang of things faster.


These boats are 13.5 metres long by six metres wide, so they are fairly large vessels with a deck and safety rails around the entire perimeter of the vessel. This can come in handy late in the evening after a few cleansing ales. All this is propelled by a 70hp four-stroke outboard that gets you along at a solid six or seven knots.

There is an anchor winch for lowering and raising the anchor when you find one of the sheltered little coves to spend some time. Then there is the spacious front deck with table and chairs for outdoor dining or just relaxing. There is also a three-burner covered gas barbecue there as well.

Through the front door the helm is on your right and the dining area is to the left with a large table and comfortable padded bench seating. Behind the helm is an L-shaped lounge that doubles as a bed if needed and there is enough room in this area to swing a cat in each hand and still not hit anything.

On the opposite wall to the lounge is the TV and video, so you can sit back and relax or keep the kids occupied on a wet day. The galley is fully equipped with gas hot plates, oven and griller, microwave and a huge fridge-freezer. There is plenty of bench space for food preparation.

All the crockery and cutlery is supplied, as are jugs, cutting boards, saucepans, frying pans and every other item you could think of. Frankly, it was the best-equipped galley/kitchen of any cabin or holiday accommodation we have ever stayed in.

The rest of the boat is occupied with the very comfortable sleeping quarters with four cabins, two of which have double beds and the others each with upper and lower bunks. The cabins are small but all you do is sleep in them and the best part is that each one has a spectacular view.

At the stern there is the bathroom with a compact shower and toilet. There is a generator on the aft deck in the corner for when you need to use the video or microwave. It is simple enough to pull-start and it has a soundproof cover so it doesn’t impose too much on the tranquillity of the river.

There are four rod holders on each side of the on the stern rails. There are two rear gates that allow easy access to the water for swimming or boarding a small boat. There is another platform at water level and ladders on each side that make it easy, even for the kids, to climb back aboard after a swim.

With cabin entry fore and aft you have the choice of walking around the sides of the boat or straight up the middle.

You bring all your food, drinks and linen and everything else is provided. You book in at the boatshed and after stowing all your gear aboard you have the option of leaving your car at the shed or taking it to secure parking for a few dollars a day. We chose the safe parking.

Robert, the owner, will give you a rundown on how everything works. It takes about half an hour and then you are on your way. There is a monster icebox up forward for the cold drinks but it will send you broke filling it with ice, which is available at the boatshed.

We took our 140-litre esky, which easily fitted inside the icebox and after removing the meat and salads and putting them in the fridge, filled it with ice and that easily lasted the four days. With an esky inside an icebox, the ice barely melted.


Now you have the run of the river: You can drop the anchor and take some time out or just travel to the farthest navigable reaches, up past Nelligen. There is a chart supplied with all the shallows and hazards marked so you will have trouble-free cruising. There are also two permanent moorings owned by the houseboat proprietors at intervals up the river. We chose to stay at the first one on the first and last nights. It is about one-third of the way up-river, so it is a perfect place for that first stop.

Absolute quiet, not another person in sight, complete serenity. It was a damn good-looking fishing spot, too. The houseboat comes supplied with a small tender for getting ashore but we took our own boats and lashed them to the gunwales of the houseboat for more flexibility.

Our second night was spent at the farthest extreme of houseboat-navigable river. It was again spectacular, with giant gum trees towering from the bank and mirror-calm water in prime bass country. You have to navigate under the Nelligen bridge at low tide so time your run so you don’t have to wait for the tide to fall. Or you could go ashore and check out the Steam Packet Hotel at Nelligen.

It is also worth mentioning that you get better fuel economy and go a bit quicker if you travel with the tides, rather than against them. There was only one down side to the trip – some of the native animals that lived on and around the river, namely skiers and the even more insidious wake-boarders.

It seems a prerequisite that to ski or wakeboard in this area you must have a frontal lobotomy. These morons took great delight in skiing as close as they could to our vessel, making slashing turns with ski, board and boat to throw showers of spray over the houseboat. Then they went on to degrade themselves further by exposing themselves while their drunken mates cheered on.


If the local Waterways officers happen to read this they might think to spend a weekend patrolling in an unmarked boat beyond the Nelligen bridge and rid the area of these two-legged vermin who are not helping the tourist industry in the area one bit. Wake boats are made to do as their name suggests – throw up a huge wake, which can be damaging to your own boat if it bashes into the fenders on the side of the houseboat as these morons pass. They are also undermining the banks, causing larges chunks of the shoreline, even huge trees, to collapse into the river. The areas not frequented by the wake boats are still pristine.

Although a pain in the backside these fools were mainly confined to an area between Nelligen and a few kilometres upstream of the bridge. The rest of the area is beautiful: Sandy beaches, creeks and bays, rocky cliffs and heavily wooded mountainsides with heaps of bird and animal life and the silence can be deafening.

It is a wonderful, relaxing place and the best part was my wife and kids didn’t feel crook at all, although it did take them some time to get their sea legs. But, like good sailors, it took a while for them to get used to dry land when we arrived back at the jetty and they were still a bit wobbly even days later.

So for a great holiday, give Clyde River Houseboats at Wray Street Batemans Bay a call on 02 4472 6369 or visit [url=http://www.clyderiverhouseboats.com.au/]. They will give you the low-down on prices bookings and you don’t even need a boat licence or fishing licence – it is all in the deal.

Did I forget something? Oh, yes, we did fish but we’ll cover that next month.


The 10-berth houseboat in all its glory at the first mooring buoy. A picturesque place with great fishing.


The foredeck is spacious and great for the evening meal or sitting around and relaxing. Check out the snags in the background.


The barbecue on the foredeck is great.


There is plenty of room and more than enough storage for all of your needs and every window has a great view.


The generator is easy to start and very quiet and there are plenty of rod holders on the stern of the boat.


The bridge at Nelligen has to be negotiated at low tide but it’s worth the wait as the upstream reaches are spectacular.


The bunks are great for kids or adults and they are very comfy.

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