Where sunken trees lie: a Highlands festival out in nature

Wildfest will run from Friday, October 27 until Sunday, October 28, and includes a canoe trip through the sunken forest in Yarrunga Creek in Morton National Park. Photo: Charli Shield.
Wildfest will run from Friday, October 27 until Sunday, October 28, and includes a canoe trip through the sunken forest in Yarrunga Creek in Morton National Park. Photo: Charli Shield.

Buried deep in the Southern Highlands is a place known as ‘the sunken forest’.

Nestled in Yarrunga Creek in Morton National Park, a three-kilometer stretch of 100-year old stringybark trees jut out from the water’s surface. 

They are remnant of a forest intentionally flooded in the 1970s as part of the Shoalhaven Hydro-Electric Scheme.

In another 40 years, the trees will no longer be standing. 

This is a central location for Wildfest – a new ‘wilderness festival’ that aims to bring together local food and nature.

The organisers have planned to take people on day trips through the sunken forest on custom-built twin-canoe rigs as part of the festival. 

The canoes, connected with a table complete with local wine and canapés, were the genius of Travis Frenay, an outdoor educator.

“We started rafting canoes together as a family for fun because it’s a great way to travel and you can’t tip them over,” he said.

“You can just drift and eat.”

Alongside the creek runs an unfinished sandstone road that was constructed by convicts.

“It’s a nice contrast to the natural environment. You’re paddling along and then all of a sudden, you see a big sandstone wall,” Mr Frenay said.

Festival organiser Amanda Fry said she wanted to create an event centered on locally made food and seldom-explored natural landscapes in the Southern Highlands.

“I wanted to attract foodies on an adventure,” she said. 

The festival runs for three nights from October 27 to 29 and is based in Joadja Old Town, a private property near Berrima that was formerly a mining town.

Centered around a seven-course ‘bush feast’ under the Milky Way, the festival includes the option of luxury glamping and a build-your-own-adventure itinerary, offering the canoe trips, as well as adventure hiking, abseiling and mountain biking.

There will also be a family-friendly ‘Wild Day Out’ on the Sunday, with heritage tours of the old mining town, bush walks, face painting, and a barbecue lunch.