It's the first weekend of summer. A time when the minds of many Y-platers turn to that much anticipated end-of-year dose of saltwater therapy.
For many in the Capital, the annual pilgrimage to the South Coast is as much about the journey as it is about their favourite patch of sand. Who catches the first glimpse of the white caps, or the first whiff of the Tasman Sea is always a hotly contested competition in the yowie-mobile.
Not to mention trying to stump each other with a clever "I Spy" clue. I outwitted everyone with "K" for the giant kewpie doll that stood for many years at the back of a Bungendore antique shop and was visible to passing motorists. You'd think my backseat brigade would have nailed it after the third consecutive year I rolled it out. The giant doll is on holiday in Gundagai, so I need to come up with a new riddle this year.
Regardless of how many rounds of I Spy you play, even with traffic snarls and the compulsory stop at Pooh's Corner, a trip to Batemans Bay and beyond is only a few hours. But it wasn't always that way.
In the 1800s it took several days to reach the coast by horse and cart and the road was lined with regular stops. Not so much the milkshakes, lattes, and Dojo Bread you'll find today, but more beer and blacksmiths.
Never seen it? That's because time has not been kind to the former inn after it was abandoned in the late 1800s.
One such watering hole was the Hibernian Inn. If your regular route to the coast is via Queanbeyan and Bungendore, then you'll have passed it on many occasions, It's right next to the turn-off to The Australian Headquarters Joint Operations Command (HQ JOC).
Never seen it? Well, that's because time has not been kind to the former inn after it was abandoned in the late 1800s.
David Hanzl of Carwoola recently took a deep dive into the colourful past of the long-forgotten roadside stop for an historical exposé he penned for the Carwoola Gazette, his local community newsletter.
"I first heard about the site when I was working at HQ JOC a few years after they'd done an archaeological dig to ensure the site wasn't disturbed when the access road was built," reveals David.
Despite its location on what many of us now refer to as "the coast road", the main purpose of the Hibernian Inn, run by the Sparrow family from 1859 to 1887, was to service weary travellers between Goulburn and Queanbeyan, linking routes to Braidwood and south to the Monaro and the goldfields of Kiandra.
Of course, travel in the mid-1800s was a far cry from the air-conditioned comfort enjoyed by today's motorists.
"Horse-drawn stagecoaches would take many tedious hours to grind their way through the hills, rattling across deeply rutted tracks," explains David.
"The coachman carried an axe to clear trees from the road and if the hill was too steep, all the passengers had to get out and walk to ease the load for the horses.
"At the time there was no bridge over the Molonglo River, just five kilometres or so away at Burbong, so the Hibernian would have been an important refuge if the river was flooded ... people could be stranded on one side with no other shelter for many miles."
Boomtime at the roadside inn was during the Kiandra goldrush in the 1860s, with many people passing the Hibernian from Sydney, enroute to trying their luck in the goldfields of the high country.
According to David, it would also have been prosperous during the early to mid-1880s as the Goulburn-Queanbeyan (and beyond to Cooma) railway was being constructed.
However, the emergence of an alternative form of transport ultimately led to the demise of the Hibernian.
"Wherever the railway spread, it steadily brought to an end the role of the stagecoach network in providing transport for passengers, mail and goods," says David. "The hotel closed shortly after the railway finally reached Queanbeyan in 1886 and by the late 1890s most of the Sparrow land was handed over to the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney."
Unfortunately, David hasn't been able to uncover any photographs or sketches of the inn from its heyday. However, there is an image of it in ruin taken by Frank Walker, a passionate supporter of local history who between 1895 and 1906 cycled about 40,000 kilometres across the country taking glass plate negatives, sometimes providing the only known photo of some sites.
"Today, little is left of the Hibernian above the ground as the main building was originally constructed of pisé (rammed earth) which rapidly erodes once the roof is gone and the walls are exposed to the elements," explains David.
Only the stone foundations now remain, barely peeking through the grass and all but invisible to drivers passing on the highway just a few metres away.
The best way to identify the site are five Dutch elm trees that mark the western side of the site. Enough fodder, I declare, for my new I Spy clue. Should I try "something beginning with D" for Dutch elms or "P" for phantom pub? Given the yowie clan failed repeatedly with the "K" for kewpie doll, I think I'm safe either way. Which is a good thing, for the winner doesn't only get bragging rights, but also the first pie in Braidwood. Happy holidays!