Whoever said Canberra was a long way from the coast? They didn't do things the way Steve Jones makes possible.
Aboard one of the helicopter flights he pilots, the turquoise waters and sensational seafood of Mollymook become just a 45-minute pleasure trip away, letting you forget about the dreaded peak summer traffic far, far below.
Leaving from a hangar at Canberra Airport, Canberra Helicopters regularly whisks guests away with a range of private scenic flights and packages, none more popular than their trip to the acclaimed Rick Stein at Bannisters (from $935 per person).
"That's a very popular route," says Canberra Helicopters general manager and chief pilot Jones.
Landing at Milton, a transfer car meets the helicopter to take guests the five-minute drive to the restaurant, where they can wine, dine and even sneak in a walk along the beach before it's time to fly home.
As a helicopter pilot, Jones has flown all over Australia and internationally, including 12 expeditions to support programs in the Antarctic, but he says few places boast as impressive flying conditions as Canberra.
"Canberra is quite unique in that pretty much from the time you take off you've got it all laid out in front of you. We take off on the runway out the front of the hanger, and you're immediately up over the war memorial, then the CBD, around the National Museum, Parliament House. It's all there," says Jones.
"And the beauty of Canberra is it's open, we have access to all of that. There are a lot of capital cities in the world where you can't fl y, they're restricted areas. But here we have the ability to do those kinds of flights."
The possibilities are near endless.
One thing you don't need is a designated driver when you've got a designated pilot on your hands.
Specialised winery tours mean you can skip the highway and fly directly to Four Winds Vineyard, Shaw Vineyard Estate, Brindabella Hills Winery, or Lake George Winery where you'll be met with a glass of wine before wandering up the vineyard to the restaurant for a three-course lunch (all from $680 per person).
Golf lovers can chopper to the world-renowned Narooma Golf Course, with the backdrop of the crystal clear water of the South Coast, for a hit followed by a fresh, local seafood lunch before returning to Canberra (from $1500 per person).
Or in winter, enjoy unrivaled views of the snowy peaks on an adventure into the high country of New South Wales, landing at Wild Brumby distillery where you can warm your insides with a schnapps and gin tasting (from $1100 per person).
For the ultimate indulgence, whisk your group away to the exclusive Second Flat Retreat in Yaouk Valley, which accommodates from six to 14 guests (from $1310 per person). Only 30 minutes flight, the package includes two nights luxury accommodation, fully catered gourmet meals and snacks, plus some local beers and wines.
But scenic flights are just part of what they do at Canberra Helicopters, who also offer a flight training academy and commercial air work, including Snowy Hydro 2.0 support, aerial cinematography, firefighting and aerial crane services. The scenic packages are growing, starting at the Lap of the Lake (from $230 per person) which shows off Canberra's architecture in all her glory, through to fully customisable experiences.
Jones says it's the city's local population rather than tourists who are most likely to fly.