National Parks/Reserves/Countryside, Canberra
Earlier this year (2013) my VT friend Planxty set out on what for many would be an epic journey - a walk around London - a walk of some 245kms called the LOOP or to give it its full name the London Outer Orbital Path. As he lives in London he is sensibly doing the walk in “bite size chunks” over time.
Planxty came up with the great idea of presenting his progress along the walk by way of travelogues on his London page and, when warranted, by way of a tip on individual things he came across along the way. Do have a look at Planxty's introductory tip Loop the LOOP in London and his travelogues the first of which is Loop the LOOP in London, Introduction.
I am an avid reader of Planxty's travelogues and while doing so was conscious that in this, the centenary year of Canberra, the powers that be were working on a “Canberra loop” – or rather the Canberra Centenary Trail. This trail, which in the main links existing walks, paths, fire trails, etc was opened in late October 2013. Around 20-30kms of the trail is along new paths.
I was rather surprised when I found out that resultant trail was around 145kms long. I just goes to show how spread out Canberra is compared to London which has a population of over twenty times that of Canberra.
Like Planxy has done in London, I have resolved to complete this walk around Canberra and tell you about it here. I will adopt the same approach – that is, use travelogues and link from these to tips/reviews of things of special interest along the way.
The Centenary Trail is open to walkers and all forms of non-motorised vehicles (basically bicycles – unless you choose to use a pogo stick as someone has already done for a short part of the walk). After I have completed the walk (and it will take a while) I will complete it again by bicycle.
The cycle / walking route differs slightly in that the walking route is about 10kms longer as it takes in all the peaks around the city – there are six or more. The paths to the top of these are not suitable for bicycles. The trail track varies from high quality footpaths and walkways to rough walking trails with steps and passes through both urban and rural areas – from the grandeur of the Parliamentary Zone to the quiet beauty of Canberra’s nature reserves. As the website states “The trail is designed for low intensity use by all walkers and cyclists of moderate ability and is generally less than 10 percent gradient.”
From here on in this review and sequence of travelogues I shall, generally, refer only to walking the trail.
Maps, gps files (waking and riding), and other useful information (with one important exception) is available, and should be downloaded by following relevant links on the trail website - http://www.tams.act.gov.au/parks-recreation/recreational_activities/centenary-trail
The one exception relates to the very critical issue of public transport and how to get to/from certain sections of the trail. I rather fear this is the Achilles heel and transport will be an issue unless you are with someone and have access to two vehicles. Given the current complete lack of information on this critical issue (it will hopefully come soon) I will make a particular effort to include relevant details on transport in each travelogue. Hopefully my suspicions will be proven wrong though you certainly will have to plan around bus timetables given the woeful public transport system in Canberra (I hasten to add that there is good reason for this lack of service which I need not explain here).
The trail guide/ website divides the trail in seven walking sections of roughly 20kms each, suggesting seven days to complete the full trail.
The trail sections (which will mean little to you unless you know Canberra) are:
Section 1 - Parliament House to Watson
Section 2 - Watson to Northern Border Campsite
Section 3 - Northern Border Campsite to Hall Village
Section 4 - Hall Village to Black Mountain
Section 5 - Black Mountain to Stromlo Forest Park
Section 6 - Stromlo Forest Park to Tuggeranong Town Centre
Section 7 - Tuggeranong Town Centre to Parliament House
Off course you can start and leave the trail where you like and walk as long or as short as you like (subject to transport) in each visit.
In terms of maps an overall map is available (picture 3 attached - no use for walking) as is a more detailed map for each section. A gps file is available for download should you have a gps unit or mobile phone (I use this and its great). A smartphone application referred to on various sites appears not to be available yet. I will update this comment when it is.
As I write this review I have completed section one of the trail. In terms of signage there is none whatsoever on section one until you reach the Australian War Memorial – This is not a significant problem (as I will explain in my travelogue) as to this point the walk is along well established paths and up ANZAC Parade, a main thoroughfare.
At the War Memorial you “go bush” and for the remainder of section one the signage is excellent such that maps are not really required though I suggest you carry it (or the GPS option as I used) anyway. It is nice to know where you are and not just that you are on the right track - based on section one, there are no distance markers along the trail. I suspect that signage for the remainder of the trail will be of the high quality encountered on all apart from the first few kms of section one. This I will confirm in my travelogues.
My second picture of one marker post shows all the used symbols on one signage post (thus the most complicated signage you can encounter) – so a useful one to look at.
What does it mean? :
• Centenary Trail Markers are all on brown metal posts
• Top symbol is that of the centenary trail and is on all posts. If it is just a general marker post this will be the only item on the post
• Brown name marker signifies a named offshoot from the cycle trail to walking trail only
• Blue directions arrows signify direction you should go
• Cycle in red circle signifies bicycles not permitted – or walkers only
• Green cycle means cycle route which, of course anyone can you.
If the remaining sections are as enjoyable as I found section one to be (and form prior waking in Canberra I suspect they will be) this is going to be one great walk and as such I can recommend it to everyone already! Just remember to wear sensible footwear, bring water and importantly for Australia, wear sunblock.
I know very few readers will be able to do the complete trail and indeed it would not be the best use of seven days of valuable holiday time unless you are an avid walker or like me you live in Canberra or visit with sufficient frequency that you can walk the trail over a period of time. If you are just visiting Canberra, pick a section, sections or part of a section that appeals and go for a walk.
Do come on a journey with me and enjoy the travelogues – Click here for Travelogue One (Section 1 (a) ).
This is the Greek Orthodox Church, something I wasn't looking for but couldn't help but notice, especially since it was reflected in a nearby pool, a leftover from the all too infrequent rain.
The hymnal sounds of the Sunday morning voices wafted through the air adding a more solemn tone to the windy morning. It's the kind of atmosphere that takes an atheist out of his comfort zone, an unorthodox feeling in an orthodox place. Very refreshing.
If there's one thing the travel agent won't tell you that is a must-do in Canberra it's going for an early morning walk in springtime beside the lake. It is truly one of the most enjoyable things to do in Australia.
The budding cherry and apple blossoms, interspersed with golden wattle to a backdrop of wonderful buildings set amongst the trees makes for an uplifting experience, as well as a healthy one. Fortunately, Canberrans aren't oblivious to the delights of such an activity and you will undoubtedly run across a few during your stroll. It's all part of the experience.
Now, here is something almost everyone can participate in, even on a windy morning like the one I had to put up with. Strong gusts whipped up whitecaps all across the lake and it was snowing cherry blossoms as they were ripped from the trees but, being a dedicated VTer, I didn't let that stop me trying to bring you the best of Canberra.
Leaving aside a stroll around Lake Burley Griffin, the Mt Ainslie Summit walk (sometimes referred to as the Kokoda Track after the famous WWII Kokoda Trail in neighbouring Papua New Guinea) is the most popular short walk in Canberra. You will find people along this track from pre-dawn till late evening. If you are up to it this is a must do walk.
Mt Ainslie is the second highest peak in city area at 843 metres, the highest being Mt Majura at 890 metres – which you can walk to from the top (or bottom!) of Mt Ainslie. It you can only walk up one, Mt Ainslie is the one to do.
The walk starts at the back of the Australian War Memorial in Remembrance Nature Park which was so named in 1978 to mark the 60th anniversary of the Armistice that ended WWI. The path from here winds its way 1.9kms to the summit of Mount Ainslie. The fully sealed track is rather steep in parts and contains a number of steps but is doable by almost anyway of if take your time. Allow yourself around 1.5 - 2hrs for the return trip. The ascent, these days, takes me about 45 minutes.
The view from the top is, in my view, the best view of Canberra available and clearly shows its unique layout along an axis from the summit to the distant Brindabella Mountains. You will also appreciate why Canberra is often referred to as the Bush Capital as you look out across the luscious tree growth throughout the city. From my separate review on Mt Ainslie Summit you will see that you can drive to the summit. If you are unable to walk up then, off course, drive up but I do recommend the walk.
A large plaque at the beginning of the walk describes the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea and its significance to Australia in WWII. On July 21, 1942, Japanese troops landed on the northern coast of then New Guinea and began to march over the Owen Stanley Ranges (on what is now known as the Kokoda Trail) with the intent of capturing Port Moresby the capital of New Guinea. Had they succeeded, the mainland of Australia would have come under serious threat.
Along the way you will come across a number of smaller brass plaques which provide additional detail on the Kokoda Trail, highlight some of the events that occurred along it during WWII and recall how the Australian forces scuttled the intentions of the Japanese. The plaques are an interesting read as you make your way to the summit (or an excuse for a rest!).
About 200 metres into the walk you will come across a sign on your left directing you to a short trail (70 metres) to a small memorial plaque dedicated to Aboriginal people who served in Australia’s armed forces. Do go in for a look – the setting is fantastic. Some people will invite you to contrast this simple memorial with the Australian War Memorial – certainly worth thinking about but a rather unfair comparison. Have a look at my separate tip on the National Aboriginal War Memorial for additional information on this most interesting memorial. Within that tip is a picture of the turnoff sign you need to watch out for.
In terms of wildlife Mt Ainslie is home to kangaroos, rabbits, birds and other wildlife so keep an eye out for those. That said you are more likely to see wildlife on some of the lesser used tracks on Mt Ainslie.
If you are travelling with your dog do bring it along, on a lead. There is a drinking fountain and tap to provide water to dogs at the top.
Since late 2013 this trail up Mt Ainslie forms a small part of Section One of the Canberra Centenary Trail – a 145km walk around Canberra.
From many parts of the city, there are superb views to the Brindabella Ranges. Much of this mountainous area is encompassed in the Australian Capital Territory's largest national park - Namadgi National Park.
If you're drawn to wilderness areas, the remote sections of the park offer challenging hiking. Other areas can be reached on horseback, on short bushwalks or even by car.
Just over two hours from Canberra is the spectacular Kosciusko National Park or better known to locals as the SNOWY Mountains. It is the highest mountain in Australia at more than 2300 metres high with over a million hectares of protected areas around it.
Our family has been to several well known ski resorts there- Thredbo, Perisher, Mt. BLue Cow, etc.
This year, for a quick weekend winter getaway, we trekked to the family -friendly but less popular Mt. Selwyn snowfields. In the past, we used Jindabyne as a cheaper base which is around 30 minutes to the snowfields.
After researching and getting more information about the weather, condition of the slopes and the road accessibility going there we picked this area for this weekend. After making sure we are still driving legally having a newly bought SX4 (a proper 4 wheel drive despite being more fuel efficient than most bigger 4 wheelers), we thought Selwyn was perfect for snow play, specifically tobagganing which is safer and at the same time equally fun for the boys.
We made sure too that we were adequately clothed as in previous snow escapes, we did get a bit colder than usual! This time, I insisted my boys wear their thermal underwear and wooly long socks before putting over their proper winter jackets.
When we got there over rugged and sloping terrain filled with moderately thick ice, the boys were truly excited!
Dozens of families were having fun with their hired toboggans. We too got two for half day hire at $13 each. I foundout later it was cheaper hiring at the lowlands, at least in Cooma, where we got new ski boots for my youngest.
Selwyn, at around 1500 metres above sea level was adequate enough for my family. There are enough amenities, a cafe and a shop hiring our winter and ski clothes and equipment including snowboards, skis and of course the popular toboggans.
It was very overcast when we got there after midday and we didn't about 3 pm, under 7 hours away from our home in Sydney!
Kosciusko can be approached from various points/areas:
* Jindabyne (10 km) - was here several years ago
* Adaminaby (15 km)- we passed this fr Canberra
* Tumut (15 km)- also along the way fr Canberra
* Cooma (70 km)- good base for uppdated snow reports and other snow gear/equipment
* Canberra (190 km) - we were based here July 2008
The Tidbinbilla Reserve where you can walk among koalas, kangaroos and wallabies and catch a glimpse of the elusive platypus. Experience Tidbinbilla's Aboriginal and European heritage. Learn about endangered species or see how many of the bird species you can spot. Walk to moist fern gullies. Only 40 minutes from the city centre, this piece of nature is one of the most beautiful places in Canberra. You can walk around here for the all day, and maybe you go more then one time. For the thirsty between us; there is a café as well!
See for more pictures in the
Tidbinbilla travelogue please.
If you are visiting Australia, and Canberra, then one of the must sees of your time here, is the magnificent birds of Australia. The native birds are truly some of the most gorgeous in the world, but often are incredibly shy and hard to track down (apart from the friendly and garrulous cockatoos!)
Well to enjoy some of Australia's prettiest birds without searching for days, take an hour or two to wander through the Canberra aviary.
I went with a friend with two kids, for an hour... and ended up there for three! Your price of entry includes some apple, with which you can make yourself popular with the locals... who will land on your arms, your hands, your shoulders or your head!
Although the aviary isn't huge (1,000 square metre), there is an interesting mix of birds (including a few non-natives)
One of the most spectacular places for hiking is towards the coast from Canberra called the Budawang national park. If you want to see deverse Australian landscape the Castle/Monolith Valley is the place to see it.
All over Australia you will find plenty of wildlife...although maybe not as much in the big cities as in the 'bush'... Still, you'll manage to see birds almost everywhere.
This rosella was at Burrinjuck Dam (half way between Wagga Wagga and Canberra)...there are plenty of gorgeous birds like this around in the wild... :)