Tidbinbilla Range Things to Do

  • Hanging Rock walk through the eucalypt forest
    Hanging Rock walk through the eucalypt...
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  • Hanging Rock - Overhang
    Hanging Rock - Overhang
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  • Emu in the picnic area
    Emu in the picnic area
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Best Rated Things to Do in Tidbinbilla Range

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    More Walks in the Reserve

    by Kakapo2 Updated Jul 28, 2007

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    Although there are a lot of picnic grounds in the Tidbinbilla Reserve I would not suggest to drive there just for lying in the sun and having a BBQ. You should really want to walk a bit - and if you only make one or two of the short and easy walks.

    Ten walks are on the list: six easy walks which take from 15 minutes to 1 hour return, one moderate walk of 2 hours return, and three challenging walks in steep terrain that take between 2 and 6 hours return.

    The ones I did not describe in extra tips are the following (times are for the return trip):

    Turkey Hill Geology Trail (500m/15 min)
    Church Rock Heritage Loop (2.5km/45 min)
    Hanging Rock Trail, to an Aboriginal shelter (500m/15 min)
    Devil's Gap Trail, through a dry forest (6km/2 hrs)
    Fishing Gap Trail, to wet fern gullies, giant gum trees, wattles (7.7km/3 hrs)
    Camel Back Trail, through wet forest into sub alpine habitat (12.5km/6 hrs)

    The times calculated are generous. If you are fit you can do the walks in a much shorter time.

    Colours along the road to the loop road. Atmosphere of a hot summer day.
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    Start your Visit at the Visitor Centre

    by Kakapo2 Updated Oct 3, 2007

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    If you have not downloaded and printed the info brochures and map of the Reserve, this is the place where you get it all. You can also discuss which walking tracks best suit your ideas, and the staff provide you with information about special events and activities.

    Here you can also make your personal experience with hands-on displays.

    And, of course, you also get refreshments - snacks, ice-cream, cold drinks and coffee - and souvenirs.

    The Tidbinbilla Reserve is open daily (except Christmas Day) from 9am to 6pm and until 8pm in daylight saving.

    The Visitor Centre is open from 9am to 4.30pm on weekdays and until 5.30pm on weekends.

    They offer a wide range of ranger guided activities during weekends and school holidays.

    It might happen that the Reserve is closed on days with Total Fire Ban. If you are not sure, call the Visitor Centre before leaving Canberra.

    As already mentioned in my intro: It is not allowed to bring pets, feed wildlife, and camping. Fires are only permitted in authorised fireplaces. Electric and wood-fired barbecues are available free of charge.

    Contact:

    Visitor Centre, phone (02) 6205 1233
    Fax (02) 6205 1232

    Arts, Heritage and Environment Helpline (02) 6207 9777

    Website:

    http://www.tams.act.gov.au/play/parks_forests_and_reserves/recreation_in_acts_parks,_forests_and_bushlands/tidbinbilla_nature_reserve Click here

    (The website www.environment.act.gov.au that is noted in the brochure has been relocated to www.tams.act.gov.au - but you can hardly find Tidbinbilla... Very bad move!)

    Unfortunately this link does not work, and my trick to get around it does not work anymore either... Use www.google.com.au and type "Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve" in the SEARCH box. The hit you are looking for is:

    "Territory and Municipal Service - Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve"

    More info:

    http://www.australianalps.deh.gov.au/parks/tidbinbilla.html

    Tidbinbilla locals: Pack your kids and off you go!
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    Travel on the Road and Trails

    by Kakapo2 Updated Jul 28, 2007

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    From the Visitor Centre a formed, tar-sealed road leads through the Tidbinbilla River valley. (Can't remember how long it was...) I would call it a "lasso road". The first part is the access to a loop road.

    There are carparks at the start of all tracks, and toilets at the koala enclosure, Flint's picnic area, and at the BBQ and picnic areas near the Visitor Centre, so you should get around somehow ;-)

    You will not succeed to make all the walks in one day, so plan your time. Do the walks which seem most important to you first, and then see what else you can squeeze into your schedule.

    We, for example, did the Birrigai Time Trail which starts at the Visitor Centre at the end of our visit, as the flexible part which we would have cancelled if we had spent too much time at other places. BUT - we would have deeply regretted if we had had to do this, after all the great encounters we had there. Wildlife-wise this was clearly the best part of it all!

    The other walks we did were the enclosures of the Brush-tailed Rock-Wallabies and Lucky the Koala, the Wetlands Loop Trail and the Xanthorrhoea Loop/Gibraltar Trail - the latter because it leads through spectacular landscapes of grass trees.

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    In Lucky Land

    by Kakapo2 Updated Jul 22, 2007

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    Of course, we stopped at Lucky the Koala's enclosure to have a look at this amazing marsupial that was the sole captive survivor of the 2003 bushfires.

    It was very moving to see this poor devil with her big scars, and you wonder a bit why they keep animals in capivity so far from the rangers' quarters in bushfire-prone areas, so they cannot run away like all the free animals of the reserve in case of fire.

    Actually Lucky was sitting on a branch and sleeping - so my photos with the small camera were not really good and I deleted them, and that is why I cannot post a Lucky photo here.

    Instead I include a photo of the remains of a gum tree that had to be felled after the bushfires. First as a steady reminder how fragile and powerful at a time nature is, second as a tip to keep your eyes open for plants and other animals, especially birds that enchanted us on the walk from the koala enclosure.

    And sure, always check the gum trees which are abundant in this area of the reserve. Here you can spot freely roaming koalas which, of course, often sleep during the day.

    The bush rangers offer walks from the Koala carpark on weekends and school holidays, no bookings required, just show up at the times indicated at the Visitor Centre.

    Nature's recovery after the bush fires.
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    Pelicans instead of Platypus

    by Kakapo2 Written Jul 10, 2007

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    We were quite happy that we did not see all the animals you can see in the wetlands. Theoretically they are home to snakes - and I am horrified of those silent gliders...

    Our main goal had been to spot a platypus - but we were not lucky with this either. Platypus is a very shy and secretive animal that spends a lot of time in the water, so it is a hard task in the wild. However, the bush rangers also offer platypus tours on weekends, and perhaps they have a secret code to communicate with them ;-)

    The walk starts at the Rocky-wallabies enclosure and leads over formed dirt-tracks and boardwalks. Really a nice walk on which you can see or hear frogs and a lot of water birds, including ibis, pelican, swan, duck etc., and flocks of parrots are constantly flying over the ponds and have a seat on the surrounding high trees.

    The walk is 1.8km long and takes about 1 hour return.

    A pelican posing in the wetlands.
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    Do not be disappointed if they Hop away

    by Kakapo2 Written Jul 10, 2007

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    Ok, ok... They do not spend their whole day staring at you. Sometimes the kangaroos hopped away although we had tried hard in every single case to communicate well with them.

    So don't be disappointed if they get other ideas while you would enjoy to have a chat with them. Two hop away, three others will arrive within minutes. There are enough kangaroos to watch for everyone.

    The park rangers also offer a kangaroo walk on weekends and school holidays. They start at the Visitor Centre where you should check the times if you are interested. Of course, the rangers will not only point the kangaroos out for you but also tell you a lot of stories and give background information.

    Kangaroos on the run - or is it: on the hop?
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    Meet the Emus on the Birrigai Time Trail

    by Kakapo2 Written Jul 10, 2007

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    Ok - this should just become a walk into history, as this loop trail passes an Aboriginal Rock Shelter and European sites. There are great comprehensive signs, informing you about the things you should have an extra look at.

    But it quickly became a fantastic wildlife watching walk, as emus and kangaroos were strolling around us all the time, and they were not really shy at all, especially the emus. So we got distracted from history and culture quite often ;-)

    Those huge flightless birds were grazing in the dry grasslands and checking the leaves of small trees, and we could get incredibly close to them before they moved a bit away, just to make sure we would not hunt them for the BBQ ;-)

    The Birrigai Time Trail starts at the carpark of the Visitor Centre, is 3km long and takes about 1 hour return if you do not stop every some seconds to watch and photograph emus and kangaroos.

    An emu crossing our path. Checking the food from the trees. Checking the visitors.
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    Stare back at the Kangaroos on the Birrigai Trail

    by Kakapo2 Written Jul 10, 2007

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    The kangaroos you see in the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve are Eastern Grey Kangaroos. They are the typical kangaroos of areas that have more than 250mm of annual rainfall. Its preferred food is grass, and it grazes from late afternoon to early morning. So it is really best to walk through the grasslands of the Birrigai Time Trail first or last thing you do at the Reserve. But don't worry, you will see kangaroos all day long, especially along the walks in grasslands. Also along the road before the start of the loop.

    The amazing thing about kangaroos is that they always stare at you and watch every move you make. The more slowly you move towards them the closer they let you come before they would hop away.

    A big adult male may measure over 1 metre from its nosetip to the butt of the tail, and the tail is up to 1 metre long. A big female's body can also be 1 metre tall but the tail only 80 centimetres long. The male can weigh up to 65kg, a female up to 32kg. They live in mobs of ten or more.

    Mother and joey having a look at photographers. Another double-stare with a bigger joey. Soon a third kangaroo will join the observers.
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    On the Road to Tidbinbilla

    by Kakapo2 Updated Jul 28, 2007

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    The drive from Canberra starts in a not very spectacular way, but soon you reach hilly landscapes, lonesome roads, forests and a nice lake. The loneliness was amazing.

    At the time we travelled, at the end of 2005, you could still see the consequences of the massive bush fires from 2003, with whole forests having disappeared, leaving bare hills and burnt charcoal stakes which once were majestic trees. But you could also see the amazing power of nature coping with such disasters. Such charcoal trunks can come back to life, especially those incredible gum trees. Other forests have been replanted, and the tiny trees were growing, to some day cover the hills again with a green blanket.

    The lonesome road to Tidbinbilla. Bare hills + charcoal stakes that once were trees. On the way to recovery.
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    Grass Trees, Rocks and Spectacular Views

    by Kakapo2 Updated Jul 22, 2007

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    The combined Xanthorrhoea Loop Trail and Gibraltar Trail to the Gibraltar Rocks are a highlight of a day in the reserve.

    You walk through landscapes of huge grass trees and big marble-shaped rocks, and the higher you get, the more spectacular the views over the Tidbinbilla River valley gets. The Tidbinbilla Range with John's Peak (1440m), Tidbinbilla Peak (1561m) and Mt. Tidbinbilla (1615m) forms a fantastic backdrop to this beautiful scenery.

    Already from the Xanthorrhoea Loop Trail you have great views. This walk is just 2.5km and takes 1 hour return.

    If you continue uphill on the Gibraltar Trail to some massive granite rocks it gets steeper. You should calculate with 2 hours return for the 5.5km.

    View over grass trees to the Tidbinbilla Range. A grass tree in a fire-burned country. Marble-rock on the Xanthorrhoea Loop.
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    Be Prepared for Fast Weather Changes - or Run fast

    by Kakapo2 Updated Jul 10, 2007

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    Not only on the coast, also in the mountains the weather can change quickly. So either be prepared to run fast - or carry rain gear (not only food and lots of water) and search shelter.

    When we were surprised by thunder and lightning in the open land of the Birrigai Time Trail we searched shelter on the windstill side of a big rounded rock, which was at some distance from the highest trees, so we would not attract the lightning. Despite getting a little wet we found the experience quite funny and got out to take this shot with the small tripod and the self-timer LOL

    After the first rain had passed we sprinted back to the Visitor Centre, and had a not too bad drive back to Canberra. Parts of the city had been under water, and heavy wind had caused havoc and covered the streets in branches and debris. How lucky we were out there!

    On the second photo you can see the sky that made us walk a little faster ;-)

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    Better You Get a Bush Fly Fan

    by Kakapo2 Written Jul 10, 2007

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    They sell those funny hats with dangling corks in Australia but they do not really help against the pest of bush flies.

    I have once tried a personally invented silk ribbon wrap, and this worked very well. Just wrap a silk ribbon loosely over your hat and head, and they have no chance to annoy you.

    A Japanese fan would also do the job, you must just be prepared to dedicate the use of one hand to fanning and photograph one-handed. I assure you, you get used to it!

    A new system I tried in Tidbinbilla was a fan variation. First with a fern leaf which was not durable enough for keeping my face bush fly free the whole day, then with a very sturdy branch of a gum tree. Absolutely perfect. Really!

    A gum fan does a great job.
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    Count the Bush Flies if you are Bored

    by Kakapo2 Updated Jul 28, 2007

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    Mosca vetutissima. This is the Latin name for the most annoying insect Australia has to offer. It is the bush fly - and it is also abundant in the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve in the hot months.

    As long as they sit on the backpack I would not mind them... Only if I were terribly bored I would start to count them - which would be super simple if you kill them before counting LOL But be assured, this will not happen, the reserve has far too much to offer to turn your mind to such decadent occupation ;-)

    How many flies, did you say?
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    Birrigai Time Trail – Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

    by wabat Updated Aug 25, 2014

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    This is graded as an easy 3km walk with the suggestion that it can be completed in an hour and a half.

    While there is a bit of a pull up to the Birrigai Rock Shelter the loop walk is, I agree, overall easy and I took around 55mins to complete it.

    Both this walk and the Church Rock walk are “sold” as heritage walks – the latter focusing on European settlement in the area while this walk focuses on both Aboriginal and European settlement.

    While the brochure accompanying this walk (pick one up from the visitors centre, from which the walk starts) tells a story about 19th and early 20th century European settlement in the area there is actually nothing to see in relation to this settlement as evidenced by my picture of the 1920s ‘tennis court” (picture 2) which is located beside the equally hard to see Gibraltar School. European settlement of this area started in the 1830s when George Webb and his family secured land in the Tidbinbilla Valley from local Aboriginal owners though from a government perspective Webb was squatting on Crown Land. Title was granted to the Webbs in the 1860s following the Selection Acts which divided the land into blocks. Former or ongoing Aboriginal occupation of the land was not considered an issue in those days. It was hard to eke out a living on what was now small 40 acre blocks of poor quality agricultural land and many selectors (as those who settled here were called) left the land and the area.

    The Aboriginal element of the walk, in the form of the Birrigai Rock Shelter (picture 1) is of course still there, with it and the granite rock formations around it certainly being with a look. Birrigai is a Ngunnawal Aboriginal word meaning laughter.

    As far as the walk itself goes most of it is across open grasslands (picture 5) where you will see lots of kangaroos. You will pass a small dam (do this loop walk in a clockwise direction) before entering the more interesting rock outcrop area and arriving at the shelter. There are great views (picture 3) towards Gibraltar Peak (a great walk in itself).

    Once at the shelter it is easy to appreciate why the Ngunnawal people would have selected this shelter to escape the searing heat of grasslands where they lived in small communal groups of several families. Based on pieces of stone, bone, shell and charcoal found during an archeological dig of the shelter’s floor it is estimated that it was used as long ago as 21,000 years. Unlike the Yankee Hat shelter in Namadji National Park, about 50kms drive from here, there is no artwork in this shelter.

    If you are interested in the historic aspects of this walk then please inquire at the visitors centre about hiring a guide. Without a guide (and noting that details on half the story boards along the walk – those facing the sun – have faded away) this becomes a distinctly average walk with the Reserve having many much better walks.

    If your time is short and it’s a question of do it or don’t then I would say, do it.

    This is walk 2 on the Discover Tidbinbilla guide which you can download or pick up from the visitors centre as you enter the Reserve.

    For details on park entrance fees and other general information about the Reserve and links to other walks see my separate Walking in Tidbinbilla review.

    Birrigai Time Trail - Birrigai Rock Shelter Birrigai Time Trail - The Tennis Court! Birrigai Time Trail - Dam with Gibraltar Peak Birrigai Time Trail - Through the Rock Outcrops Grasslands and Kangaroos
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    Walking in Tidbinbilla

    by wabat Updated Aug 25, 2014

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    The primary purpose of visiting the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is to enjoy a walk or two or twenty. With very limited efforts the reserve provides you with the opportunity to sight kangaroos, emus, koala's and various other native Australian animals.

    The pupose of this introductory review is to introduce the walks you can do in to the park and provide some practical details around tickets, food, opening hours and the like.

    The walks range from short wheelchair accessible ones to an 8 hours slog with everything in between. A list of current walks can be viewed at
    http://www.tidbinbilla.com.au/experience/wildlife/walkingtrails/. I have prepared separate tips on some of the walks (more to be added over time). Follow the links here noting that numbers refer to walk numbers on the Discover Tidbinbilla guide which you can download or pick up from the visitors centre as you enter the Reserve:

    2 Birrigai Time Trail
    6 Church Rock Heritage Loop
    9 The Sanctuary Loop Walk
    10 Hanging Rock Walk
    11 & 12 Koala Path and Peppermint Trail
    13 Cascades Trail
    14 Lyrebird trail
    18 Gibraltar Peak Walk
    19 Nil Desperandum Walk
    21 Camels Hump Walk

    Also in the Reserve you will find two former European homesteads constructed in the 1890s:

    Nil Desperandum Homestead
    5 Rock Valley Homestead

    For those with kids or just wishing to relax, do a short walk, enjoy a picnic and visit the fully equipped kids playground area. In fact lots of families come just for the slides and climbing frames in the playground area and a picnic. The visitors centre at the park entrance is also well worth a stop for good local advice, your free reserve map, to pursue the small gift shop and to attend to your toiletry requirements. It also hosts a small café - Cafe Tidbinbilla - of reasonable credentials, if you don’t take a picnic.

    Tidbinbilla is located to the south of Canberra. While it is only a 40 minute drive from the city centre please be careful as it is along a very winding road which is very popular with cyclists.

    Opening hours:

    Visitor Centre (where you acquire entrance ticket unless you have an annual pass)
    Winter: 9:00 am to 4:30 pm
    Summer: Weekdays - 9:00 am to 5.30pm
    Summer: Weekends, public holidays and school holidays - 9:00 am to 5.30pm

    Reserve Gates:
    Open 7.30 am to 8:00 pm in summer and 6:00 pm in winter. Tidbinbilla is closed on Christmas Day, and may also be closed on days of total fire ban, high winds or for management requirements.

    Cafe Tidbinbilla
    Wednesday to Sunday from 10am to 3pm during winter and 10am to 4pm during summer.

    Entrance Fee:

    Annual Pass private vehicle (up to 8 seats) - $30.00
    Day Pass private vehicle (up to 8 seats) - $10.00
    (various concessions and other options available –see website).

    Park Entrance Kangaroo From Dalsetta to Gibraltar Peak (high point) Grass Flower Emu in the picnic area
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