Outdoor recreation in Canberra
Canberra is blessed with abundant parks, reserves and lakes making the city ideal for getting outdoors and enjoying our four distinct seasons. Summer is a great time to explore the Murrumbidgee River Corridor and our three city lakes: Lake Burley Griffin, Lake Tuggeranong and Lake Ginninderra. Autumn is a spectacular sight as deciduous city trees and the National Arboretum change colour. Winter is brisk and cool and snow is regularly seen on the hills and mountains to the west around Tidbinbilla and Namadgi. Spring is a renewal of colours and a fine time to see native flora in bloom at the Australian National Botanic Gardens and over a million exotic blooms during Floriade.
National Arboretum Canberra
Take a self-guided walking tour of the National Arboretum Canberra to learn about the 94 forests of rare, endangered and symbolic trees from Australia and around the world. When fully planted, there will be 100 forests and 100 gardens.
Set on 250 hectares of parkland just six kilometres from the city centre, the Arboretum has spectacular views of the city, Lake Burley Griffin and surrounding forests. It is home to more than 48,000 trees including the largest cultivated collection of living Wollemi pines in the world.
At the Village Centre, relax and refresh at Sprout Cafe or the Conservatory Restaurant, discover the stories behind the forests in the information displays. Explore the Pod Playground for kids and the National Bonsai and Penjing Collection.
Forty-five minutes’ drive from the city, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve offers outstanding wildlife and natural experiences set within a beautiful valley framed by rocky-topped mountains. The 14 diverse habitats are protected and include wetlands, grasslands, wet and dry forests and woodlands.
The Sanctuary at Tidbinbilla offers fabulous nature-based experiences such as searching for platypus, observing bird life and getting up close to reptiles. See the live animal displays at the Visitor Centre, and spot wildlife including koalas, emus, kangaroos, wombats, wallaroos and possums.
With great barbecue spots and lots of fun for kids at the Discovery Playground, Tidbinbilla offers a wide variety of outstanding natural experiences to enjoy.
Namadgi National Park
Venture into Namadgi at the northern end of the Australian Alps, 45 minutes’ drive from the city. Take a picnic or bushwalk on the numerous marked trails, experience native flora and fauna — kangaroos in their natural setting abound. Enjoy spectacular wildflowers in spring.
Popular day walks include Booroomba Rocks and Square Rock, walks along the Murrumbidgee River Corridor or head up to the treeline near Piccadilly Circus to Mount Franklin. To see snow during winter (subject to road conditions), visit Corin Forest.
Take a ranger-guided walk or experienced hikers can escape into the rugged Bimberi Wilderness. Indigenous rock art and Aboriginal shelters are easily accessible at Yankee Hat. Camping is available in pleasant bushland settings with fishing and horseriding permitted in designated areas of Orroral Valley and Mount Clear Campgrounds. Camping nearer to town is available at Cotter Reserve or Woods Reserve below Gibraltar Falls.
Australian National Botanic Gardens
Explore the world’s most comprehensive display of living Australian native plants at the Australian National Botanic Gardens, on the lower slopes of Black Mountain in Canberra. Be transported to the outback with the new Red Centre Garden which features native flora and landscapes from the dry Central Australian region, then traverse Australia's flora with a short stroll through the Rainforest Gully . The Gardens offer everything for a perfect family day out, with a variety of walking trails to suit all tastes and abilities, interesting plants and animals, educational activities, a Botanical Resource Centre, lawns for running and playing, numerous picnic tables and a cafe and bookshop.
Guided walks, run by the Friends of the Australian National Botanic Gardens, leave from the Visitor Centre twice a day at 11am and 2pm.
Canberra Nature Park
Throughout Canberra city is a connected series of 33 parks and reserves that adjoin suburbs and include all mountains within the city environs. Canberra Nature Park includes some of the last remaining reserves of grassy woodlands, temperate grasslands and forests in southeastern Australia. Highlights to visit include Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary where feral animals have been removed to permit endangered natives like bettongs, bush stone curlews and the New Holland Mouse to thrive.
The nature park is a wonderful place to escape the bustle of the city, walk at dawn and dusk to see great views of the city among kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas and listen to a chorus of birds. Popular mountains including Mount Ainslie, Black Mountain, Mount Majura, Mount Pleasant and Mount Taylor are all designated reserves within the nature park.
Plan ahead and keep up to date with the latest weather forecast. As Canberra is at higher altitude than coastal cities, the ultraviolet light is greater. It is advised that you wear sun protective clothing and sun cream during the day when outdoors for any extended period. If you are venturing outdoors, take plenty of water, dress for the temperature and if you venture into national parks, stop at the nearest visitors centre to check for any trail closures, warnings, hazard alerts and to register your intentions with the park rangers. You can also check on road conditions and closures by contacting TAMS.