Guest post by my friend (and au pair extraordinaire) Stacey Lamore. I met Stacey while living in Australia, and she is currently working in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Canberra: The place I have called home for the past 12 months. Australia’s capital and largest inland city.. yup, thats right: inland. No beaches here. Not only that, but it even occasionally gets below zero degrees here. I know what you are thinking: “BUT ITS AUSTRALIA?!” ….and all I have to say is, “But it’s CANBERRA!” A lot of people don’t like Canberra – they say there’s nothing to do, there’s nothing to see, don’t waste your time. Many people asked, and continue to ask, “Why Canberra?”
Look on the bright side! When I say that, I mean literally. Without fail, Canberra skies light up EVERY night with incredible sunsets unlike any other place I’ve seen. Also, it’s not so deadly hot that all you want to do is.. well, nothing. You can actually go on a hike without dying from the heat, most of the time. Speaking of hikes… Living inland in a valley has its perks! SOO many different hikes to choose from – and I’d like to share a few with you!
The Centenary Trail is a 140km loop around Canberra offering many different perspectives of the nation’s capital. I’ve done four hikes that are a part of this trail – Mount Ainslie, Black Mountain, One Tree Hill, and Red Rock Gorge.
Mount Ainslie was the first hike I did in Canberra. It’s a shorter, uphill climb (with a paved walkway the entire way up!) that gives you a great view of the unique Canberra layout and Parliament. You can also drive up to the summit of Mount Ainslie if hiking is not your thing. I learned that the hard way by trying to find directions to the bottom of the hill where I could start the walk to the top – instead, the GPS took me straight to the top – oops! So to let you in on a little secret, if you want to hike it… type in the War Memorial into your GPS because the base of the hike is behind it.
Black Mountain, also called Flower to Tower (starting at the Botanical Gardens and ending at Telstra Tower) was the second hike I did. Unfortunately, I got to the top of this hike only to find out that there is absolutely no view at the top unless you go UP the Telstra Tower, which costs about $7. Knowing this beforehand would have been great, so I could have brought money on the hike with me. So back down I went, without even a decent view. Note to self and everyone else, bring money next time!!
I chose to do the One Tree Hill hike soley based on the name – the same name as my favorite TV show. Turns out I would rank this hike in my top 5 of Canberra hikes. The hike starts in Hall and is about a 9km hike return with an easy gradual climb nearly all the way up. The lookout at the top overlooks Gunghalin and has great picture opportunites with the small viewing platform/structure at the top that says “Canberra”.
Red Rock Gorge was a spree of the moment hike, after spending some time down at Kambah Pools (another great place to explore – nude swimming allowed so caution as to how much exploring you actually do!). Located in the Kambah beach parking lot – or carpark I should say – this hike is a 4.4km return with no substanial amount of incline. I ran this hike as I was crunched for time (and I am NOT a runner), but it turned out to be a great, level path to run on, and the view was not bad at the end either!
Outside of the Centenary Trail, my two favorite spots to explore were Namadgi National Park and Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve.
Namadgi is home to my absolute favorite hike in Canberra – Booroomba Rocks. This hike is about 20km from the Information Center in Namadgi, but totally worth the drive in! From the Booroomba Rocks car park, it is about a 4km return hike, and does get fairly steep at times! At the top you find gorgeous granite rock cliffs overlooking a valley and mountain horizon. Easily my favorite hike to do as it doesn’t take up your entire day but it gives you a good workout nontheless- and the view just seems to be different everytime you go! Also, if you’re into rock climbing, I’ve seen it done here!
Granite Tors walking track is another great hike in Namdgi with a great view of the mountains as well as larger granite boulders to use as your personal jungle gym if you’re keen. This hike is 7km return and has a few steep sections to it. We found ourselves running down at times (because of the steepness), but the terrain was very sandy, rocky and uneven.. I see potential twisted ankles for runners! This hike also made it into my top 5 hikes in Canberra.
Tidbinbilla was my first real Aussie experience. It was where I saw my first kangaroo, emu, wallaby, and koala! After that, I finally moved on to exploring the hikes.
My second favorite hike I’ve done in Canberra was Camels Hump in Tidbinbilla. The summit of Camels Hump is the highest ridge in the Australian Captial Territory (ACT). There are two options for this hike. You can start the walk from the Information Center, making it a 19km hike. Or you can drive to a parking lot further in, which makes it a 11.6km hike. Regardless of the distance though, at the end of this hike you see stunning mountain views from every direction. The trail is good – for the majority of the hike you follow a wide gravel road thats easy to walk on, but the route gets quite steep at times.
If you are keen for walks in these two areas, make sure you stop to have a chat with the people at the Information Centers because they are very helpful in regards to where to hike and how to get there!
If you are interested in less of a hike and more of a lookout there’s plenty for you too! Gibralter Falls is a 50m water fall located just outside of Tidbinbilla. What’s even more special about this one is that you can sit in a pool on the top of the waterfall and just look out and see mountains. Shepherds Lookout is another spot that has just a short walk from the parking lot. Standing on the platform at Shepherds Lookout, you get an impressive view of the Murrumbidgee River which happens to be the second longest river in Australia!
Well, that is what I’ve been up to over the last year! Hopefully you can all enjoy Canberra as much as I did!
Until next time,