The weather forecast scuttled our original plans to visit Talbingo over the 2022 Australia Day weekend (spoiler: we finally made it to Talbingo in 2023) we settled on Canberra. There’s plenty to do in and around the nation’s capital, no matter the season, and although we’ve been there a bit in recent years, we managed to visit new places across the two full days we were there. And, unlike the forecast in Talbingo, the weather in the ACT was amazing.
As is tradition now, we stayed at the Alivio Tourist Park, which sits on the edge of the Black Mountain Nature Reserve and – according to their website – is only 4km from the centre of Canberra. I’d argue that it’s pretty central to almost everywhere. If you are looking for self-contained accommodation, especially of the cabin variety, this is a great place, with plenty of different accommodation options depending on the size of your group. I really like the bush setting and the fact that it’s quiet and everything is sparklingly maintained. Must have stayed here twenty times or more in my lifetime, through a few different names – I’m old enough to remember when it was called Black Mountain Tourist Park. Highly-recommended.
Driving down from Sydney on Australia Day, we headed out into the Namadgi National Park and took the Apollo Road out past the Booroomba Rocks turnoff, eventually reaching the Honeysuckle Creek picnic area and campground. Way back in the day, Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station was one of the key cogs for NASA during the moon landing, working in concert with the more famous Parkes radio satellite dish, and there are a few reminders of it’s significance dotted around what is a very nice (and quite busy) spot, with a few short and a few longer walks starting at the picnic area.
On Thursday, we visited the National Arboretum, which has been on our collective Bucket List for a while now. Occupying rolling hills above Lake Burley Griffin, with stunning views of that lake, plus Telstra Tower and the rest of Canberra, the Arboretum is a really nice place to visit. You can either enjoy a stroll through the gardens or head off on a more strenuous trail, with Dairy Farmers Hill a must-visit – it’s the best place in the entire Arboretum if you’re after a postcard-perfect view of Canberra and it’s surrounds.
We ate morning tea (and lunch) at the Village Centre and headed out on the Mountain View track, which is listed at 3.3km one way and moderate-hard, but wasn’t quite as bad as I was expecting based on that description. There are a few hills, but nothing hugely steep. The views of the mountains out towards the distant Namadgi and Tidbinbilla mountains were brilliant. As was being on a trail where we hardly saw anyone else. Finished the walk by climbing up to Dairy Farmers Hill.
After lunch, we drove out through Belconnen to Shepherd’s Lookout (thanks for the tip, Instagram!) where you are treated to spectacular views of the Murrumbidgee River, from the northernmost viewing point of that famous waterway in the ACT. It’s a short walk from the carpark, and in thirty-degree weather, it was a little hot – but the view at the end made it worthwhile.
Our last stop for the day was Mount Stromlo Observatory, which is the headquarters of ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics (who knew?) and is home to some very spectacular views all around Canberra, not to mention some fascinating ruins and more than a few kangaroos, as well. The Visitor’s Centre was closed when we were up there, so we largely had the whole place to ourselves.
Day Three took us back into New South Wales to the Googong area – another place that has been on the Bucket List for a little while. First stop was the very impressive London Arch formation. We were going to walk down to the London Bridge homestead but couldn’t get across a creek after recent heavy rains, so we had to turn around.
After lunch, we drove to Googong Dam, where there are a few places to visit for different views of the infrastructure.
What is a visit to Canberra without a stop at one of my favourite places, and definitely the best view of the city and surrounds, Mt. Ainslie Lookout? (We initially tried to get to the summit of Mt Majura, but with no luck – road closed!)