Must Do: Scenic walks, hikes & national parks in Canberra, ACT
When you think of Australia's Capital City, Canberra, we bet a Parliament House and Government buildings are the first things that come to mind to visit when planning a trip. Of course these are things you can't miss and they feature on this list (Bonus they are all totally FREE to check out as are many of the museums and memorials), but we wanted to share another side to Canberra you can't miss as well. Canberra is rich in natural beauty, surrounding the city are rolling hills with panoramic lookout points, national parks with cascading waterfalls, hiking trails and some of the most beautiful river front sunset views we've seen in Australia.
But first - Getting to Canberra: From Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane
Canberra is the perfect weekend destination located within two hours flying duration from Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. If travelling from the Gold Coast like us, we opted to fly to Sydney and take the 3 hour drive into Canberra. The flights were significantly cheaper to take this option. If you do choose to drive from Sydney take the route through the New South Wales Southern Highlands stopping in the quaint and charming country towns of Bowral or Berrima along the way, they are full of cute cafes and boutique stores.
A few highlights from our drive and stop via Bowral, NSW Southern Highlands:
If it's your first time to Canberra, or you are also looking to visit all of the museums and parliament house as well as the National Parks, we would recommend staying in our close to the city centre for ease of getting around. From the city centre the national parks are within 30 minutes to 1.5 hours drive depending where you visit.
If you're wanting be close to the city centre but want to enjoy restaurant and cafe culture we would recommend a stay around Braddon near the Lonsdale Street Area, Kingston Foreshore or NewActon Precinct. Looking for a more boutique stay? Don't miss the Ovolo Nishi Hotel in NewActon, this place is design award winning and surrounded by some of Canberra's best bars and restaurants.
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Ovolo Nishi - NewActon Precinct:
Top scenic locations you must visit in Canberra, including National Parks, Hikes and Look out points
Gibraltar Falls and Namadgi National Park: For swimming and hiking
Just a 30 minute drive from Canberra, located within Namadgi National Park is Gibraltar Falls. The top of the waterfall is surrounded by a chain of slow moving cascading rock pools overlooking sweeping views of the mountains in the Namadgi National Park. It is the perfect natural infinity pool and swimming spot to cool off during the summer.
You can reach the top and base of the waterfall within just a short 200m walk from the car park, making this spot easily accessible for any fitness level. Even if you visit in the cooler months it is well worth it for the views. At the main car park area there are also picnic table areas and toilets.
Point Hutt Crossing on the Murrumbidge River: For a picnic
On your way into our out of the Namadgi National Park, make a quick stop at Point Hut Crossing on the Murrumbidge River. At this scenic and quiet spot you might be lucky enough to spot a few people panning for gold.
If you plan to take your time here there is a shaded picnic area, short walking trails, a nice sandy beach to enjoy which is dog friendly as well as toilet facilities.
Shepards Lookout, Woodstock Nature Reserve: For Sunset views
Located within a 30 minute drive from Canberra is Shepards Lookout, part of the Woodstock nature reserve. It overs some of the most stunning sunset views over the Murrumbidgee River, one of the most beautiful national landmarks in the region and Australia's second longest waterway. To reach the lookout from the carpark it is a fairly flat 600m walk, be sure to allow yourself 15 minutes walking time to arrive for sunset. Along the walk look up into the trees, we noticed a number of colourful rosellas along the way.
The National Arboretum: For natural beauty within Canberra city
One of Canberra's newest and not so well known yet attractions is the National Arboretum. The park is home of over 100 forests of trees from around the world, all planted in 2013 to commemorate Canberra's centenary. We recommend having a picnic lunch here to enjoy the time overlooking the spectacular hill top views of the forests and city. You can buy food directly at the visitors centre and there's a small indoor cafe with seats where you can sit, however if you pack a picnic blanket the location is perfect to enjoy the outdoor lawn. Once finished eating enjoy one of the many walking or cycling trails around the gardens or check out the national bonsai collection. Entry to the National Arboretum is Free, and there is no need to pre book any tickets before arrival.
Lake Burley Griffin: For the best walking trail around Canberra City
Canberra city is surrounded by Lake Burley Griffin, you literally can't miss seeing in on a visit. The trail around the lake is 35 kilometres long and mostly flat, making it an easy walk, cycle, or scooter ride around the lake. There are many points along the lake where you can opt to rent electric scooters.
If you only want to walk some sections, a few highlights to be sure to enjoy is the Kingston Foreshore and National Carillon. At the National Carillon there are a few picnic tables, so we decided to visit in morning with a take-away coffee and breakfast to enjoy in the park area there.
Mt Ainsley Lookout: For Hiking and sunset views over Canberra City
Be sure to take in the views over Canberra from the Top of Mt Ainsley lookout. It's close by to the Australian War Memorial so we recommend a visit either before or after this. Here you can enjoy panoramic views over Anzac Parade, Parliament House, the National Arboretum and surrounding mountains. You can either drive directly to the lookout at the top of Mt Ainsley or park at the bottom and enjoy the 5km hike to the top.
We hope you enjoyed our national parks and walking trail guide to Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory, Australia. To see more of our other Australian destination guides click here.
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