Canberra Centre Masthead

10 Things Not to Miss at Heritage Festival

Laura Peppas

With ghost trains, torchlight tours and World War re-enactments, the 2016 Canberra and Region Heritage Festival offers a unique and exciting way to dig up the past right on your doorstep.

On from 2 – 18 April, there’s a huge array of events, activities, exhibitions and performances for every age and stage, set to the theme of Discovery and Rediscoveries. We narrow down 10 highlights you can’t miss.

1. Torchlight Tours at St John’s Churchyard, Reid

A perennial favourite, the torchlight tours are the perfect opportunity to hear stories and re-discover the many brave pioneers buried a long ago.  Rug up, bring along a torch, grab a few friends and enjoy a cuppa afterwards at St John’s Schoolhouse Museum.

2. Yarralumla Forestry Heritage Precinct Open Day

This event offers a rare chance to explore the stunning architecture in this heritage precinct. With entertainment, face painting, tours and classic cars on display, there are plenty of activities for the whole family. “Former students of the Forestry School in Yarralumla will also be on hand to guide you around the area and tell you about the rich history of the Forestry School,” Festival Coordinator Linda Roberts says.

Car display at open day.

Car display at open day

3. Military re-enactment from WWI

Join heritage experts for an exciting tour of the Jerrabomberra Wetlands World War I training trenches. With actors dressed in military attire, The Great War Association will take you back in time, offering an insight intowhat it would have been like for troops before they went to the western front. Linda says it’s a unique way to uncover our history. “This is a really great event for all the family,” she says.

4. The Ghost Train

One for the adults, Linda says this is an event that will “book out in no time.” Those brave enough to step aboard the three-hour tour, pulling out of the Queanbeyan Railway Station, will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the mysterious legend of the region. “We’ll explore true events, including murders and disappearances, that were actually recorded in our archives,” she says. “There are actors involved to set the scene and it’s always a really great night.”

Steam train

No.4 ghost train

5. Historian and the Astronomer

Did you know Stromlo is responsible for discovering 96 per cent of the universe? This tour explores how it all happened, encompassing the history and science of Mount Stromlo while also uncovering the unique role the Observatory had during World War II. There’s also the chance to explore the brand new Visitor Centre, or play a game of croquet outside the restored Director’s Residence.

6. Urban Polaris

For those who are keen for something a bit more active, this navigating and cycling event is sure to get your heart racing.Starting at the Old Bus Depot Markets, teams of two must find their way around a series of control points spread throughout Canberra at selected heritage/historic locations, with each control point given a point value that the competitors accumulate during the day. The team with the most points at the end of the seven hours is declared the winner, with time penalties for teams that return late. “This event can be as competitive or not competitive as you want,” says Linda. “It really gives you a chance to hop on your bike with friends and see the sights in a different way.”

Off the clue hunt

Urban Polaris

7. Oaks Estate

Bring along a picnic rug and watch as Dr Karen Williams demonstrates how discovering Aboriginal stone artefacts dating back to the time of Timothy Beard, an ex-convict and the first squatter in the Queanbeyan-Oaks Estate district, led to her rediscovery of the early people, places and environment of the Queanbeyan-Canberra landscape. This event also includes a tour of Robertsons’ House and a 1.5-2km walk along the river track.

8. Jane Austen Festival

Dress up in your finest regency attire and celebrate the life and works of Jane Austen at Albert Hall. Guests can indulge in dancing, music, food, games, archery, fencing, theatre, promenades, grand balls, talks, workshops, costumes and books during the three day festival. “This is one of the most popular events that is part of the Canberra and Region Heritage Festival – we have people come to this from all over Australia,” says Linda.

Jane Austen 29

Jane Austen Festival Photo: Steven Shaw

9. Belconnen Tour

Celebrate Belconnen’s 50th birthday this year with a tour of selected heritage sites around the area. “Do you know what the egg crates are or where the optical galaxy and bicentennial vertical are located? There are cemeteries, sites of former rural properties and a slab hut included in this tour,” says Linda.

10. Break the Guinness Book of Records

The Wooback 2 challenge aims to break the Guinness Book of Records for the most draft horses ploughing simultaneously, at Cooma Cottage in nearby Yass. The record currently is 84 horses, set in the UK in February last year. There will also be lots of events over the weekend including market stalls, food, country music concert, whip cracking, a pumpkin snatch, heavy horse barrel races and lots more, says Linda.

Heritage 123

Yass Wooback

the essentials

What: Canberra and Region Heritage Festival
Where: Various locations
When: 2 – 18 April 2016
Web: For more information on costs for each event, visit the website at

Feature image: Steven Shaw

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Laura Peppas

Laura Peppas is HerCanberra's senior journalist and communications manager and is the Editor of Unveiled, HerCanberra's wedding magazine. She is enjoying uncovering all that Canberra has to offer, meeting some intriguing locals and working with a pretty awesome bunch of women. Laura has lived in Canberra for most of her life and when she's not writing fervently she enjoys pursuing her passion for travel, reading, online shopping and chai tea. More about the Author