Whether you are on foot, on your bike, or in your car, Canberra’s natural surrounds are diverse yet surprisingly accessible.

Every season brings a distinctive mix of visual delights all across Canberra and its surrounds.

Summer is a great time to explore the Murrumbidgee River Corridor and our three city lakes: Lake Burley Griffin, Lake Tuggeranong and Lake Ginninderra.

Come autumn, the spectacular deciduous trees begin their transition – beautifully visible throughout the city and particularly evident at the National Arboretum Canberra.

Winter is brisk and cool, offering a contrast of sunny days with a backdrop of snow seen on the hills and mountains to the west.

Spring is a renewal of colour and a fine time to see native flora in bloom at the Australian National Botanic Gardens and over a million exotic flowers during Australia’s biggest celebration of spring – Floriade.

Whatever the season, Canberra’s abundance of parks, reserves and lakes make it the city ideal for getting outdoors. Choose your season to discover these impressive sights.

FORESTS OF TREES

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 overlooking Canberra.

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, while discovering the stories behind the forests in the information displays. The kids will love the Pod Playground, and don’t miss the National Bonsai and Penjing Collection – an impressive display of living works of art.

A couple walking through the National Arboretum with a descriptive sign about trees to their left.

HABITATS OF PROTECTION AND BEAUTY

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 see if you can spot wildlife including koalas, emus, kangaroos, wombats, wallaroos and possums.

With great barbeque spots and lots of fun for kids at the Discovery Playground, you’ll be surprised at the variety of natural experiences on offer at Tidbinbilla.

Children walking through bush at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve.

BUSH EXPLORATIONS

Venture into Namadgi National Park 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, including kangaroos in their natural setting abound and the spectacular wildflowers burst in spring.

Popular day walks include Booroomba Rocks and Square Rock, various options along the Murrumbidgee River Corridor, plus climbs up to the treeline near Piccadilly Circus to Mount Franklin. To see snow during winter (subject to road conditions) take a visit to family-friendly Corin Forest.

Experienced hikers can escape into the rugged Bimberi Wilderness, or take a ranger-guided option. Indigenous rock art and Aboriginal shelters are easily accessible at Yankee Hat. Plus camping is available in pleasant bushland settings with fishing and horse riding 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.

BOTANIC DISPLAYS

Explore the world’s most comprehensive display of living Australian native plants at the Australian National Botanic Gardens, easily found on the lower slopes of Black Mountain in Canberra.

Be transported to the outback at the Red Centre Garden, which features native flora and landscapes from the arid Central Australian region. Then traverse the depth and breadth of Australia’s flora with a short stroll through Rainforest Gully.

The Gardens offer everything for a 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 knowledgeable Friends of the Australian National Botanic Gardens, leave from the Visitor Centre twice a day at 11am and 2pm.

NATURE ON OUR DOORSTEP

Canberra has a connected series of 33 parks and reserves that adjoin suburbs and include all the mountains within the city environs. Canberra Nature Park includes some of the last remaining reserves of grassy woodlands, temperate grasslands and forests in south-eastern Australia.

Ensure you explore 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.

At any of the parks and reserves, walk at dawn and dusk to see great vistas, as well as kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas and a regular chorus of birds.

Popular mountains worth a climb for the impressive views are Mount Ainslie, Black Mountain, Red Hill, Mount Majura, Mount Pleasant and Mount Taylor.

A family looks out over Canberra from Red Hill Lookout.

PREPARE FOR THE WEATHER

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.

Also when 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 local on-road conditions and closures with TAMS.

WANT MORE

So what else is there to do in Canberra this summer? We have you covered. Click here to read more.

Feature image by Martin Ollman