HALE W18 Masthead

10 favourite picnic spots in Canberra

Belladonna Took

There’s nothing I love better than sprawling on a picnic blanket in the bush, feasting on barbecued snags and chocolates, drinking a glass of wine or two, and listening to the kookaburras laughing around me. Even with summer over and the cooler days of autumn now upon us, that’s no excuse for us Canberrans not to get out there and still enjoy the wonderful Bush Capital that we live in.

With nature reserves, green corridors, lakes, rivers, bushland, parks, hills, mountains, and about 40% of the ACT taken up by Namadgi National Park, there are certainly plenty of great places to enjoy a picnic with your loved ones.

Here are 10 of my favourite picnic spots in the ACT:

1. Cotter Dam Reserve

The Cotter Dam reserve has long been a popular spot for picnics. With the construction of the new Cotter Dam, there has been a significant upgrade to the recreational facilities here. There are short walking tracks to the Cotter Dam and along the river, including the Cotter Discovery Trail; picnic tables, BBQ facilities, a children’s playground, disabled access, a new footbridge, and toilets. Swimming is allowed, but pets are strictly forbidden.

You can also camp at the Cotter campground which is only a short drive away from the reserve. The Cotter campground is located along the banks of the Murrumbidgee River and has toilets, showers, wash up facilities and BBQs. Access to the campground costs about $12 per person per night with children under 15 free.

2. Casuarina Sands

Around the corner from the Cotter Dam reserve is Casuarina Sands. A very popular swimming spot in summer, Casuarina Sands also has picnic tables, BBQs, shaded areas, short walks, ample parking, and disabled access. Pets, however, are not allowed.

3. Uriarra Crossing

Another favourite swimming spot for Canberrans is Uriarra Crossing. There are wood BBQs, picnic tables, ample parking, shaded areas, and dogs are allowed to swim in the Murrumbidgee here. Uriarra Crossing is just off Uriarra Road, past Mount Stromlo.

4. Mount Stromlo Observatory Site

The Mount Stromlo Observatory site was destroyed in the 2003 bushfires, but it has now been redeveloped into an important research and engineering facility. And it’s a great spot for a picnic too!  You can take in spectacular views of the Brindabella Ranges from here, there are picnic tables, shaded areas and plenty of parking.

5. Point Hut Crossing

Further down south on the edge of Tuggeranong, next to the suburb of Gordon, is the lovely Point Hut Crossing Reserve. The Reserve is part of the Murrumbidgee River corridor.  There are picnic tables, a shaded area, toilets, walking trails to Pine Island and Kambah Pools, you can have a dip in the river, and you can also try your luck at fishing. Dogs are allowed at Point Hut and they are allowed to swim in the river here as well, but there are specific areas allocated for dogs off leads and dogs on leads. Bicycles are also allowed on the walking track between Point Hut and Kambah Pools.

6. Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

Further past Point Hut Crossing, on the fringe of Namadgi National Park, is the wonderful Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. The Reserve is rich in Aboriginal history including artefacts and rock shelters dating back 21 000 years. Tidbinbilla is also a very important native habitat for kangaroos, koalas, emus, possums, potoroos, echidnas, wombats, platypus, lyrebirds, the endangered Northern Corroboree Frog and the endangered Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby, as well as many other birds and reptiles.

Visit the Tidbinbilla Sanctuary and take a walk along the wheel-chair accessible pathway that meanders through a large wetlands ecosystem surrounded by bushland and protected by a predator-proof fence. There are many other walking trails throughout the Reserve ranging from easy, short walks (such as the Sanctuary Loop and the Birrigai Time Trail which takes you to the Birrigai Aboriginal Rock Shelter) to much harder, longer walks (such as the Nil Desperandum walk and Camels Hump walk).

There are plenty of picnic spots dotted throughout the Reserve, wood fired and electric BBQs, toilet facilities, a Visitors’ Centre, cafe (open weekends only), ranger guided activities, a fantastic Nature Discovery Playground for the kids, and all-terrain wheelchair ‘trailriders’ are available free of charge for visitors with physical disabilities.

Pets are not permitted inside the Reserve, and fishing, free camping, horse riding, off-road 4WD activities and trail bike riding are also strictly forbidden. Tidbinbilla is free of rubbish bins so please take your rubbish with you when you leave.

There are entrance fees to Tidbinbilla- about $10 for a day pass for a private vehicle up to 8 seats. You can also purchase annual passes. The Reserve is open every day (except Christmas Day and total fire ban days) from 7.30am to 8.00pm in summer, and from 7.30am to 6.00pm during winter.

7. Corin Forest

Not far from Tidbinbilla on Corin Road and belonging to the Tidbinbilla Mountain Ranges is the beautiful Corin Forest Mountain Resort. The resort is located in a secluded valley surrounded by tall forests. There’s a lodge, a cafe, toilet facilities, picnic tables around the pond, and you can also ride the fabulously fun Alpine Slide.

The Alpine Slide winds over 1km through mountain ash forest (fees apply). Corin Forest Mountain Resort is only open from 10am-4pm on weekends, public holidays, and ACT school holidays.

8. Corin Dam

Just up the road from Corin Forest at the end of Corin Road is the Corin Dam. Corin Dam is the third dam on the Cotter River and was completed in 1968.  It doesn’t have the extensive recreation facilities that the Cotter Dam Reserve has, but it’s still well worth a visit. There are toilets here, short walking trails, and a picnic area. Swimming and fishing are not permitted.

9. Woods Reserve

A lovely spot off Corin Road and on the banks of Gibraltar Creek is the popular Woods Reserve Recreation Area. There’s a picnic shelter and picnic tables, gas BBQs and wood fire pits, toilets, hot showers, and pets are allowed. The Reserve is available for overnight camping on a first come first served basis. Camping costs $12 per person per night (children under 15 are free).

10. Gibraltar Falls

Finally, located just upstream from Woods Reserve, is Gibraltar Falls. A walking track from the carpark provides access to a lookout to view the Falls which drop down to about 50 metres. Near the carpark there is also a picnic shelter, gas BBQ, and toilets.

Important Reminders!

All of these picnic spots (with the exception of Mount Stromlo Observatory Site) are located either within the protected Murrumbidgee River Corridor or Namadgi National Park. Essentially this means that the plants, animals, rocks, live wood, and Aboriginal and other historic artefacts located within these sites are protected by law. Here are a few things to remember when visiting these sites:

  1. Most of these places do not have rubbish bins. So please always take your rubbish with you (including your dog’s poop!)
  2. When swimming, always supervise children in or near the water. And do not dive into any part of the Murrumbidgee River. There are no lifesavers on patrol so please look after yourself and others. And always take note of signs in these areas advising of swimming conditions. At times the water quality may not be safe or be unsuitable for swimming.
  3. Fires can only be lit in approved BBQs or fireplaces, and only if there is no Total Fire Ban. Make sure your fire is out when you leave, and please bring your own wood. Collecting wood from nearby bushland is prohibited and destroys natural habitat.
  4. You do not need a fishing licence for recreational fishing in the ACT but you must comply with the Fisheries ACT 2000 which aims to sustainably manage our fish populations. Protected species include the Murray River Crayfish, Macquarie Perch, Silver Perch, Two-spined Blackfish, and Trout Cod. If caught, these species must be returned to the river. For more information go to: www.environment.act.gov.au
  5.  If you see people doing the wrong thing, or to report any problems, please record details or take a photo and report to Canberra Connect on 13 22 81.

We have so many places in the ACT for picnicking and other adventures in the great outdoors. Let’s respect our natural environment so we and future generations can always enjoy our wonderful Bush Capital.

What’s your favourite picnic spot around Canberra?

Belladonna Took

Belladonna Took is a former Sydney girl, community development worker and primary school teacher who arrived in Canberra in 2010 to begin her newly married life and her dream job: writing. When she’s suffering writers’ block, she has plenty of things to keep her busy such as books, high teas, Downton Abbey, friends, family, the husband, fur babies, and coffee. Belladonna loves Canberra and has even begun to identify herself as a Canberran! More about the Author

  • Rebecca

    Just do a shout out for Corin Forest – http://corin.com.au/. Its been taken over by new management and has a lovely new little cafe with simple kid friendly food (yummy ice cream) and super nice staff (no grumpy managers to be seen or heard). The slide is great for kids of all ages and it is a beautiful setting. You can actually pack a few of these into one trip to make a day of it as the falls are on the way to Corin Forest.

  • Freddie mendoza

    Do we need special permit & reservation for birthday party(lunch). If so where can we obtain it. Thank you.

Denman W18 Leaderboard