It's only 40 minutes from Canberra to this heavily-forested valley, which sits nestled between the Gibraltar and Tidbinbilla Ranges in the northern Australian Alps. Like neighbouring Namadgi National Park, this relatively undisturbed pocket teems with wildlife and traces of Aboriginal history. You'll feel a long way from civilization when you pick up a map at the visitor's centre and see the strutting emus, grazing kangaroos, wallabies and cockatoos. It's a great place to spend a summer's day.
Have more close animal encounters in the wetlands, where the Sanctuary Loop Main Trail weaves through a range of habitats. Spot the elusive brush-tailed rock wallaby, shy platypus and the threatened bustard and mountain duck. Keep an eye out for endangered northern corroboree frogs, tiny creatures with black-and-lime stripes. Stroll along the Koala Path, spotting wallaroos, parrots, wombats, wallabies and echidnas, as well as koalas, in the wet eucalypt forest.
Beyond the sanctuary, another 16 walks wind through Tidbinbilla's grasslands, forests, wetlands and sub-alpine slopes. Hike through cool forest to a tumbling mountain stream on the Cascades Trail or do the challenging climb to the top of the granite Gibraltar Rocks. Enjoy more majestic mountain views on the short walk around Turkey Hill or easy Xanthorrhoea Loop Trail. Trek through tall mountain gums and wet fern gullies on the challenging Fishing Gap Trail or follow the four-hour Camel Back Trail through the woodlands. Take the steep Devils Gap Trail through dry mountain forest or get a snapshot of the area's diverse eco-systems on the Lyrebird Trail.
These mountains and valleys have a rich Aboriginal history. The name Tidbinbilla is derived from the Aboriginal word ‘Jedbinbilla', meaning a place where boys become men. Follow the Birrigai Time Trail from the visitors centre to the Birrigai Rock Shelter, which the Ngunawal people occupied during the last ice-age, more than 20,000 years ago. Drive to Bogong Rocks, where tribes once gathered to harvest bogong moths, or walk around Tidbinbilla Mountain, where sacred initiation ceremonies were held. The valley was settled by Europeans in the mid 1800s, and you'll also find evidence of their lives dotting the reserve. See the restored ruins of an 1895 homestead, made from rammed earth, at the Rock Valley Heritage Site. Trace the trail of early pioneers on the Church Rock Heritage Loop or hike to the Nil Desperandum Homestead on the Tidbinbilla River.
In addition to the many walks, you can bike ride through the reserve on sealed roads and fire trails. Or take a scenic drive, stopping for panoramic views over the Tidbinbilla Valley from a lookout near the wildlife precinct. Pack a hamper if you're planning a picnic in one of the many scenic spots. In the Nature Discovery Playground near the visitors centre, children can meet free-ranging koalas, echidnas and wallabies, pump water like a pioneer, ride a flying fox and become part of a large sun dial. There are more ranger guided activities for children and families on weekends and during school holidays.
Whether you're seeking adventure, relaxation, animal interaction or Australian history, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve makes a great summer destination.