Get close to wild native Australian animals and discover ancient Aboriginal sites on a bushwalk, bike ride or drive through Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, just south of Canberra.
By Stephanie Williams
On the fringe of Namadgi National Park, outside Canberra, lies Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, 55 square kilometres (34 square miles) of protected bush. The heavily forested valley sits between the Gibraltar and Tidbinbilla ranges in the northern Australian Alps. It's home to emus, kangaroos, wallabies and cockatoos, as well as bushwalking and mountain bike tracks, tranquil picnic spots and ranger guided activities.
Like neighbouring Namadgi National Park, this relatively undisturbed pocket teems with wildlife and traces of Aboriginal history. You'll feel a long way from civilisation. Start your day at the Tidbinbilla Visitor Centre, where you’ll find up-to-date information about walks and ranger guided activities as well as a gift shop and light snacks. While you're there be sure to venture down the wheelchair-accessible walkways to explore The Sanctuary, a large wetlands ecosystem surrounded by bush. It's protected by a predator-proof fence, which creates a safe and natural environment for native animals.
- Spend the night under the stars on a Naturewise Private Camping Safari
- Spot native wildlife such as platypus, endangered frogs and koalas
- Take one of the many bushwalks or join a ranger guided walk
How to get there
You can fly into Canberra from most major Australian cities. There are international flight connections from New Zealand and Singapore. Canberra is about a three hour drive from Sydney and a 6 1/2 hour drive from Melbourne. Tidbinbilla is an easy 40 minute drive south of Canberra city centre.
Things to do and top attractions at Tidbinbilla
Do some native animal spotting
Do some wildlife spotting in The Sanctuary's protected space. Try in the wetlands, where The Sanctuary Loop Main Trail weaves through a range of habitats. You might spot the elusive brush-tailed rock wallaby, shy platypus and Australian shelduck. Be sure to 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, echidnas and koalas in the wet eucalypt forest.
Explore the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve walking trails
Beyond The Sanctuary, another 16 walking trails wind through Tidbinbilla's grasslands, forests, wetlands and subalpine slopes. Hike through cool forest to a tumbling mountain stream on the one hour Cascades Trail or complete the challenging climb to Gibraltar Peak (two to three hours). Enjoy more majestic mountain views on the 500 metre (0.3 mile) walk around Turkey Hill, or the 45 minute Xanthorrhoea Loop Trail. Trek through tall mountain gums and wet fern gullies on the challenging Fishing Gap Trail (three hours) 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 ecosystems on the Lyrebird Trail.
Learn more about Tidbinbilla's Aboriginal history
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 well signposted historic Birrigai Time Trail from the Visitor Centre to the Birrigai Rock Shelter, which the Ngunawal people occupied during the last ice age, more than 20,000 years ago. Hop in the car and drive to Bogong Rocks, where tribes would gather to harvest and eat bogong moths (big, meaty moths high in fat and protein). Or walk around Tidbinbilla Mountain, where sacred initiation ceremonies were held. The valley was settled by Europeans in the mid 1800s, and you'll find evidence of early settlers' lives dotting the reserve. See the restored ruins of an 1895 homestead, made from rammed earth, at the Rock Valley Heritage Site. Trace the trails of pioneers on the Church Rock Heritage Loop or hike to the Nil Desperandum Homestead on the Tidbinbilla River. You can even hire this rustic homestead for groups of up to six people.
Explore on two wheels or four
In addition to the many walks through Tidbinbilla, you can also jump on a mountain bike and enjoy the reserve on sealed roads and fire trails. The best tracks are around Jedbinbilla and Gibraltar Peak. The Visitor Centre has a map of all the fire trails. Or head out on four wheels and take a scenic drive of Tidbinbilla. Stop for panoramic views over the Tidbinbilla Valley from a lookout near the wildlife precinct. Be sure to pack a hamper if you're planning to picnic in one of the many scenic spots. Barbecues are available.
Let the kids explore The Sanctuary
In the Nature Discovery Playground near the Visitor Centre, children can meet roaming koalas, echidnas and wallabies, pump water like a pioneer, ride a zip line and become part of a large sundial. The ranger guided activities for children and families, including guided bushwalks, are held on weekends and during school holidays.
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