Commonwealth Park is the most popular outdoor recreation area in Canberra, located on the northern side of the Lake Burley Griffin foreshore. This 34 hectare parkland starts at Commonwealth Avenue Bridge to the west and finishes a few kilometres along the lake where it borders with Kings Park. This extensive parkland is popular with locals and tourists to appreciate the scenery, exercise along its length and enjoy the events held here throughout the year. If you walk along the back paths you will also discover a variety of wetland birdlife, spectacular sculptures, hidden playgrounds and a variety of native wildlife. Kids are also fascinated by the hundreds of hanging bats that also make Commonwealth Park their home.
Following is a quick list of the Top 10 Things to Do in Commonwealth Park, in every season.
Take a walk through one of the most scenic parklands in Canberra
The 180 degree views from Commonwealth Park across Lake Burley Griffin to the Parliamentary Triangle, is an ideal way for visitors to the city to view all of Canberra's iconic landmarks at once. A popular place to do this is at Regatta Point, where you can sit on the grass on the hill overlooking the lake and take in the views. From this vantage point you can also (sometimes!) see the Captain Cook Memorial Jet, which shoots up water 147 metres up into the air in front of Regatta Point. At the time of writing this jet is under repair, however it is hoped to be operating again in the near future.
Views over to Commonwealth Avenue Bridge, from Regatta Point
The paths around Commonwealth Park are popular with exercise enthusiasts who cycle, run and walk around its many walkways, enjoying the views. You can also hire a bike or a four person carriage from Mr Spokes Bike Hire, situated near Acton Jetty on the other side of Commonwealth Avenue Bridge. The foreshore of Commonwealth Park is also part of the RG Menzies Walk in honour of the work of Sir Robert Menzies and the 5km Central Loop of the Lake Burley Griffin cycling paths. With flat paths and scenic views, Commonwealth Park is an enjoyable way to start the day, pounding the pavement or riding a bike with hundreds of like-minded locals.
3/ EVENTS Commonwealth Park is the venue for major events due to its large expanse of grassy areas, Stage 88 arena and access to amenities. Such large events include Floriade, the Colour Run, Australia Day Festival, Canberra Day Festival, Skyfire, Symphony in the Park, a variety of fun runs held throughout the year and Carols in December.
Down on Lake Burley Griffin, between Commonwealth Park and Kings Park is also Rond Terrace. This gravelled area is used for official government and army ceremonies as well as acting as the finishing line for many cycling and running marathons. Commonwealth Park is the central hub of Canberra's outdoor weekend recreation and large events, with something held almost every weekend in the warmer months.
View of Commonwealth Park from the Floriade Ferris Wheel, 2015
4/ SCULPTURES As you walk around Commonwealth Park, ensure you take a look at the wide variety of outdoor sculptures and installations around all areas of the park. In particular if you walk along the back paths towards Nerang Pool, you will discover some hidden gems there worth exploring. Brolga's dancing, seated ladies and colourful metal sculptures will surprise and delight on each tree-lined pathway.
If you walk along the lakes edge on the way to Kings Park you will also come across an imposing sculpture of a man taking a stroll in his suit, smiling as he does. This is a sculpture of past Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies, taking a stroll along the lake that he officially opened in 1964.
5/ MONUMENTS & MEMORIALS Commonwealth Park has a number of significant memorials and monuments in which to discover. In particular the Captain Cook Memorial Globe, just under Regatta Point was made to commemorate the bicentenary of Captain James Cook's landing on the east coast of Australia in 1770. Another significant area, further along the lakes edge, is Citizenship Place where ceremonies take place to welcome new Australians each Australia Day.
Captain Cook Memorial Globe, by Bunning and Madden
6/ NATIONAL CAPITAL EXHIBITION The National Capital Exhibition is a free exhibition at Regatta Point which explains the history of this planned city and how it is used today. With videos, displays and spectacular views over to many of Canberra's iconic landmarks, this exhibition is in the ideal location to delve further into Canberra's fascinating past. See here for more information.
A school excursion making its way into the National Capital Exhibition
7/ THE DECK AT REGATTA POINT
The Deck is a scenic café perched atop Regatta Point, conveniently located next to the National Capital Exhibition. As its name suggests, it has a large outside dining area on an expansive deck to sit back and enjoy the view. Stop for a coffee or a meal at this scenic location, which is often used for wedding receptions and functions. With 180 degree views over the lake, it has the best vantage point anywhere in the city. See here for an article on The Deck at Regatta Point.
8/ NERANG POOL
This pool, or pond, is located a few paths back from the lake. It is a peaceful spot to read a book, sit quietly looking for birdlife or to enjoy a leisurely stroll enjoying the art and sculptures along its path. Take a seat and watch the waterbirds build their nests above the water and at certain times of the year, watch the babies gingerly take their first steps over the reeds. It is a quiet place to enjoy the serenity of this peaceful park, just metres from a busy highway and CBD.
As mentioned above, the birdlife is a highlight of this parkland, with rosellas in the trees, waterbirds diving under the water, ducks waddling across the paths and swans gliding along Lake Burley Griffin. It doesn't matter where you stop to take a break at Commonwealth Park, it doesn't take long before the sounds of birdlife in the trees become apparent and a secret world unfolds around you.
There are two playgrounds at Commonwealth Park for families and kids of all ages to play at. At Regatta Point there is a smaller playground with picnic area nearby to enjoy a family afternoon in the park. Down one of the back paths, past Nerang Pool, is the Commonwealth Park Playground - a medieval fortress with tunnels and slide for the kids to explore. This unusual playground is fun for all ages, with padded tunnels underneath that the kids can crawl through which lead up to the top of the slide. Adults can fit in the tunnels also, if young ones are eager to give it a try.
Commonwealth Park is Canberra's playground for all the reasons above, and more. When Walter Burley Griffin and wife Marion designed the city, with Lake Burley Griffin as the central recreation area, they also designed this green open space to enjoy. Commonwealth Park began to take shape in the 1960s and by 1965, Dame Sylvia Crowe, one of Britain's best-known landscape architects, prepared a master plan for the detailed development of the park. The result is the stunning recreational park that we see today. So grab the Sunday paper and a coffee and find a scenic bench to escape the city life, just minutes from Canberra's CBD.