There's a little dirt path in Canberra which leads to one of its best-kept secrets nestled at the edge of the National Arboretum. It winds past a dam in the shadows of Telstra Tower and leads you into the Cork Oak Forest. The Cork Oaks have been happily growing for around 100 years and as they've grown, an enchanted and magical place has been created. Its a place where you'll find dappled light, toadstools and perhaps if you look hard enough, even some fairies and elves.
The cork oaks were originally used to supply cork and the dramatic cuts still visible in their bark show how the harvest was done. From their utilitarian start in life, their main job now is to simply provide a quiet retreat for busy Canberrans to walk, relax or even indulge in a spot of forest bathing. Despite the kooky name, forest bathing involves taking a slow, mindful walk in the forest and the looped path through the oaks allows for an easy stroll in the fresh air. There are benches along the way where you can take a break, have a snack or just watch the world go by.
Cork Oak Forest, National Arboretum Canberra
The forest is perfect for families to explore - there are fallen trees perfect for balancing and housing mini-ecosystems in their rotten trunks, acorns sprouting tiny new trees and a whole world of birds, bugs, fungi and moss. The forest can get super muddy during and after rain, so it can be tough for parents with prams but for toddlers and up, it's absolutely perfect for jumping in muddy puddles.
To find the cork oak forest, look for a sign pointing right shortly past the Arboretum's entry gates. The little forest never seems to be busy and at times, you have the entire place to yourself. It's fun for kids, relaxing for adults and interesting no matter what time of year you visit.