Take a country drive & be surprised with what you discover
Honeysuckle Campground is located less than an hour south of Canberra's city centre. Although it is easily accessible from the city, its remote location makes it feel miles from the everyday stresses of city life. To get there, drive south through the southern suburbs of Tuggeranong, over the historical Tharwa Bridge and then to the Namadgi National Park Visitor Centre. If you wish to stay at the campground, you can book your site online, call them in advance or pop into the Visitor Centre and make your payment for staying the night.
If you are just going for a country drive, continue past the centre and enjoy the scenic trip through the countryside, past sheep and rolling hills, until you see the turnoff to Apollo Road. Follow this single lane road all the way up the hillside, past the turnoff to Booromba Rocks and into the campsite car park. If you visit on weekends, there will be campers setting up their tents or cooking BBQ's, as well as day trippers who use the campground to start their mountain hike. For whatever reason you visit, park your car and see what there is to discover!
Enjoy the scenic, country drive and follow the signs...
On my visit to the campground, I must admit that it wasn't my initial destination. I was actually driving up into the mountains to get to the start of the Booromba Rocks walk nearby, which was on my list of new years resolution walks for this year. I was looking forward to the short but steep walk up from the Booroomba Rocks car park, to enjoy some of the best views in Canberra - or so I had heard. Unfortunately, as I found out, the 3-kilometre unsealed road to get to the car park was too much for my little hatchback and I had to turn back around. Although disappointed, I kept driving to check out the Honeysuckle Campground, just 400 metres up the road.
As I started exploring, I discovered that you can also walk to Booroomba Rocks from the campground itself, on a 10-kilometre return walk through the bushland, with scenic views along the way. As I wasn't up for a more remote, longer walk on my own (especially after my adventurous morning!), I was happy to have a look around and see what the campground had to offer...
If you walk up the hill to see what is around the next corner, you will find a surprising discovery of international importance. Here you will find the concrete remains of the Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station, which was dismantled in 1981. This remote, mountain-top space station used to have 110 staff and feature a huge 26-metre "dish" which captured the details of international space missions. This space tracking station was the most famous in the world for a short period of time in July 1969, as it captured the footage of the first moon landing of the Apollo 11 mission. The footage was sent to Houston, Texas and was then sent all around the world and watched by 600 million people. Although many people believe this happened in Parkes, due to the movie The Dish, the transmission was in fact from this remote Honeysuckle Creek Tracking station.
Although there isn't much to see now, the signage is fascinating to read and you can also stand where the original dish stood, that captured one of the most watched television moments in history. After the station was dismantled, the dish was transported down to the Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex, which you can visit today.
Take a walk around the site and marvel at what happened here, almost 50 years ago
This campground is more than a quiet place to camp, or a place to start a mountain trek from, it also represents one of the biggest achievements in the history of mankind. It is astounding to think that this all happened in this remote location, just quietly sitting 1 hour from Canberra's bustling city centre. Although I arrived at the campground looking for something else, I left with an even bigger appreciation of the treasures that this region holds.
Whether you take the drive up to the campground to stay the night, go for a hike, or just have a country drive to the tracking station, ensure you take time to appreciate the journey along the way. The countryside looks greener, the hills look bigger and the sky looks bluer, making it the perfect adventure for this weekend.