Jerrabomberra Wetlands is a scenic wetland habitat with a range of bird-watching walks, just minutes from Canberra's busy CBD. The main attraction for most visitors is the wide variety of birdlife that can be seen here, as it is a refuge for migrating birds from the northern hemisphere and inland Australia. This results in over 170 species of birds visiting the wetlands throughout the year, making it a unique experience in every season.
The Wetlands are located on the Molonglo River floodplain, only 4 kms from Canberra's City Centre. I was surprised to find that the Jerrabomberra Wetlands is not located in the suburb of Jerrabomberra as I expected, but within minutes from the industrial suburb of Fyshwick. Just a short drive from industrial factories, this wetlands habitat is a surprising and serene reserve at the end of a road that literally goes nowhere - except for here.
Signage at the entrance - please take note of the snake warnings in the warmer months.
Our family visited on a weekend, where we discovered that the wetlands reserve was also a busy thoroughfare for cyclists, walkers and runners. At first it was unclear where all these exercise enthusiasts were coming from, and going to, along the sealed bike path. We soon learnt that the wetlands reserve is part of the Lake Burley Griffin East Basin Cycling Loop, a 9km route which joins the Kingston Foreshore with Grevillea Park on the other side of the lake. See here for the map of the East Basin Loop.
There are three short walks to do around the Jerrabomberra Wetlands Nature Reserve. The Billabong Trail, the Woodland Loop (both 30 minute walks) and Kellys Loop, a 40 minute loop around the Kelly's Swamp itself. See here for details of each walk.
Kelly's Loop is the highlight of the three as it takes in Kelly's Swamp, with its clear water and variety of waterbirds. If you are walking with children, it is an easy loop for the older kids to walk and it is also accessible with an all-terrain pram. Another point to note is there are no toilet facilities at Jerrabomberra Wetlands (however the local Fyshwick McDonalds is only a short drive away).
Kelly's Loop starts and ends in the Dairy Road carpark, so it is an easy track to follow in either direction. There are no bikes allowed on this path, it is for walkers only, so noise is kept to a minimum to keep the wetlands a natural, quiet environment for the birdlife.
Map of Kelly's Loop. The orange part of the track is the boardwalk. Source: Jerrabomberra Wetlands website
Tread quietly along the paths to ensure you can hear the bird calls and any movement in the wetlands. There are also birdwatching huts to creep into and watch the birds and wildlife in their natural habitat. On our visit we met up with other families, couples and friends all out enjoying this quiet location, minutes from the city. As we silently sat on the benches inside the huts, it was an interesting to see who could spot a turtle, unusual bird or ducklings hiding in the reeds. These little huts are a highlight of this walk and a lot of fun for kids - showing how quiet they can be. There is also a section of the walkway which has little peepholes behind a reed fence, to get a look at what lays behind.
On the other side of Kelly's Swamp is a 160 metre long boardwalk, still part of the Kelly's Loop path. There is signage along the way to explain the smaller species of waterbirds that hide in the reeds and the aboriginal history of the area.
This wetlands system has a significant history, with the traditional custodians of the land, the Ngunnawal people, using this area to hunt for food and it was also a meeting place for surrounding tribes. It was used as a ceremonial pathway between the south to the central corroboree ground on the floodplain (now partly under Lake Burley Griffin). The last recorded corroboree on the Molonglo floodplain was in 1862. See here for the full history of the Jerrabomberra Wetlands.
The Jerrabomberra Wetlands is a unique natural habitat, with a variety of wildlife to uncover, so close to the city centre. If you enjoy bird watching it will be an area of discovery every time you visit. For kids, Kelly's Loop is free entertainment, educational and exercise, all at the same time. If you would like to enjoy Brunch with the Birds, or any of the school holiday activities on offer at the wetlands, see the Jerrabomberra Wetlands website for more information.
Although Jerrabomberra Wetlands is not a large reserve to walk around, Kelly's Loop in particular is an enjoyable way to spend an hour or two to escape the city. Ensure you take your binoculars or high strength camera to get the best views of the colouful migrating birdlife. For the best results, take note of the cute signage that you will see along the way: