Julie is the author of a number of guidebooks, including 'Melbourne's Best Bush Bay and City Walks' & 'Melbourne for Dogs' (with RSPCA). Read more of her adventures at her walks blog: walksmelbourne.com
Published January 10th 2014
Strolling the lakeside history and beauty of Canberra
Our longest serving Prime Minister, the late Robert Menzies, was a big fan of architect Walter Burley Griffin's grand plan for Canberra. Yet when Menzies was PM, the original vision had been set aside, as the costs of war and other matters intervened. The much loved man-made Lake Burley Griffin was yet to be created and the nation's capital still had the air of a sheep paddock about it. Menzies pushed through legislation and treasury funding to ensure the original design could be completed, though not without considerable opposition, as he recalled in 1970:
'I went away to England once more very happy, because the [financial estimates for the creation of Lake Burley Griffin] had been accepted; my dream had been given shape; but when I returned I found that the Treasury (which in any country moves in a mysterious way its wonders to perform) had induced ministers to strike the item out. At the very first meeting after my return, and when I had completed a survey of the matters which had been discussed abroad, I turned to the Treasurer, who was my good friend and ultimate successor, the late Harold Holt, and said, with what I hoped was a disarming smile, 'Am I rightly informed that when I was away the Treasury struck out this item of one million for the initial work on the lake?' The reply was yes, and that Cabinet had agreed. I then said, 'Well, can I take it that by unanimous consent of ministers the item is now struck in?'
Today you can take a gentle stroll along the RG Menzies walk along the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, to see what all the fuss was about. This lovely stretch of the lakeside path, from Commonwealth Avenue bridge to Kings Avenue Bridge, takes you along a 2km section of the lake, past many important political and historic sights. There are a number of interpretive plaques along the way, which give a great deal of insight into Menzies' motivation and Canberra's growth and development. The path is smooth concrete, 4.5m wide and multi-use, so watch out for leisure cyclists and rollerbladers, though there are plenty of folk out for a promenade as well. It is also right on the shoreline, so keep hold of little hands if walking with children. The views across the lake sweeping up to Parliament House are second to none, and justify all Menzies' efforts. There is regular seating for you to rest or just to sit back and take in the view.
Those keen for a longer walk can continue past the beautiful National Carillion (take a detour out onto its island for lovely views back along the lake), across Kings Avenue bridge and turn right along the opposite bank, to walk through the National Gallery's sculpture garden and past the 'Australian of the Year' roll call before coming back across Commonwealth Avenue Bridge to the start, making a perfect 5km circuit.