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The Sanctuary

Home > Canberra > School Holidays | Family | Escape the City | Day Trips | Walks
by Sue W (subscribe)
New to Canberra, I love exploring this city and the secrets that it holds with my family.
Published April 12th 2016
Platypus & indigenous history on this Tidbinbilla boardwalk
The Sanctuary is a sealed bushwalk and boardwalk around the wetlands at Tidbinbilla Nature Park, 50 minutes west of Canberra's CBD. This 2.1km flat path is wheelchair and pram friendly, making it an easy walk to do with kids or visitors who wish to enjoy the area, without any strenuous exercise. The path takes you past lookouts to view platypus and birdlife and there is a scenic boardwalk that runs through the wetlands to admire the wildlife up close.

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Take a walk along The Boardwalk


Tidbinbilla Nature Park is an easy country drive from the city, past rolling hills and imposing mountains which are home to 21,000 years of Aboriginal history. There is an entrance fee per car to Tidbinbilla Nature Park, however once you enter there is so much to see, you will need the full day to explore it. The Sanctuary is a good first stop on your visit, to learn more about the area and why it is such a significant location for native wildlife and the local Ngunnawal people.

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Entrance to the walkway


It is named The Sanctuary as visitors need to walk through a double gate to get inside, providing a sanctuary for the animals within. The perimeter is completely fenced to prevent introduced predators, such as foxes, into the protected wildlife area.

There is signage along the walk to explain the aboriginal significance of Tidbinbilla Nature Park and how the local tribes used the area. The name Tidbinbilla is thought to be derived from the aboriginal word "Jedbinbilla", the name given to country where "boys become men". There are areas around Tidbinbilla with evidence of where boys were taught to be warriors and hunters and where they passed Aboriginal Law to become men.

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Signage along the walkway explaining aboriginal history


One of the first areas on the path that you can turn off to is the Visitors Centre, with a lookout over the wetlands, sculptures, signage and toilet facilities. The walk is simply beautiful, with artistic sculptures to admire and quotes from significant people along the bridges and paths. This creative and imaginative walk was officially opened in 2007, with modern touches that blend into the surrounding natural surroundings to stop at and enjoy.

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Lookout at the Visitors Centre


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Quotes along the bridges


Continue on the path to the Brolga Lookout and then the Platypus Lookout across the walkway. On our family's last visit, an ACT National Parks Volunteer positioned here explained to us this platypus pool has the largest wild platypus population in Australia. If you visit on weekends, you may find volunteers along the path, enjoying the area themselves and available to answer questions you may have. Our family visits The Sanctuary and Tidbinbilla Nature Park regularly during the cooler months (when there are no snakes!) and have always seen at least two platypus on our visits to this peaceful pool. Look out for the small rings on the waters surface and then a brown sheen glide along the surface for a few metres. It will then silently upturn, flip its wide tail in the air, and then dive down in one smooth movement.

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Keep still and quiet at the Platypus Lookout


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Look for these rings on the surface and a brown sheen gliding along the top


If you walk quietly, birdlife and wallaby's can cross the path in front of you at various locations. There are also seating areas along the path to stop and enjoy the environment and admire the artwork. This book–loving sculpture and fire-pit is positioned over a small, tinkling stream, with the surrounding bench engraved with thought-provoking detail.





The Boardwalk is a favourite part for many on this walk, with 360 degree views of birdlife, wildlife and natural beauty. On our last visit, a ACT National Parks Volunteer showed us a photo he had just taken of a platypus swimming alongside the boardwalk. Also spot a wide variety of ducks, black swan, geese and native birdlife above the water and then turtles under the water - who glide past the boardwalk, their shells just visible through the water.



The Sanctuary walk has many side paths to choose from and explore, however if you stay on the main path it will bring you back around in a loop back to the start of the boardwalk and then back up the way you came. Along the way you will walk though burnt eucalyptus trees which are evidence of aboriginal burning techniques, you can peer through the windows at the wildlife vet hospital and also spot a lizards sunning themselves in the glass enclosure outside.

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Gippsland Water Dragon


After you have enjoyed The Sanctuary, take time to explore the rest of the Tidbinbilla Nature Park with many other short walks in the area (see here for more information). When you leave The Sanctuary carpark and turn right, a few minutes down the road is the Eucalyptus Forest, where you can spot koalas in the trees or visit the Koala Sanctuary where mother koalas stay to have their young. This is an ideal area to view koalas up close and perhaps spot a baby poke their head out of their mothers pouch.

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Koala Sanctuary




If you are visiting with kids, another popular area to visit is the Tidbinbilla Nature Discovery Playground, with BBQ areas and toilet facilities nearby.

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Tidbinbilla Nature Discovery Playground


The Sanctuary is a fascinating nature walk to explore. No two visits are alike, with different animals to spot and birdlife to enjoy each time you visit. If you are looking to escape city life, Tidbinbilla Nature Park is an ideal location to visit just a short drive out of the city. It is a sacred area to appreciate the indigenous history of the region and learn more about the hills and mountains surrounding Canberra. We are privileged to be able to see platypus and koalas in the wild at this scenic location, just a short drive from a city centre.

Look up, look down and look closer at The Sanctuary and who knows what animals you will spot, living in this protected home for Australia's native wildlife.

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Look up to enjoy the antics of the cheeky cockatoos

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Why? Walk through The Sanctuary and escape city life.
When: Tidbinbilla Visitors Centre opens at 9am (to buy your pass) and closes at 5pm. Gates close 6pm in winter, 8pm in summer
Phone: 13 22 81
Where: Tidbinbilla Ring Rd, Paddys River ACT 2620
Cost: Daily car pass (car up to 8 seats): $11.50, concession $7. See website for more options
Your Comment
I love the boardwalk poem.
by Bryony Harrison (score: 4|11366) 493 days ago
This looks like a great place to explore.
by aeonie (score: 1|25) 492 days ago
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