Learn about aboriginal culture & spot koalas in the wild
Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is a scenic national park which is located just 40 minutes from Canberra's CBD. It is a popular place to visit as there are over 20 bushwalks to choose from, BBQ areas for family get-togethers, an extensive playground, The Sanctuary boardwalk, platypus in the waters, koalas in the trees, kangaroos roaming free and an indigenous history which dates back over 21,000 years. Tidbinbilla is the land of the Ngunnawal people, whose name you will see referred to throughout the reserve, with stories of how they used the land and for visitors to learn about their history in the region.
For families it is the ideal place to visit if you like nature and bushwalking, as it has 14 walking trails which are less than 3km in length - which means the kids won't get too tired and you can do more than one walk in the one day - if you all have the energy! These are just some of the popular walks in the reserve, however, each and every walk will be an adventure in itself...
Spot koalas, run over hilltops, walk along boardwalks & have fun at Tidbinbilla!
Before entering Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, visitors need to stop at the Visitors Centre to pay an entrance fee of $12 per car for the day. You will then receive a map and the rangers will advise you of what's happening that day, with pelican feeding, koala talks and guided walks held each weekend and school holidays. Whilst there, also have a look around the Visitors Centre itself, as it has a whole area dedicated to teaching kids about the reserve with easy-to-understand exhibits and a small amount of frogs and reptiles on display. There is also a gift shop, with cute fluffy animal toys to buy - so be warned mums and dads!
Stop at the Visitors Centre to get your day ticket and see details of activities each day
After scanning your day pass at the boom gate, you then follow the loop road around the reserve and stop at each walk that you would like to do. A short way into the drive the kids are sure to point out the sign to the Tidbinbilla Nature Discovery Playground, which also has a grassy BBQ area and places to relax in the shade. You may prefer to come back here at lunchtime or later in the day, so the kids can wear off some extra energy after your walks. Please note that you will see unusual structures within the playground that emits strange sounds. These are snake deterrents, as all types of snakes can be found in the playground and reserve in the warmer months.
Tidbinbilla Nature Discovery Playground with two types of slides, climbing frame, water play and bouncy toys
One of the first places that families often visit is The Sanctuary, which is a 2km walk with boardwalks over the wetlands, signage to read about its indigenous past, artistic sculptures along the way and a chance to see platypus in the wild. On weekends and school holidays you will find volunteers standing along the boardwalk and in various areas, if you have any questions or need some help spotting the tell-tale signs of a platypus splash.
Explore The Sanctuary, with platypus and wetland birds
Another popular walk is the Koala Path, which is only 700 metres in length and starts at a koala enclosure, where mothers-to-be are protected while they wait for their babies to be born. After admiring these beautiful Australian icons, you can then walk along the path and look up to spot them in the wild and also look down on the ground for wombats, potoroos and wallabies.
See koalas up close in the enclosure and then look up to spot them in the wild
A short drive away is Hanging Rock, which is a 500-metre walking loop around an aboriginal rock shelter. You are able to walk under the shelter, feel its cold surface and imagine what it would have been like for the local Ngunnawal people who would have used this as a camp, before climbing the surrounding mountains looking for food. It is a shady, cool place that would have been the ideal place to rest after walking all day in the summer heat. It is an easy short walk that the kids (and adults) will find fascinating.
Church Rock Heritage Trail is a 2.5km walk which starts at The Flint BBQ and picnic area and is a good walk to do after lunch in the reserve. Here you learn about the early settlers who moved into the area in the late 1800's, with signage along the way to read - however pick up a brochure from the Visitor's Centre if you would like more detail. The name Church Rock refers to a tall granite rock halfway up a hill which looks like a church steeple. Although today it is hard to spot with bushland all around it, in the pioneering days it stood proudly on its own and the local community believed it had religious significance.
On the way back to the entrance, if you pull into the Dalsetta car park, there is a 300-metre easy walk around the Turkey Hill Trail. This small hill is a great place for the kids to have a runaround and there are also toilet facilities and picnic tables, if you want to stop off or lunch or afternoon snack. The walk doesn't take long, but the views from the top of the small hill are simply stunning, with patchwork farmlands seen all over the valley and the white dishes from the Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex visible in the distance. If your kids are anything like our daughter, they will "gobble gobble" their way around the entire Turkey Hill!
Kids will enjoy following the arrows (and gobbling!) around Turkey Hill
As you leave the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve there is one more question to ask yourselves - do you have the energy for one last walk? Birrigai Time Trail starts from the car park in front of the Visitor Centre, so you can do it at the start or end of your day. It is 3km in length and leads up to the oldest aboriginal rock shelter in the ACT, dating back 16,000 years to the last ice age. The shelter itself is fascinating, as you imagine what it would have been like in there with the fire roaring and dinner getting cooked for the families inside. A highlight for the kids will also be walking through dozens of kangaroos on the grazing lands on the way back, with two emus to also look out for near the bottom.
It is the perfect end, to a true Aussie day with the family.