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Tharwa Bridge Reserve

Home > Canberra > Day Trips | Escape the City | Family | Picnic Spots | Walks
by Sue W (subscribe)
Lover of exploring, family, food and fun!
Published June 28th 2015
BBQ's, cemetry walks, swimming and skimming stones
Half an hour south of Canberra's CBD is the little village of Tharwa. With a population of fewer than 200 people, this village is a sleepy little hollow just on the southern edge of Tuggeranong.
Tharwa is the oldest settlement in the ACT dating back to 1862, with Tharwa Bridge the oldest in the ACT built in 1895.

At first glance this sleepy spot may not excite everyone, however as you dig deeper you find that with so much history in the little village, it is an interesting place to explore and spend some family time by the river.

Tharwa Bridge, Canberra
Tharwa Bridge Reserve.

When settlers first arrived in the area, they used this narrow part of the Murrumbidgee River (where the bridge is situated) as a regular crossing. Unfortunately with flooding, soft river beds and heavy horse drawn carts going over the soft river banks, there were many drowning's as the carts overturned.

After decades of public demand, the Tharwa Bridge was built in 1895 and with much excitement, the region had a public holiday to celebrate.

Tharwa Bridge
Tharwa Bridge from underneath, upgraded in 2011.

With a few picnic tables and two BBQ's it is a peaceful place to slow down, explore the area and walk the two walking tracks if you have the time. In Winter you are likely to have the whole place to yourselves to skim stones into the river and look up to the impressive bridge above you. In Summer you may struggle to find a car space, with locals in the area loving the swimming hole under the bridge and surrounding areas for a cool dip.

Tharwa Bridge Reserve, Tharwa
This photo was taken after the rain, so the water level is higher than normal.

Tharwa Bridge warning signs, Canberra
Warning signs for swimming at the area.

Further along the river is also Tharwa Sandwash track and swimming area with access off Smiths Road via Naas Road near Tharwa.

There are two tracks that start at Tharwa Bridge. One is Tharwa Explorer Track (2.8 kilometre, 2 hours return, graded as easy) which follows the Murrumbidgee River upstream to the unusual De Salis cemetery (adjacent to the historic Cuppacumbalong property). In the late 1800's the De Salis family created a burial ground for their family high above the banks of the river to ensure the coffins wouldn't be washed away in any flooding. There are 16 family members buried here at this above ground historic cemetery.

De Salis cemetery, Tharwa
Signage at the cemetery when you arrive..Photo courtesy of ACT tams website.

The other track is the Honyong Track. Although there is signage to the walk (under the bridge) in the opposite direction, it is only a 600 metre walk to the end. The walk is named after the aboriginal leader Onyong (also known as Honyong) who died in the 1850's and is buried in an unknown location on the side of a hill near Tharwa bridge.

After your visit, you can drive on to Tidbinbilla from Tharwa (22km away) if you wish to continue with your outdoors adventure.

As this is a long drive from the city you may not want to make a special trip out to this reserve, however if you are out for a country drive or are a lover of local history, then Tharwa Bridge reserve is an ideal spot (especially in Winter) for a peaceful break and walk the cemetery track.

Then in Summer, grab the esky, BBQ tongs and tom sauce and spend some time with the locals under this unique historic bridge.

Tharwa Bridge, Canberra
A BBQ with a view.
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Why? Learn about Tharwa's local history, whilst enjoying a BBQ or swim.
When: Open all year round.
Phone: 13 22 81 (ACT Territory and Municipal Services)
Where: Tharwa Drive, Tharwa.
Cost: Free
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