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10 Things To See & Do at the National Arboretum

Home > Canberra > Family | Free | Playgrounds | Walks | Lists
by Sue W (subscribe)
Lover of exploring, family, food and fun!
Published January 19th 2017
The National Arboretum is a scenic forest property, located just six kilometres from Canberra's CBD. The 250 hectare property has 94 individual forests made up of some of the world's most endangered and threatened tree species. Visitors are able to take guided walks through the forests to learn more about the conservation of these plantations, or follow the many marked trails and explore the forests themselves. The forests were planted in 2005 after the 2003 Canberra bushfires completely devastated the pine tree plantations which covered the hills previously. Just two forests survived from the fires - the Himalayan Cedar and Cork Oak forests - which are both over 100 years old and are now part of today's forest property, which officially opened in 2013.

The following is a list of just 10 things to do when you get to the National Arboretum, however why not go for a walk and discover your own interesting facts, views or forest highlights. Who knows what else you will discover?

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The many things to see and do at the National Arboretum

1/ The Visitors Centre is located at the top of the hill on the property, with spectacular panoramic views of the city below. Inside is an Information Desk where you can meet for an introductory talk or join a free guided forest walk, where sturdy footwear is required. There is also information about daily activities or find out What's on, on the day of your visit. Whilst at the Visitors Centre, also have a look through The Curatoreum gift shop, grab a coffee from the Sprout Café or enjoy a meal with a view at The Conservatory restuarant. See here for details.

2/ The National Bonsai and Penjing Collection is located just outside the Visitors Centre and displays over 80 of Australia's finest Bonsai and Penjing examples, created by some of Australia's leading artists. Wander the exhibits and admire the years of time and patience gone into training each exquisite work of art. For a full article on the National Bonsai and Penjing Collection, see here.

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The beauty of the National Bonsai and Penjing Collection, National Arboretum

3/ Pod Playground is also located outside the Visitors Centre and is arguably the best playground in Canberra. Designed to replicate acorn nuts and pods, this architecturally beautiful and award-winning playground has net tunnels to climb, pods to explore and long slides to slip down. For toddlers there is a smaller area with swings, sandpit, musical instruments and smaller pods with a slide. For a full article on Pod Playground, see here.

4/ The Canberra Discovery Garden is located just past the National Bonsai and Penjing Collection, outside the Visitors Centre. This small area shows how to grow a sustainable, water efficient garden in drought-prone climates, with hardy vegetable plots and cacti amongst the displays. The garden has both drought tolerant and frost tolerant varieties of plants and trees which grow well in Canberra, providing visitors with tips on what to grow in their own gardens. See details here.

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The surprising beauty of an artichoke flower

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Take a walk through the Discovery Garden

5/ The Forests at the National Arboretum are home to over 44,000 trees and there are four walks through the property to experience many of them - see the list here. Also take a look at the forest map for more details. For those who are interested in the story of the Wollemi Pine, which is a species of tree that lived at the time of Dinosaurs and was only rediscovered in 1994, there is a whole forest of them at Forest 32 on the map. This forest of Wollemi's is the largest planting in the world. See here for details.

6/ Sculptures are located all around the property, with the most obvious being the "Wide Brown Land" sculpture, as seen on the top of the hill next to the Visitors Centre. Visitors can drive up to the sculpture (follow the signs to the Himalayan Cedar Forest) and take a short walk to get a closer look. The artists - Marcus Tatton, Futago Design Studios and Chris Viney - created this work from using the words "Wide Brown Land" from the famous poem 'My Country', written by poet Dorothea Mackellar, also replicating her own handwriting. See here for details.

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Walk along the length of the 35 metre sculpture

7/ The Himalayan Cedar BBQ Area is located in the same area as above, tucked away off the main road with shade, peace and quiet. The National Arboretum have built a secluded wooden deck platform amongst the trees with two BBQ's to utilise and tables to spread out on. For a full article on the Himalayan Cedar Forest BBQ area, see here.

8/ Voices in the Forest is an annual opera concert, held at the grassy amphitheatre outside the Visitors Centre every November. Each year, local soprano's and guest performers come to perform to thousands of people, with beautiful acoustics and scenic views as the sun goes down. For more details see here.

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The grassy ampitheatre - perfect for kite flying and running down the hills...

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...and Voices in the Forest in November. Source: Voices in the Forest Facebook

9/ Dairy Farmers Lookout is another scenic place to stop whilst driving around the property, with views over the Visitors Centre, forests and down to Lake Burley Griffin. Up the top is the stunning sculpture "Birds Nest III", which was impressively made from scrap and recycled metals by artist Richard Moffatt. For a full article on Dairy Farmers Lookout, see here.

10/ Warm Trees is an annual winter event where volunteers knit colourful carves and wrap them around the trees to keep them "warm" in winter. As visitors drive or walk through the forests they are met with a colourful array of scarves, which brightens up the winter weather and puts a smile on the faces of all ages. See the Whats On page for details on this winter's event.

These are just 10 things to see and do around the National Arboretum - however there are easily 10 more. Enjoy the discovery and colour of this fascinating venue, where surprises can be found around every corner.

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Warm Trees in Winter. Source: Original photos from the National Arboretum Facebook

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Why? A must-see when visiting Canberra!
When: Daylight Savings (Summer) - the grounds are open for walks and pod playground between 6am - 8:30pm. In Winter the grounds are open 7am - 5:30pm. Visitor Centre is open 9am - 4pm, 7 days a week.
Phone: 13 22 81
Where: Forest Dr, Canberra City ACT 2601
Cost: Free entry
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