The Xanthorrhoea Loop is located inside the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, 40 minutes south west of the city. This national park is an enjoyable day trip from Canberra, with 22 walking trails (including 14 short walks) dotted around the reserve to explore. At the entrance to the reserve is the Visitors Centre, where you pay an entry fee per car to get in, pick up a map and get advice on where to find the best walks, view indigenous sites and find native animals in the wild. The entrance to each walk is clearly signposted, with the beginning of the Xanthorrhoea Loop starting at the Dalsatta car park, a short way into the reserve.
The start of the walk follows the same path as the much longer Gibraltar Peak trail, which you can see further up in the distance. Follow the small brown signs through the grasslands, past kangaroos lazing in the shade and iconic Australian plants growing naturally in this protected bushland.
Centuries-old Xanthorrhoea growing wild in the reserve
Although there are many other walks in Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve to choose from, this 2.5 kilometre walk is a quick, scenic walk for those who appreciate the beauty and history of the Xanthorrhoea. As well as having the ability to rejuvenate their seeds after bushfires, this spiky grasstree was used by local indigenous people to make spears from the flower spike and glue from the nectar. The drought-hardy and frost-tolerant plant is flourishing in the reserve, with ideal conditions to live and protection from ever being removed.
Along the way, also look out for signage to learn about the history of emus in the area - and keep an eye out for the emus themselves!
Sign explaining how emus were hunted for sport by the early settlers and how they now live in the reserve freely today
About 10 minutes along the path, there is a small brown sign which directs walkers off to Gibraltar Peak on the left and the Xanthorrhoea Loop continues on to the right. The path is then uphill for most of the way, through the grassy plains and up towards the rolling hills. The walk is classed as "moderate" for this uphill section, which gets the heart racing and thigh muscles working. If you start to tire, take the opportunity to stop and turn around to look at the view behind you of the valley below.
At the top of the hill, like a vision before you, is a scenic picnic table and bench so you can stop and have a well-earned breather. If you have a flask of coffee or a picnic, this would be the ideal, secluded place to enjoy lunch with a view.
After your rest, follow the brown signs to the actual Xanthorrhoea Loop, which is made obvious by the outcrop of spiky, green and black grasses all growing together on the side of the hill. There is a sign to read near the start of the short loop walk, which has aged in the weather, but you can still read about these fascinating Australian icons. As well as explaining how the indigenous people used these plants, it also describes how these slow-growing plants only grow approximately 2cm a year - so although some may appear small, they may actually be up to 300 years old or rmore... so walk by them with care.
Stop and appreciate the age of these plants - and how long they have been living here
The amount of naturally occurring Xanthorrhoea plants in the one place is stunning, with dozens of them lining the pathway as you walk through. The loop doesn't take long and is a little overgrown (and spiky!) in some areas, however this is a good sign that the Xanthorrhoea plants are thriving in this section of the hill. After admiring these beautiful Australian plants and view from the side of the hill, it is time to meet back up with the original path and then walk back down the way you came.
The Xanthorrhoea plant is unique in every way and has adapted itself to survive the bushfires that were regular in the area with the hunting practices of the local indigenous people. Today, they are sought after by people around the world who appreciate their striking form and how slowly they grow. To buy one from a nursery costs a lot of money and they often die after a few years, as they are not in their natural environment.
To see such a large outcrop of this historical plant, all in the one place and of such great size, makes you appreciate the long history of this land. The valleys, the mountains, the indigenous people who lived here and the plants themselves, all have their own histories and stories to tell, dating back thousands and millions of years. It is the unique history of this special land that makes this walk and scenery, even more beautiful...
Walk back down to the start, appreciating the scenic beauty along the way