Lake Burley Griffin is a 11km long, artificial lake in the centre of Canberra. In 1911 it was the focal point of Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Griffins' winning design of Canberra, with the aim that the waterway would be used recreationally by residents and visitors to the Capital. The city they designed was built but due to financial issues and political debate, the lake wasn't built for another 50 years. Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies took over the vision in the 1960s and Lake Burley Griffin construction began. Concrete walls were built, land was cleared, the Molonglo River was dammed and then the water rose to the level we see today. Sir Robert Menzies officially opened Lake Burley Griffin on the 17th October 1964 with an official ceremony and fireworks.
Today, more than 50 years later again, dragon boats, sailing boats, kayaks and competitive rowing boats are seen gliding over the lake morning and night and thousands of people walk on its paths daily. It is a cool place to sit by in Summer and a sunny place to sit by in Winter. In all seasons it is utilised by the people who live and visit Canberra, creating a place for the wider community to congregate in the middle of the city.
The following are 25 ways that you can experience the lake in all its forms, starting at Queen Elizabeth Terrace and moving clockwise around the lake. See the map below to get an idea of where each attraction is located and also click on the blue links to get a Google map of where to find each one. With so much to see and do around the lake, this list of 25 may not be enough!
Source: Original Lake Burley Griffin map supplied by Google Maps
1/ Queen Elizabeth Terrace is the main tourist attraction that many people visit when they first come to Canberra. This flat and scenic walkway is located underneath the International Flag Display that can be seen from most parts of the lake. With Doms Coffee Bar and Gelato located in the centre, it is a relaxing way to experience the lake with an ice-cream, or take a tour it on a Canberra Segway, located nearby. Behind the Queen Elizabeth Terrace is the Parliamentary Triangle, which you can walk to from the lake. See Google Map here.
2/ Cycling Paths twist and turn around the perimeter of the lake and riders can choose to do a 5km Central Loop between the two Lake Burley Griffin bridges, or extend their bike ride or walk to include the Eastern Loop (9km) or Western Loop (16km). These flat pavements are utilised by joggers, cyclists and walkers each day and are a great way to see the sights by foot or bike. See here for an online brochure for Canberra's Lake Burley Griffin Cycling Loop.
3/ The Australians of the Year Walk has plaques that represent every Australian of the Year since 1960. The individual plaques (representing music notes) are positioned at different levels on black lines that are marked on the ground (representing sheet music), creating the musical score of Advance Australia Fair. For an article and photos of the Australians of the Year Walk, see here. See Google Map here.
4/ Lennox Gardens, Nara Peace Park and the Canberra Beijing Gardens are all positioned together on the other side of Commonwealth Bridge. This parkland is a peaceful area to walk around and enjoy the traditional tree plantings, sculptures, pagodas and scenic walks through the gardens. There are also BBQ areas so you can stay for a picnic lunch by the lake. One of the main festivals held at the Nara Peace Park each year is the Canberra Nara Festival in October. See Google Map here.
Canberra Nara Festival, held at Nara Peace Park each October. Source: Events ACT Facebook
7/ Government House, the residence of the Governor General Peter Cosgrove and Lady Cosgrove, is located right on Lake Burley Griffin past Weston Park. This historical home can be explored with Southern Cross Cruises on their Thursday Government House Cruise to walk the gardens with a guide. These tours run between September to November and February to April each year. See Google Map here.
8/ National Zoo and Aquarium is located on the other side of the Scrivener Dam and if the wind is coming from their direction, you can often hear the lions roaring. The zoo is open 7 days a week and is a great day out for the whole family. The new Jamala Wildlife Lodge that has opened there has been a great success, where you can sleep and eat with lions outside your window. See Google Map here.
Play mini golf around Canberra's landmarks at Yarralumla Play Station, Weston Park
9/ Scrivener Dam Lookout at Yarramundi Reach is a BBQ area along the lake with a few BBQs in the shade, which makes this a popular area in the warmer months. There are often people seen fishing here on the lakeside by Scrivener Dam Wall. This dam controls the water level of the lake and if you visit after a week of rain, it is a spectacular sight as they open some of the flaps in the wall and the water pours through. There is also a viewing platform on the back side of the dam. For an article on Scrivener Dam, see here. See Google Map here.
10/ BBQ Areas around Lake Burley Griffin are located at most reserves and parklands. They are gas BBQs and free to operate. For a full list of Lake Burley Griffin BBQ areas, see article here.
11/ Burrunju Art Gallery is located along Lady Denman Drive, which is the road the follows this part of the peninsula. Showcasing authentic paintings, carvings, glassworks and crafts from local indigenous artists, this gallery is a colourful and interesting space to walk around and learn about the artists' backgrounds. For an article on Burrunju Art Gallery see here. See Google Map here.
12/ Black Mountain Peninsula is a recreational park with colourful playground, BBQ areas, sandy beach and bike paths. This popular area is busy on weekends, as locals enjoy the scenery and bushland setting by the lake for family BBQs. See Google Map here.
13/ The National Museum of Australia has iconic views over the lake, enjoyed at its popular Museum Café. The National Museum of Australia holds the story of Australia, with its indigenous history, British early settlers and the varied land in which we live today. There are permanent and temporary exhibitions that can be enjoyed all year around. The striking modern architecture of the building has a distinctive orange loop they call the Uluru Line, which connects the museum back to Australia's heart. See Google Map here.
14/ Ivy and the Fox is a garden café set in the grounds of the Australian National University, just a short walk up from Lake Burley Griffin. The café is located inside Old Canberra House, which was built over a century ago, and has a quaint outside dining area under the trees and lake glimpses. For an article on Ivy and the Fox, see here. See Google Map here.
15/ Lake Burley Griffin Cruises can be found around the Acton ferry terminal, to enjoy a one-hour leisurely tour around the lake. This small historical boat which seats 18, tours the lake with humorous commentary by Skipper Jim who will tell you inside news about what happens in Canberra. For an article on Lake Burley Griffin Cruises, see here. See Google Map here.
16/ Westside Acton Park is a shipping container village which hosts Sunday Markets and delicious food from their food trucks all week long. This unique village also has a bar called Aviary Rooftop, which sits high above the village for a birds eye view over the lake. For an article on Westside Acton Park, see here. See Google Map here.
17/ Captain Cook Memorial Jet is a water jet that sends water up 147 meters into the sky, between 2pm - 4pm daily. At the time of writing it is having repairs to its pump system, however check with the National Capital Authority for its date of return. See Google Map here.
18/ Commonwealth Park is located on Lake Burley Griffin and is most well known for its Floriade festival each Spring. As well as this spectacular event and many more like it, it is also a beautiful parkland to explore with walks, sculptures, playgrounds and birdlife. Regatta Point is also located in Commonwealth Park, which now houses the new Canberra and Region Visitors Centre with the National Capital Exhibition, with the scenic Deck Café located next door. Nerang Pool is located inside Commonwealth Park, where the water from the lake is pooled for wetland birds to enjoy. For an article on the Top 10 Things to Do in Commonwealth Park, see here. See Google Map here.
Get out on the water with Lake Burley Griffin Cruises
19/ RG Menzies Walk is a 2km walk along the northern side of Lake Burley Griffin between Commonwealth Avenue Bridge and Kings Avenue. Along the scenic route, look out for a life-size sculpture of Sir Robert Menzies himself along the lakes edge. See Google Map here for Rond Terrace, which is part of the walk.
20/ Blundell's Cottage is located on the lakes edge between Commonwealth Park and Kings Park. This 1860's historical building was built to house local property owner Duntroon's head ploughman before the Blundell family moved in and lived there for more than 50 years. Blundell's Cottage originally was built near to the Molonglo River, which was dammed to make Lake Burley Griffin, however it is much closer to the current lake. Tours are available. See Google Map here.
21/ Kings Park is further along the lake, with the popular Boundless Playground, National Police Memorial and other national memorials of significance along the walkways. This is also where you will find the National Carillon on Aspen Island, which has 55 bells and plays every 15 minutes, with bells rung on the hour. There are also musical performances held regularly. For an article on the Top 5 Things to do in Kings Park, see here. See Google Map here.
Say hello to Sir Robert Menzies on the RG Menzies Walk
22/ Grevillea Park is positioned on the other side of Kings Avenue Bridge and has the scenic The Boathouse By the Lake for a fine dining experience lake side. See Google Map here.
23/ Jerrabomberra Wetlands is located at the eastern end of Lake Burley Griffin. Here you will find over 170 migratory birds and a series of walks that you can do throughout the wetlands. Kelly's Loop, in particular, has little bird hides so you can quietly watch the birds without disturbing them. For an article on the Jerrabomberra Wetlands, see here. See Google Map here.
24/ The Kingston Foreshore is next along the lake, which is a series of modern apartment buildings built along the lake with waterfront dining. This upmarket area is a foodie's delight, with a strip of restaurants, cafes and gastropubs located along the foreshore with lake views. Just a few minutes walk away is the popular Old Bus Depot Markets. For an article on the Kingston Foreshore, see here. See Google Map here.
25/ The National Sculpture Garden brings us back to the start of this Lake Burley Griffin route and is located on the other side of the Kings Avenue Bridge, in front of the National Gallery of Australia. This lakeside garden exhibits 26 sculptures from prominent artists, including Fog sculpture, which is operation between 12:30 - 2pm daily. See Google Map here.
Lake Burley Griffin has so much to offer people of all ages and interests. There are colourful playgrounds to enjoy for the kids, walks and bike rides for the exercise enthusiasts, coffee outlets for a quiet moment with friends and cruises for those who like to learn a bit more about the region. It is just how architects Walter Burley Griffin and his wife Marion Griffin envisioned the city, when they won the design competition in 1911.
It is just a shame that now, over 100 years later, they can't be here to see it.