New to Canberra, I love exploring this city and the secrets that it holds with my family.
Published October 1st 2016
Take your kids on a nature safari
We are fortunate that here in Canberra, the Aussie bush isn't far away. Kids of all ages love to spot a kangaroo or emu in the wild and when overseas visitors come to visit, the first thing they want to see is a kangaroo. Although Canberra's Eastern Grey kangaroos are often seen as a pest around farmland in the region (with a population of over 30,000), they are still a cute and fascinating Australian icon that people enjoy watching in their natural environment. So where can you see Aussie animals around Canberra in the wild?
There are plenty of kangaroos to be seen around the region, with many living in paddocks on the side of the highways, however if you want to see a variety of Aussie animals then why not go on your own "Aussie Nature Safari". This Top 3 list is a good place to start, with the most variety seen at the first location. For younger kids, a fun idea could be to draw up some of the animals on a list, so they can tick them off when they see them. If they haven't used binoculars before, perhaps this could be a good opportunity for them to try them out and really look the part. So strap on your walking shoes, fill up the car with petrol and have a fun family day out on safari in the Aussie bush. The kids will love it!
1/ Tidbinbilla Nature Park - If you are happy for a long drive out of the city and into the bush, the drive to Tidbinbilla Nature Park itself is an adventure on its own. If you are driving from the city, it is a 20 minute drive south to Weston Creek to get onto Tourist Drive 5, the beginning of this country drive to Tidbinbilla. For a first glimpse of kangaroos, why not drive up to the top of Mount Stromlo to the Visitor Centre and Café, as you may see kangaroos in the bushland along the road or behind the café. Back down the bottom again, from here you will drive along the windy roads to Cotter Avenue Reserve, where Canberra meets for picnics, BBQs and swimming in the Murrumbidgee river in the warmer months. If you arrive early in the morning before the crowds you will see kangaroos grazing here on the reserves. Continue along the tourist drive through forests and bushland, looking out for Aussie wildlife along the way.
When you get to the entrance and Visitors Centre, you may see kangaroos grazing out the front. After paying the entry fee per car ($11.50 daily fee) and picking up a map, take a drive through the reserve for the number 1 place in Canberra to see Aussie animals in the wild.
Spot the kangaroo in this photo at Tidbinbilla Nature Discovery Playground
You will see kangaroos grazing peacefully in this protected environment, against the natural backdrop of scenic mountain ranges with thousands of years of indigenous history. There is also a popular playground there for the kids, with kangaroos utilising it between visitors. Take a walk along The Sanctuary Boardwalk to spot wild platypus, with this the largest population of platypus in the wild that can be viewed by the public. Stay silent and watch for the ripples in the surface. It is here that our family had a very close encounter with a red belly black snake - which was too much of an authentic Aussie animal experience for us - so keep that in mind when walking through bush in the warmer months.
To see koalas, drive back out of The Sanctuary and visit them at the Eucalyptus Forest where the expectant mothers are kept protected, or take the Koala Path (700m return) so you can see them living wild in the trees. Take your binoculars for a better look. Along this path you can also see native lizards, bird life, wombats, potoroos and wallabies along the way. There is also the Lyrebird Trail, to listen out for lyrebirds - particularly in Winter. Once you finish your day at Tidbinbilla, look out for emus in the paddocks to the right of the exit as you leave - we have spotted a few in our trips out this way.
Check the board at the Visitors Centre to see what is on for the day
2/ Weston Park - If you don't want to get too far out of the city, then take a drive through Weston Park, on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin in Yarralumla. You are guaranteed to see a few mobs of kangaroos by the roadside nibbling on the grass around the 40 acre parkland. Why not stop for a picnic or take an esky with some snags and stay for a BBQ. On our last visit, our family walked down to the lakeside and stood there for a few minutes to take in the view and when we turned around, over 20 kangaroos had quietly moved in behind us to graze on the lawn around us. It was a beautiful sight and an exciting moment for the kids - including us big ones.
3/ Mount Ainslie Nature Reserve is another area close to the city which is good for spotting mobs of kangaroos in the wild. Mount Ainslie Nature Reserve is located behind the Australian War Memorial and you will find kangaroos grazing at Remembrance Park at the bottom of the reserve, especially early in the morning. After saying hello to these cute Aussies, either walk the hill or drive up to the top for the best views of Canberra from Mount Ainslie Lookout. Other locations around the region to see Aussie animals in the wild include Canberra Nature Parks, Jerrabomberra Wetlands and Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary.
If you want to see Aussie animals up closer, then you can also spend the day at the National Zoo and Aquarium, where you can see dingos, red and grey kangaroos, koalas, wombats, Tasmanian Devils, wallabies, penguins and emus. For Australian Reptiles, check out the Canberra Reptile Zoo and for Australian Birds, take a walk through the Canberra Walk In Aviary. Both of these venues are interactive, so kids can enjoy stroking a lizard or feeding worms to hundreds of colourful birds. With so many opportunities to see Aussie animals around the Canberra region, a one-day safari could easily turn into a week long event of Aussie animal fun - perfect for school holidays.
Kids will enjoy discovering these cute Aussie icons - where they are just as intrigued by us, as we are of them.
Are you looking at me? Gippsland Water Dragon at Tidbinbilla