New to Canberra, I love exploring this city and the secrets that it holds with my family.
Published August 8th 2017
Escape the city and relax by the river
The Murrumbidgee River is the second-longest river in Australia, starting in the Snowy Mountains and then passing through the ACT for 66km of its journey. This provides Canberra locals and visitors with 66km of pristine wilderness and fresh water for swimming, fishing, kayaking and BBQs on its shores. The recreation area along its length is called the Murrumbidgee River Corridor and there are (at least!) 6 places on the river which you can spend the day swimming in its waters and enjoying a picnic or BBQ on the riverbank. The following are the most popular places to visit, however the joy of this natural waterway is that you can easily discover your own favourite secluded spot to call your own.
Northern end of the Murrumbidgee River Corridor. Original map supplied by the ACT Government - Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate - Environment
1/ The Cotter Recreation Area is located 25 minutes south-west of the city and is the most popular area of the river, with 3 swimming holes in close proximity to each other. The main reserve, Cotter Avenue, has free gas BBQs, an extensive playground, walks, picnic tables, swimming area and a large grassy area for games of cricket. Just a short walk over a bridge is the popular Cotter Bend, another swimming area and large grassy reserve on the other side of the river. If you hop back in the car and take a short drive, you will also reach the turn-off to the family-friendly Casuarina Sands, with sandy beaches, small playground and more BBQ areas. Why not go for a drive and check them all out, before parking your car and spending the day at your favourite. See here for a Google map.
Cotter Recreation Area - with 3 popular swimming areas and reserves to choose from
2/ Uriarra Crossing is located a further north of Cotter Avenue, 30 minutes from the city. It is another popular river swimming and picnic area and is one of the few reserves on the Murrumbidgee River where dogs are allowed (also see Murrays Corner and Point Hut Crossing). There are two reserves to choose from on either side of the river - East Uriarra Crossing, which has modern toilet facilities, wood fired BBQs (BYO wood) and a large reserve for picnics, games of cricket and for dogs to run around on. West Uriarra Crossing is on the opposite side of the river (which you can either swim or drive to), with more wood fired BBQ areas and picnic tables. If you feel like exploring, also take a short walk to another swimming hole and reserve located over a small bridge, called Swamp Creek. See here for a Google map. For a full article on Uriarra Crossing, see here.
3/ Kambah Pool, located 20 minutes south of the city, is another swimming area on the Murrumbidgee River where the water slows down and the clear water is refreshing to dip into. There is a sandy beach to lay down the towel, however many locals prefer to sit along the riverbank under the trees to get some shade. There is a steep set of stairs to get down the riverside, however the destination is worth every step. Locals will bring beach umbrellas, blow-up boats, floating chairs and pool toys to enjoy on the river - you will entertained by what makes its way down the stairs! Kambah Pool has toilet facilities at the top of the stairs near the car park, but there are no picnic facilities or BBQs at this location. Also be aware that there is a nudist beach located further downstream from Kambah Pool, so don't walk along the river too far unless you want a surprise! See here for a Google map. For a full article on Kambah Pool, see here.
4/ Pine Island, which isn't an island at all, is located 25 minutes south of the city in Tuggeranong, just minutes from the Tuggeranong Town Centre. This convenient location is popular with locals as it has a wide sandy beach, small playground, toilets and a large grassy reserve with several gas BBQs. The river has some small rapids leading into the river swimming hole, so the water is moving, cool and refreshing. Pine Island Reserve is another area where you can find your own favourite spot along the river, with many people walking further along the bank and finding their own places to sit on the rocks. As well as seeing locals walking along with pool noodles, you will often see kayaks, canoes and other watercraft. See here for a Google map.
5/ Tharwa Bridge and Sandwash can be found 30 minutes south of Canberra, in the lower Tuggeranong region. The Murrumbidgee River flows under the historical Tharwa Bridge, built in 1895, alongside the small village of Tharwa. When you drive over the single-lane bridge, you can see the grassy reserve on the left with picnic tables, BBQs and toilets. This quiet area is a good spot to stop if you are on your way to Namadgi National Park or out exploring the local hills. Underneath the bridge there is a popular swimming hole in summer, as well as further along the river at Tharwa Sandwash (see map here). See here for a Google map. For a full article on Tharwa Bridge Reserve, see here.
6/ Angle Crossing is the last on this list, as it is the most remote from the city of Canberra, located 40 minutes south of the city. This quiet location has a small swimming area next to a 4WD water crossing through the river. It is accessible from both Tharwa and also from the Monaro Highway to Cooma. Angle Crossing is the smallest recreation area on this list, but it has a remote wildness about it, with unsealed roads to get to it and platypus in the waters. There is just one picnic table and no BBQ facilities, however you can sit on the sandy shores and enjoy a riverside picnic. See here for a Google map. For a full article on Angle Crossing, see here. Have you found your favourite yet? Why not hit the road and explore the Murrumbidgee River Corridor this weekend!