If you love to go for a country drive, there is a picturesque Tourist Drive that can be accessed from Gordon (half an hour south of Canberra's CBD) and winds its way back and forth over the Murrumbidgee River and finishes in Wright (fifteen minutes south of the CBD).
The entire Tourist Drive 5 is a loop that takes you through the city, over the border into NSW and down south before going through this western end into the countryside. You can pick up this drive at any one of the points on the map, however our family has found the Gordon to Wright (or Wright to Gordon!) route to be the most eventful.
Western end of Tourist Drive 5. Source: Original map from Canberra Deep Space Complex website.
Cruising this western part of Tourist Drive 5 from start to finish will take 45 minutes to an hour, as well as the time to take to get to and from the starting and finishing points from your location in Canberra.
You will pass through rural countryside, pine forests, swimming and recreation areas and some unusual surprises. If you drive on the weekends you are sure to be joined by the many motorcyclists who also enjoy this windy tourist route, with plenty of places to stop and enjoy this country area.
Just under half an hour south of Canberra is the suburb of Gordon - if you put into your GPS "Jim Pike Avenue, Gordon", this will lead you to the turnoff into Point Hut Road which is where this country drive begins. A couple of hundred metres down the road is Point Hut Crossing - a recreation area on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River. There is a reserve with toilet facilities, shady picnic areas, walking trails and swimming spots. If you drive after rainfall, please be aware that this bridge can flood, so check the ACT TAMS website for road closures before you go.
This bridge at Point Hut CRossing can flood after heavy rain.
Continue up this road until you get to a T-Junction then turn right onto Tourist Drive 5 (Tidbinbilla Road).
This road has a list of places that you can turn off into and explore if you wish to extend your trip. If you decide to follow the signs and turnoff into Corin Road you will first come across Woods Reserve Camping area (where you will be greeted by kangaroos grazing on the campgrounds), then 10-15 minutes off the main route you will find Gibraltar Falls (ACT's largest waterfall) and lastly Corin Forest Mountain Retreat which is approximately 20 minutes off the main route. Corin Forest Mountain Retreat is open 7 days a week during the snow season (June - Sept) for alpine tobogganing. The rest of the year it is open weekends, public holidays and school holidays.
The beautiful Gibralter Falls - worth the extra drive.
When you get back onto the Tourist Drive, the next option you can take is exploring Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, another highlight of this area. This National Park offers wildlife viewing, bushwalking, BBQ areas and fun for kids on the Discovery Playground. You can also learn about the local aboriginal people and history of this National Park at the Visitors Centre.There is an entry fee per car to enter.
Tidbinbilla Visitor Centre. Source: Tidbinbilla website
After you get back onto the Tourist Drive (which now calls itself Paddys River Road) you will see the turnoff to the Canberra Deep Space Complex - one of only three tracking facilities in the world responsible for two-way radio contact with unmanned, robotic spacecraft exploring our Solar System and beyond. It is a fascinating (and free) place to explore and just a short drive off the main route. The complex has a coffee shop, toilet facilities and kids play area for a longer rest stop.
As you continue on, the landscape changes into pine forest - perfect for dirt bike/mountain bike riding so you may see utes and trailers parked on the side of the road. Murrays Corner reserve has BBQ's, swimming areas on the Murrumbidgee River (that you can take your dog) and it is a popular spot for trail bike riders to meet before or after their adventures through the pine forests.
After driving for awhile through the trees, it is a surprise to arrive at the spacious Cotter Reserve. This reserve is one of the most utilised and popular BBQ areas used by Canberran's with BBQ areas, large playground, walks, views of Corin Dam and swimming at Cotter Bend. Allow some time to enjoy exploring this area, another highlight of this western route.
Cotter Reserve with a dozen or more BBQ's to use by the Murrumbidgee River.
From here it is a short drive back to civilisation, past Stromlo Forest Park and into the new suburb of Wright, less than 15 minutes from the CBD.
This western end section of Tourist Drive 5 has some interesting surprises. The road itself is windy and single lane, passing back and forth over the Murrumbidgee and through different landscapes. You can stop for a BBQ, a swim, explore a National Park, enjoy learning about Space, have a coffee, experience an alpine retreat, say hi to some kangaroos or a view a stunning waterfall. With so much jammed into this part of Tourist Route 5, it is sure entertain you for a couple of hours, or take your time and spend the day.