Capital Drives: Canberra

Escape the summer crowds and stifling heat, and head to the hills and mountain peaks around Canberra. In our penultimate instalment of the best road trip holidays from each of our capital cities, we buckle up in the nation’s capital and hit the road for summer-time road tripping fun.

Snowy Mountain Highs

There are plenty of good reasons why Canberra is known as the bush capital, not the least because some of the country’s most magnificently wild county is right on the city’s doorstep.  On the southern outskirts, Namadgi National Park covers more than half of the ACT, and together with neighbouring Kosciuszko and Brindabella national parks, forms a huge swathe of high-country wilderness. Even in summer, it’s not unusual to see patches of snow. 

Namadgi is the Ngunnawal name for these rugged mountains and there are a number of rock art sites scattered throughout the park. One of the park’s best (and most accessible) is at Yankee Hat, named after a nearby mountain that is supposed to look like a colonial American hat (you’ll need to squint a bit). The rock art gallery is at the end of an easy 6km walk in the overhang of a huge granite boulder and features vibrant white and ochre paintings of human figures, kangaroos, wombats, koalas, dingos and birds. The wide-open grasslands are one of the best places to see wild kangaroos and the ‘Valley of 1000 Kangaroos’ in nearby Gudgenby lives up to its descriptive name.

Continue south towards Adaminaby – if you are a keen angler, you’ll want to try your luck in the waterways here: Lake Eucumbene and nearby rivers are stocked with brown and rainbow trout – and hook up with the Snowy Mountains Highway heading north to Tumut.

© Destination NSW

Yarrangobilly Caves is around halfway. These limestone caves are among the most richly-decorated in Australia and there is also a thermal pool with water at a delightfully constant 27°C.

© Destination NSW

The birthplace of Miles Franklin (author of My Brilliant Career), Talbingo is a pretty village beside Lake Journama in the shadow of the mountains.  Drive up to Talbingo Dam to a lookout over the dam wall and mountains into the valley below and then follow the shoreline of Blowering Reservoir to Tumut, famous for its autumn colours.

© Destination NSW

From Tumut wind your way back along the twisting back roads to Canberra via the Brindabella Ranges and Cotter Dam. If you’re not in a hurry, take a short detour to visit the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, where you’ll find Canberra’s answer to the ‘Dish’. It’s one of only three active NASA tracking stations in the world. At the visitor centre you can discover a piece of moon rock over 3.8 billion years old, see the flight suit worn by Australian astronaut Andy Thomas, or a full-scale Mars Exploration Rover display. Even better, entry to the visitor centre is free.

Day tripper: Canberra’s foodie trail
Escape the city and spend a day exploring the ACT’s wine country. There are more than 140 vineyards and 30 cellar doors, all less than a 45-minute drive from Parliament House. Head north to Hall and stock up on some gourmet smoked meats – or stay for brunch – at the Poachers Pantry. Drop into one of the dozen or so winery cellar doors clustered around Murrumbateman, before heading to The Royal Hotel’s Grazing restaurant in Gundaroo – but be warned, this award-winning restaurant is popular, so book ahead.

© Poachers Way Jeir Creek Wines

Do you have a favourite road trip around Canberra or anywhere else? Why not share it with our members?

Related articles:
Capital Drives: Adelaide
Capital Drives: Sydney
Capital Drives: Melbourne

Written by Lee Atkinson

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