Winter outdoor activities that won’t cost the earth.

Edwina Robinson 30 June 2016

framed view of lake from Arboretum

View of Lake Burley Griffin from the Arboretum. Photo Kate Auty.

Canberrans have a big ecological footprint – a whopping 8.9 global hectares per person.  Much of our footprint is due to the electricity and petrol we consume, food eaten out, air travel and the things we buy. 

The ACT Commissioner for Sustainability and Environment says we should seek seek alternatives to consuming products and spend our free time on activities instead. ACT State of the Environment Report 2015

One great way to reduce the amount you spend on an outing is to plan beforehand. If buying food and drink eats up your hard-earned cash - pack a selection of healthy snacks and bring a water bottle.  There are now 30 water refill stations in parks and public places around Canberra. Water refill stations

Water refill station

Water refill station in the Australian National Botanic Gardens. Photo: Edwina Robinson. 

Here’s our recommendation for five free places you can visit in the ACT. We've chosen places where you can exercise, observe plants and animals and soak up the winter sunshine. Some of the venues are easier to get to than others - so we recommend you investigate your travel options - can you walk, ride, catch public transport or as a last resort take the car?

1. Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG)

Banksia speciosa

Banksia speciosa in flower. Photo: Wikimedia. 

The Gardens are one of the jewels in Canberra’s crown - a scientific collection of plants from all over Australia. 

Displays are arranged thematically – you can visit the Tasmanian garden, Sydney sandstone flora, temperate rainforest and the heart of Australia represented by the Red Centre Garden.

As well as providing the opportunity to see the wonders of Australia’s flora the gardens attract a myriad of small birds and reptiles. In the warmer months, Water Dragons can be found around the water bodies and darting across the paths.

eastern yellow robin

Eastern yellow robin in the Gardens. Photo: Wikipedia. 

The Gardens have a stunning collection of Banksias (there are 173 Banksias in Australia) and you are bound to find one in flower.

The Gardens offer two free guided tours a day and there is a bus service to the garden. 

Australian National Botanic Gardens

2. Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Australia (NGA)

sculptured heads in pond

Heads of the north. Photo: Flickr. 

The sculpture garden at the NGA is a beauty. It’s tucked between the monolithic concrete gallery and the Lake. Twenty six sculptures by renowned Australian and overseas artisans are set amongst a stunning setting of white brittle gum and river she-oaks.

Find your favourite sculpture – is it an organic Henry Moore, Burt Flugelman’s stainless steel cones or something more organic, like the totem poles or the fog sculpture? The mist sculpture is turned on from 12.30pm til 2pm each day and is best experienced in warmer weather.

There’s some good spots to laze on the grass and watch the joggers and cyclists pound around the Lake.

Sculpture Garden

3. Jerrabomberra Wetlands

Lathams Snipe at the Wetlands

Lathams Snipe is a migratory bird that spends its northern hemisphere winter in places, like Jerrabomberra Wetlands. Photo: Wikimedia. 

Third on the list is the Jerrabomberra Wetlands – a wetland of international and national significance.

Located on the eastern shore of Lake Burley Griffin and bounded by the Molonglo River this is a treasure trove for bird lovers. Jerrabomberra is listed on the Australian Directory of Important Wetlands for its significant bird habitat. One hundred and seventy different birds have been recorded in the wetlands and in nearby planted woodlands and grasslands.

Although infrastructure is modest at the site - there are a number of bird hides strategically located near different wetland habitats. There are no souvenirs to tempt sticky hands nor is there a café. Bring your binoculars.

If you’ve forgotten your thermos– Kingston Foreshore is not far away - and it offers a plethora of coffee places.

Jerrabomberra Wetlands

4. The National Arboretum

The winning design concept for the Arboretum was for 100 forests of endangered tree species from around the world.  While the forests will become magnificent over time the bonsai garden includes a handsome display of exotic and native trees set in an outdoor room. Nearby is the Canberra Discovery Garden – worth a visit to see plants that grow well in the Canberra on low water regimes.

Metal eagle and nest

Metal eagle and nest sculpture. Photo Kate Auty.

For the littlies, the Pod Playground inspired by seed capsules, located near the carpark is a must.

National Arboretum

5. Dickson, Lyneham, O'Connor and The Valley Ponds, Gungahlin,  Wetlands 

banksia st wetland

Banksia St, O'Connor wetland with timber sculpture in the background. Photo: Wikimedia. 

From 2009 until 2014 the ACT Government developed a series of wetlands in Canberra's inner north and Gungahlin. The main role of the wetlands was to improve the water quality entering Canberra's sub-catchments. The wetlands offer an array of waterbirds, frog calls, walking and cycling paths and places to laze in the sun. 

There are no bins at the wetlands - so bring a bag to take your rubbish home. 

Urban Wetlands

Which one will you visit this winter?

living sustainably

Click to expand sitemap