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Experience the autumn leaves in Canberra

Experience the autumn leaves in Canberra

See the capital transform in vivid displays of colour this season.

A lot of the activity in Canberra is centred on Parliament House, perched on Lake Burley Griffin, with views of Mount Ainslie on the horizon. But Canberra isn’t just about politics. Its reputation for fine dining and winemaking is growing, and there are world-class cultural experiences on offer. The National Gallery of Australia hosts exhibitions featuring the likes of Pollock, Monet, Dali and Nolan, while the National Portrait Gallery has ever-changing exhibits of Australian art. Several excellent museums, including Questacon, are also on offer. But the best thing about Canberra is that it’s probably the greenest city in Australia, surrounded by national parklands that can be hiked, biked or even driven through.

There are mountains, knolls and lookouts flanking the city in every direction. The remoteness of Canberra comes as a surprise to many first-time visitors. It’s relatively small; and beyond the rugged, mountainous terrain that decorates the horizon, there is little more than a peppering of small villages to break up the wilderness. The Australian Capital Territory is only 88 kilometres from north to south, and 30 kilometres east to west, with Canberra occupying just a small patch of this area.

In autumn, as the leaves turn, the place takes on a whole new charm. If you like your natural splendour cosmopolitan, Canberra’s National Arboretum is one of the world’s largest living collections of rare, endangered and significant trees. More than 44,000 trees from over 100 countries are growing in 94 forests across a 250-hectare site. It is a great spot to watch autumn colour the city’s treetops, and offers great views over Canberra itself. Officially opened in 2013, the site was formerly a pine plantation. After bushfires ravaged the area in 2003, the government established the National Arboretum and, 10 years later, opened it to the public. Year on year, as the forests mature, it becomes more impressive, and never more so than in autumn.

If you’re looking to get out of the hustle and bustle of Canberra, head south to Namadgi National Park – the most expansive tract of natural reserve in the Australian Capital Territory, occupying nearly half of its total area. The park protects part of the northern reaches of the Australian Alps, which form the largest mountain ranges in Australia. Unlike the Himalayas, a peaky mountain range that formed after the collision of two continents, the Australian Alps and Namadgi National Park are a high plateau formed by the reverse process: the separation of one massive continent, the ancient continent of Gondwana.

Designated a national park in 1984, Namadgi is a diverse landscape of mountains and wide valleys, clear streams, granite outcrops, contorted snow gums, tall alpine ash and frosty gullies – great for hiking, mountain biking, horseriding, camping, rock climbing, viewing historical ruins, and secluded picnics.

Despite the ravages of the 2003 Canberra bushfires, evidence of early European settlement is evident throughout the park. Once heavily forested, early pastoralists cleared most of the valleys, while the highlands remain heavily wooded. The government has identified some 90 sites where structures formerly stood. Of the larger examples, a few have a single building still standing, with the majority being nothing more than chimney stones or rusting pieces of corrugated iron – testaments to the isolation and harsh climates dealt with by farmers and their families who would endure long periods without encountering another soul.

Pictured: Namadgi National Park. Image © of We Are Explorers for VisitCanberra

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