Touring the National Arboretum Canberra
About 6km from the centre of Canberra sits the National Arboretum Canberra, a $70 million dollar tree collection that houses one of the world’s largest living collections of rare, endangered and symbolic trees.
It was created in 2003 as a symbol of healing after the bushfires ravaged the Territory. It’s dedicated to growing trees for conservation, educational and scientific research purposes.
Spanning over 250 hectares, the botanical garden features 44,000 trees from over 100 countries and 94 forests with an average size of two hectares. Each forest contains a single species of tree or two species where a host forest is put in the ground in conjunction with an endangered species.
Free hour-long guided forest walks are available every Wednesday from 11 am, Saturday from 2 pm and Sunday from 11 am. Walk locations are negotiable and are tailored to themes relevant to the time of year, such as autumn. Experienced guides point out scenery and landmarks and discuss arboretum’s history, the trees, and their stories.
20-minute introductory talks are available every day between 10 am – 3 pm, leaving on the hour. Visitors walk around the Village Centre and learn about the arboretum.
Walking trails are scattered around the Village Centre and neatly throughout the forests, which visitors are able to walk, cycle or even horse-ride on. Walking trail points of interest include the Circuit Trail around Dairy Farmers Hill, the Himalayan Cedar Forest, the Cork Tree Forest, and the Southern Tablelands Ecosystems Park (STEP).
Dairy Farmer’s Hill:
The Circuit Trail around Dairy Farmers Hill begins near the Village Centre and leads to a lookout with panoramic views over Canberra, including Black Mountain and Lake Burley-Griffin. The lookout has a large outdoor sculpture of a wedge tail eagle and its nest, named Nest III.
The Circuit Trail is a moderate uphill trail on uneven, dirt ground. It is exposed to the strong winds of the region and offers no shade from the sun apart from the lookout. The best time to do this trail is in the morning, while temperatures are lower and on days with little wind.
Himalayan Cedar Forest:
The nearly 100-year-old Himalayan Cedar Forest rests on top of a hill and features tall, old trees that provide cool temperatures and vast protection from the sun and the wind. The trail inside the forest is short and has been lengthened by a series of zigzags. Made from tarmac and wood, it is the arboretum’s easiest trail, mostly providing scenic viewing and modern BBQ and picnic areas, rather than walking distance.
The second part of the trail is optional and connects the forest to the Village Centre on an uneven, dirt path. It is a moderate uphill walk that, at one point, leads across a road.
Cork Tree Forest:
The Cork Tree Forest is one of the arboretum’s largest plantations, spanning across eight hectares and containing nearly 4,500 trees. It was begun in 1981 and is included as on ACT’s historical heritage lists.
The trail is called the Cork Oak Loop and can begin at two locations. The first, from an entrance near the Cork Oak carpark, and the second, leading-off downhill from the Himalayan Cedar Forest trail. The trail contains active wildlife, from blackbirds to possums.
It is moderate level and mostly in shade.
Southern Tablelands Ecosystems Park (STEP):
The Southern Tablelands Ecosystems Park is located at the Village Centre and takes visitors from the POD playground to the Southern Tablelands Ecosystems Park, which has a picnic area. The trail is an easy, 600-metre tarmac track in front of the Village Centre.
Arboretum’s Augmented Reality app
The National Arboretum Canberra app provides visitors with stories, holograms and sounds through augmented reality (AR) using a phone or tablet. It can be downloaded for free from the Apple or Android store.
The app interacts with visitors and its environment, through visitors using the ‘pip icon’ while walking through forests and by scanning images marked with an ‘AR’ symbol.
The Village Centre is an award-winning designed building featuring panoramic views of the arboretum and of Canberra. It features a cafe and restaurant, gift shop, information hub, educational collections, and a $1 million dollar nature-themed Pod Playground.
The National Arboretum Canberra is open daily from 6 am to 8:30 pm during Daylight Savings Time and from 7 am to 5:30 pm during Eastern Standard Time.
The Village Centre is open daily from 9 am to 4 pm, excluding Christmas Day.