For a city designed around cars, Canberra has some pretty great urban walks.
I set out this week to put together the city’s best urban walks for tourists and locals alike. You can easily knock over each of these walks in no more than an hour, and you’ll find plenty of hidden gems along the way.
1. Lonsdale Street to Benjamin Shine’s The Dance
What better place to start an urban walk than Canberra’s centre of all that is hip, trendy, swanky and vintage. Park on Girrahween Street in Braddon, before heading up towards The Hive on Lonsdale Street. This hidden gallery houses a unique set of traders, and its architecture is certainly eye-catching.
Further along Lonsdale is street food galore at food caravan precinct The Hamlet. Push on to Garema Place and past some of Canberra’s premier independent retailers, before veering left down City Walk. End the walk with a viewing of Benjamin Shine’s entrancing artwork, The Dance, located, would you believe, on level two of the Canberra Centre, near the entrance to David Jones. The piece is made entirely of tulle, and if you haven’t yet checked it out I recommend you do so soon.
Distance and time: 1.6km. Time will depend on how many lattes you get along the way
Hotspots: The Hive, The Hamlet, Benjamin Shine’s The Dance
Great for: Street food, street art, public art and coffee
Parking: Pay parking is available on Girrahween Street. Alternatively, the Canberra Centre has ample pay parking – you’ll just have to do the walk in reverse!
Public transport: Take the number 7 from Civic and get off on Girrahween Street
2. New Acton to Westside Acton Park
Begin with a meander through the gardens outside Acton House, which contains several unique pieces of art. This area is great to just sit and read, or have a chat with friends about how much stuff there is to do in Canberra now. Head on to the Nishi building, taking in the award-winning architectural brilliance along the way. A stop at Monster Kitchen and Bar is in order, if not to eat, then at least to admire the fireplace and décor.
Cross over Parkes Way at the lights (a somewhat trickier task than you may think), and walk along the lake until you reach the Westside Acton Park. Make sure to try the food and drink vendors at the park while you’re there.
Distance and time: About 1km. Allow 45 minutes, including time waiting to cross Parkes Way
Hotspots: Nishi, Acton House, Westside Acton Park, Acton House
Great for: Architecture, street food, public art, lake views
Parking: Either at QT on London Circuit or Westside Acton Park.
Public transport: New Acton is a ten-minute walk from Civic interchange
3. King Edward Terrace circuit
Combining tranquillity with cultural eye-candy, this is one of my favourite parts of Canberra. Start with James Turrell’s Within Without piece, located outside the NGA. The work being a visually stunning, spirituality invoking start, to what will otherwise be a mellow walk.
Within Without is most striking at dawn or sunset, so time your walk to coincide if you can. Potter down King Edward Terrace, taking in all of the cultural sights, all the way until the National Library, and then come back along the lake. Enjoy the great views across the lake, especially to The Carillon. Finish the walk in the peaceful surrounds of The Sculpture Garden, perhaps with a picnic in the shade if it isn’t too cold.
Distance and time: 2.1km. Allow one hour, not including time taken to guess the country of each flag at the national flags display
Hotspots: Within Without, The Sculpture Garden, The National Portrait Gallery
Great for: Public art, picnics, cultural attractions, views of the lake, introspective thought
Parking: The NGA has an undercover carpark with up to three hours free parking.
Public transport: Numbers 2, 3 and 80 all travel down King Edward Terrace
4. Australian National University campus
One area which rarely gets mentioned as a tourist attraction is the Australian National University. I’m not sure why, as the campus boasts futuristic architecture, lots of nature (not so much at this time of year), wildlife spotting opportunities and views of Telstra Tower.
For this walk, it is best to get your hands on the Lost on Campus app. As the campus doesn’t have a particular direction or flow, this walk is much less structured than the others. Make sure you do wander through the science and medical buildings, however, as these are some of the most unique buildings in Canberra. An absolute hidden gem I discovered was the Una sculpture. This piece by Wolfgang Buttress lets the viewer, once they peak inside one of the perforations, experience what appears to be stars and the night sky. (Spoiler alert: it is actually tiny light specks, constructed with great respect for astronomical accuracy.) Meanwhile, a great spot to sit and unwind is by Sullivan’s creek, along Fellows road.
Distance and time: About 2.5km of walking will get you around the main points of interest.
Hotspots: Sullivan’s creek, Una sculpture, The National Archives
Great for: Architecture, nature, wildlife, views of Telstra Tower
Parking: Paid parking is available at ANU
Public transport: The blue rapid or 300 buses from the City Interchange will take you down Barry Drive. Alternatively, it is a short stroll from the centre of town
5. Manuka to Kingston Foreshore
The final walk takes you from Manuka to Kingston Foreshore. Begin your walk with a short walk down Manuka’s shopping strips, particularly along Franklin and Bougainville streets. Make your way onto Manuka Circuit and then to Telopea Park. This is a great walk to do with kids, as there are playgrounds, lots of green spaces and it is pet friendly.
After Telopea Park, take a right onto Wentworth Avenue and push on to the Old Bus Depot Markets. Open on Sundays, the markets are a Canberra institution. A detour to the Glassworks or Brodburger are also good choices as you continue on to Kingston Foreshore. If you’ve filled up on food already, take a coffee from one of the selection of great cafes down to the waterfront, where there is a sunny garden waiting for you to relax after all this walking!
Distance and time: 2.5km and 30 minutes walking.
Hotspots: Telopea Park, Old Bus Depot Markets (Sundays only), Kingston Foreshore
Great for: Shopping, markets, coffee, food and views across the lake
Parking: Undercover parking is available on Furneaux Street in Manuka
Public transport: Take the number 4 or 5 from Civic.
I had a great time exploring the city I’ve grown up in. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon, entertain tourists or win social points when you ask your friends “Have you guys been there yet?”
What are your favourite urban Canberra walks?