Within easy and enjoyable daytrip range of Canberra, Australia, are a diverse selection of terrific things to see and do! After a few days in the bustling metropolitan cities of Sydney or Canberra, take a breather from city life and explore the outdoor adventures. Easily reachable from Canberra.
Explore Space and Do Your Own Walkabout
• Just 16 miles west of Canberra, is Mount Stromlo Observatory. Australian National University’s Department of Astronomy operates huge telescopes at Mount Stromlo. The visitor and all the domed observatories were destroyed in the firestorms of 2003, but you can get a glimpse of the magnitude of the project. Information about the design and construction of what will be the world’s largest telescope, The Giant Magellan Telescope and the exciting possibilities of fresh, new deep space discoveries is at Australian National University’s http://www.mso.anu.edu.au/gmt. The Giant Magellan Telescope will have a resolution of a telescope with an 80 foot mirror, the largest ever! The GMT will produce images up to 10 times those of the Hubble Space Telescope and is scheduled for completion in 2016.
• The Canberra Space Centre is located at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex at Tidbinbilla (which is just a fun word to say over and over), just 25 miles southwest of the city centre of Canberra. The Centre offers visitors the chance to learn how Australia entered into the exploration of space and what Australians are doing now and planning for the future. You can see fabulous views of the largest antenna complex in the southern hemisphere, gasp in awe at a piece of the Moon that’s over 3.8 billion years old, see the latest pictures available from deep space explorer craft, spacecraft models, and authentic capsules and rover vehicles. Have a taste of the foods that astronauts eat while on the space shuttle and space station, watch a movie on the history and future of space exploration, take a personal journey through our solar system, have a meal in the Moon Rock Café. Entrance into The Canberra Space Centre is free, and the café is reasonably priced. I spent 4 hours here, and enjoyed every minute! More information, http://www.cdscc.nasa.gov.
• After visiting and learning about deep space exploration, meet a koala or two, a newborn joey in his mother’s pouch, or tramp the hillsides on your own walkabout, at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. The diverse habitats include grasslands, dry forests, wet forest,wetlands, and sub-alpine.These different habitats support a wide range of wildlife including lyrebirds, kangaroos, possums, echidnas, wombats, platypus and many other species indigenous to the area. Tidbinbilla also has reknowned breeding programs for the endangered Northern Corroboree Frog and the Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby. I spent an hour or so fascinated by the Northern Corroboree Frogs and plan on going back again to spend more time at Tidbinbilla. The Tidbinbilla area is a place of deep spiritual significance for the Aboriginal peoples of the region. The very name of Tidbinbilla comes from the Aborigine word ‘Jedbinbilla’, meaning ‘a place where boys become men’ and this culture is easily explored at Hanging Rock Track, just under 550 yards from the visitor centre, or discover what the early settlers lived like at the Nature Discovery Centre. Tidbinbilla information, http://www.environment.act.gov.au.
After getting your fill of history, culture and nature at Tidbinbilla for the day, just head back to Canberra, an easy 40 minute drive. Go for a swim in your hotel, or paddle a boat on Lake Burley Griffin. Play a few hands of poker at one of the casinos or dine lakeside by candlelight. Choosing Canberra, Australia as your base for exploring the region ensures you have all kinds of choices!