A Weekender's Guide to Going Off-Grid in Canberra
Take the 'city' out of your next city break.
A WEEKENDER'S GUIDE TO GOING OFF-GRID IN CANBERRA
in partnership with
Take the 'city' out of your next city break.
When you live in a buzzing metropolis, sometimes the last thing you want on is to leave one city on holidays and land in another that's equally chaotic. Fear not, weary city slicker. Canberra is a great destination for an off-grid escape. One of the things that makes the city so special is its abundance of natural beauty. Whether you're smack bang in the middle or travelling through the outskirts, you're always near clear skies, gardens, forests, mountains and rivers.
So, if you've been contemplating a nature-inspired adventure, Canberra could well be your next target. Here, we take a look at five ways to go off-grid — from bird watching in wetlands to hiking along National Park trails to blissing out at a nature-inspired day spa.
Regional holidays to the ACT are now permitted for some states — check the rules for your own state or territory here. Also, some of the places mentioned below may still be closed or operating differently due to COVID-19 restrictions. Please check websites before making any plans.
Warning: Parts of Namadgi National Park remain closed for bushfire recovery works. Check which areas are open here.
Just an hour’s drive south of Canberra is Namadgi National Park, a 16,000-hectare wilderness. Here, you’ll find an incredible variety of natural places, from wild rivers and waterfalls to grasslands and forests. For hikers, there are more than 160 kilometres of trails to explore.
If you’re looking for an easy walk, head to Mount Aggie, where a one-kilometre, 45-minute stroll will take you through wildflowers and magical snow gums. Up for something tougher and longer? There’s the Nass Valley to Horse Gully Hut trail, which meanders for 16 kilometres and passes a bunch of cultural and historical sites, from 19th-century horse yards to 1940s mountain huts. Another option is Granite Tors Walking Track, a steep, 18-kilometre adventure that takes in spectacular granite boulders, wildflower meadows and epic views.
Image: Rob Mulally.
On Canberra’s southeastern outskirts (just three kilometres from the city centre) are the Jerrabomberra Wetlands, where birds from all over Australia and the world seek refuge on their annual migration. One of the most famous is the Latham’s Snipe, which travels 8000 kilometres directly from Japan to spend the summer here.
You’ll also meet terrestrial beings of all kinds, including water rats, turtles, water dragons and platypuses. Despite their popularity with natural creatures, the wetlands’ 201 hectares are a human creation, formed in 1964 when Molonglo River was dammed to create Lake Burley Griffin. To experience them fully, take the Jerrabomberra Wetlands Walk, a one and a half-hour stroll, which passes by several bird hides, waterways and historically significant Indigenous sites. Don’t forget to pack your binoculars. Also, keep an eye on the events program, which ranges from twilight arachnid adventures to guided bird watching tours.
Wee Jasper is home to Careys Cave, a 400 million-year-old limestone cave network, filled with mysterious chambers, stalactites, stalagmites and pools. To wander through it, you’ll need to jump aboard a tour, which takes place Friday–Monday at 12pm and 1.30pm. On weekends, there’s an extra one at 3pm.
You’ll spend just over an hour inside, following an underground path that twists and turns and uncovering one wonder after another. There’s also a makeshift lounge room, where you can kick back, relax and lose yourself in your surroundings. Plus, every now and again, the cave transforms into an epic concert setting with, of course, amazing acoustics. Keep an eye on the program over here. Wee Jasper is 80 kilometres — or a 90-minute drive – northwest of Canberra, in Yass Valley.
Image: Destination NSW.
Surrounded by the lush rainforest and native flora of the Australian National Botanic Gardens, Jindii EcoSpa is a dreamy retreat. The treatments here take inspiration from Australian environments. There’s a Jindabyne ritual bath, infused with lavender, orange and Australian sandalwood; a macadamia body polish; and a renewal facial that involves placing botanicals straight onto your skin — to name just a few. Check out the rest of the spa menu over here.
On top of blissing out in the spa, you can get active in a Dru Yoga class, which focuses on strain-free relaxation exercises. Once you’re completely rejuvenated, stay in your bubble with a stroll around the Botanic Gardens — a wonderland of gardens, walking paths, lawns and forests.
Image: Stuart Miller.
Ovolo Nishi isn’t exactly off-grid. But it is a hotel dedicated to nature, sustainability, total relaxation and beautiful things. Think eye-catching modern artworks, fireplaces, deep concrete baths, vintage-inspired furniture and earthy colours. So, it’s as close as a hotel gets within a capital city. For peak relaxation, nab one of the dreamy Meandering Atrium rooms, which boast overhead rain showers and views to the hotel’s internal courtyard atrium filled with salvaged Tasmanian tree ferns.
You’ll find the hotel in the central spot of NewActon — a hub of good restaurants, wine bars and boutique shops. It’s just a stumble from Lake Burley Griffin and about a ten-minute walk from the National Museum of Australia. The hotel takes its name from the building it occupies, the Nishi, a Japanese-inspired, pineapple-shaped architectural masterpiece that won International Project of the Year at the 2015 Building Awards in London.
While you’re in the neighbourhood, be sure to visit Nishi Gallery, a paean to experimentation, nature, local identities and new perspectives on old objects.
To discover more off-grid adventures to have in Canberra, head to Visit Canberra and start planning your next city break.
Top Image: Rob Mulally.