Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Cycling in Canberra: Lake Burley Griffin Circuit


Lake Burley Griffin CanberraLocation - Canberra, Australia
Distance - 32 km or three separate rides of 5km, 11km and 16km
Terrain - Flat and sealed the entire way.
Difficulty - Really easy - this is a great family ride.
Highlights - Lake Burley Griffin and all the iconic public buildings on its shores.
Map and Info - For a 'Lake Cycling Loops' map and info click here. For a Canberra/Queanbeyan cycling and walking map click here.


For a well-developed cycle network in Australia it is impossible to go past Canberra. There are cycle paths everywhere. The only problem is there are so many it is easy to get lost. I would recommend getting a map from the Visitors Centre as you drive into the A.C.T but when we called in there recently they had no Canberra cycling maps in stock and no intention to obtain any more. Their solution for cycling tourists was to download and print a map from the internet - yeah right - easier said than done when you are away from home.


Lake Burley Griffin Canberra
Lake Burley Griffin with The National Library and the High Court in the background.
Okay, whinge over! Fortunately, the Visitor Centre does stock copies of a useful pamphlet entitled 'Lake Burley Griffin Cycling Loops' and this contains a map of Canberra's most scenic cycle path. To be honest, though you don't really need it. The three separate rides which make up the loop of Lake Burley Griffin follow the shoreline for most of their length and are well-signposted. Stick as close to the water as you can and you can't go wrong.

National Library of Australia
The National Library

You can start the ride anywhere. If you need to hire bikes there is a bike hire place called Mr Spokes just to the west of Commonwealth Avenue Bridge or pick up a bike at one of Canberra's Spinway Stations. Spinway bikes can be hired for $11 for one hour, $33 for four hours or $44 for 24 hours. The stations are fully automated so if you suddenly get the urge to start your ride at 3 a.m. in the morning or you need to return the bike after office hours you can do so without penalty. These automated bike rental schemes are popping up all over the country. We even saw one in Newcastle recently. The bikes are built for sturdiness, not for speed or climbing hills but in dead flat Canberra that is hardly an issue. 



Ride 1 - Bridge to Bridge 4.9 km round trip


As the name implies this ride takes in two of Canberra's most striking bridges - Kings Avenue Bridge and Commonwealth Avenue Bridge. The whole loop is an easy, flat 4.9 km. If you have time for only one of the loops this is the one to do. You will ride past many of Canberra's landmark buildings such as the National Gallery, High Court, National Library and my favourite - the National Carrillon.


National Carillon Canberra
The National Carillon

The Carillon, a gift from Great Britain, is a musical instrument consisting of cast bronze bells which are played by striking a 'keyboard' of batons and pedals, called a clavier. Canberra's Carillon has 55 bells housed in a 50 m high tower. The Carillon chimes every quarter hour and regular recitals are held on Wednesdays and Sundays between 12.30 pm and 1.20 pm.

Blundells Cottage Canberra
Blundells Cottage
Not so well known but well worth stopping to look at is Blundells Cottage. The cottage was built in 1860 and is reminder of Canberra's early history. The cottage is open on Saturdays between 11.30 am and 2.30 pm.





Ride 2 - The Eastern Loop 9km round trip


This route travels through the Jerrabomberra Wetlands - platypus country. Don't expect to see any actual platypus unless you are very lucky but you'll see signs indicating these shy and curious little creatures inhabit the wetlands. If you want to see an actual platypus pay a visit to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve just outside Canberra. Tidbinbilla is without a doubt the best place in the world to see platypus in the bush.

Jerrabomberra Wetlands Nature Reserve cycle path
Jerrabomberra Wetlands Nature Reserve
As you arrive at the wetlands from the south-west you have a choice either to diverge left onto a dirt track through the heart of the wetlands or continue on the sealed path toward Dairy Rd. On the advice of another cyclist we took the sealed path but if you're riding a mountain bike and have plenty of time exploring the track looked like fun.

Cafes and bars on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin
We had lunch here. The rugs over the back of the chairs are to keep the patrons warm in Canberra's often chilly weather.

About halfway between Kings Avenue Bridge and Dairy Rd, just after Bowen Park the path travels past a block of very un-Canberra like cafes and bars. In this small area at least Canberra has finally escaped that over-planned, artificial air which so many visitors complain about.




Ride 3 - The Western Loop 16 km round trip


At 16km for the round trip this is by far the longest loop.  We had planned to do all three rides together but Canberra put on a freezing cold and windy day in a way that only Canberra can. The maximum temperature struggled to get to 10 degrees C while the wind chill make it feel a lot colder. A few kilometres into this last loop we cycled past the very warm and inviting looking National Museum of Australia. What we intended to be a quick look inside turned into several hours wandering through the exhibits. By the time we faced the elements again it was far too late to continue the ride. 

National Museum of Australia
The National Museum was a great refuge from the cold.

However we have done this ride quite a few times before on visits to the nation's Capital and on a nice day it is a lovely cycle.  It used to be that you had a good chance of spotting kangaroos near Yarralumla, the Governor-General's residence, and on the headland at Weston Park. I don't know if it is still the case but it is worth keeping your eyes open as you cycle the southern shore of the lake.






46 comments:

  1. These all look like such lovely tracks. Though I spent part of my childhood not far from Canberra, I have never explored it much. I only remember how cold it was!

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    1. Ironically the thing that sticks in my mind most from my four years living there and endless Christmas visits to my family is the baking heat in summer, although I do remember the cold too.

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  2. Gosh these look like lovely cycling tracks! I've only been to Canberra once but I really loved it there.

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    1. Australians love to knock Canberra, but it is a very underrated destination for visitors.

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  3. I feel a sense of frustration with places like the Canberra visitors centre that have not only embraced technology but use to their own detriment.
    People come to them for help on what to see and do. If they had used the internet prior then they wouldn't need to come in the door, then they would be out of a job. There is a time and place for technology but we should never forget that the old fashioned way of doing things like providing maps is still a need.
    Rant over now :)

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    1. A bit of a rant is okay now and then. I completely agree with you. We cycle a lot in new places and there is just no substitute for a decent paper map.

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    2. well, digital maps are getting better and better.you just need to embrace them passionately on mobile devices and they work wonders for you

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    3. I just find that they are too small when you are cycling. I am always nervous about the battery going flat too.

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  4. What a great way to update everyone on all the beautiful things Canberra has to offer. I have only done a few quick stop overs in Canberra. Thanks for sharing #IBOT team

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    1. I have family in Canberra so I have been there a lot over the years and I once lived there for four years but it is easy to just make a quick visit to the relatives and forget that the city has so much to offer.

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  5. I love nice flat rides. Would love to do these one day.

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    1. This is a really good ride to take the kids on if you are ever in Canberra.

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  6. Those look wonderful, the automated bike rentals are a very interesting idea.

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    1. I haven't actually tried them but the Canberra one seems better than most because you can keep the bike as long as you want. Many of them are purely for commuters so you can't keep the bikes longer than an hour - hopeless for tourists.

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  7. Great post about some lovely rides. Remember this is just a very small sample of the great cycling available in Canberra! :)

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    1. Yes, you are right but this is by far the best one for tourists. We really need to spend a bit more time there and explore the cycle path network - it is quite amazing if a little confusing for non-Canberrans.

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  8. Thanks for this post. Just made some notes, because my husband is going to love it! :)

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    1. Haha - I promise you would love it too.

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  9. Looks like fun! I love bike riding.

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    1. It is a great way to see a place you are visiting, especially if they have good bike paths.

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  10. So you like cycling, Lyn? Good for you. I'm not good at it at all. The Lake Burley Griffin with The National Library in the background picture reminds me a lot about Lake Pontchartrain and the National Mall in Washington DC. You might find this comparison far fetched, but your picture really resembles that. Thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard.

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    1. I'm about to google it and see if I agree. You never know!

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  11. Ooh, I'd love to go cycling here! I love riding bikes when I travel and at home :)

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    1. We almost always take our bikes with us when we travel. It is a huge hassle and we've had some disasters but bikes are such a great way to get around when you are sightseeing.

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  12. Your second photo made me think immediately of the view of the Kennedy Center from the Potomac. Would be lovely to do some cycling on a few of these trails you've shown us.

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    1. David and I are coming to Washington DC for a few days next year and we will have our bikes with us so I am going to watch out for the view you have mentioned and see if I can remember to get a photo.

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  13. I like when cities embrace the cycling culture. It gives locals and visitors a way to explore more and have more fun. Plus, it can be a great alternative as a transportation medium (for practical purposes like going to work).

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    1. The cycling community in Canberra is very strong. The city is lucky in that much of the cycling infrastructure was planned and built at the same time as the expanding suburbs so it integrates much better than in places where cycle paths have been added on afterwards.

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  14. Lyn, Another great cycling path. I hope I can do some of these!

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    1. If you ever come to Australia, look me up and I will take you on some of my favourite Sydney cycles.

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  15. I love Canberra for its wide open spaces that make it easy to navigate and find your way around. Sydney by comparison feels so cramped and is so confusing! Great idea to explore the lake area by bike and you provided there lots of useful information, thank you.

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    1. I have lived in Sydney for most of my life and I have to say I am just over the traffic but the weather in Canberra would probably turn me off living there again pretty quickly.

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  16. Would you believe that I have yet to visit Canberra! When we do get there, a bike ride sounds the ideal ways to see these part of the city especially as it is so flat! I'm wondering what the story is with helmets...are they compulsory and if so can you pick them up nearby?

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    1. Helmets are compulsory in every state in Australia and you run the risk of a fine if you don't wear one but the good news is that bike hire shops seem to always provide helmets to go with the bikes. Sometimes if you go to an automated bike hire stand you have to go in to a nearby information centre to get one but you can always get one.

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  17. The advantages of a well planned capital city... I just wish decent bicycle paths would be higher up on the development lists of smaller councils - and would receive more federal funding! At home, in the Byron Shire, I would use a bicycle much more if I wouldn't have to compete for narrow road space with cars, trucks, and buses. And don't mention the constant danger of having to veer around deep potholes with vehicles bearing down on you from behind.

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    1. I wouldn't recommend cycling in Sth America - driving is dangerous enough. David and I once cycled along the Rambla in Montevideo though and it was a great cycle. We had the world's worst bikes and the surface of the Rambla is a bit tricky to navigate on a bike but it was a beautiful picturesque route. I wrote a blog post about it if you are ever back there - http://www.thetravellinglindfields.com/2014/01/montevideo-alchemy-architecture-and.html

      New South Wales is finally beginning to see the benefits of cycle paths for tourists and locals alike and there are quite a few in the pipeline.

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  18. I've bookmarked your post so that if I ever go to Australia, I will certainly do this. I like to mix things up during my travels and love bike riding. Thanks for sharing the different routes. Would LOVE to do it NOW! The scenery is beautiful.

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    1. The Lake Burley Griffin circuit is pretty and it is a very easy cycle - great for tourists.

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  19. I had the same thought about the one photo looking like the Kennedy Center! I haven't been to Canberra (yet) but these cycling suggestions are very appealing. I do find it annoying when tourist centers are staffed by people who don't seem to have a practical understanding of the needs of visitors. They should all be staffed by travel bloggers!

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    1. I am really going to have to keep an eye out for the Kennedy Centre when we are cycling in Washington. I'm about to google it so I know what I am looking for.
      We find tourist centres very hit and miss. Sometimes the people staffing them are really knowledgeable and enthusiastic and at other times they just really couldn't care less. Usually the best people are volunteers in country towns who want to show off their home to you. It also helps if you ask the right questions. I couldn't tell you the number of times we have been given a cycling map from under the counter that wasn't on display.

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  20. What a lovely idea, to cycle through the capital. A shame, though, that the Visitors Centre is so clueless as to how to meet tourists' needs. Even with budget limitations, the staff sounds a bit insensitive; they could at least have offered to print a copy of the map for you.

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    1. In the end we got a pamphlet showing the actual ride we wanted to do but it didn't show any of the other cycle paths in Canberra.

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  21. I lived in Canberra from 1981-'84 when I was at HMAS Harman the Navy base just on the ACT side of the border before Queanbeyan. The cycle track network was outstanding at the time & no doubt improved upon now. You could go almost anywhere without having to ride on the roads. I was a lot fitter then in my early 20's than I am now though.

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    1. I didn't know there was a Naval Base in the ACT, although I should have because my sister and brother-in-law live in the ACT and they were both in the navy for many years. Canberra is just fantastic for cycle paths. I wish we had that kind of off-road network in Sydney.

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  22. That's a wonderful trip! And weather was perfect! :)

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    1. We are headed back there in a week or so. I might manage to post a few more photos.

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