National Arboretum Canberra – a cafe, picnics, dog walking & mountain biking

The National Arboretum Canberra is a beautiful place for tourists and Canberrans (Ken Behrens!) to lunch or coffee, picnic, stroll through the gardens, walk the dog and mountain bike in!

The Zig Zag path at the National Arboretum Canberra

The Zig Zag path at the National Arboretum Canberra

The National Arboretum Canberra is a fantastic resource for Canberrans and tourists. Its beautiful landscaping, trees, lawns, gardens, wildlife and sweeping views all make this a wonderful space to spend time in – plus of course the famous Pod Playground.

One of the top-ten things to do in Canberra

The Wide Brown Land sculpture at the National Arboretum Canberra

The Wide Brown Land sculpture at the National Arboretum Canberra

The National Arboretum is 250 hectares of nature-meets-landscaping at its most gorgeous – a delicious central café, rolling green lawns for picnics, mass patterned tree plantings, old and new forests to explore and breathtaking views on every rise – this is a truly gorgeous place to spend an afternoon or morning at.

Things to do at the National Arboretum Canberra

The Village Centre and National Arboretum Cafe

The cafe at the National Arboretum Canberra

The cafe at the National Arboretum Canberra

The Village Centre is the huge, dome-like building that sits atop the hill in the centre of the Canberra Arboretum. Commanding stunning views across the Arboretum grounds and Canberra City, it houses some great attractions.

Inside you can admire the beautiful architecture, including lofty timber ceilings and floor to ceiling windows. It’s here you’ll find tourist information displays, public toilets and a huge gift emporium.

The gift shop, The Curatoreum, is full of unusual gift ideas – many botanically themed. This is where to shop for that perfect Christmas gift (or just spoil yourself – their book collection alone is to die for!).

A large café with tempting cakes and coffee and delicious lunch choices features both indoor and outdoor seating. If you’re visiting with the family, you can eat outside and watch the kids play in the Pod Playground.

National Arboretum Canberra Children’s Garden

National Arboretum Canberra Children’s Garden

Just outside of the main building you’ll find the Bonsai Collection and Penjing Collection, a room full of the most amazing Bonsai trees. There are also several lovely outdoor gardens to wander through, including a new children’s garden.

Just down the path is the striking Margaret Whitlam Pavilion which is used for events such as weddings.

The Pod Playground

The Pod Playground at the National Arboretum Canberra

The Pod Playground at the National Arboretum Canberra

It’s no wonder the Pod Playground is a big favourite not only of Canberra families, but also frequent visitors to Canberra.

Children of all ages love this unique wood-crafted playground fashioned around acorns and Banksia. Climb in and out of the nuts, scale from one pod to the other via a series of rope tunnels and go down the spiraling slides – dance (or stomp!) on the musical pathway, scale the climbing frame and swing away the day in this fun Canberra playground.

The Banksia Pods toddler playground at the National Arboretum Canberra

The Banksia Pods toddler playground at the National Arboretum Canberra

Even the pre-schoolers get their own little scaled-down banksia pods section. This unique Canberra playground is definitely a don’t-miss if you’re in Canberra with kids!

Watch our video of the Village Centre attractions and Pod Playground

Watch this video to see what visiting the National Arboretum Village Centre is like…

One of the best dog walks in Canberra

If you’ve brought your four legged friend along to the Arboretum with you, you’ve come to the right place! Although dogs aren’t allowed inside the Village Centre, they are allowed in the grounds provided they are kept on a lead.

One of the best dog walks in Canberra is at the National Arboretum Canberra

One of the best dog walks in Canberra is at the National Arboretum Canberra

There are many trails snaking all over the Arboretum for use by mountain bikers, walkers and dog walking. Don’t worry about getting lost, as there are plenty of map markers along the way, and the trails are good underfoot. This is a beautiful place to walk the dog as you pass through forests and valleys, and see a multitude of gorgeous birds. As you top each hill, the next offers views even more beautiful than the last. Perfect!

Watch our video of our dog walk around the Arboretum

Watch this video to see what walking your dog around the National Arboretum is like…

The Wide Brown Land Sculpture

One of the really famous (and obvious, as it’s set up on a hill!) sights to see at the National Arboretum is the Wide Brown Land sculpture.

Created by artists Marcus Tatton, Futago and Chris Viney in 2010, this solid steel sculpture is inspired by the beloved Australian poem My Country written by Dorothy Mackellar in 1908, and faithfully reproduces her own script hand-writing.

The Wide Brown Land sculpture inspired by Dorothy McKellar's Australian poem

The Wide Brown Land sculpture inspired by Dorothy Mackellar’s Australian poem

The Wide Brown Land artwork is an interactive sculpture that the kids can climb for some simply outstanding photos with the silhouette of the Black Mountain Tower behind.

The Perfect Canberra Picnic

The National Arboretum has some beautiful picnic areas. Apart from the lawns just outside of the Village Centre there are two stand-outs.

The Himalayan Cedar Forest scenic viewing platform

The picnic deck is located deep within the Himalayan Cedar Forest. From the car park, simply head straight down the wide path. Large table seating areas and barbeques can be found there shaded by the huge old trees.

The connecting lookout has stunning views right across to the Captain Cook fountain in Lake Burley Griffin!

National Arboretum Himalayan Cedars Canberra Picnic area and lookout

National Arboretum Himalayan Cedars Canberra Picnic area and lookout

Wheel chair friendly picnic table with a view

Perhaps the most spectacular picnic table in Canberra – if not Australia – is the one you’ll find up on Dairy Farmers Hill.

Enjoy this view from Dairy Farmers Hill

Enjoy this view from Dairy Farmers Hill

If you’re not feeling energetic enough for the climb on foot, drive straight up and park in the car park. From there, walk or wheel chair the sealed path to the picnic table right on the edge of the hill near the Eagles Nest (“Nest III”) sculpture.

There is also a large deck with a long curved bench further along the path. Enjoy a lunchtime or supper picnic with simply incredible picture-postcard views of Black Mountain Tower, Canberra City and beyond.

Go fly a kite!

Kite flying at the One of the best dog walks in Canberra is at the The Pod Playground at the The Wide Brown Land sculpture at the National Arboretum Canberra

Kite flying at the National Arboretum Canberra

Don’t forget to bring your kite with you, as the National Arboretum is a favourite Canberran kite-flying location. Just head out the back of the Village Centre to the big lawn bowl near the Margaret Whitlam Pavilion – it must have great aerodynamics, as I haven’t seen a failed kite flight there yet!

Important info and tips

  • Bring your sunscreen, hat, drinking water and walking shoes
  • The Arboretum grounds close at 5:30pm or 8:30pm (AEDST – daylight savings time)
  • Keep your pets on a leash and no dogs are allowed in the Village Centre
  • Paths are multi-use – mountain bikes, walkers and dog walkers share the trails

Where is the Canberra Arboretum?

The National Arboretum Canberra is located on Forest Drive off the Tuggeranong Parkway, approximately 6 kilometres drive from Canberra’s city centre in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).

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Beautiful views at the National Arboretum Canberra

Beautiful views at the National Arboretum Canberra

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About LetsGoMum

Hi, I'm Barbara, mum of the Let's Go Mum blog. We'd love to hear from you! You can contact me anytime with ideas on where you think we should go or what you think we should try...just drop me a line at barbara@letsgomum.com.au!
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