It is the most Australian of escorts. A kangaroo hops down the road towards Tidbinbilla, soon joined by two friends. They bound along for around a mile, acting as the worldâs most adorable traffic-calming measure, before peeling off into the bush.
This, it turns out, is a taste of things to come. A 45-minute drive south-east of Canberraâs city centre, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is a tremendous place to indulge a soft spot for Australian wildlife. Its 21 square miles include mountainside, valley floor, wetland and grassland habitats; ideal homes for many of the countryâs most lovable creatures.
Along the Koala Path, a wheelchair-accessible trail just under half a mile long, it pays to look up. As the name suggests, this heads through the wet eucalypt woodland where the koalas hang out. Most of the time, theyâre silver-grey balls, curled up asleep where the tree branches fork. But every now and then, one woozily struggles into life, clambering up the trunk for a better spot and a few leaves to eat.
This is one of 22 marked trails within Tidbinbilla. Some are designed for short, 15-minute taster strolls, others for all-day hikes through snow gum forest and up to imperious rock ledges. Depending on which route you take, you might encounter wallabies hopping along the rocky hillsides, emus strutting through the grasslands, or even the elusive platypus scratching away at the banks in natural ponds.
Come early evening, the wombats â adorably comical cousins to the koala with sturdy backsides and stumpy legs â emerge from their burrows. The kangaroos spring into life too, switching from lying in the shade to bounding in the meadows.
From 27 September to 12 October, however, you can stay even longer. The Wildfest pop-up glamping experience is designed for families, with proper beds and luggage racks inside the high-end tents providing the comfort factor to go with roasting marshmallows around the campfire. The programme also includes ranger-guided nocturnal wildlife tours, with some of the lesser-spotted marsupials taking pride of place, stargazing sessions and also visits to the Vet Centre.
Even if youâre not staying overnight, there are regular short walks led by rangers and volunteers at weekends. With a tour leader who has a trained eye and knowledge of individual creaturesâ favourite hangouts, youâre likely to see a lot more.
Tidbinbilla is much loved by walkers, but those who prefer to get around on two wheels are catered for too. Cyclists are allowed on the reserveâs network of roads and fire trails. Should pedalling uphill seem daunting, then the happy medium is e-biking. Canberra Urban Adventures runs tours, leaving from the city centre, to Tidbinbilla. Electric bikes and helmets are provided for the tour along the internal park roads, past mobs of merrily grazing kangaroos. But the trip is an all-rounder â it includes guided walks through the eucalypt forest, a drive to a scenic mountain lookout and a quick visit to the neighbouring Nasa Canberra Deep Space Communication Project, the main space research hub in Australia.
For every snuffling echidna or chortling kookaburra, however, thereâs a trace of human heritage. Evidence suggests indigenous people have lived in the area for 21,000 years. The Birrigai Rock Shelter is the key site, but Dharwra Aboriginal Cultural Tours goes into greater depth on its day-long trip from Canberra. Guides interpret the landscape and Aboriginal culture, while pointing out bush foods and traditional uses for plants.
Itâs here that the customary bond between man and nature starts to make sense. The grass trees that make for good spear tips and sweet nectar drinks, for example, are also popular with possums for nest-building.
What starts as a good place to see wild kangaroos slowly morphs into something more. Tidbinbilla becomes a complex web of symbiotic relationships, with every plant and creature having its place in the natural order. That some of this is gorgeousto look at â well, thatâs a bonus.
Australian Capital Territory
Travellers in the know cite Canberra as the perfect base from which to explore stunning landscapes, enjoy the best of Australiaâs natural world and find endless cultural highlights.
The city and surrounds are brimming with experiences to rival anywhere in the country.
Travelling to Canberra couldn’t be easier â Singapore Airlines flies to Canberra via Singapore from London Heathrow and Manchester.
To find out more go to visitcanberra.com