The Namadgi national park is one of the best kept secrets of the ACT. And that’s strange considering Canberra is our “Bush Capital”.

 AT Reader Mark Jekabsons is an ecologist with ACT Parks, Conservation and Lands, so places like Namadgi National Park are basically extensions of his office. he invites Australian travellers to visit Canberra – then leave as soon as possible.

Come to Canberra. Then Leave. No, I don’t mean go home. I mean leave the city. By now you’ve all seen Parliament House, the War Memorial and the National Gallery. All worth seeing, but Canberra is called the Bush Capital for a reason. There are ample opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy the natural environment.

The city itself contains a patchwork of bushland that makes up Canberra Nature Park. On its edge are the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and Murrumbidgee River Corridor. The new Stromlo Forest Park provides facilities for runners and cyclists and will host the 2009 Mountain Bike World Champs. But at 105,000 hectares, or nearly half of the ACT, Namadgi National Park is really the place to go for those who want to leave the city behind.

Part of the Australian Alps National Park system, much of the flora and fauna in Namadgi is found only in alpine environments. Woodlands are filled with the aroma of broad-leaved peppermints, snow gums stand as sculptures on the higher ground and in the wet gullies, magnificent alpine ash are recovering from the devastating 2003 bushfires. You’ll certainly get to see numerous eastern grey kangaroos and crimson rosellas. Listen carefully and you might hear a lyrebird or dingo calling. With a bit of searching, a mountain katydid might try and warn you off with its brilliant colours. Other inhabitants, such as the eastern pygmy possum, are seldom seen.

There are a number of access points to Namadgi, with the two main ones being Mt Franklin Rd to the west and Boboyan Rd heading south from Canberra. Within an hour’s drive of Canberra are several short walks, including ones to Square Rock, Nursery Swamp and Shanahan’s Mountain.

Or perhaps try Booroomba Rocks on a sunny day; the views from atop the 120m cliffs are spectacular, and the 2km round trip has to be one of the best value-for-effort walks in Australia.

For those willing to expend more energy, true wilderness bushwalking isn’t far beyond. The Bimberi Wilderness protects the headwaters of the Cotter River – the source of Canberra’s drinking water.

Camping is limited in this section of Namadgi, so for those venturing here the sense of intense isolation is guaranteed.

If you aren’t trekking into the heart of the wilderness, you can get views across this rugged landscape from Yerrabi Walking track or by driving to the summit of My Ginini.

Car-based camping, ideal for families, is available at Mt Clear, Orroral and beside the old Space Tracking Station at Honeysuckle.

There are also opportunities for mountain biking on fire trails, horse riding on the National Bicentennial Trail, rock climbing, abseiling and – at certain times of the year – snow play.

Visit Orroral Valley to see the homestead built by some of the first European settlers to the area, or discover sites used by the original inhabitants, the Ngunawal people, who lived here during the last ice age.

Still not sure where to start? Rangers regularly lead walks and other activities within the park.

Grab some more ideas and information from the Canberra Visitors Centre on the way into town or at Namadgi Visitors Centre on the way out. Then go see the bush around the Bush Capital.

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