Canberra is a museum mecca. The Australian War Memorial, National Museum of Australia, the Royal Australian Mint, Museum of Australian Democracy and endless galleries will keep your brain active, mind boggled AND locked inside!
It’s time to get outside into the fresh air and explore Canberra on two wheels. A ride around Lake Burley Griffin, the centrepiece of Canberra, is just the ticket.
Over the years, I have honed the art of coming up with ‘bright ideas’ and the implications or consequences of said ideas only dawn on me much later.
‘Let’s ride around Lake Burley Griffin…Hmmm, I haven’t actually been on my bike for about three years…this may not be as easy or as enjoyable as I first thought’.
Onwards and upwards. Don’t let a little lack of fitness or form dampen the enthusiasm!
Lake Burley Griffin is a manmade lake plopped right in the middle of our national capital, Canberra. An international competition was held in 1912 and the designs for Canberra were drafted by the winning architect, American-born Walter Burley Griffin.
True to form, the whole planning process was plagued by bureaucracy and political shenanigans. Construction of the lake didn’t start until 1960 and finally filled with water in 1964. Only in Canberra does it take 48 years to dig a hole.
Thankfully the tortuous design and construction process maximised the live-ability of the city and encouraged residents to move about on foot and by bike, including fabulous paths circling the whole lake.
Canberra is super bike-friendly with endless bike-only paths on the roadsides and also connecting many of the suburbs right down to the Lake. It would be very easy to ride from your accommodation and enjoy a day on the bike, exploring all parts of Canberra.
Here are the nuts and bolts of riding around Lake Burley Griffen…
Lake Burley Griffen’s walking and cycling paths are divided into three loops:
- Western Loop: 16km
- Central Loop: 4.9km
- Eastern Loop: 9km
This means that you don’t have to ride the whole circumference if you don’t feel like it.
- We decided to ride all three loops and it took us a leisurely 2hrs + 15minutes with plenty of stops to enjoy the views.
- We rode on a Saturday morning and it was busy! Not only cyclists making the most of the paths, but also endless joggers plodding along in questionable lycra and walkers doing more talking than walking.
- Riding in July, it was a pretty cool start although we quickly warmed up. If you ride this path in Summer, I recommend you wear plenty of sun protection as much of the path is very exposed.
- Canberra loves to charge for parking by the hour! This can really add up when you visit for a couple of days (we would have spent nearly $50 on parking in less than 24hrs).
- A good, free parking spot, and place to start your ride, is just East of the Canberra Yacht Club at the Lotus Bay carpark. As you get close to the Club (only 200-300m from the entrance) you will notice a large, cleared dirt area on both sides of the road. Locals were launching their kayaks there for a morning paddle on the Lake and it was easy to find somewhere to park in amongst the cars and boat trailers.
- The cycling surface is varied and generally in good, smooth condition.
- The path varies from dirt, tar/asphalt, cement and timber boardwalks.
- The even surface under tyre means it is suitable for all sorts of riders and it was wonderful to see so many families, including very young children, out on their bikes.
- The Western Loop has a few small hills with a couple of stiff climbs, while the Central and Eastern loops are mostly flat.
- Note: in many sections of the path there are no fences or barriers between you and the water, so you need to pay attention to ensure you don’t end up in the drink! Something I had to be very conscious of as I rubber-necked about.
- The path is clearly waymarked with dedicated signage which includes a map and some background information on points of interest you are riding past.
- A map can be downloaded from the Canberra tourism website. Alternatively, simply keep the water on your right hand side (clockwise direction) or vice versa, and you can’t go too far wrong.
Who Should Ride:
- As explained above, this path is for everyone. It is so safe and pleasant to ride (or walk) at a safe distance from cars. You do have to pay attention as you cross roads and also ride defensively to avoid numerous distracted pedestrians. Be extra conscious in the Central Loop area as it is the main spot where tourists gather.
- Bird lovers will enjoy the quieter Western and Eastern loops with all sorts of water birds, ducks, grebes, swans, cockatoos, magpies and choughs. These birds happily wander all over the path, so you need to keep at least one eye on the path to avoid them.
- For international visitors, the kangaroos lazing about in the bush adjacent to the path would also be a treat.
It was so nice to get outside into the fresh air after so many museums and cerebral input. I was surprised at how the legs and backside held up after so little bike exposure, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t pleased to roll around the corner and see our car waiting for us.
As we loaded up the bikes and got back into the car I said, “What’s that on the windscreen?”, a few of the most delicate sprinkles and then down came the bucketing rain. We just missed it after it had threatened all morning. It was our lucky day.
Get your old bike out of the shed and dust it off. Cycling is a fabulous way to experience parts of Canberra you would miss from inside a car.
Where is your favourite urban bike ride?
What: We stayed at the Quest City Walk right in the heart of Canberra. The location was perfect with easy walking distance to lots of restaurants and shops. We booked via AirBnB and at $139, it was very good value. (As an Airbnb Associate, I earn a small commission when you book through this link and it doesn’t cost you anything extra.)
Where: Lake Burley Griffin is located in the centre of Canberra. As the saying goes, can’t miss it! To read more about the history of the Lake check out the dedicated lake website.
When: Whenever the urge takes you click on the cleats and pull on the nicks.
Why: Fresh air, exercise and hopefully coffee and cake to follow!
How: Bring your bike or bike hire can be arranged through a number of companies, including through the Canberra and Region Visitors Centre. Canberra has those fantastic public buses with racks to transport bikes so you could bus one way and then ride back.
Who: Cyclists, joggers, walkers, strollers and twitchers.
Related Posts: Freewheel down memory lane with a description of a cycle adventure through parts of Paris and northern France. Check out my ride here.
Related Blogs: I am definitely not the first to ride around the Lake. Check out what The Rambling Wombat has to say. How a wombat can ride a bicycle I will never know. I wouldn’t have thought his legs would be long enough.
Read About It: For 8 840km worth of bike rides in Australia, grab a copy of Lonely Planet’s Cycling Australia guidebook. Available from Book Depository for AUD$36.99.
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