"A Magic World full of staring Wildlife" Tidbinbilla Range by Kakapo2

Tidbinbilla Range Travel Guide: 27 reviews and 97 photos

Like so many things in Australia my discovery of the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve started with a koala. To get a better idea you must imagine it like this: A koala - live or from a picture - stares at me, and my heart melts away in the same moment.

This koala stared from a brochure of Environment ACT I had found on the stand with a kilo of other brochures at the reception of my motel. Tid-bin-billa. I immediately started to learn the name by heart. I had to get there and have a chat with this koala.

The name Tidbinbilla is derived from the Aboriginal word "Jedbinbilla" - a place where "boys were made men". The mountains that surround Tidbinbilla are a place of spiritual significance to Aboriginal people. Nowhere in the ACT you will find more artefacts than at Tidbinbilla where you can see some prehistoric rock shelters. The most important sites are Birrigai Rock Shelter (which dates back 21,000 years and is a short walk right from the Visitor Centre), Bogong Cave and Tidbinbilla Mountain.

But, as you can guess from my little koala story, the main purpose of the trip was to watch Australian wildlife in the wild. Kangaroos, koalas, emus and all kinds of birds. We saw a lot of some species - for example kangaroos, emus, and flocks of parrots. We spotted a few of other species - some ibisses and two brush-tailed rock-wallabies. And none of others - no possums, no wombats, no echidnas and no platypus which all live there. But no wonder, most are nocturnal.

Oh yes, and we met THE koala. A poor little devil named Lucky. This koala girl was the only koala in captivity that survived the devastating bush fires in 2003. She was more dead than alive when they found her several days after the fires. She spent several months in intensive care at the National Zoo and got her own enclosure after recovery. Her scars are the reminder of the horror she has gone through, but also evidence of a little miracle.

Although there are some enclosures in the Tidbinbilla Reserve, as for Lucky and the brush-tailed rock-wallabies (this in fact is a breeding programme for this endangered species) - do not think Tidbinbilla is a kind of zoo. It is just a protected area, like any other National Park in the world, so plants and wildlife can thrive. That is the reason why there is no guarantee that you will see or meet this or that kind of animals. You must just be lucky - and the more you walk, the higher the chance to have some enchanting encounters.

As the valley includes wetlands, grasslands, dry forests, wet forests and sub-alpine areas, you will find a big array of plants as well. The most outstanding plants surely are the grass trees which you can enjoy best on the Xanthorrhoea Loop Trail.

While driving or bicycling on the sealed roads of the reserve and walking on the trails you should never forget that you are in a protected area. Camping, fishing, horse riding, car rallies, off-road 4WD activities and trail bike riding are forbidden activities. And, of course, you have to leave your dogs, cats and other pets at home. Only pet toys like my bear are allowed ;-)

The Northern Part of the Australian Alps

Nestled between the Tidbinbilla and Gibraltar Ranges, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is a 40 minute drive from Canberra city centre. Tidbinbilla forms - together with Namadgi National Park - the northern part of the Australian Alps. Mt. Tidbinbilla is 1615m high, Tidbinbilla Peak 1561m and John's Peak 1440m. They form the spectacular backdrop when you look over the valley from the Xanthorrhoea Loop and Gibraltar Trail.

The Reserve was set aside as a wildlife sanctuary in 1936, and it covers 5500 hectares.

To profit most of the day you should make the excursion as a round-trip. This is easy as the #5 highway forms a loop, starting south of Canberra. First you have to head towards the Botanic Gardens/Woden but then turn right onto Cotter Road, towards Cotter Dam. After that, you cannot miss Tidbinbilla.

Next, get a an info sheet at the Visitor Centre. This includes a map of the reserve with all the attractions and walks that are possible, ranging from easy to challenging, the shortest one being 15 minutes return, the longest and steepest one (Camel Back Trail) 6 hours return. So you have to make your choices.

Close Encounters

It was amazing how close we could get to the animals. The photos you see on this page and in the tips were taken with a small digital camera, so no big lens, no nothing. I had no chance to zoom them in. They just did not bother too much meeting humans.

The funniest encounters were always with the kangaroos, as you do not know who stares more: you or the kangaroos. You stare at them, they stare at you. And the jogging emus... Breast forward, neck back, thighs high. I just love it! It is Australia at its best.

When a professional photographer saw my kangaroo and emu pictures at the hockey tournament, taken by a camera with such limited possibilities, he nearly jumped from joy and decided to drive to Tidbinbilla after the tournament. With his mega zoom, of course ;-)

You can download the brochures of Tidbinbilla including a rough travel map from Canberra and the map of the park with all the walks from this website.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:A wonderful and remote place so close to the city
  • Cons:Well, more koalas could have shown up LOL
  • In a nutshell:A magic place to fall in love with
  • Last visit to Tidbinbilla Range: Dec 2005
  • Intro Updated Jul 22, 2007
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Reviews (13)

Comments (8)

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    Jan 29, 2012 at 11:09 AM

    Sounds like a real haven for the animals and maybe get some treats for posing for tourists. Your discussion is well done

  • globetrott's Profile Photo
    Jun 23, 2011 at 4:37 PM

    What an interesting place to visit and see the local wildlife ! I will also prefer to get in contact with the larger types and keep the smaller ones away by the Bush Fly Fan !

  • Yaqui's Profile Photo
    Nov 2, 2009 at 9:10 PM

    The Kangaroos are absolutely delightful! Love all the lovely wildlife. Those flys are amazing! I guess I would rather have them on my backpack then on me..lol! Excellent page Sissi!

  • lynnehamman's Profile Photo
    Mar 5, 2009 at 4:09 PM

    This page, with its excellent tips and photos, has given me an idea of where to go over Easter break ! Thanks

  • victorwkf's Profile Photo
    Jul 5, 2008 at 9:43 AM

    I was at Tidbinbilla in 2002 and really enjoyed my trip there, thanks a lot for bringing back the good memories of this wonderful place :)

  • tiabunna's Profile Photo
    Apr 16, 2008 at 1:10 AM

    Ah yes, a marvellous place - must try to persuade more visitors to make this OTBP visit. The "great Aussie wave" is the traditional way to deter flies - but repellent is better!

  • christine.j's Profile Photo
    Jul 28, 2007 at 3:28 AM

    I would love to go on a walk there! But I guess I would take a beekeeper's hat with me!!

  • Trekki's Profile Photo
    Jul 22, 2007 at 3:46 AM

    Fantastic read, Sissi :-) Haha, Skippy the bush cangaroo - I loved it as a kid :-) They look so cute and I might laugh all the times :-) But these bush flies... oh my, I like that picture with the thousands. And smart move with the fan :-))


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