Autumn in Canberra is synonymous with gorgeous mild days filled with a spectacular display of colour, so what better way to soak up the season than at the National Arboretum. This ecological site is home to one of the world’s largest collections of rare, endangered and significant trees with 44,000 species and nearly 100 living forests peppered across its grounds, not to mention a bonsai collection, themed gardens, outdoor sculptures and some of the most breathtaking views in the territory.
Here’s how to make the most of this local icon in autumn.
GET AMONGST NATURE
Nature-lovers are spoiled for choice at the arboretum with 250 hectares of undulating landscape to explore and views as far as the eye can see. This outdoor sanctuary is full of great picnic spots for a warm autumn day, so be sure to visit the Himalayan Cedar Forest barbeque area or head to the Dairy Farmers Hill lookout, which offers 360-degree views over the capital. If you prefer something a little more active, then relish in more than 20 km of multi-use tracks and trails that pass by forests, gardens, wildflowers and forest sculptures – they’re perfect for hiking, jogging, mountain biking or simply taking a stroll with your four-legged friend.
FOREST SCULPTURE GALLERY
This autumn, art lovers will be delighted by the launch of the new Forest Sculpture Gallery, a non-profit contemporary art trail that will wind through the arboretum’s trees and forests. The outdoor space will showcase contemporary and twentieth century sculptures and will host temporary exhibitions and sculpture festivals. The gallery recently launched in February, so don’t delay and go take a stroll along the immersive trail.
FUN FOR THE KIDS
Next to the arboretum’s award-winning, architecturally-designed Village Centre, which houses an information hub, restaurant, cafe and gift shop, is another award-winning architectural delight – the children’s POD Playground. This interactive outdoor space will appeal to children of all ages with features such as giant acorn treehouses, nest swings, banksia seed pods and musicmaking instruments. Its thoughtful design is inspired by the idea of seeds as the beginning of new life in the forest.
"If you prefer something a little more active, then relish in more than 20 km of multi-use tracks and trails that pass by forests, gardens, wildflowers and forest sculptures"
NATIONAL BONSAI AND PENJING COLLECTION
The arboretum’s permanent bonsai collection features 120 diverse exhibits with approximately 75 trees on display at any onetime. Here you’ll find a variety of traditional and modern bonsai styles, including Australian native species including Banksiaserrata and Eucalyptus camaldulensis. Over three days from the 24 March, the arboretum will host the Bonsai Reshaped exhibition where renowned artists will share their experiences, influences and perspectives around the art of bonsai. Expect a range of talks and workshops and a market where you can pick up everything you need to start or add to your own bonsai collection. If you’re after a fun night out, then don’t miss the Bonsai Reshaped – Bonsai After Dark event on 24 March, a celebration of the beauty and artistry of bonsai as the sun goes down. Tickets include a night of demonstrations, tours, an auction, a drink on arrival plus canapes.
GUIDED WALKS AND TOURS
If you’re interested in the history, purpose and stories behind the arboretum, then opt for one of the guided walks or bus tours that are on offer. Choose one of the guided activities that showcase the site’s commitment to conservation, education, research and recreation, from the free20-minute Welcome Walk, the 40-minuteDiscovery Tour by bus, the one-hour Forest Walk, or the themed Long Forest Walk for something a little more in depth. Whether on your own or in a group, regardless of age or ability there will be something to pique your interest.