Canberra – Australia’s capital

The Australian Capital Territory (A.C.T.) is very small, in our big island, with a total area of less than 3000 sqkm, and quite a distance from South Australia, but it was our destination at the end of 2019.


We drove there in three stages, stopping at roadside camps and arriving before lunch on the third day. This post will mostly cover the travel and stops there, so if you want to know more about Canberra and what to do there, try Canberra#2.

As we live in the north, the quickest way was through Mildura and we had a lunchtime rest at Lake Cullulleraine. Thankfully there was shade, as the temp was 43C and the water provided an illusion of relief, in the absence of any breeze.

We passed Mildura and made our way through dust clouds to our evening stop at Lake Benanee in New South Wales. This was very early in the bushfire season that hit Australia last year, and it was hot and dry. We were the only ones at the campsite, which was such a change from when we have stayed here before, and as we sweltered in the heat, looking longingly to the natural lake, some locals pulled up, took their water gear to the edge and walked right in. We were only moments behind.

This is a lovely free campsite with a toilet block and, although it is not far from the highway, we have never found it to be too noisy at night. We were off early and made a stop at Hay. Notorious for the long stretches of unbroken uniformity leading to and from Hay, it now has controversial cotton paddocks and tufts of the stuff stuck to roadside plants and fences, alike. The entry and exit are still quite straight for long periods.

Hay is a very interesting town if you turn into the main street. There is a very good park where children can play and adults stretch their legs, some fascinating craft shops, cafes and the River Murray.

says it all.

There followed a lot of highway and some missed stops, using wiki camps and the RAA book of campsites and rest areas, before we settled on Bookham. It was a neat area, with very good toilets, across from St Columba’s church and near a funky bakery/cafe, but very close to the main highway. At night, there was a constant roar of truck engines and flash of lights, and we had the van open due to the heat but by now we were close enough to the fires that smoke drifted in and we couldn’t sleep with all the windows open. Choose a quieter spot if you can.

We reached Cotter Campground in the A.C.T. by mid-morning and there were plenty of spots from which to choose. We pulled up alongside the Cotter River and a BBQ pit and this is a fabulous site. Fees are $15 per adult per night, $12 for seniors and $10 for concession/children. It is the most serviced park in the A.C.T. and the amenities were great, but beware the 3 minute timer on the showers. They don’t turn off earlier, either. Wood is available to buy from the rangers, who visited every day, if you don’t bring your own. It is a National Park, so you can’t cut down trees or break off branches.

I’ll talk more about some of the highlights of the campsite in another post, but at this point we drove into Canberra central to get some supplies. It was a 15 minute drive, one way.

Our son and his wife drove out from Canberra to share a BBQ tea and we made our plans for the upcoming days.

flowering gum

There are so many varieties of gum, it’s hard to find which one is which, but this species is prolific in northern South Australia. Sometimes you don’t know they are flowering until you hear the loud excitement of the lorikeets, desperately drawing nectar from them.

They are my entry for Cee’s FOTD. To see more flowers for today, go here.

Grampians #3

On our last day in the Grampians, we decided to walk into Halls Gap from the caravan park, which was an easy 4 kms along wide, picturesque, bitumised paths, with flowers, emus, kangaroos and birdlife to divert us.

We reached Halls Gap and stopped by Stony Creek to have a coffee and plan our next stage – the walk to Venus Baths. This was just across the road and there is plenty of signage and available maps so that we found the trail easily.

This is an easy walk, and certainly suitable for a wheelchair much of the way, if not all. The way we came back was narrower, leading to the Botanic Garden, but it could also be managed.

a good track leads in

The views of the creek and the healthy foliage provide shade, wildlife and pleasant scenery on the way to Venus Baths.

We reached the baths quickly and as it was a warm day, many people were cooling their feet and some children had stripped off and were paddling in the water. It was quite brown, which can be due to recent rain or minerals leaching from the ground and rocks.

In Winter, or after heavy rain, this area would be full of rushing water, but it has been known as a ‘bath’ for at least 170 years, to non-indigenous people. The area has fascinated Europeans and later settlers, due to the unusual rock formations caused by the erosion of the sandstone.

After the short return, we could choose to head for the town or the Botanical Gardens. We chose the latter and had a very manageable walk around native plants, sculptures and picnic areas.

well-labelled plants
Plenty of shaded seating

For the afternoon, we decided to try one of the 4WD tracks – not that we have much experience with these. It was easy to accept the recommendation from the tourist desk we had visited the other day, and chooseone that passed Boroka Lookout, as it was the only main one we had not done. The drive was varied and easy (watch those flood gutters) and the lookout was spectacular.

Views to Halls Gap and Lake Bellfield

We heard a ranger telling someone that there is a pipeline going from the East Grampians, under Lake Bellfield and out the other side, build in the 1800s, to provide water for the farmland around. I could hardly believe it.

So ended our brief but busy visit to the Grampians, and low-hanging clouds promised much-needed rain as we departed.