Want to explore more of Australia’s capital city? Head to the suburbs to see what Belconnen has to offer.
One of the most desirable suburbs in Australia’s capital city, Belconnen has great options for shopping, outdoor activities and culture. Designed as one of Canberra’s satellite centres away from the central CBD, it was built to be self-contained with its own districts for young families and students from the nearby university. Affectionately known as ‘Belco’ by locals, Belconnen boasts a variety of sights, as well as some sporting history and rather distinctive public art.
The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) is a world-class facility where the country’s finest athletes train for international tournaments, World Cups and the Olympics. As well as training Australia’s sporting talent, the AIS is open to the public; go to do a few laps in its swimming pool and you may spot one of your sporting heroes. The institute also offers behind-the-scenes tours and a ‘Sportex’ exhibit, which gives visitors the opportunity to try to beat an Olympic record, race against their friends or test their shooting skills in wheelchair basketball. The permanent exhibition also features Australian sporting memorabilia and a display about the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
When in Belconnen, do as the locals do and take yourself for a walk around Lake Ginninderra on a paved path that leads past cafés, restaurants and through several parks. There are boat ramps for people wanting to take to the water and you may see some stand-up paddle boarders enjoying the lake. Pack a cooler box of food to have a barbecue at one of the lake’s picnic areas, and if you have kids, visit the playgrounds at John Knight Park. The full 7.3-kilometre (4.5-mile) circuit takes approximately 90 minutes to complete and your walk can finish with a trip to the nearby Lighthouse Pub.
This cultural community hub hosts regular exhibitions by local and interstate artists, often putting on collaborative shows around a theme. The multifunctional space also puts on workshops for adults and kids, where you can try your hand at watercolours, oil paints and playing with light and shade. Kids classes include art skills, as well as dance lessons like ‘Fresh Funk’ and ‘Bollywood for Kids’. Expect Belconnen Arts Centre to only get more exciting in the coming years; it’s currently extending to create more exhibition and gallery space, as well as a theatre.
A staple of any Canberra childhood, outdoor water park Big Splash is the place to be in the heat of summer. Whiz down the speed coaster slide at lightning speed, spin around in the twister, or test out your balance by making your way across the slippery inflatable obstacle course without falling in the water. There are nine water slides to choose from, as well as a shallow Splash Zone for young kids and a 50m (164ft) pool for those less inclined to an adrenaline-filled day out.
With over 20 independent stores, Belconnen Fresh Food Markets is a foodie’s paradise, offering a plethora of options to browse. Pick up a local bottle of wine and learn about an unusual beer at Plonk, before smelling the fancy cheese at Deli Cravings, while tasting their cured meats, olives and spices. There are lots of options for the best local fruits and vegetables at the market, as well as a great selection of fresh seafood. Finish a day of shopping with a pastry from Knead Patisserie or if you’re feeling a little hungrier, treat yourself to a roast-duck lunch at Heng Hing Roast Inn.
This nature reserve in the suburb of Hawker is just one of many neighbourhood reserves found dotted across Canberra. There is an easy loop that visitors can follow, but you can also find plenty of smaller trails to explore. Visiting this reserve, you are almost guaranteed to spot kangaroos, as well as possibly spying wallabies, wombats, echidnas and lots of Australian birds. Be cautious of snakes however, especially in warmer weather. Those wanting to explore a little further can follow the bicentennial trail to the north-west to visit the Weetangera Methodist Cemetery, dating back to 1873. The church was demolished in 1955, but there is a stone cairn to mark where it stood. Wandering through the graves you will see the names of the early European settlers of the area, many of whom now have streets named after them in the suburb of Weetangera.
You can’t talk about Belconnen without mentioning the Big Owl. A piece of public art by Bruce Armstrong, this sculpture honours Australia’s largest species of owl, the powerful owl. Affectionately known as ‘The Great Penis Owl of Canberra’ because of its phallic shape, this piece of art has fans all over Australia and its own Facebook fan page. Truly, no trip to Belconnen is complete without a glimpse of Belconnen’s favourite bird.