8 Ways to Enjoy Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin
Lake Burley Griffin is the centrepiece of Canberra. You can experience it from the water and row, sail, kayak, cruise or stand-up paddleboard, or see it from the shore and fish, walk, run, cycle or rollerblade beside it. Those seeking a more leisurely experience can simply picnic and take in the view of surrounding parks and gardens.
About the Lake
Lake Burley Griffin is an artificial lake that was created in 1963 after the Molonglo River, which ran between the city centre and Parliamentary Triangle, was damned.
It’s named after Walter Burley Griffin, the American architect who won the competition to design the city of Canberra. Griffin designed the lake so that it lined up with natural landmarks in the area.
Located approximately in the middle of the Capital, numerous institutions, such as the National Gallery, National Museum, National Library, the High Court and the Australian National University have been built on Lake Burley Griffin’s shores. Parliament House is also just a short distance away.
The lake is 11km long and 1.2 km wide at its widest point. Relatively shallow, it’s maximum depth is 17.6 metres and the average depth is just 4 metres. There are also six islands in the lake.
Best ways to explore the lake
One of the best ways to experience the Lake is to walk around it. You can do this with the Lake Burley Griffin Central Loop, also known as the “Bridge to Bridge” walk. You can start anywhere within the loop, however, a good place to park is near the National Library of Australia, close to the Elixer coffee outlet. This will take you past the Australians of the Year Walk where you can read the plaques of every recipient of the award since 1960.
There are several cycling paths that twist and turn the perimeter of the Lake. Our favourite is the Eastern Loop, a 9km round trip. Starting at the Kings Avenue Bridge, the loop passes parks, restaurants, cafes, wetlands, views, local streets and bridges. Those feeling up to it can extend to track by adding on the Lake Burley Griffin Central Loop, or they can swap the track out for the Western Loop, a 16km round trip. You can find out more about the cycle loops here.
The parklands around the lake are perfect for a relaxing stroll. Lennox Gardens, Nara Peace Park and the Canberra Beijing Gardens can all be found on the opposite side of Commonwealth Bridge. These gardens are full of traditional tree plantings, sculptures and scenic vistas. There are also BBQs if you’d like to settle in for a picnic. For something a bit different, check out Nara Peace Park in October when it’s transformed for the Canberra Nara Festival.
The Southern Cross Yacht Club is a great place for dining with a view, but it’s also where you can pick up a sightseeing cruise. Showing off Canberra and its monuments, a Southern Cross Cruise is complete with informative commentary and an experienced crew. See monuments, museums, political battlegrounds all while learning about the history of the lake.
Blundell’s Cottage is just one of the many historical buildings found on the lake’s edge. Built in the 1860s to house local property owner Duntroon’s head ploughman, it was originally located near the Molonglo River.
Prefer the outdoors? Explore the Jerrabomberra Wetlands at the eastern end of the lake.
Paddle or Row
Pay a visit to The Paddle Hub, the lake’s stand-up paddleboard and kayak rental service. The Paddle Hub offers a unique way to have fun on Canberra’s iconic lake and can be found at the YMCA Aquatic Recreation Centre in Yarralumla Bay.
Most people are surprised to hear that Lake Burley Griffin is a great place to fish. Over a million fish have been stocked in the lake since the 1980s and subsequent stockings of golden perch and Murray cod have lived on. Golden perch is the biggest fish in the lake. One of the best areas to fish is around Black Mountain Peninsula, where the water is deep and the food is plentiful.
The lake is home to a ton of cafes and restaurants that overlook the water. The Bookplate Cafe is a favourite, offering a lovely alfresco area and spectacular floor to ceiling stained glass windows. The Deck at Regatta Point offers what could be the most extensive views due to its expansive outdoor dining area.
Make a day of it
If you prefer to pack your own food, stop in at Marketplace Gungahlin on your way to the lake. With Woolworths, Bakers Delight, Mani Asian Supermarket and takeaway options from Mr Sushi, Oscy’s Burgers, Sandwiches & Wraps and Subway, you can stock up on everything you need for a great feed. Grab a picnic rug from Kmart, some books to read with the kids from Book Face and you’re all set for a great day at the lake.