Canberra Glassworks, 11 Wentworth Ave., Kingston (tel. 02/6260 7005; www.canberraglassworks.com), one of the city's best contemporary glass art galleries and studio spaces, offers "off the street" glass-making classes on weekends. Blow your own paperweight, make a fused glass tile, or create some beautiful glass beads. Each class is 20 minutes and no experience is necessary, although bookings are. Your finished artwork is mailed home to you after it has been fired or cooled. Admission is free; classes are A$40 to A$70. It's open Wednesday to Sunday 10am to 4pm; classes on weekends only.
Into the Bush Capital
The Australian National Botanic Gardens, Clunies Ross Street, Acton (tel. 02/6250 9540), are a must-see for anyone with a passing interest in Australian native plants. The 51-hectare (126-acre) gardens on the lower slopes of Black Mountain contain more than 600 species of eucalyptus, a rainforest, a Tasmanian alpine garden, and walking trails. Free guided tours depart from the visitor center at 11am and 2pm each day. The gardens are open daily from 8:30am to 5pm (extended in Jan to 6pm weekdays and 8pm weekends). The visitor center is open daily from 9am to 4:30pm.
Namadgi is the Aboriginal word for the rugged mountains southwest of Canberra, and Namadgi National Park, at 105,900 hectares (261,684 acres), makes up more than half of the Australian Capital Territory. Bimberi Peak (1,911m/6,270 ft.) is the park's highest feature and is only 318m (1,043 ft.) lower than Mount Kosciuszko, Australia's highest mountain. There is a network of public roads within the park that pass through the majestic mountain country, but the unsealed roads are narrow and can be slippery when wet or frosty. (Watch out for kangaroos, too.) Much of Namadgi's beauty, however, lies beyond its main roads and picnic areas. There are 170km (106 miles) of marked walking trails in the park, but you will need to be well prepared if you are going to walk into the more remote areas. Before you depart, make sure you sign one of the bushwalking registers located at the visitor center and elsewhere in the park. The Namadgi Visitors Centre, on the Nass/Boboyan Road, 3km (1 3/4 miles) south of the township of Tharwa (tel. 02/6207 2900), has maps and information on walking trails.
Another great place to see some Australian wildlife is at the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, a 40-minute drive from the city center along Tourist Drive 5. There are walking trails, ranger-guided activities, picnic facilities, and prolific wildlife, including koalas and the endangered brush-tailed rock wallaby. The surrounding mountains are of huge cultural significance to Aboriginal people; Tidbinbilla is derived from the Aboriginal word jedbinbilla, a place where "boys were made men." There are lots of Aboriginal sites in the reserve, including the 21,000-year-old Birrigai Rock Shelter. The new elevated boardwalk across the terrain protects the wetlands and is well worth taking, especially if you like bird-watching. Bush-bird feeding time is 2:30pm daily.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.