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Lake Burley Griffin Walk

Lake Burley Griffin Walk

A self guided tour around the central basin of the lake, starting at the National Capital Exhibition and incorporating R. G. Menzies Walk.

Explore the landmarks, special places and memorials along the shores of the central basin of Lake Burley Griffin.

Take time out to visit the national institutions along the way.

Begin your walk at the National Capital Exhibition where you can explore the intriguing story of the city. Yass-Canberra was chosen as the site for the capital on 8 October 1908. An international competition to design the city was held and Walter Burley Griffin's design was announced as the winning entry on 23 May 1912. The proposed city was named as 'Canberra' at the laying of a Commencement Stone on 12†March 1913.

1. Walter Burley Griffin Terrazzo - A mosaic set in the pavement outside the entrance of the National Capital Exhibition of the 1913 amended design by Walter Burley Griffin. Griffin won the competition to design the National Capital in May 1912. Created in 2000 by Australian artist David Humphries, it is set out as a page torn from a book.

2. Lake Burley Griffin - The ornamental lake is at the centre of Walter Burley Griffin's Canberra plan. It consists of three formal water basins (Central, West and East Basins). In order to create Lake Burley Griffin, the Molonglo River was dammed and Scrivener Dam constructed.

Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies officially inaugurated the lake on 17 October 1964.

The lake is nine kilometres long and the lakeshore is 40.5 kilometres in length.

3. R.G. Menzies Walk - Named in acknowledgment of Sir Robert Menzies' crucial contribution to the development of the Nation's Capital, Canberra. During his second term as Prime Minister (1949-66) he committed his government to the task of creating a capital worthy of the nation.

4. & 5. Captain James and Cook Memorial - Comprising the water jet and terrestrial globe, this was constructed to commemorate the bicentenary of Captain James Cook's landing on the east coast of Australia in 1770. Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the Memorial in 1970.

Captain Cook Memorial Globe uses meridians of longitude and parallels of latitude to form an open-cage globe, with landmasses depicted in beaten bas-relief copper. The three routes of Cook's voyages, with explanations of ports of call, are inscribed on the surrounding handrail.

Captain Cook Memorial Jet is a stunning example of hydraulic engineering. The jet has two pumps but usually only one is in operation, sending three tonnes of water into the air at 260 kilometres per hour.

The Memorial Globe and Jet were both designed by the architectural firm Bunning and Madden, which also designed the National Library of Australia, located across the lake.

6. Canadian Flagpole - Officially presented to Australia on 20 November 1957, as a gift from the Canadian Government and the Canadian timber industry. The single spar of Douglas Fir, weighing 7.1 tonnes, was logged from a forest in British Columbia. On Canada Day, 1†July, each year the Canadian flag is flown.

The flagpole is 39 metres tall with three metres in the ground and 36 metres freestanding.

7. Stop and Look

Look across the lake. You can see, starting from your right:

  • the loop of the National Museum of Australia
  • Commonwealth Avenue Bridge
  • Captain Cook Memorial Jet
  • National Library of Australia
  • Questacon (National Science and Technology Centre)
  • International Flag Display
  • National Portrait Gallery
  • Commonwealth Place
  • High Court of Australia
  • National Gallery of Australia
  • Kings Avenue Bridge
  • National Carillon
  • Australian-American Memorial

The Australian-American Memorial is a 73-metre column topped with an 11-metre eagle and sphere. Located in front of Defence Headquarters Russell, this memorial was paid for with donations from the Australian public in thanks for American involvement in the Pacific region during World War II. Russell is at one corner of the National Triangle central to Griffin's design. The location is a key element in Walter Burley Griffin's design.

Detour - Nerang Pool

  • Untitled sculpture by Alan Gauir 1991. This metal flock of birds was one of the prize winning entries in the 1991 Floriade sculpture competition.
  • Seated Lady by Herman Hohuas.
  • Dance of the Secateurs by Bruce Radke 1988
  • Two Figures by Dame Barbara Hepworth 1976.
  • Bicentennial Time Capsule contains items submitted in 1988 by residents of Canberra. There is no official record of the objects, photographs and memoirs in the 1.5 metre glass capsule, which was sealed with argon gas before being buried at this location. The capsule is to be opened in 2088.

8. Citizenship Place - Consisting of a timeline mounted on a metal sculptural wall and inlaid patinated brass letting in the top of the nearby retaining wall. The lettering records the Citizenship Affirmation which can be made by all Australians.

9. R.G. Menzies Statue - Sir Robert Menzies was Australia's longest serving prime minister. This life-sized statue by Peter Corlett, whose other work includes Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop and Simpson and His Donkey 1915 at the Australian War Memorial, depicts Menzies walking along the lake he saw constructed.

10. Commonwealth Park - An integral component of Griffin's design, it began to take shape in the 1960s with official gifts such as the Canadian Flagpole. In 1965, Dame Sylvia Crowe, one of Britain's best-known landscape architects, prepared a master plan for the detailed development of the park. Now an admired urban park, it covers 34.5 hectares. Many concerts, community activities and celebrations are held at Stage 88 and other sites within this park. Floriade, the biggest flower festival in Australia, is held here each spring.

11. Pioneer Women Memorial - This Memorial consists of a plaque, a small stone wall and a bench. It is dedicated to the pioneer women of Australia and their contribution to the growth of the nation.

12. Site of Murray's Bakery - A plaque notes the site of the bakery and grocery store operated by the Murray family, including nine sons who helped deliver bread in the local area. A fire destroyed the premises in November 1923. Nearby is the Trafalgar Oak, honouring the British Navy, and just along the bike path is a plaque honouring Stanley Melbourne Bruce, Prime Minister, whose ashes were scattered over Lake Burley Griffin.

13. Sybil Howy Irving Memorial - Miss Sybil Howy Irving, MBE was an outstanding Australian, prominent in the Girl Guide movement and many other national organisations.

14. A Commemorative Oak - Planted in 1964 by Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, this was the first gift to Commonwealth Park. The seedling was propagated in Canberra from one of 1000 English oak acorns.

15. Gallipoli Reach - Named on Anzac Day 1985 after the battle site in Turkey where Australian and New Zealand forces fought in 1915. In return, Turkey named the landing site at Gallipoli, 'Anzac Cove'. The plaque commemorates the valour of the men of ANZAC and the Turkish defenders, led by General Kemal Ataturk.

Gallipoli Reach comprises the shoreline of Lake Burley Griffin, between Nerang Pool in Commonwealth Park and Aspen Island in Kings Park.

16. Stop and Look

Above Rond Terraces you will see Mount Ainslie, with the Australian War Memorial and ANZAC Parade out of sight below it. Directly across the lake is Capital Hill, site of Parliament House. Griffin anchored his city plan to the landscape with a land axis running through these two and out to Bimberi Peak, the highest mountain in the Brindabella Ranges, and a water axis running from Black Mountain along the length of the lake. These intersect at right angles where you are now. Kings Avenue and Commonwealth Avenue form the two sides of Griffin's National Triangle with Constitution Avenue forming its base.

Across the lake Commonwealth Place, the Museum of Australian Democracy (Old Parliament House) and Parliament House form a vista reminiscent of Marion Griffin's original image of the capitol buildings.

17. National Emergency Services Memorial - Dedicated in 2004 in honour of the thousands of men and women who serve and have served in Australia's emergency management and service organisations. The Memorial provides a place to reflect on those who have been injured or died while carrying out their duties for the benefit of the Australian community.

The raised wall of the Memorial symbolically expresses comfort, warmth and shelter. The three-dimensional frieze of images reflects the diversity of emergency personnel and their experiences.

18. Blundells Cottage - Built in the 1860s as a home for workers on the Duntroon Estate. In just under 100 years only three families occupied this cottage - the Ginns, the Blundells and the Oldfields. George Blundell, whose family occupied the cottage for 60 years, was a bullock driver who delivered the Campbell family's wool to Sydney and returned approximately six weeks later with supplies of flour, sugar, salt, clothes and tools.

Opening times and booking information is displayed on the lakeside gate to the Cottage.

19. HMAS Canberra Memorial - A five-tonne anchor and chain of the type normally carried by a naval cruiser, commemorating the sinking of HMAS Canberra during the Battle of Savo Island in 1942. The Memorial was designed by the ACT Naval Historical Society.

20. Merchant Navy Memorial - Commemorates the contribution of the Merchant Navy during World Wars I and II and is designed to reflect themes associated with the Australian Merchant Navy.

These memorials are located at the lake edge because of their association with water.

21. National Carillon - Located on Aspen Island, the National Carillon was a gift from the British Government to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of the founding of the National Capital on 12 March 1913. The tallest of the three triangular towers reaches 50 metres and the 55 bells range from seven kilograms to six tonnes. This carillon is unique by international standards as it is not surrounded by buildings so the music is carried further, although the best listening locations are within 100 metres of the towers.

Carillon recital times and concerts are displayed in the information kiosk on the island.

22. National Police Memorial - More than 700 Australian police officers have been killed on duty or have died as a result of their duties. A large stone paved area tilts downwards to reflect the uncertain path that police tread in the performance of their duties.

A bronze commemorative wall is covered in plaques, placed at random along its length, to reflect the arbitrary nature of the loss. The plaques record the names of police officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice and many are blank - a reminder that future loss is inevitable.

23. Kings Avenue - Called Federal Avenue on Griffin's plan it was renamed in honour of the monarch. Capital Avenue on Griffin's plan became Constitution Avenue.

24. Sculpture Garden - Over three hectares in size, the garden was designed by Harry Howard and Associates to complement and soften the geometric lines of the National Gallery building. Earthworks and entirely Australian native plantings provide physical and psychological comfort allowing visitors to be guided through a sequence of varying outdoor galleries.

Fujiko Nakaya's Fog Sculpture operates at various times, shrouding the Casuarinas in mist.

Detour - Three Institutions

The National Gallery of Australia has a permanent collection of more than 100 000 artworks across four main collection areas: Australian art, Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander art, Asian art and International art. Situated on a 10-acre site, the National Gallery was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1982. A major extension was opened in 2010, incorporating 11 new Indigenous art galleries, a new entrance foyer and, outside, the Australian Garden and James Turrell's Skyspace sculpture.

The High Court of Australia is the highest court in the Australian judicial system. Edwards, Madigan, Torzillo and Briggs Pty Ltd designed the building, which was opened in 1980. The forecourt and main entrance are approached via a long, paved ceremonial ramp. A†waterfall, designed by Robert Woodward and constructed of South Australian speckled granite, runs the full length of one side of the ramp.

The National Portrait Gallery, holds the nation's portrait collection and displays some 400 portraits of people who have shaped Australia. The building draws inspiration from Canberra's environment and natural light, and links the visitor's experience of the gallery spaces to the Australian landscape.

25. Reconciliation Place - The artworks of Reconciliation Place, to be added to over the years, carry inscriptions and images on various themes and events, enabling individual interpretation and understanding of Australians' shared journey towards reconciliation. The location of Reconciliation Place, in the parliamentary area on the traditional land of the Ngunnawal people (Indigenous people from the Canberra region), establishes the reconciliation process physically and symbolically at the heart of Australia's democratic life and institutions. Reconciliation Place consists of a central circular mound and pathways extending in three directions, linking it to Commonwealth Place to the north, the High Court of Australia and National Gallery of Australia to the east, and Questacon and the National Library of Australia to the west.

26. Commonwealth Place - A community venue in the heart of the Nation's Capital. The grove of white birch trees is planted in
the shape of the Southern Cross - the constellation depicted on the Australian Flag. The walkway along the centre of Commonwealth Place is a 'river' of Victorian blue-stone paving. On the walls of the walkway are satellite images of the Australian continent. Within Commonwealth Place is the Gallery of Australian Design and a restaurant.

Commonwealth Place Forecourt - the timber jetties - reinforces Griffin's Land Axis, acting as a gateway to the parliamentary area.
The 10 metre square pavement artwork by Canadian artist John McEwan was a gift from the Canadian Government to mark Australia's Centenary of Federation in 2001. The design depicts the northern and southern hemisphere's September skies, featuring both the North Star and the Southern Cross, and joined by curved bands representing the common aspirations and values that unite all people.

27. International Flag Display - Almost 100 flags are displayed here, representing the United Nations and those nations that maintain a diplomatic presence in Canberra. It is possibly the largest display in the world and further acknowledges the international aspect of the National Capital.

Detour - Humanities and Science

Questacon shows that science and technology is important to our daily lives but it can also be fun with around 200 mostly interactive exhibits.

At the corner of the Questacon building stands The Astronomer by Tim Wetherell. This sculpture is made from surviving parts of the Yale Columbia Refractor telescope formerly at the Mt Stromlo observatory outside of Canberra, which was destroyed during the 2003 bushfires. On the King Edward Terrace side of the Questacon building are a series of sculptures depicting a variety of sports. These sculptures, designed by Ken Cato, were used for the Melbourne 1996 Olympic bid.

National Library of Australia was designed by Walter Bunning and opened in 1968. Australia's largest research and reference library holds the greatest collection in the world of material relating to Australia and the Australian people. It includes all formats, from books and magazines to pictures, photographs, maps, sheet music, oral history recordings, manuscript papers and ephemera - all stored on more than 250 kilometres of shelving.

A permanent Treasures Gallery was opened in 2011 to display collection items such as Captain Cook's Endeavour Journal.
Knowledge, a sculpture by renowned Australian sculptor, Tom Bass, is located above the entrance to the National Library. The sun-radiating shape in the centre denotes enlightenment. To the right, a branch symbolising the tree of knowledge and life grows out of the sun's rays and to the left, a series of curved forms create an ark, suggesting a place where knowledge is deposited.

Another Tom Bass sculpture, Ethos, is located in Civic Square in the city centre outside the entrance to the ACT Legislative Assembly.

Two Piece Reclining Figure No.9 This cast-bronze sculpture by Henry Moore was installed in 1970. The scale is just over life-size because Moore wanted his works to 'stand out-of-doors and be seen in a natural setting, and figures seen out-of-doors always look slightly smaller than they are'.

Look across the lake to:

  • Commonwealth Avenue Bridge
  • Captain Cook Memorial Jet
  • Regatta Point and the National Capital Exhibition
  • Canadian Flagpole.

29. Peace Park - Nestled between a grove of trees and bushes, this park was commissioned by the National Consultative Committee on Peace and Disarmament, during the 1986 United Nations Year of Peace. It is a lasting symbol of Australia's commitment to peace and provides a place for contemplation.

An International Tree of Peace (a Bunya pine, Araucaria bidwillii) was planted in the park as part of the Centenary of Federation celebrations on 12 March 2001. Many of the heads of diplomatic missions based in Canberra aided its planting by placing around the tree small samples of soil from their respective countries.

30. Australians of the Year Walk - This is a permanent record of those Australians selected as Australian of the Year, Senior Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the Year and Local Hero. As a symbol of national aspirations and achievement, it is fitting that the Australians of the Year Walk is located in the National Capital. Incorporated in the pathway are five metal strips, forming the five stave lines to a music score. The plinths represent the notes to the music score of Advance Australia Fair, which can be read from west to east.

31. Commonwealth Avenue - Bridge Opened in November 1963, before the lake was filled, the bridge was called the 'finest building in the National Capital' by Sir Robert Menzies. Sewer mains were cleverly incorporated into the superstructure and the south-east decorative pylon is actually a vent.

When London's Waterloo Bridge was demolished in 1936 some of the large, flat stones from it were donated to the Australian Government. These are now displayed under the bridge, on the northern shore.

32. Japanese Cherry trees - These trees were presented by the Japanese Government when their Prime Minister visited in 1980. Nara was the ancient capital of Japan and is one of Canberra's sister cities.