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Imagine possum skins lining this rock shelter, providing warmth and comfort to the Aboriginal people who used the area for ceremony. Below, the images show the Birrigai Time Trail, which includes another rock shelter (at the right). Facilities at Tidbinbilla include an adventure playground, visitors centre, interpretive signage and great views.

How to get there

From the Cotter Reserve continue south on Paddys River Road.

From the Visitors Centre return to Commonwealth Avenue south, crossing Commonwealth Bridge, around Parliament House then take the left turn after the Royal Australian Mint exit onto the Cotter Road overpass.

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Why is this interesting?

Tidbinbilla's excellent visitors centre introduces you to the reserve and several walks, which take you to areas rich in Aboriginal history, including the Birrigai and Hanging Rock Shelters. Tidbinbilla has recorded the highest density of Aboriginal artefacts found in the ACT.

Tidbinbilla is situated in a beautiful valley nestled between the Tidbinbilla and Gibraltar Ranges, and forms part of the National Heritage listed Australian Alps. These mountains hold a spiritual significance to Aboriginal people. The name for Tidbinbilla is derived from the Aboriginal word 'Jedbinbilla’ which means 'a place where boys were made men'.

'When the boys were about seventeen to twenty years of age, and a sufficient number of them available, say five or six, then all the men together left with the boys for Jedbenbilla Mountain, the sacred space so to speak, sanctified for that purpose. It was a very solemn affair and great secrecy observed. I never heard what the actual rites were, but the boys returned fully made men, with one tooth knocked out, then all proceeded to Kamberra for the great feast.'

William Davis Wright, Canberra, 1923

The Tidbinbilla Valley visibly reflects the 160 year European history of the area. Farmland, pioneers' rammed earth houses or remnants from activities of the early occupants are scattered throughout the valley. Visitors can explore these sites along the Birrigai Time Trail or on the Church Rock Heritage Loop.

The Sanctuary offers fabulous nature based experiences and an insight into the natural world. A wetlands ecosystem, surrounded by bushland and protected by a predator-proof fence provides sanctuary for a range of native animals in a natural setting. Stroll along a wheelchair accessible pathway that meanders through a series of interconnected habitats. Linger at the lookouts and get below water level keeping your feet dry. Search for platypus from the boardwalks, observe the resident and migratory bird life, explore granite outcrops or get up close to reptiles. Ranger guided activities and volunteer interpreters are available on weekends, public holidays and school holidays.