Red Hill is a part of the Canberra Nature Park system of urban and suburban reserves in the ACT. A map of the Red Hill Nature Park is shown here and a topographic map here. The Red Hill Nature Park comprises 275ha of nationally significant Yellow Box – Red Gum woodland with a very high plant diversity (more than 175 species), and a significant habitat for 12 threatened and 18 regionally uncommon plant, bird, lizard and grasshopper species.
Red Hill, south Canberra’s wooded ridgeline, provides a 360 degree panorama. Spectacular views of Parliament House and other national monuments are framed by the Hill’s Red Gum – Yellow Box woodland. This type of woodland has been extensively cleared elsewhere and is now endangered. Red Hill is one of the few places where this woodland and its wildlife can be experienced today.
The smooth barked Red Gum (Eucalyptus blakleyi) and Yellow Box(Eucalyptus melliodora) which has bark most of the way up the trunk, are the commonest trees on Red Hill. The Red Gum and Yellow Box trees are well spaced to form an open canopy under which flourishes a diverse grassland containing many wildflowers.
Red Hill’s bird population peaks in late Autumn when flocks of small birds including Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis), Weebil (Smicronis brevirostris) and thornbills (Acanthiza pusilla, A. reguloides and A. chrysorrhoa) move through the area. The numerous old, hollow bearing trees provide nesting sites for the Galah (Cacatua galerita)
and Crimson and Eastern Rosellas (Platycercus elegans, P. eximius). Much smaller holes provide nests for the tiny Striated Pardalotes. Their cousins, the Spotted Pardalotes also nest on the hill. Look out for them in the springtime when they fly into their nest holes they have dug into the exposed banks of the drainage gullies.
About 800 Eastern Grey kangaroos live on the hill. During the day groups rest in the shade or shelter of trees and shrubs and move out to graze on the cleared grasslands from late afternoon to early morning.
The ridgeline has resisted erosion as it is composed of hornfels, sedimentary rocks hardened by heat of ancient volcanic activity. Weathering of the hornfels produced the rich red soil after which the hill is named. More…
Silurian volcanic rocks outcrop over about a fifth of Red Hill Nature Reserve. Behind the suburb of Garran, these rocks support a woodland of Scribbly Gum (Eucalyptus rossi), Broad-leaved Peppermint (E. dives)and Brittle Gum (E. mannifera) .
Early photographs and maps of Red Hill show large areas cleared of trees for grazing. At the time of Canberra’s selection as the nation’s capital Red Hill formed a part of the “Duntroon” property. It was subsequently acquired by the fledgling Commonwealth. Walter Burley Griffin’s vision for Canberra included the regeneration of native vegetation on its denuded hills. In accordance with the name, Walter Burley Griffin (Canberra’s architect) instructed, in 1917, that red flowering natives should be planted on Red Hill. Some of these plants remain today. He also called for the cessation of grazing, but this did not happen until 1997. More history…
Despite the history of grazing a diverse native vegetation remains, including rare species. Unfortunately the grazing history and surrounding houses has meant that Red Hill has had a high weed invasion. In the later 1980s weeds covered more than a third of the hill and woody weeds formed massive thickets.
Red Hill lies within the ACT electorate of Kurrajong. The Kurrajong is a distinctive tree which can be found infrequently on Red Hill. A number of small specimens can be seen from the Red Track.
Red Hill Lookout
Red Hill offers spectacular views. The two separate lookouts show contrasting scenes illustrating two key periods in Canberra’s history. The view north-east is across Parliament House and Lake Burley Griffin up Anzac Parade to the ancient volcanic shape of Mt Ainslie. This is the original capital city, as defined by the Griffin plan and interpreted by successive Commonwealth agencies. Griffin proposed a ‘capitol’ building on Capital Hill. Parliament House was built here 75 years later. This building, as well as Old Parliament House and the Australian War Memorial, lie along Griffin’s land axis. If you move closer to the view, you can also see some of the suburbs designed by the Federal Capital Commission between the world wars.
The capital’s functions are marked by prominent buildings, monuments and trees. But for much of the twentieth century this was a place of half-completed dreams, with the Molonglo River dividing the town and a provisional Parliament House surrounded by empty paddocks. Construction workers camped in tents, politicians lived in hotel rooms, and homesick public servants occupied hostels and raw new cottages.
Move south to look west and take in the first phase of metropolitan Canberra after World War Two. Woden-Weston Creek was the location of soldier settlement farms until suburbs were built in the1960s. Woden Town Centre, marked by tall buildings, was the first of the NCDC’s new towns. The ‘spine’ of the landscape plan is Yarralumla Creek, running down the centre of the valley. The suburban districts of Woden and Weston Creek are separated by the ridge in the middle distance which is part of Canberra’s open space network, terminating at the southern end in Mt Taylor.
Red Hill has another attraction: coffee at the café on the summit. Take a break while still enjoying the view.