Most Canberrans know City Hill, not by name, but rather as mound or, less fetchingly, a carbuncle, on the landscape that you have to drive around at the lower end of Northbourne Avenue, before crossing Lake Burley Griffin via Commonwealth Bridge.
Most tourists don’t notice it at all and given that it is essentially a traffic island few risk life and limb to weave their way through the traffic to visit it.
Rather ironically, given the difficulty in accessing it, City Hill is the symbolic point of gathering for the local population and it was here that on 13 February 1954 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, was welcomed to the City by its people. I suspect Her Majesty did not have to hitch up her frock and dart between vehicles to get to City Hill.
In 2014 the Canberra Centenary Column was erected on the east side of City Hill. It was primarily to see the column that I finally got around to visiting it – see my separate review on the Canberra Centenary Column.
If you have read other reviews on this page you will already know that Canberra is a planned city, designed by American architect, Walter Burley Griffin. City Hill is one of the points of Griffin’s Parliamentary Triangle – the other two being Capital Hill, on which Parliament sits today, and the Department of Defence complex at Russell.
Today, City Hill is a small park which, having made my way there to see the Centenary Column, I decided to have a look around in its own right. While I found it a little unkempt (nothing someone on a ride-on lawn mower couldn’t fix) the park sports a nice collection of Roman cypresses and Monterey pines, laid out in perfect symmetry, like everything else in Griffin’s original city design. On the centre of City Hill is a flagpole on which the Australian Capital Territory flag has flown since 1989, when the territory became self-governing. Prior to 1989 the city was run by the Commonwealth Government.
While this is all pleasant enough the highlight of my visit was the wonderful views up Northbourne Avenue, to the north, and across Commonwealth Bridge towards Parliament House, to the south. These views give an entirely different perspective to the more traditional and better known views from Mt Ainslie, Red Hill, etc and are views very few of the city’s residents will have seen, despite City Hill being just a few hundred metres walk from the City centre and it being surrounded by car-parks, used by locals on a daily basis.
Apparently, though I didn’t notice any, City Hill also sports a small variety of mushrooms, which can be found growing under the pine trees. I don’t know if these mushrooms have any particular properties that would attract the visitor in their own right!
City Hill is certainly worth a look and the traffic is actually not as bad as it appears at first sight, if you cross from the carpark by the Canberra Museum & Gallery (A in picture 2 attached). The traffic is one way and a set of lights a hundred metres to your right stops it at regular intervals. Alternatively, you can access City Hill via a path from the lower end of Northbourne Avenue (B in picture 2 attached) – roads still have to be crossed.
Address: Southern End of Northbourne Avenue Civic, Canberra
Directions: A short walk from the City centre