top of page

Gungahlin Loop Routes 19, 21 and 25

Date: 14 March 2023

Route: 19 Bonner Loop

21 Harrison Loop

25 Taylor Loop

Sights: Gungahlin main street surrounding hills

Weather: 14 C - 25 C warm and sunny

Time taken: 4.5 hour round trip

Three loop routes from Gungahlin Place

I noticed on my trusty bus map, some of the buses run loop routes from the satellite town centres through to the newer suburbs and back to the town centre. Gungahlin has a number of these routes. They have consecutive numbers travelling clockwise and anti-clockwise. There are no ACT tourist attractions in these suburbs but they have a charm of their own, and they are a part of the ACT that is not always seen.

I had determined to get to Gungahlin by tram and then get on the first of the buses that came along. The bus interchange is set out in a logical way with good signage so it is easy to find the correct stop.

The ACT is a multicultural place. Non-white Australians are highly visible. Most weekends sees a cultural festival from some place around the world or a celebration of a different religion. Many of the clubs were established to allow people of one culture to get together and celebrate their own heritage; Hellenic, Irish, Polish and the Tradies. This last one is themed for working class trades, but set in the middle of the ACT's China Town is attracts people from Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Thai and Malay backgrounds as members and staff.


Tradies Disco - DJ Sue

There are not many places where you can hang out and dance with people of many different backgrounds, language groups and ages but the Tradies Club is one of them.

The ACT is a multicultural place full of people from universities, embassies, not overlooking the diverse public service.

Walking around the city people of many different countries, ethnicities and states mingle on the streets, shops and cafes and gyms, but there are not too many places where people come together to share something social. Last month the Tradies Club, of which I am a member, had DJ Sue come and play a few Saturday nights. I am not sure if it was the age of the DJ (65), her gender (female) or the music she played (60s - 90s) that brought out huge numbers of Australians with different heritage: Asian, European, Indian, African and Aboriginal. It is common to see many different people of all ages, all backgrounds, eating at the Tradies, but not so common to see them all mixing after and dancing together, the dance floor was packed.

DJ Sue is a bit of a phenomenon; in her 60s she has found her true calling being a DJ since her 50s, and she takes requests. She is so good at what she does: the Beatles through to Abba through to Walk the Moon and some popular Indian Bollywood numbers in between. All tunes designed to get people moving. DJ Sue has been a DJ for over a decade but it took a video of Sue playing a free gig outside Dickson Library to go viral to make her a star.

At one point in the evening a large multi-generational Indian family was hanging on the edges of the action. One of them made a request and when it was played they rose, as one, to join the dance-floor. Granny, daughter and son-in-law with baby and toddler as well as aunties, Grandad, pre-school and school aged kids, all danced away, faces full of joy.

My friend and I danced to Abba, Annie Lennox, The Cure, Walk the Moon and yes, that Bollywood hit encouraged by the young man showing us the moves. I had the best evening dancing I can remember. Everyone was dancing like no one was watching!

Image by Her Canberra


Getting off the tram I can see a different demographic from that of the city end of the tram route. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data tells me that most people who live here are married with 1.9 children. They are well educated and the majority of them have at least one parent born overseas. The biggest sub-group in this category was born in India. This is very apparent. Indians are very visible in Canberra, particularly in Gungahlin: delivery people, and people working in bars, doctors, supermarkets, petrol stations, and all types of hospitality. The local cricket league is full of Indians players, all aspiring to be part of a national team. We could hear the finals, played last weekend, from our apartment. The cricket action was accompanied by loud drumming, much cheering and sheer joy.

The first bus to arrive at the stop, 21 to Palmerston, Franklin, Harrison, Throsby and back to Gungahlin Place, had a cheerful driver, singing good morning to all who boarded. There are only a couple of us on the bus, at this stage. We set off, heading out of Gungahlin towards Palmerston.

I notice a number of childcare and aged care places on the edge of Gungahlin. I always wonder about this. Are they situated here because the land or rent is a little cheaper, can they have more car parking? Or is it that we like to keep these things from our sight so also our minds? I wonder if places like this might be better managed in the centre of things. For aged care residents, particularly, it might mean they could get out to something: shops or cafes more easily, not so far to walk. For day care it might mean a few less trips in the car to get there?

The houses out this way are on smaller blocks, packed a little closer together; higher density living, than in the suburbs closer to the centre. There are also collections of identical town houses; same shape, cut out homes with splashes of colour running in a vertical line, to make them stand out, maybe? The trees on these roads, and there are many: oaks, limes, crepe myrtle and ash, are still small and looking newly planted. Time will cure this; in 20 years they will offer the same shade as those in the inner North.

Then we turn a corner and we are out in the countryside.

The one other person on the bus gets off; it is the only stop we have stopped at so far. We head towards Mitchell and into Franklin. A few more people get on. We cross the tram tracks and then wiggle our way through Throsby. As we pass Horse Park Drive the driver stops. There is no one there. I suspect the bus is early and he has to kill some time. He then yells towards me, “Hey, lady, we are heading back to town.” I told him I knew, it was OK.


Goorooyarroo Nature Reserve

Goorooyarro Nature Reserve is an 829 hectare area of protected land. The main feature is a hill known as ‘Old Joe’ that sits on the ACT/NSW border. The area houses a critically endangered wood of Yellow Box, that acts as an important corridor for wildlife moving in the Majura Valley through to NSW. Much of the reserve has a protective fence around it keeping out predators like foxes, deer, goats, cats and dogs.

Within the fence is an area known as Mulligan’s Flat Woodland Sanctuary managed by a coalition of the ACT government and the ANU’s Fenner School for Environment and Society. They work together to conduct research and advocate for the area to inspire respect for native woodlands. They educate the community about the value of such places with a mixture of tours, events and working with schools, colleges and other community groups.

There are many creatures that have been introduced to Mulligans Flat that are struggling on their own. In this protected environment with a good food source and no predators, native species like Eastern Quoll, Eastern Bettong, Bush Stone-curlew, echidna, golden sun moth and the legless lizard all thrive.

Images from ACT Parks and Conservation Service.


A young man in school uniform gets on. He knows the driver. They talk about footy training and the up-coming games. In Victoria "footy" refers to Australian Rules Football (AFL). In NSW it is usually one of the two rugbies; Union or League. In Canberra it could be either of these but also includes soccer. I get no indication from their chat about which code they play. Maybe all talk about football, whichever kind it is, is the same? Who you play with, when you train, how hard the coach works you at each training session.

The route through Throsby takes us near the Goorooyarroo Nature Reserve. The people who live on the western side of the street have extended views to rolling hills, old growth trees and NSW.

I can see the attraction of living in this place. Houses are a little cheaper, the local environment is attractive, there are all local amenities; shops, doctors, schools (with two new schools being built to accommodate the rapid growth in population), community activities. People here are on the edge of the territory but unlike other major cities the commute into the city or to any place of work is no longer than about 20 minutes. This is the same time taken to get from Doreen, on the edge of Melbourne, to Watsonia, a suburb of Melbourne. From there it would take another 45 - 60 minutes to get to the city. Living on the edge of Sydney in the West the commute times can be even longer.

As we glide past the houses I notice a few Indian flags up in windows; the tricolour with the wheel in the middle on the white background. I do not think this is a statement of national identity but about supporting the Indian cricket team who are currently playing a series of test matches with Australia. (Edit: Indian Test is now over with Australia not winning all matches as they expect)

We arrive back in Gungahlin Place.

Time for an investigation of the local food. Usually when in Gungahlin I enter the shopping centre from the car park or walk directly to the shopping centre from the tram. This time I decide to walk around some of the area outside the shopping centre, and it pays off. I spy a cafe run by South Americans; La Empanade Bakehouse, just by the bus stop. Empanadas of every description: beef, chicken, pork with or without chillis. All accompanied with great coffee. There is also an impressive array of hats.

I order the chicken and mushroom. While waiting I hand over my card and explain what I am doing; all bus routes in a year. “How odd!” says the man in charge. Odd it may be but also informative, educational and fun. “Keeps me on the streets” I reply. The empanada is great.

The older man in worn clothes at the bus stop tells me he is waiting for the 23. He tells me it is strange weather, cooler but grey, unusual for the ACT. He tells me he lived in Darwin for over 40 years so is used to the heat, but never enjoys it. He tells me he came to Canberra because of the superior medical services here. He has had prostate cancer and knee surgery. The place is also near to his daughter. (Near in Australian terms; she is in Wodonga a 4 hour drive away) He flashes his seniors card which gives him free public transport and says that now he no longer drives he can still get about, but you do have to wait. I tell him about Next There and other apps that give you real time information about where the buses are. He is impressed but says he knows the timetable off by heart and is no good at phones. The 23 arrives and he boards with a “ Stay warm!” yelled above the noise of the bus.

I check my Next There to see if the next bus is on its way. I now think I can not trust these apps as most of last week they did not work because Transport Canberra had failed to fix something that could share the information with third party apps. The public transport advocacy group, Public Transport Canberra (PTCBR) had issued a statement about the outage after a few days of inconvenience and the system was magically restored within a few hours. A statement from Transport Canberra, unhelpfully, told readers of the article that the same information could be found on the internet with timetabling information. This does not allow for late or cancelled buses. It is also very hard to find. I am good at Googling and even putting in all the key words (act transport 21 timetable) I had to wade through three layers before I found what I wanted. The timetables are also not easy to use on a phone, and most of us do not travel with laptops to be used when we need a bus timetable. The problem is fixed, for now, but it has left a trust problem with me.

The other two bus routes, 19 and 25, were filled with the same suburbs. I decided then it was not worth travelling the consecutive numbered buses the other way. I may still do this if I get to the end of the year with a couple of weeks to spare. Watch this space.


bottom of page