Autumn or Spring: Westermans Homestead - Namadgi National Park, ACT
This is an easy multi-day adventure that takes in pastoral history at the foot of the snowy mountains. A perfect introduction to the Australian alpine region, the Settlers track is located on the southern border of the ACT and is ideal for Autumn or Spring but can get very hot in Summer and freezing in Winter with frost or snow. Make sure you are well prepared for the weather conditions in any season.
Growing up in the South side of Canberra, Namadgi is where I was first introduced to overnight hikes, the park was my High School's Duke of Edinburgh proving ground and where I experienced my first snow camping as a teenager. So it remains a favourite destination of mine. With these memories in mind, last spring my brother Dan and I took my two girls - Daisy (8) and Mary (5) out to explore the well resourced National Park and one of ts most accessible and interesting tracks.
The Settlers Track is a great one-day hike for adults or teenagers and includes 9 kilometres of clearly marked tracks that take in three historical homesteads and their surrounding infrastructure. 9 kilometres is a bit far for a 5 year old to walk in one day but it makes a perfect overnight hike and is a real adventure entering the old homes of pastural families long gone. There is also a 6 kilometre option that misses one of the old huts if you aren't up for the whole shebang.
To get to the Settlers Track drive to the Namadgi visitors centre on Naas Road, Tharwa - head South of Canberra on the Tuggeranong Parkway and keep driving. I recommend you stop at the Namadgi visitors centre, where the parks staff will be able to provide you with information and maps and anything you’ve forgotten like batteries, chocolates or drink bottles. They also have some fun nature-based activities and displays for the kids.
The start of the Settlers Track is about a 45 minute drive from the visitors centre through some stunning countryside. Head down Boboyan Rd towards Adaminaby and Park at Brayshaws Homestead, a lovely old historical shack on the right hand side of the road.
The walk is intended to be taken in a counter-clockwise direction but you can go either way. If you have small kids and are after a short walk you can head clockwise (South West) and go directly to Westerman’s homestead, you should reach the old homestead in about 2 kilometres - this is what we did because the weather was very windy and stormy so the kids weren’t up for a long hike.
Westerman’s Homestead is a really impressive site. With four rooms and the remnants of an exotic garden you can tell it was a vibrant farming centre in the past,with reminders of the pastoral history including a sheep dip and some old graves that remind you of the hard life the settlers would have endured out here.
The homestead has a water tank but when we were there we could only open the tap a few millimetres to stop possum-poo flowing into our billy. So be prepared to bring your own water and if you use water from the tanks make sure you boil it and/or use purifying tablets. We boiled the water for a few minutes and had no dramas. Grassy Creek is also in the area and has water but again be prepared to treat it (or for the creek to be dry). This is one of the advantages of walking with another adult - Uncle Dan was a bit of a pack-horse carrying a lot of the extra water and gear.
We only took in the shortest part of the Settlers Track and I would love to go back and do the full 9KM loop. If the kids were in better spirits and the weather wasn’t so extreme we would have walked at least the 6KM loop - but when you are walking with little kids you have to be prepared to make compromises. The kids had an awesome time regardless - and were happy just exploring, playing around the homestead and watching the Kangaroos.
We also had two families arrive with three girls of similar ages so the fun-factor was turned up to Eleven. The families were doing the whole Settlers Track over two nights. Having friends around really enhances the experience for kids in the outdoors, they get to create their own world governed by their imaginations in a safe and unique environment. And watching them share this with other kids - without adult interference - is really magical. Plus it’s always great to have someone to share the marshmallows with.
After a windy, stormy night camping in the tent the girls spent the morning playing and we packed up and hiked back to Uncle Dan’s car at Brayshaw’s Homestead. We didn’t conquer the whole Settlers Track but the adventure was a lot of fun and it was easily the most remote and isolated hike the girls had ever been on.
On the away home we stopped at the visitor’s centre for a lemonade and made it back to Canberra by lunch time. Tired but invigorated but the wild mountain air.
Camping is allowed anywhere in Namadgi National Park outside the designated water catchment areas, details are available at the Namadgi visitors centre. If you're heading to the Settler's track make sure you have plenty of water because the water sources can't be relied on and be prepared for any kind of weather in any season. Be sure to obey fire bans and treat the homesteads and huts with respect, they are a valuable asset to the alpine regions that are free to be enjoyed because of the hard work of volunteers.
For more info about the Settlers Track check out:
Or for an excellent article by Canberra legend Tim The Yowie Man check out:
Or more info about Namadgi National Park: