Commonwealth Avenue Bridge. Canberra.

Spanning Lake Burley Griffin, the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge has been a recurring landmark in my life.

  • Latitude: -35.293835 Longitude: 149.126588
  • Google Map.

I can remember sitting in the back seat of our Datsun 180-B (usually fighting with my sister) driving over it inumerable times on our way into the city. Or off on holidays. Or on a Sunday trip to hire a paddle boat down at the nearby ferry terminal.

Later, riding across it from the nurses quarters where I lived for many years (long since demolished) at Royal Canberra Hospital on the Acton peninsula.

These days it is looking a little shabby in places. In need of some cosmetic sprucing-up at the very least. In fact, the ACT government currently looking into the feasibility of totally replacing the bridge in order to carry an extension of the existing light rail system across the lake to Woden.

The bridge was designed by Maunsell & Partners (who also designed the Kings Avenue Bridge at the other end of the lake). Its dual carriageway, art decco-ish spires and concealed lighting were considered quite innovative at the time. Construction was commenced in 1961 and it opened in 1963.

You can easily walk across the bridge to take in some great views across the lake. But take care, for despite signage directing them to slow down, some cyclists sharing the narrow path do so at speed. Don’t get me started on the bell thing.

Hidden away under the abutment on each end of the bridge are 4 granite blocks ( 2 at each end) salvaged from the 1817 Waterloo Bridge that crossed the River Thames in London (destroyed in WW2). Each one weighs in at around two tonnes. They were gifted to Australia in the 1940s.

You can easily see them for yourself by walking beside the road that loops under the bridge (at either end) and then walking up some steps underneath.

The original Waterloo Bridge was considered quite beautiful and was painted by John Constable and Claude Monet (40 times!) but the final resting place for these blocks is a little drab and dare I say, gloomy.

Despite it’s slightly dingy underside the walk over the bridge on a sunny spring or autumn day is spectacular. And then onwards, for there is plenty to see on either side of the lake with commonwealth park, the national gallery & High Court of Australia, all within coo-ee.

And half-decent coffee is but a few minutes away.

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