We live in such a diverse region - from the surf to the snow and so much in between. To mark Canberra's Centenary Year, I'm devoting one column a month until the end of the year to revealing the best of exploring Canberra and beyond. Each month, I will feature a new top five - from our loftiest lookouts to our most striking man-made wonders. For some locations, you will be able to hop in the car, jump on the mountain bike or strap on the walking boots and check them out the very next day, while others you might want to add to your holiday wish list. All featured top five attractions will either be in Canberra or within a few hours' drive. This month, I reveal my:
Top natural phenomena
1. Staircase to the moon
Bogong Moths at Parliament House.
Where: Lake George, just north of Canberra.
Phenomena: Reflections of a rising full moon on the lake's shallow waters give the illusion of a magical stairway leading up to the moon. ''Some Canberrans travel all the way to Broome to see its fabled ''Staircase to the Moon'' as the full moon rises above the tidal flats of Roebuck Bay, but we have our own version right here in our own backyard,'' boasts Robert Hunt, who lives just north of Lake George.
Wow factor: High. I've been lucky enough to witness this on a couple of occasions - first in the early 1990s (sadly, without a decent camera) and then again while on a bus passing a partially-filled lake last year. With the proliferation of high quality digital cameras in recent years, I'd love to see any photographs of this spectacle over a partially-filled Lake George.
Try it for yourself: The next full moon is February 26.
Best time: On or around the rising full moon when the lake has at least some water in it.
Witnessing the moonrise over Lake George can still be a stunning sight, even when the lake is empty. Sydney musician Bill Risby snapped a striking photo of the moon rising above the lake's wind turbines while driving past in May 2009. ''I had just done an improvised concert of music set to a documentary of the US mission to the moon so had been watching images of the moon landing all afternoon. It had quite a profound impact on me seeing the moon rise above the mystical lake after looking at it in such detail on big screens an hour of so earlier,'' Risby reflects.
Access: Although most of the lakebed is leasehold, the best view of the moonrise is from the lookout atop Geary's Gap on the Federal Highway. Alternatively, try other vantage points looking east such as Lerida Estate.
2. Tremendous torrent
Where: Ginninderra Falls, near the ACT/NSW border, just west of Belconnen.
Phenomena: The cascading falls are an awe-inspiring site during normal flow, but after a storm flood they transform into a raging torrent that is unparalleled so close to the city.
''The roar of the falls during high water flow is really something to behold, and with a heavily built-up catchment it is starting to become a regular occurrence,'' Damon Cusack, Waterwatch co-ordinator with Ginninderra Catchment Group, says.
Wow factor: Extreme. During the downpour of March 2012, I was almost blown off a cliff-top by the force of the water while attempting to film the falls in full flood. It was like being in Kakadu in the wet season. The video of the falls in flood can be viewed above.
Best time: After heavy rain.
Access: The falls and surrounding gorge country are privately owned and there is currently no public access. A push by the Ginninderra Falls Association to create a new national park in Canberra's north-west with the falls as a centre-point is gaining momentum. A public forum to discuss their proposal will be held at 7.30pm on Tuesday, February 26 in the Community Room Upstairs at the Belconnen Library in Chandler Street, Belconnen. See ginninderra.org.au for more information.
3. Feeding frenzy
Where: A secret cave near Wee Jasper.
Phenomena: Six hundred Bent-wing bats (Miniopterus schreibersii) a minute fly out of their nursery cave on their nightly feeding foray. This nondescript cave is one of just a handful of maternal caves used by the Bent-wings in the whole country. During the summertime, up to 3000 baby bats (called pups) cling to each square metre of the cave ceiling.
Wow factor: High. For special effect, the site can be back-lit to enhance the silhouettes of the bats (and make them easier to photograph).
Best time: Just after dusk in late summer.
Access: Due to research being undertaken into this colony, the New South Wales National Parks, in conjunction with Wee Jasper local naturalists, only offer a viewing experience at the cave entrance once a year. This column will provide details of the next opportunity.
4. Solstice Show
Where: Snowy River near Numbla Vale via Jindabyne.
Phenomena: A couple of days either side of the summer solstice the angle of the sun is such that it can penetrate through a tiny hole in the roof of a naturally occurring stone bridge over the Snowy River and light up a hidden cavern below.
Wow factor: High. The stone bridge conceals the flow of the river for over 100 metres and the cavern is hidden beneath. A surreal hotchpotch of flutes, fissures, potholes and spherical pools make this an extraordinary place, even without the natural light show.
Best time: A week either side of the summer solstice (around December 21-22).
Access: Due to the rugged nature of the river, the stone bridge and cavern are only accessible via Worongah, a private property. Until recently, property owners Brian and Jan Mitchell ran tours into cave, but the property has recently changed hands and tours are unfortunately not currently offered.
5. Mass migration
Where: Mt Gingera, Brindabella Mountains.
Phenomena: If you've lived in Canberra for any longer than a year or two, you'd be only too aware of Bogong moths (Agrotis infusa), which are often distracted by the bright lights of our suburbs (and Parliament House) during their annual migration from the plains of western NSW to the mountains. The brown, nutty flavoured moths spend the hot summer months aestivating (a state of animal dormancy, similar to hibernation) in the dark narrow rock crevices, including the ACT's own Mount Gingera. In the past, Aboriginal peoples regularly travelled to the mountains for ceremonial purposes and also to collect various foods, including bogong moths, which are high in protein and fat. They were often singed in a fire to remove their wings and scales and eaten immediately or ground into a paste that could be transported to camps further afield.
Wow factor: Medium. A crevice covered in moths isn't as eye-popping as a waterfall in flood or a dazzling natural light show, but in good years, the moths are so densely packed in the crevices that they look like a layer of fungi.
Best time: Spring to witness the migration and summer months for the aestivating.
Access: Mount Gingera is only accessible on foot. It's a 1.5-hour drive from the centre of Canberra to the start of the walk at a locked gate at Mount Ginini, via Cotter, Brindabella and Mount Franklin roads, including 33 kilometres of unsealed road. From this gate, walk along the fire trail past Pryors Hut, and take the next track on the right (signposted) for the one-kilometre hike to the summit. The walk is 14.5 kilometres (return).
Among the many long-lasting initiatives to celebrate Canberra's 100th birthday is the expected completion this year of the Centenary Trail, a 140-kilometre self-guided trail designed for both walkers and cyclists which will showcase many of the natural areas and iconic landmarks close to suburbia. Although the trail will predominantly utilise many existing tracks, the construction of a number of new stretches, especially near our northern border, are still in progress.
However, the lack of a complete trail hasn't stopped at least one local walking group from jumping the gun (or, more accurately, firing an eco-friendly, foot-powered, non-flammable rocket) and stepping-out in style (well, OK in floppy hats and khaki trousers) along a part of the trail.
''We decided one of our earliest walks for 2013 should celebrate the centenary,'' says Maureen Blackmore, spokesperson for ACT Walking for Pleasure Inc, an eclectic bunch of ramblers who recently braved the heat to trek the section from Red Hill to Hackett via the Parliamentary Triangle, Anzac Parade and Mount Ainslie.
I just hope there weren't any bird-watchers in Maureen's motley crew of 20-odd walkers because my hiking insiders tell me that the rocket launch was followed by such a raucous rendition of ''Happy Birthday to Canberra'' that even ''an old deaf cockatoo fled the scene in a frenzied flap''.
The Centenary Trail isn't expected to officially open until mid-year, but rest assured this column will provide regular updates on its progress.