16/01/2016 12:10 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST

The National Arboretum Canberra Is Devoted To Protecting Endangered Plants, But It's Also A Brilliant Travel Destination

Matthew Fallon

There’s something distinctively Canberran about planting trees in a straight line.

It’s part of our garden capital’s neatly engineered DNA but even a tree planted in perfect symmetry will twist and rove into its own unique pose, reaching skyward, compelled by some unseen celestial rhythm.

And so the National Arboretum Canberra -- a ‘tree museum’ -- has a living beauty that celebrates the capital’s regimented roots while showcasing nature’s irrepressible ability to bloom and thrive and gnarl.

Driving towards the arboretum, you see a scene worthy of an Alice In Wonderland picture book -- comically undulating green hills are stamped with evenly spaced blossoming Japanese crepe myrtles, Himalayan cedars and dogwoods.

No one is painting the roses red, but look closer and you’ll see the furtive, verdant tips of Wollemi pines, which will one day provide a towering canopy of shade. These knee-high saplings, standing bravely against Canberra's sub alpine sun, are of a species dating back to dinosaur times -- one of the world's oldest and rarest trees.

Which is precicely what the arboretum specialises in -- keeping rare, endangered and genetically important trees from around the world alive, lest they're ever needed for repopulation after environmental disaster.

But don't tell that to the children playing in the comically oversized acorn-themed playground.

The 250ha of arboretum is something of an Instagrammer's playground, with bonsai gardens, towering forests and a striking centre perched atop the hill.

But what's most special about taking photos in the arboretum is the knowledge that you're seeing something at the very start, and one day, the fledgling trees straining above head height will be immense forests with shaded winding paths, undergrowth and, with any luck, native critters.

This immense natural wonderland has been built on the kind of forethought that might only strike state and territory governments once in a generation.

It's the kind of driving passion that takes in the big picture.

It's planting trees in a straight line, while thinking of a forest.