Located between the major cities of Sydney and Melbourne, the purpose-built Australian capital, Canberra, is an acquired taste. It gets a bad rap for its somewhat sterile persona, but this centre of government and business is well worth a look for its grand buildings and lovely setting on Lake Burley Griffin.Canberra has a reputation for being expensive, although its hotels and restaurants are among the best in the country and visitors tend to be of the more discerning type. Everything is planned here, including the artificial lakes and the placement of national monuments, but it’s good for activities and the outdoors. The city is on the doorstep of the Aussie bush of southeast New South Wales.
Canberra has more grand monuments than any other city in Australia; it’s the capital city after all. Most of these landmarks are there for a purpose, while many old government buildings are used as museums or galleries, such as the Old Parliament House. There is also lots of walking and boating opportunity on account of the many city parks.
- Australian National Botanic GardensMuch of Canberra is given over to greenbelt and these amazing gardens are the epitome of native Australian flora. The park is located at the foot of Black Mountain, just west of town, and is replete with excellent walking trails as well as refreshing water features. Keep an eye out for the giant ferns, kangaroos, and many species of birds, and head here in summer for jazz concerts. If you really want the best views of the city, climb the 800m-plus Black Mountain.
Eating and drinking and shopping nearby
Most restaurants are downtown (Civic), to the north of the lake, where many of the city’s best hotels are located, such as the Novotel Canberra and Rydges Lakeside Canberra. There are so many upper-end eateries and coffee shops, it’s hard to know where to go. Woodstock is an especially good café near to many pubs, clubs, and shops. If you’re after a more relaxed scene, street food, and coffee shops, head for Manuka to the southeast, which is also good for boutiques. Be aware that the city is quiet on Sunday.
You can walk between Civic and Capital Hill (across the lake), and the streets of Canberra are well-planned and easy to navigate on foot or by bicycle. ACTION buses take in both of these areas and their circles which radiate out to hotel districts, suburbs, and beyond. Tickets can be purchased as a single, 10 rides, or an all-day pass. Buses run all day and are comfortable.