Canberra (Australian Capital Territory)



Canberra - Walking along the Lake

Located in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) between Victoria and New South Wales, fairly close to Sydney, the Australian Capital Territory is essentially comprised of one city, Canberra, the capital of Australia. With a population of 300,000, Canberra is not terribly large but hosts a large number of parks, monuments and important buildings.

Canberra - From Mount Ainslie

The city has been planned around Parliament House, the home of the Australian government, and the central business district with each area encircled by streets and crossing streets fashioned as spokes shooting outwords. This leads to confusion to anyone driving into the area as many of these roads are one- way and others do not allow turning onto as you may expect.

Parliament House

Parliament House offers free tours at regular times and an opportunity to sit in the House of Representatives and the Senate is offered when the houses are in session. A modern construct, it is absolutely wonderful inside and surprisingly open to visitors. Be sure to take the trip up the elevator located near the Senate chamber to the roof where you can walk on the lawn that grows on top and gradually leads back to street level.

A Courtyard within Parliament House (Politicians only)

Public transport is reasonable though not terribly reliable, be prepared for a LOT of walking, however, many areas near Parliament House offer free parking (if you are in the business area be prepared to pay for it).

The National Gallery of Australia is certainly worth a visit (entrance is free though a donation is encouraged) and includes many native works of art in addition to the work of early settlers (some of which is quite unsettling). Rather interesting computers can be found on many lounge seats which offer a virtual tour of many of the key exhibits.

The best view of the city is either from Mount Ainslie (which you can drive up and park at the top) or from the Telstra Tower (which is not terribly high but considering it is at the top of a rather large hill, it doesn't have to be – an entrance fee is charged).

Hotels are difficult to find (and few between) and are often expensive. When visiting, I found that staying just inside the city limits and then driving in worked quite well. In a planned city such as this it is odd to see the zoning restrictions and somewhat staid streets. In a restaurant area things seem so sanitized, perhaps too much so, the requisite Chinese, Indian, Fish and Thai restaurants all lined up in perfect synchronicity…