The bush capital of Canberra divides the nation geographically, and occasionally in opinion, but don’t be misled into thinking this is not a must see destination. With grand monuments, world renowned museums and a dynamic community of politicians, journalists and intellectuals – there is plenty to ignite the imagination. Add to that the fine wining and dining of Poacher’s Way, hip new areas like Braddon and unique events like Floriade, and you’ll find it’s time to book your flight to Canberra.
Fly to Canberra
Canberra has distinct seasons with cold, sunny winters (June to August) with averages around 12°C but minimums of 1°C accompanied by frost and fog. Summers (December to February) can be hot, but have low humidity with average temperatures around 27°C.
Last Sunday in October to first Sunday in April
Canberra is a prime example of a planned city – the honours for its immaculate layout go to its designer Walter Burley Griffin who envisaged a city made up of semi self-contained satellite towns nestled within mountains and hills. With the artificial Lake Burley Griffin at the centre of the plan, and mega-roundabouts and large boulevards to connect the satellites, the city is easy to navigate once you know the logic behind it.
The seven districts that make up the city are: Canberra Central, Woden Valley, Belconnen, Weston Creek, Tuggeranong, Gungahlin and Melonglo Valley. While each of these districts is further divided into suburbs, the main suburbs of interest to visitors are:
TThe city centre or CBD is also referred to as Civic. It’s the main commercial centre with government departments, large office buildings, department store, shops, cinemas, nightclubs and theatres along with cool cafes, quirky vodka bars and fine dining.
Manuka and Kingston
One of the oldest and most fashionable suburbs, Manuka is close to Capital Hill on the southern shore of the lake, and has chi-chi boutiques along with good coffee, food and cool bars. Nearby Kingston also has great shopping, restaurants, cafes, pubs and a busy nightlife. Conveniently, the small 1920s shopping centres of Manuka and Kingston are only five minutes’ walk apart. In Kingston, watch artisans at work at Canberra Glassworks, housed in the historic Powerhouse, and pick up regional wine and produce or fresh-ground coffee from the Old Bus Depot Markets, held every Sunday in an old industrial building.
Australian National University brings the corresponding hustle and bustle of student life, and helps make this lakeside suburb one of the most lively inner-city neighbourhoods with loads of bars, cafes and restaurants. The award-winning residential development NewActon showcases sustainable architecture, community gardens and walkways and brings more cool bars and restaurants to the ’hood.
Close to the city, there are lots of shops with plenty of fashion, antiques and homewares along with pop-up art spaces, cool bars, cute cafes and restaurants – indeed Lonsdale Street has been styled a “hipster hangout”.
Just north of the city centre, the outstanding Australian National Capital Artists (ANCA) art gallery is here. There’s also a multicultural food scene that includes a small but flourishing Chinatown (where you’ll spot politicians from all parties eating at wipe-down laminex tables), cheery Italian trattorias, authentic Indian diners and vibrant Ethiopian eateries.
Most of the 80 embassies and high commissions are located here and run the gamut of traditional and contemporary architectural styles. Drive between Foster Circuit and Empire Circuit to take a peek.
A mainly industrial area, most of the discount and factory outlets are here for shopping bargains. The markets that run from Thursday through Sunday have great local and gourmet produce, including craft beer.
You'll visit Parliament House, the War Memorial and an exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia. Get a taste of Canberra with some inside tips:
- Stand for the Last Post at the end of the day at the Australian War Memorial
- Chow down with a politician at Griffith Vietnamese restaurant
- Smell the roses during Floriade, the magnificent flower festival (November)
- Take a bus tour of the embassies and pick out your favourite architectural style
- Rise above the city in a hot-air balloon ride
- Take the kids to Questacon, a hands-on interactive science and technology centre
- Hire a bike and cycle around Lake Burley Griffin
- Get invited to a local's house for a winter barbeque in the backyard
- See democracy at work on the lawns of Old Parliament House, unofficial protest location in the city.
Best selling tours near Canberra at qantas.com right now
- Canberra Explorer: Australia's Capital City Tour from Sydney
- Thredbo or Perisher Blue Weekend Snow Trip
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The bus services around Canberra are reliable and efficient, including hop-on-hop off services. There are some great bike paths if you fancy cycling. Taxis and car hire are also good options and there is cheap city parking. To get out to Poacher's Way, you'll need a car. With plenty of parking and the city's infamous roundabouts, Canberra is one of the easiest cities to get around in a car.
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