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Not far from the centre of the capital city of Canberra, Black Mountain is one of the three major nature reserves in the Australian Capital Territory. The mountain is protected from development and is home to a wide variety of Australian wildlife, which can be enjoyed whie walking one of the several well-marked trails on the reserve.
The Australian National Botanic Gardens sit at the eastern base of the mountain, which rises almost 812m above sea level. The mountain is capped by a broadcasting tower which, at a further 195m, can be seen for many miles around.
Bushfires are a natural part of Australian ecology, but occasionally a bushfire will catch people unawares. Such was the case with the 'Canberra firestorm', a bushfire in 2003 that burnt almost 70% of the ACT's pasture, pine plantations and nature parks, and almost completely destroyed the Mount Stromlo Observatory.
The fires actually began outside of the territory. On 8 January, Brindabella and Namadgi National Park, in neighbouring New South Wales, had suffered small fires due to lightning strikes. Unfortunately, sparks from these fires flew into the surrounding areas, and by 13 January large fires were beginning to burn within the ACT.
The fires increased in strength on the 17th, and authorities developed a plan to deal with the situation. This plan had several flaws, including bad placement of firefighting crews.
On 18 January 2003, a minor cyclone ripped through the area, and temperatures above 40 degrees created conditions that transformed the separate fires into a firestorm. Burned leaves began to land on the lawns of houses in the suburbs of Canberra in the early morning, and throughout the day the fires crept closer and closer to the city. By the end of the day, houses in the outer suburbs had been burned, and evacuation centres in the city were filling up.
The fires died down toward the afternoon of 19 January. Hundreds of homes had been destroyed, and four people had died. The Mount Stromlo Observatory, which was home to one third of Australia's astronomical research, had lost all but one of its telescopes and damage that amounted to $AUS75 million.
Did you know that Australia's capital city was founded in a sheep paddock? Well, many Aussies will tell you that Canberra, the city that houses the nation's capital, was set as far away from civilisation as possible, but the truth is the site was a compromise between competing cities Melbourne and Sydney.
The site of Canberra was settled by Europeans from around 1824, but in 1908 the sparsely populated area was chosen to be the capital of Australia. The American architects Marion Mahony Griffin and Walter Burley Griffin won an international competition for the design of the new city. Construction began in 1913 but was interrupted by World War I (1914-1918). Only in 1927 was the national parliament moved here from Melbourne, which had been its temporary seat since 1901. Canberra´s population grew rapidly following World War II (1939-1945).
Canberra is now the home to the federal government and international embassies to Australia.
Like most cities in Australia, Canberra contains a myriad of people encompassing all walks and religions of life. The presence of embassies contributes to the variety of citizens in Australia's capital, although the city is not quite as multicultural as Melbourne or Sydney.
Many of the people who live in Canberra were not born there, and are there to work or study for a few years before moving on.
The average income in Canberra is around $100 higher per week than anywhere else in Oz. The educational level is higher in Canberra than anywhere else in the country, and 4.5% of the population hold a postgraduate degree, in comparison to the Australia-wide average of 1.8%.
In 2006, the population of the Australian Capital Territory was 333,667. On 869 of this was people living outside of Canberra.
Bobby McGee's. The party atmosphere at this flamboyant, American-style restaurant and entertainment lounge complex appeals to a varied group. In the restaurant, Cinderella might seat you, a matador offer you cocktails, and a Roman centurion wait on your table. The music in the entertainment lounge ranges from "Heartbreak Hotel" to this week's pop hits. Service is slick and professional, and the staff are gregarious and spontaneous - it would require effort not to have a good time. Rydges Canberra Hotel, London Circuit, Canberra, Phone: 02/6257-7999. Cost: $5 Fri. after 8. Opening Times: Weekdays 5 pm-3 am, Sat. 7 pm-4 am
Murrays Canberra Explorer offers an affordable introduction to Canberra. In its comprehensive circuit of the city, the red Explorer bus stops at most of the major sights, including Parliament House, the National Gallery, the National Botanic Gardens, the embassies, and the Australian War Memorial. A driver provides commentary, and you are free to leave the bus at any of the 18 stops and board any following Explorer bus. You can also take a two-hour nonstop trip---a good orientation. Tours leave from the Jolimont Tourist Centre at 65--67 Northbourne Avenue and from the Canberra Visitor Centre at 330 Northbourne Avenue, Dickson, every two hours from 8:40 to 4:40. Murrays also offers a range of day or half-day sightseeing tours of Canberra and the surrounding area. Phone: 13-2251. Cost: $18 full day, $8 for two hours.
When you're in Canberra, it's essential to know what to visit. With so many embassies around, it's easy to miss the really important landmarks. The best sights are:
*the new Parliament House (opened in 1988); half-buried and featuring a beautiful stretch of green lawn
*the Church of Saint John the Baptist (1840s)
*Captain Cook Memorial Water Jet, located in Lake Burley Griffin
*the Australian War Memorial, which includes a museum and an art gallery.
Other sites include the National Library (1960); the Australian National Gallery (1982), which houses works by Australian and other artists; the High Court of Australia building; and the civic center.
The Australian Capital Territory is entirely surrounded by the state of New South Wales. It is bordered by three rivers to the south, north-east and west, and a railway line in the east proper.
The ACT contains cultivated farm land as well as the city of Canberra. The entire area is well above sea level, with the lowest point, located on the Murrumbidgee River, being 429m above sea level.
The territory contains several mountains, the highest being Mt Bimberi, which is located on the south-west border with New South Wales.
The ACT has a number of national parks including the Namadgi National Park, which contains Mt Bimberi. The park meets the Kosciuszko National Park which is located in New South Wales, and supplies 85% of the territory's water.
National Gallery of Australia is Canberra´s National Gallery, on the south shore of a lake, and has probably the best collection of art in the country. The Australian collection ranges from traditional Aboriginal art through to 20th century works by Arthur Boyd, Sidney Nolan and Albert Tucker. Aboriginal works include bark paintings from Arnhem Land, pukumani burial poles from the Tiwi people and printed fabrics from central Australia. There´s also plenty of foreign art from all eras, and most travelling exhibitions stop by Canberra on their way around the world. The collection is not confined to paintings: sculptures, prints, drawings, photographs, furniture, ceramics, fashion, textiles and silverware are all on display. There are a couple of pleasant restaurants on the grounds, and free lectures are often given.
It is believed that Aboriginal people used the area which is now the ACT as a meeting place, possibly for corroborees held to mark the migration of the bogong moth, which was hunted and eaten. Canberra was first settled by Europeans in 1824, when Joshua Moore bought the first land grant in the area, at the foot of Black Mountain. By 1845 a town had grown up in the shadow of the mountain, with the newly built St John´s Church and the nearby school at its centre.
The establishing of a national capital and surrounding Australian Capital Territory (ACT) was one of the tenets of the constitution created when the colonies were federated into Australian states in 1901.
If you're hankering after tourist tackiness, Ginninderra's the place to go. About 11km (7mi) north-west of the city, the Ginninderra Village is the area's centrepiece, a collection of colonial-era buildings quaintified into Devonshire tea spots, Australiana galleries, wood-turning workshops and shops selling nothing but cat knick-knacks. Next door, Cockington Green is a sprawling miniature (if such a thing is possible) English village, complete with cricket streakers and a working steam train - it's horribly overpriced, but the kiddies will love it.
Just outside the village, the National Dinosaur Museum is a private collection with replica skeletons of 10 dinosaurs as well as a bunch of real bones and fossils. It's pricey, but fun. An ACTION bus runs from Belconnen past Ginninderra Village on its way to Gunghalin.
ARRIVING AND DEPARTING: By Bus
The main terminal for intercity coaches is the Jolimont Tourist Centre (65-67 Northbourne Ave.). Canberra is served by two major coach lines, both of which have at least three daily services to and from Sydney: Greyhound Pioneer Australia and Murrays Australia.
National car-rental operators with agencies in Canberra include Avis (17 Lonsdale St., Braddon, Phone: 02/6249-6088); Budget (Shell Service Station, Girrahween St., Braddon, Phone: 02/6257-1305); Hertz (32 Mort St., Braddon, Phone: 02/6257-4877 or 13-3039); and Thrifty (29 Lonsdale St., Braddon, Phone: 02/6247-7422). A local operator that offers discount car rentals is Rumbles Rent A Car (11 Paragon Mall, Gladstone St., Fyshwick, Phone: 02/6280-7444).
The Canberra Festival celebrates the city´s birthday over 10 days in March with music, food, a mardi gras, displays, a raft race and a parade. The festival features many interesting cultural events, although it also has a typically Australian concentration on sports and the outdoors. Set in the beginning of March, the festival provides a good way to sample Australian culture as the hot summer weather winds its way into autumn.
The animal emblem for the Australian Capital Territory is the Red Kangaroo. The Wedge-tailed eagle is the bird emblem. The Sturt´s Desert Rose is the floral emblem.
The streets in each of Canberra's suburbs are named according to a theme. Often, the theme links in with the suburb's own name.
Canberra is home to a number of important Australian institutions, including the Royal Australian Mint, the Royal Military College of Australia, and the Australian Institute of Sport, where Australia's elite athletes receive their training.
'Canberra' is thought to mean 'meeting place' in one of the local Aboriginal languages.
The name of the Australian Prime Minister's residence in Canberra is simply 'The Lodge'.
The Australian Capital Territory has very few towns as such, as it was developed as the base for Government in Australia. The territory was planned around the central city, Canberra. Instead of towns, the ACT is divided into Districts, and Canberra divided into Suburbs. You can find a list of both under the tip 'Towns and Disctricts in the ACT.'
The Private Bin. One of Canberra's longest-running night spots, this large, loud club incorporates a bar, a beer garden, pool tables, and a tri-level disco. The clientele is mostly under 25, but the club's Waffles Piano Bar attracts older, more sophisticated patrons. Comedy nights, held every Wednesday from about 9 pm, are recommended. 50 Northbourne Ave., Canberra, Phone: 02/6247-3030. Opening Times: Varying hrs for different bars, but generally weekdays noon-about 2 am, Sat. 6 pm-3 am, Sun. 7 pm-1 am.
The Australian Capital Territory was called the Federal Capital Territory until 1938. Most of the territory consists of an area formerly known as Yass-Canberra, which was ceded to the Commonwealth by New South Wales in 1911. In 1915, New South Wales additionally ceded Jervis Bay, providing a potential port for Canberra. In 1988 the territory gained self-government with its own unicameral parliament, and Jervis Bay was separated from the territory. This may seem like a lot of reshuffling in such a small amount of time, but such is politics!
ARRIVING AND DEPARTING: By Plane
Canberra Airport is located 7 km (4 ½ mi) east of the city centre.
Taxis are available from the rank at the front of the terminal. The fare between the airport and the city is about $12. Canberra City Sights and Tours (Phone: 02/6249-3171 or 0412/625-552), a shuttle company, offers airport service for $6-$10, reservations required.
Questacon is a ´hands on´ science museum which lives in a purpose-built, snappy white building near the National Gallery. There are over 200 devices in the centre´s five galleries, including the earthquake experience, the thongaphone, and the ´can you bowl faster than Alan Donald´ display. It´s designed for kids, but unselfconscious adults won´t have any trouble entertaining themselves for an hour or two. It may be educational, but it´s also great fun.
GETTING AROUND: By Car
Canberra is not an easy city to drive in, and you may well find yourself confused by the radial road system and its turnoffs. Still, because sights are scattered about and not easily connected on foot or by public transport, a car is a good way to see the city itself, as well as the sights in the Australian Capital Territory.
Bus tours, which depart every two hours daily, also visit the major city sights.
Maps ($2) featuring clearly marked scenic drives may be purchased at the Canberra Visitor Centre.
Canberra Theatre Centre is the capital city´s premier arts and theatre venue. The Centre is used by the local opera company, theatrical troupe, and symphony orchestra. Performances by such major national companies as the Australian Ballet are frequently held here. For a listing of current events, check the entertainment pages of the Canberra Times. Civic Sq., London Circuit, Canberra, Phone: (02) 6257 1077.
Australian War Memorial
The massive war memorial is more than the usual pointy concrete thing in the middle of town, it's actually a museum of Australia's war history. It was conceived in 1925 and finally opened in 1941. It houses an amazing collection of pictures, dioramas, relics and exhibitions, including a fine collection of old aircraft. For anyone with an interest in toy soldiers, the miniature battle scenes are absorbing.
The Hall of Memory is the focus of the memorial. It features a beautiful interior, some superb stained-glass windows and a dome made of six million Italian mosaic pieces. The Unknown Australian Soldier was brought here from a WWI battlefield in 1993. Leading to the hall is the reflecting pool, its surrounding walls inscribed with the names of Australia's war dead.
Like any city, Canberra has a number of events throughout the year.
Canberra Festival The festival is held every March to celebrate the founding of the city. Events include:- hot air ballooning, unique art and craft exhibitions, classical modern theatre, dance performances, spectacular musical productions, jazz and rock concerts, and lots more.
Australia Day: Like the rest of Australia, Canberra's citizens spend the 26th of January holding barbeques and raising a glass to the first day of Australian settlement.
Summernats: A huge car festival that is central to the Australian car calendar, the Summernats occurs in January every year. Although testosterone levels are high at this event, there's plenty of fun for any car enthusiast, with a show of street machines on display, stunt shows, burnout competitions and displays of airbrush car art.
Christmas and New Year's Eve: As with any Australian city, Canberra features a long list of community events around the change of the calendar year, including 'Carols by Candlelight', a traditional Australian event where crowds gather in parks to sing carols by the glow of candles.
Chinese New Year: There is a large Chinese population in every Australian city, and Canberra is no exception. Chinese New Year provides a chance for everyone to enjoy a spectacular multicultural festival.
These are just some of the events that take place in Canberra yearly. Check with the Australian Capital Territory Government's website for details of events before you visit.
Canberra Visitor Centre.The city's tourist information bureau is a convenient stop for those entering Canberra by road from Sydney or the north. The staff makes accommodation bookings for Canberra and the Snowy Mountains. 330 Northbourne Ave., Dickson, Phone: 02/6205-0044 or 1800-02-6166. Opening Times:Daily 9-6.
Canberra Centre. The ground floor kiosk in the Canberra Centre is another useful source of information on attractions and shops. Bunda and Akuna Sts. Opening Times: During shopping hrs.
ARRIVING AND DEPARTING: By Car
From Sydney, take the Hume Highway to just south of Goulburn and then turn south onto the Federal Highway to Canberra. Allow 3 ½ to 4 hours for the 300-km (186-mi) journey. From Melbourne, follow the Hume Highway to Yass and turn right beyond the town onto the Barton Highway. The 655-km (406-mi) trip takes around 8 hours.
Getting Around Canberra
The airport is 7km (4mi) south-east of the city centre. You can get a shutttle minibus to the Jolimont Centre in town and to various hotels for about $5, or catch a cab to the city for about $7.
Public transport in Canberra means the Action bus - the Australian Capital Territory Internal Omnibus Network! It's not much chop - services are rather sparse and practically non-existent on Sundays or after 10pm. You're much better off on a bicycle if you're energetic (Canberra has an excellent network of bike paths which allow you to avoid the traffic pretty much anywhere you're going) or, if you're not, with a car.
La Grange Boutique Bar & Brasserie.
In Manuka, this lively bar attracts a young, fashionable crowd. The disco swings Thursday through Saturday, and live jazz is a Sunday afternoon staple. Capitol Cinema Bldg., Franklin St., Manuka, Phone: 02/6295-8866. Cost: Sat. $5. Opening Times: Mon.-Wed. 4 pm-5 am, Thurs.-Sun. 11:30 am-5 am.
National Portrait Gallery
Situated in Old Parliament House and opened in 1994 the gallery is in an early stage of its development. Exhibitions, built around a theme are changed every four or five months and include artworks borrowed from public and private lenders some of which have never been exhibited before.
Embassies and High Commissions in Canberra include:
British High Commission (Commonwealth Ave., Yarralumla, Phone: 02/6270-6666, Opening Times: weekdays 8:45-5) www.ukinaustralia.fco.gov.uk
Canadian High Commission (Commonwealth Ave., Yarralumla, Phone: 02/6273--3844, Opening Times: weekdays 8:30-4:30) www.canadainternational.gc.ca
New Zealand High Commission (Commonwealth Ave., Yarralumla, Phone: 02/6270-4211, Opening Times: weekdays 8:45-5) www.nzembassy.com
U.S. Embassy (Moonah Pl., Yarralumla, Phone: 02/6270-5000, Opening Times: weekdays 8:30-12:30) canberra.usembassy.gov
The beautifully restored Lanyon Homestead, beside the river near Tharwa, is about 30km (19mi) south of the city. The early stone cottage on the site was built by convicts, and the grand homestead, which dates from Canberra's grazier days, was completed in 1859. More than a collection of pretty old buildings, this National Trust homestead documents the life of the region before Canberra existed. The Nolan Gallery in the homestead collects some of Australian painter Sydney Nolan's most famous Ned Kelly works. As you'd expect, you can get a pretty nice Devonshire tea at Lanyon.
The Australian Capital Territory (ACT), carved out of southeastern New South Wales in two steps (1911 and 1915), contains the national capital, Canberra. The terrain consists of rolling grasslands called the Canberra Basin and is ringed by the Australian Alps. It covers 2,400 sq km (927 sq mi), including Jervis Bay Territory (70 sq km/27 sq mi), part of the ACT from 1915 to 1988. The elevation of the basin is about 580 m (1,900 ft). The population of the Australian Capital Territory is 299,400 (1993 est.), and nearly all residents live in Canberra. Parliament moved from Melbourne to carefully planned Canberra in 1927.
As Canberra's raison d'etre, Parliament House is the thing most visitors to the city want to have a gander at. Opened in 1988, new Parliament House (as it's commonly known, to distinguish it from the old Parliament House) is a marble lined monstrosity squatting at the apex of the Parliamentary Triangle. Built into the hill, the roof of the house is lined with grass to make it blend in. In true Australian tradition, the grass is imported lawn mix, which requires gargantuan quantities of water and weedkiller to keep it green and glowing. The interior of the house is rather impressive - each of its major sections is lined with Australian timbers, and it is littered with over 3000 art works bought or commissioned from Australian artists.
Visitors can wander around the public areas of the house, including the House of Representatives and the Senate, though you may have to make a booking if something particularly juicy is being debated. There are free guided tours of the building on non-sitting days.
Old Parliament House, further down the hill towards the lake, was the seat of government from 1927 until 1988. Far more modest than its succesor, the old house resembles a slightly sprawling wedding cake. You can take a tour of the building or wander its pleasant grounds. The house is also home to the National Portrait Gallery.
Canberra after dark has a reputation for being dull. Actually, the city isn't quite as boring as the rest of Australia thinks, nor again as lively as the citizens of Canberra would like to believe. Most venues are clustered in the city centre and the fashionable southern suburb of Manuka. Except on weekends, few places offer live music. The Thursday edition of the Canberra Times has a "What's On" section.
Australian National Botanic Gardens
On the lower slopes of Black Mountain, behind the Australian National University, the beautiful 50 hectare (123 acre) botanic gardens are devoted to Australian flora. There are educational walks, including one among plants used by Aborigines. A highlight is the rainforest area, achieved in this dry climate with a misting system, while the eucalypt lawn has 600 species of this ubiquitous Australian tree. Take a guided walk, or take a seat in teh pleasant Kookaburra Cafe.
An attempt was made to create a European-style facility by leaving out slot machines in favor of the more sociable games of roulette, blackjack, poker, minibaccarat, pai gow, and keno. There are 40 gaming tables here, and the complex includes two restaurants, two bars, and a nightclub. 21 Binara St., Canberra, Phone: 02/6257-7074. Opening Times: Daily noon-6 am.
History of Australian Capital Territory
1820 - Joseph Wild, James Vaughan and Charles Throsby Smith came across the area of Canberra during their discovery of the Limestone Plains.
1821 - Discovery of Murrumbidgee.
1824 - Joshua John Moore had land granted on the Limestone Plains, and named the property 'Canberry', after overhearing Aborigines using the word. "Kamberra" is the Aboriginal word for meeting place.
1845 - Saint John's Church of England was completed.
1859 - The post office was opened.
1869 - Goulburn was linked with rail.
1876 - Yass was linked by rail.
1901 - Federation.
1911 - The area of the Australian Capital Territory was taken from the state of New South Wales.
1913 - Canberra was formally named as the Official Capital.
1914 - Rail extended to Queanbeyan.
1928 - Parliament House moved to Canberra from Melbourne.
1941 - Australian War Memorial was built.
1954 - The Australian-American Memorial was built.
1962 - King Avenue Bridge was constructed.
1962 - The new town of Woden was formed.
1963 - Commonwealth Avenue Bridge was built.
1965 - Anzac Parade was developed.
- The Royal Australian Mint was opened.
1968 - The National Library was opened.
1970 - National Botanic Gardens, Carillon, Captain Cook Memorial was opened.
1973 - Tuggeranong become the third town.
1975 - Guingahlin was the forth town.
1988 - The Australian Capital Territory (Self Government Act) was passed.
Tourism is the ACT's major growth industry with more than 1.25 million visitors a year, staying more than one night in the national capital.
The Namadgi National Park covers about 40 per cent of the ACT. It reaches to the border of the New South Wales Kosciusko National Park, and together with parks in Victoria is part of a series of reserves which protect most of Australia's alpine and sub alpine areas.
Attractions outside Canberra include Cockington Green Minature Village, Mount Stromo Observatory, Canberra Space Center and Cotter Dam..
ACT offers some beautiful natural landscape and excellent bushwalking tracks can be found close to the city.
Namadgi National Park Namadgi takes up all the space of the ACT that Canberra doesn´t; that is, most of the south-west. Part of the park borders the mountainous Kosciuszko National Park in NSW´s Snowy Mountains. There are around 170km of market trails throughout the park, and with seven peaks over 1600m (5248ft) some of the bushwalking is challenging.
Aboriginal paintings which were painted over a period of hundreds or possibly thousands of years can be seen at Yankee Hat Rock. The close grouping of art and ceremonial sites in the Namadgi ranges suggests this area was of special significance to local Aboriginal people.
Stunning wilderness await the more experienced bushwalker prepared to venture into the remote areas of the park. All parties planning to visit the remote areas should be well prepared and record details of their trip in the bushwalking registers located at the visitor centre and elsewhere in the park. Camping grounds with toilets are located at Orroral and Mt Clear. There is a three night limit and bookings may be made at the Visitor Centre. Picnic areas are located beside most roads some with fireplaces and toilets.
Getting There & Away
Canberra does not have an international airport. Flights arrive in Canberra from all capital cities as well as from towns in NSW, although many make a stopover in Sydney or Melbourne on the way. Buses run from Canberra to Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne, with connections to the other capitals. You can also catch buses to the south coast, the snowfields and throughout NSW. Trains run to Sydney, or you can do a combined bus-train trip to Melbourne.
The Hume Highway, which runs between Melbourne and Sydney, passes about 50km (30mi) north of Canberra - you can drive to Goulburn or to Yass to join up with it, depending whether you're heading north or south. The Monaro highway to the south will take you to Cooma, the snowfields and the coast.
The Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, 45km south-west of the city of Canberra, is criss-crossed with walking tracks. The reason most visitors come here, however, is to feed the semi-tame kangaroos, be terrorised by the sandwich-snatching emus or scan the trees for koalas. The visitors centre here has some great displays on native fauna and flora. Tidbinbilla is a great spot to take children for a picnic, or to do a couple of short walks.
North of the nature reserve, the Tidbinbilla Tracking Station, otherwise known as the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, is a joint US-Australian eye on the sky. The visitor centre here has displays of spacecraft and tracking technology, and it´s free to get in. South of the reserve, Corin Forest is an adventure playground on steroids, with a 1km metal bobsled run, snow-making machine and flying fox. You will need a car to get to Tidbinbilla.
Namadgi National Park, situated just south of Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory, provides a rewarding scenic detour for travellers through majestic mountain terrain.
Namadgi has a wide variety of habitats ranging from grassy green valleys to stunning mountains shrouded with snow gums and bold granite outcrops. Kangaroos, wallabies, and wombats can be seen throughout the park. Commonly seen birds include magpies, crimson rosellas, pied currawongs, Australian Ravens and the spotted quail-thrush.
Canberra is a fascinating 20th-century creation that has struggled to establish itself as the focus of Australia´s national history, pride and identity. Canberra has long been perceived as the ´fat cat´ of Australian cities, a town of politicians and bureaucrats living off the hard work of their countryfolk. Step outside the Parliamentary Triangle, however, and this idea swiftly disappears.
Canberra has grown from a Federation baby into an adult city with all the problems and delights that being a grown-up brings. Many Australians knock Canberra for being a city without soul, but many who spend a bit of time there develop a soft spot for the place. Carefully planned, Canberra´s suburbs are separated by swathes of native bushland, while its main tourist attractions - the National Gallery, Parliament House and other inhabitants of the Parliamentary Triangle - are set around a pleasant artificial lake encircled by bike tracks. If you´re enamoured of the bush and lungfuls of fresh air, but don´t want to be too far from a decent café latté, you´ll be in heaven in the national capital. Canberra is also a great base for visiting the nearby delights of the Snowy Mountains and the New South Wales south coast.
Canberra is a wonderful place for cycling and it has a great series of bicycle tracks. Inline skating is also popular. There are watersports on Lake Burley Griffin with canoes, catamarans, paddle boats and surf skis for hire. Canoeing and white-water rafting on the Murrumbidgee are other water-based activities. Swimming in the lake, however, is not recommended. There are several fine swimming spots along the Murrumbidgee and Cotter rivers such as Uriarra Crossing, Casuarina Sands, Kambah Pool, the Cotter Dam, Pine Island, Point Hut Crossing and Gibraltar Falls.
Bushwalking is one of Canberra's most popular activities and there are particularly good walking tracks along the Murrumbidgee from Kambah Pool to Pine Island (7km/4mi) or to Casuarina Sands (about 21km/13mi). The Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve has marked trails. Cruises and balloon and aeroplane flights are another way to get an angle on the city. There is sometimes enough snow for cross-country skiing in Namadgi National Park, or you can enjoy the fake stuff at Corin Forest, and the NSW snowfields are within four hours' drive.
Canberra [kan´buru] Pronunciation Key Canberra , city (1991 pop. 276,162), capital of Australia, in the Australian Capital Territory, SE Australia.
Canberra has many walk ways and national parks, enjoyable for bushwalking. Visitors can also enjoy other sites such as: the Australian War Memorial, the National Library, and the Australian National University, Parliament House and many other sites that deal with national issues, including the Royal Mint, National Film and Sound Archive; and a large array of galleries, including the National Gallery of Australia.
The federal government is the largest employer in Canberra. In 1913, Canberra officially became the second capital of the commonwealth (succeeding Melbourne); however, although the Parliament first met there in 1927, the transfer of federal functions was not completed until after World War II.
The ACT is 80km (50mi) from north to south and is about 30km (19mi) wide. It is landlocked within the mountainous country of southeastern New South Wales, 305km (190mi) from Sydney by road. Canberra and its surrounding suburbs are in the northeast of the territory, while the Namadgi National Park occupies the whole southwestern area. The population grew from 50,000 in 1960 to 100,000 in 1967 and has soared to more than 300,000 today.
Canberra is arranged around the artificial Lake Burley Griffin. In Civic, on the northern side of the lake, are the shops, businesses, university and suburbs such as Reid, Braddon, Turner and Acton. Parliamentary and other administrative buildings are located to the south of the lake, surrounded by suburbs such as Parkes, Barton, Forrest, Deakin and Yarralumla (home to the prime minister and governor-general). Canberra is also surrounded by the satellite towns of Woden, Belconnen and Tuggeranong.
Canberra's airport is about 7km (4mi) east of the city. Interstate buses arrive at the Jolimont Centre, which is in the centre of Civic. The railway station is in Kingston, on the south side of the lake. Most shops and restaurants are in Civic and Manuka, also just south of the lake, with a few cafes sprinkled through the inner suburbs. Each satellite town has its own charming mall. Civic is also the centre of Canberra's nightlife, which is somewhat more lively than its reputation suggests.
GETTING AROUND: By Bus
Canberra's public transportation system is the ACTION bus network. Buses operate 6:30 am-11:30 pm weekdays, 7 am-11:30 pm Saturday, and 8 am-7 pm Sunday. There is a flat fare of $2 per ride. If you plan to travel extensively on buses, purchase a Day Sightseeing ticket ($6.70), which allows unlimited travel on the entire bus network. A Shopper's Off Peak Daily ticket, which allows travel between 9 am and 4 pm and after 6 pm on weekdays and all day on weekends, costs $4.
Tickets, maps, and timetables are available from the Canberra Visitor Centre and the Bus Information Centre (East Row and Alinga St., Civic, Phone: 02/6207-7611).
ARRIVING AND DEPARTING: By Train
The Canberra Railway Station (Phone: 02/6239-0111) is located on Wentworth Avenue, Kingston, about 5 km (3 mi) southeast of the city centre. EXPLORER trains make the 4-hour trip between Canberra and Sydney three times daily. A daily coach-rail service operates on the 10-hour run between Canberra and Melbourne. Passengers must travel the 60 km (37 mi) between Canberra and Yass Junction by bus.
Canberra´s most important public buildings are located within the Parliamentary Triangle, formed by the lake on the north side and two long avenues, Commonwealth and Kings, which radiate from Capital Hill, the city´s political and geographical epicenter. The triangle itself can be explored comfortably on foot, but you´ll need transportation for the rest of your stay in the city. Although locals maintain otherwise, with its radial roads, erratic signage, and often large distances between suburbs, Canberra can be difficult to negotiate by car. The best solution is to buy a good street map, and try to relax about missing turnoffs and ending up on the wrong radial road. Maps featuring clearly marked scenic drives are available from the Canberra Visitor Centre. If you don´t rent a car, Canberra´s ACTION buses and the Murrays Canberra Explorer Central can get you around town comfortably and without stress.
The ACT is rich in areas in which to go bush walking. These include the Namadgi National Park, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and the Black Mountain Nature Reserve (see tips on these for specific details). Each of these features a number of trails of varying difficulties. You should note that bushwalking in Australia is a serious undertaking, although the natural beauty of the Australian bush is well worth it.
Summer in Canberra is like all Australian summers, and can be unbearably hot to those from a colder country. The temperature, however, doesn't often go over 40ºC, and early summer days can be quite pleasant. The months either side of summer are a good time to visit to best enjoy the bushwalking and other natural delights of the area.
Winter in Canberra can be quite chilly, with night-time temperatures reaching down to 0ºC. Again, if you are visiting from a cold country, the daytime average of 10ºC will seem quite warm in comparison.
Due to its nature as a political and diplomatic city, Canberra can be busy year-round and it is best to check that no festivals or conferences will be on around the time of your visit.
Australia is known as a country that loves its sport, and the Australian Institute of Sport stands as both a testament to that love and a supporter of it. The AIS, as it is commonly known, has its headquarters in the Canberra suburb of Bruce, and features world class facilities used to train top Australian athletes.
The AIS was set up in 1981 after Australia suffered the embarrassment of failing to win a single gold medal at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. The institute is well-funded and believed to be the reason behind Australia's sporting success.
The Mount Stromlo Observatory is (strangely enough) located on Mount Stromlo, a 770m-high mountain just west of the Australian Capital Territory capital of Canberra. The observatory is part of the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics of the Australian National University (known as the ANU).
The observatory was established shortly after the Australian Capital Territory was founded. The original instrument, the Oddie telescope, was located there in 1911, and the dome built for it was the first government building to be established in the ACT.
The observatory has an interesting history. Originally established by Pietro Baracchi, an Italian-born astronomer who became the Government Astronomer for Victoria, the observatory took part in Australia's war efforts during WWII by producing gun sights and other optical equipment. After the war, the observatory was acquired by the ANU and focuses on stellar and galactic astronomy (originally, its subjects were slightly more close-to-home: atmosphere and solar observation). In January 2003, the observatory was devastated by a bushfire (the Canberra firestorm: see the tip on this subject for more information).
Visiting: visitors are welcome at the observatory. The area is still recovering from the damage wrought by the 2003 bushfire, but the its many wonderful walks and panoramic view is definitely worth a visit.
The major educational institutions and academic organizations in Canberra are the Australian National University (1946), Canberra School of Music (1965), the University of Canberra (1990; formerly Canberra College of Advanced Education), the Australian Defence Force Academy (1981), the Australian Academy of Science (1954), and the Australian Academy of the Humanities (1969). Mount Stromlo Observatory is also here. Canberra serves as the headquarters of Australia´s largest scientific research body, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
Location: The ACT is enclosed within the state of New South Wales. It is 300km south-west of Sydney,
Area: The ACT is 2,358 km² or 910 square miles. It is roughly oval in shape.
Climate: The weather sticks to the 'rain in winter, shine in summer' pattern (unlike the northern areas of Australia, which have a wet season in summer and a dry winter). Average temperatures during summer are around 27°C, cooling to 13°C at night. In winter, average day-time temperatures are around 11°C and night-time 0°C.
Resources: The ACT has a large agricultural industry with sheep, cattle and vineyards being the main forms. The area has no known mineral resources.
Income: In 2006, the average weekly income for an adult was $600-$699. This is above the Australian average, and possibly due to the amount of government work performed within the territory.
Housing (Canberra): Average house prices are $500,000 and rising in 2009. Canberra is the third-most expensive area to buy a house in Australia, after Melbourne and Perth. Average rental prices are $410 per week for a house and $385 per week for a unit. The only cities in Australia more expensive to rent in are Sydney and Brisbane.
Cost of living (the coffee test): $3 for a medium latte. This price will shortly creep up to $3.50.
Although it takes up less than 40% of the area of the ACT, Canberra is home to 99% of the territory's population. There are seven districts in Canberra: North Canberra (15 suburbs), South Canberra (13 suburbs), Woden Valley (12 suburbs), Belconnen (25 suburbs), Weston Creek (8 suburbs), Tuggeranong (19 suburbs), and Gungahlin (18 suburbs).
Outside of Canberra, there are a few small towns including Tharwa, Naas, Pierces Creek and Cotter. Uriarra is on the western border with New South Wales. Queanbeyan, the closest big town to Canberra, is just outside of the territory, as is the small towns of Royalla and Williamsdale.
The tiny territory sitting in the middle of Australian state New South Wales actually has two areas: the land-locked Australian Capital Territory and Jervis Bay. Jervis Bay was bought by the Commonwealth Government from the state of New South Wales for the ACT as the territory did not have any sea access. The area is over 600km away from the rest of the ACT.
Around 600 people live in Jervis Bay, and over 90% of the area is recognised as Aboriginal land.
Jervis Bay became a separate territory in 1989 when the ACT achieved self-government. The area is still represented in the senate by the ACT.
Why is it called the 'Australian Capital Territory'? The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) encompasses the city of Canberra. It is entirely surrounded by the state of New South Wales and is by far the smallest self-governing internal territory in Australia. The territory is so called because it contains the nation's capital.
The area was given over to the capital after the nation became federated. New South Wales gave the territory over to the Federation in 1911, two years before the capital was named.