Canberra, Australia’s capital city, is located 280km SW of Sydney and 650km NE of Melbourne. Canberra is home to many national monuments and cultural institutions such as Parliament House, the High Court of Australia, the National Zoo, Australian War Memorial, the National Gallery of Australia, and the National Library of Australia, Canberra has plenty to see and do. With four distinct seasons, and a climate not mitigated by the ocean, you can choose what season you prefer to holiday in Canberra.
Canberra, Window to Australian Identity
The Australian capital city is an excellent repertoire of the country’s accomplishments and the diligent keeper of its history. A visit to Canberra can be sobering and it will definitely be cultural, as you gain insight into what makes Australia, Australia. Canberra may seem too quiet for some tastes, but is the perfect stop for a weekend museum break and for anyone interested in Australian politics. Canberra truly is a contrast between modern architecture and nature. Travellers can stay in modern apartments in the upscale Parliamentary Triangle or rent a holiday home in a leafy suburb where you might even see a kangaroo bouncing around.
Visit Canberra’s Government Buildings
Several of the Australian government’s most important buildings are open to the public. Parliament House, shaped like two boomerangs, has year-round exhibits as well as an art gallery and gift shop. You can walk around the public areas on your own or opt for a guided tour. Then there’s the High Court, where you can learn about the Australian Judicial system. Tours can also be organised. Perhaps more entertaining for families with children is the Royal Australia Mint. The Mint features an observation gallery where you can watch new Australian coins being produced. While at the Mint, you can also see rare Australian coins and even make your own 1 dollar keepsake.
Canberra: A Wealth of Museums
The most comprehensive museums in Australia are in Canberra. The National Museum covers everything related to Australian heritage, both European and Aboriginal and features numerous exhibits with an environmental theme. The National Gallery of Australia showcases Australian Art, including Aboriginal Pieces. Behind the Gallery, you’ll find a sculpture garden that abuts at Lake Burley Griffin. If you are more interested in people, head to the National Portrait Museum, which houses photographs, sketches and paintings of Australian people coming from all walks of life.
Monuments and Landmarks in Canberra
Several impressive monuments commemorating Australians and their contributions can be found in Canberra. The most emotional of these is the Australian War Memorial, one of the most impressive in the world, which harbours the National Military Museum, as well as the Hall of Memory paying tribute to fallen Australian soldiers.
At Regatta Point in Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin, a water jet and globe represent the James Cook Memorial. The water jet works twice a day, once in the late morning and once in the afternoon, spraying water up to 147m in the air. On special occasions, the water jet is lit up in colour.
A prominent landmark is Black Mountain Tower, a TV tower 195m higher than Black Mountain in Canberra’s inner suburbs. Visitors can head up to the observation deck and two outdoor viewing platforms to take in sweeping views of Canberra and the city’s surroundings.
Parks and Reserves in Canberra
Green spaces are intertwined with monuments, museums and neighbourhoods. The Australian National Botanic Gardens displays plants found throughout Australia and grows species that are threatened in the wild. Alternately, head to the Black Mountain Peninsula along the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, where you can participate in a variety of water sports, such as boating, swimming and fishing. This is also a popular picnic spot for locals and there is a playground for the kids. Meanwhile, Canberra National Park has three parts in and around the city, usually within walking distance of residential neighbourhoods. Some parts of the park are woodlands, some are bush. You can spot iconic Australian species in these parks, including the kangaroo.
Canberra is easily accessible from major Australian cities, as it features an airport and a train station. In the city, the best way to get around is by bicycle or car, as public transport is negligible. Canberra enjoys warm summers and crisp, cooler winters but as most activities are indoors, you can comfortably visit the capital throughout the year.
For more travel information on Canberra, read our guide on Things to do in Canberra.