Things To Do In Canberra
Canberra, the capital city of Australia, is located a couple hours inland from the continent's eastern coastline, surrounded by the green inland slopes and ski territory of Brindabella National Park. The city is home to numerous historical centers, lookout points, art and cultural museums, world-class theaters. It also hosts a wide selection of horticultural and botanical gardens, which come together to give this unique city vivid pizzazz. Whether you're here for a relaxing holiday, business trip or thrilling vacation, you will discover it all in Canberra.
When To Go:
The city's four unique seasons each bring their own particular magnificence and appeal, making Canberra an uncommon treat among Australian urban communities giving a kaleidoscope of weather as the year progresses. It is one of the few major cities in Australia where you can see snow in winter.
Summer (December to February) in Canberra offers unlimited chances to appreciate nature, particularly on Lake Burley Griffin where a variety of water sports activities are available. Days are warm to hot, with a lot of daylight and low dampness, balanced by cooler nights.
The season of fall (March-May) is a genuine pleasure as the city's parks and botanical gardens offer brilliant colors. From the first week of March until the end of May the cityscape plunges into a rainbow of colors as tropical trees turn red and green, growing side by side with the local eucalyptus and pine trees. The season is lovely, with cool nights and clear, brisk days. Bring a warm coat and cap.
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The winter season (June – August) is the ideal time to cuddle up before a flame with a glass of local wine. The nights and early mornings are cold, but the ice and incidental mist tend to dissipate and give way to striking sunny days. Even during winter, you can still enjoy bicycle riding and strolls by the lake on the cool new days. This is the time to venture out in your best winter boots, caps, scarves, and gloves.
Spring (September – November) is also a brilliant time to visit. The city blasts into color as trees bloom and provincial vineyards and plantations produce abundant crops. Pack a light jacket and your shorts as you can expect cool mornings, brilliant, sunny days and brisk nights. Spring is perfect for bush walking and cycling around the lakes.
No matter, what time of year you visit, these are some of the national attractions and the top things to do while in the city of Canberra, Australia…
Australian War Memorial
The Australian War Memorial is a shrine to the fallen of the first Australian soldiers who served in World War II. The temple is dedicated to the Unknown Soldier and on its wings are engraved the names of the fallen in the wars in Europe, Asia, and the Pacific. But the surprise is going underground, where an excellent free museum on the First and Second World Wars will fascinate and educate you. It is a beautiful and moving memorial to and museum of the Australian armed forces, with a stunning collection of Victoria Cross.
The World War II section is particularly touching and thought provoking. The Australians have honored the memory of their citizens who gave their lives in one of the most painful conflicts in history with grace and delicacy.
This memorial is rich in detail, and marvelous in scope. Go early to make time to see everything, and, if you travel with family, bring the kids along to this educational attraction.
National Portrait Gallery of Australia
The National Portrait Gallery of Australia is an attractive gallery right in the center of the city. After a couple hours of inspection, you will have a far better understanding of the history of modern Australia. The gallery contains hundreds of photographs of famous Australians, such as politicians, painters, musicians, and artists. The variety of portraits gives a vivid impression of how talented and remarkable the Australians are.
A few recent additions to the gallery were Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett, Kylie Minogue, Hugh Jackman, Portia da Rossi, and Steve Irwin- just to name a few. There are also 400 other national figures who shared their own portraits with this collection. The gallery also has a large collection of historical portraits of past rulers.
The National Portrait Gallery is very well organized and it takes an hour to absorb everything in the free tour. Additionally, there is space dedicated to temporary exhibitions which cost $15. This fabulous collection of portraits of Australians (including Aboriginals) are all housed in a beautiful building along the King Edward Terrace Avenue. Be sure to visit and bring your camera because photography is allowed, but there is a no flash rule.
National Gallery of Australia
The National Gallery of Australia may not have a beautiful exterior, but truly wonderful works can be found inside. It contains paintings by Magritte, Picasso, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Monet, Miro, Warhol, and many others. They also have a very impressive collection of Aboriginal art as well as modern and colonial Australian art. Altogether, this museum hosts an exquisite collection of the fine art of Australia from the 19th and 20th centuries. In addition to contemporary art exhibits the museum hosts ancient artifacts, rare objects and sculptures. The enormous building stands right in the museum park, next to the National Portrait Gallery of Australia.
The museum has no entrance fee. If you feel famished after the tour, take the opportunity to go for coffee or pie in the cafeteria. The gallery has an excellent outdoor cafe with special events for members and a beautiful view of the lake you can enjoy with your coffee.
The Questacon Museum is actually a series of experiments and demonstrations of physics that can be touched by the hand and personally experienced. There is an ingenious earthquake house in which you experience an earthquake scenario and a thrilling first person gravity-defying a free fall. The science museum is housed in modern architecture, featuring spiral staircases to rooms on several levels and many interactive exhibitions with guides that allow kids and adults to participate in experiments. Questacon packs scientific and technological information into simple games in a way that is attractive and interactive for children ages 7 and up.
Plan to spend a minimum of five hours exploring Questacon. There is only one cafe which usually has long lines, so bring your own food and drink. Tickets cost $23 for adults and $17.50 for children (or $70 for a family), but you can become a member to save on ticket costs if you are a resident of Canberra. The gift store is also full of small games and fun experiences.
Mount Ainslie Lookout
The Mount Ainslie Lookout is aligned with the ANZAC Parade Walk to provide the best view of Canberra It allows you to fully appreciate the plan of this beautiful and unique city. The viewpoint is in the middle of a pleasant green area, yet easy to reach by car. There are also several signs showing the layout of the city.
You can admire the beauty of the country if you come here by car at sunset. This observation deck offers stunning views of the city which stretches at your feet and you can appreciate the architecture, layout and impressive landscape of the city. If you come around the month of October, bring a windbreaker or jacket because the winds are colder and stronger during this time.
Museum of Australian Democracy
The Museum of Australian Democracy provides information about politics in Australia. It is interesting from a historical point of view, with a lot of pictures and information about Australian politics and famous politicians. The museum is housed in the old parliament, where the resignation of the government happened as Prime Minister Geoff Whitlam stood on the steps when he was dismissed by the Governor General in 1975. The building itself offers a window into Canberra’s past.
The "Old Parliament House" was the seat of government of the Australian government until 1988. Many objects in the building were left in the original state, providing a fascinating insight into the past. All rooms can be entered. Some speeches of politicians are even recorded. Afterward, you can visit the New Parliament House and draw your own comparisons. It is advisable to see both attractions while in Canberra City to have a better understanding of its history. You may choose to hire a guide because the entire complex is so massive and quite detailed. Either way, it has many excellent photo opportunities.
Lake Burley Griffin
The Lake Burley Griffin is located in the approximate geographic center of the city. You must not miss this place if you are in Canberra. It is worth going to the lake and see it at least twice; during the day and in the evening. By day, you will see the clean blue sky, beautiful fountains, people in boats and canoes. In the evening, you can admire the night view of the Houses of Parliament and the view of the whole city. While driving to the lake, you will see many important Canberra landmarks, such as the National Library of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Questacon, National Museum of Australia and also the "Captain Cook Memorial Jet".
Burley Griffin is an artificial lake with beautiful views, surrounded by lovely walking paths with bike tracks. It is a favorite spot for joggers and young people. It is advisable to take a boat ride and tour to see the other attractions that are located near Lake Burley Griffin. The ride itself is not very long, but it goes around the great Clock Tower and passes by the great monuments of the government. In less than twenty minutes, the view becomes incredibly green and beautiful.
The Floriade is famous in Canberra for its beautiful flowers. The site has a nice collection of tulips of all colors, flower beds with symbols representing Australia as well as gourmet food offered in its restaurant. If you visit during daytime, you can enjoy one of the free concerts and shows in the garden area. There is also a market nearby offering gifts and souvenirs. The Annual Festival of Flowers is held here from September to October. During the Festival, over a million flowers decorate the Floriade and the floats of the parade participants. Entrance to the park is entirely free, although it is advisable to visit on a weekday to avoid huge crowds.
National Library of Australia
The National Library of Australia tour will take an hour or less and gives a great overview of Canberra's history. Inside, you can admire old manuscripts, navigational instruments used by explorers, artworks depicting the Aboriginal people, and travel diaries of Captain James Cook. Cook sailed to Australia on board the ship called the HMS Endeavour. He landed in southeast Australia in 1770 and first named it as the New South Wales. One painting shows Cook, an English explorer, studying a navigation chart.
The library is free to visit, and is home to books of all kinds. Quiet is, of course, the main requirement. The impressive National Library of Australia stands on the edge of the Lake Burley Griffin. This is the place to go for old or rare books. Most books, newspaper clippings, and documents are available to be consulted or searched on their database files.
National Zoo and Aquarium
The National Zoo and Aquarium is a fantastic zoo that is very nice to visit especially in the afternoon although the price is very high ($40 for adults, $23 for children). It has a collection of the best-known Australian animals (kangaroos, wallabies, koalas). It is also surrounded by tall and calming eucalyptus trees and the famous wattles. Children can take photos with the koalas and even feed the cute animals in their hands. All of the animals here are well-cared for, clean, and happy.
Australian National Botanic Gardens
The Australian National Botanic Gardens are located just outside the city and getting there provides a comfortable ride where nature is the star. The garden offers the finest collection of Australian trees, recreating tropical rainforests and forests with giant ferns as well as small animals that are native to Canberra. It is very nice to visit here in the summer because the walking paths are often shaded by the tall Eucalyptus trees and the flowers are at their finest. The jungle tree path is sensational. Wear a good pair of walking shoes because the paths are long and often steep. The groomed area and the beauty of nature contribute to the tranquility and harmony of this excellent place, do not miss it!
Canberra City is an interesting city to discover with a strong sense of national identity. They have also managed to preserve the elements of the pioneering spirit of the early Aboriginal settlers who made sure that the city was secure and safe from the early European settlers. That strong patriotism can be seen and felt in every attraction that you will visit. Every tour offers a great insight about its colorful past while at the same time you can admire its natural beauty, and the friendly locals that will make you excited to come back and visit Canberra City again.
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