|Canberra and the ACT|
| Australia's capital city, Canberra, had a difficult birth, punctuated by indecision, political infighting, wars, the Great Depression and the perennial battle of architect versus bureaucracy, but has since risen above these difficulties to become a thriving, modern city. Canberra is situated 150 kilometres in from the east coast of Australia, by road 280 kilometres from Sydney, 660 kilometres from Melbourne. The average minimum and maximum temperatures in summer are 12 degrees Celsius and 27 degrees respectively, in winter zero and 20 degrees.|
| Although Australia became a Federation in 1901, the site for the new capital was not decided upon until 1908, ratified in Parliament in 1911. Later that year a competition to design the city attracted entrants worldwide, the winner being the American architect Walter Burley Griffin. He arrived in Australia in 1913, and construction began. It was also in 1913 that the city was actually officially named Canberra, which was the existing name of the district since the early days of European settlement. Parliament did not sit in Canberra until 1927, and there was little real progress building-wise until 1954. Burley Griffin's original plans were consulted, resulting in the establishment of his concept of the Parliamentary Triangle, a collection of buildings and bridges plotted about Capital Hill, suburbs such as Woden, Belconnen and Tuggeranong, and the man-made body of water at the centre of the city, Lake Burley Griffin. In 1988 the new Parliament House was opened, a commanding structure on and of Capital Hill, replacing the provisional building that had been in use since 1927.|
| There are many things to do and see in Canberra, navigable by the city's wide boulevards, with many of the main attractions clustered about Lake Burley Griffin, such as: |
- Parliament House - free guided tours, observation of Parliament from the public gallery, art collection.
- Old Parliament House - guided tours, a sound and light presentation depicting the life and times of the building. Also here is the National Portrait Gallery, a collection of paintings, formal busts, photographs and sketches of famous Australian faces.
- National Library of Australia - more than 7 million books, magazines, journals, newspapers, manuscripts, maps, music, pictures, photographs, films, videos and oral history tapes, plus touring special interest exhibitions.
- National Archives of Australia - a treasure trove of documents, ranging from the important to the unusual, such as Australia's birth certificate, Queen Victoria's Royal Commission of Assent, trademark designs, theatrical scripts and flag designs.
- Questacon - The National Science and Technology Centre - interactive exploration of the world of science: experience an earthquake, submit to the guillotine, explore space, and much more.
- National Gallery of Australia - admission to the permanent collection, numbering more than 100,000 works, is free, and the gallery often hosts touring blockbuster exhibitions.
- High Court of Australia - attendants are on hand to explain the Court's operation and history.
- National Capital Exhibition - the story of the area and development of the capital, using audiovisual displays, photographs, artefacts and a laser-lit model of Walter Burley Griffin's original design.
- Australian War Memorial - twenty galleries of exhibits depicting the Australian experience of war, plus fighter planes, dioramas and the commemorative courtyard with the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier.
- National Museum of Australia - state-of-the-art technology and hands-on interactive exhibitions, including areas specially intended for children, allowing visitors to experience the stories of Australia.
- National Zoo and Aquarium - a large tank, through which is a see-through tunnel enabling close-up view of the aquatic exhibits, the largest collection of big cats in Australia, koalas, snow leopards, birds, reptiles and more.
- ScreenSound Australia - our audiovisual history, from the 1880s to the present day. Sound recordings, films, photographic stills, transparencies, posters, lobby cards, publicity, scripts, costumes, props, memorabilia and sound, video and film equipment. More than one million items are in the museum's collection.
| The best spots for nightlife in Canberra are the city centre, and the nearby suburbs of Manuka and Kingston, which also have good shopping, cafes and restaurants. Dickson, just north of the city centre, is the location of Canberra's Chinatown.|
|Canberra's biggest festival is Floriade, taking place annually over 30 days in September and October. Colourful and fragrant flowers decorate the city, each year with a different theme. In February is the Royal Canberra Show, and the Canberra National Multicultural Festival, which takes place over 10 days, with food, art, theatre, music and dance. The wine industry also has a foothold in the region, with over 25 vineyards, which are showcased each April in the Canberra District Wine Harvest Festival. An altogether racier event is the Summernats, where cars and car culture take over Canberra for one week each January.|
|Attractions a little out from the lake, yet not far away from the city centre include: |
- Australian Institute of Sport - interactive sports displays, videos and tributes, plus many of the training and playing facilities are open to the public.
- CSIRO Discovery - a unique centre showcasing Australian science and technology, set adjacent to working biotechnology laboratories. Attractions include an exhibition hall and virtual reality theatre, spectacular atrium and the Green Machine science education centre.
- Telstra Tower - offers spectacular views of the city, plus the lower floor contains "Making Connections", an exhibition tracing the history of Australian telecommunications.
- Australian National Botanic Gardens - located at the foot of Black Mountain, exhibiting plants of the rainforest, the desert, the mountains and more, in specially created climatic zones.
- Mt Ainslie Lookout - located directly east of the city centre, with superb views of the city and surrounds.
| One of Canberra's nicknames is the Bush Capital, so the range of natural attractions in and around Canberra should come as no surprise. Canberra Nature Park consists of 27 separate parks, ranging from those surrounding Lake Burley Griffin to those in outlying suburbs. These parks house lookouts, nature trails, bushwalking tracks, birdwatching, picnic spots and more. West of the city is the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, and on the border of the ACT, south-west of the city and part of the Australian Alps, is Namadgi National Park. Other attractions dotted about the ACT include: |
- Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex - 35 km south of the city, an important link in tracking spacecraft and the relaying of signals from NASA missions. Exhibits include space memorabilia, videos and interactive displays.
- Cockington Green - a display of miniature British buildings, made to one-twelfth scale, set within landscaped gardens, fully licensed cafe, nursery, a family cafe/kiosk, maze, free barbecue/picnic and playground areas, souvenirs and a steam train ride that circles the grounds.
- National Dinosaur Museum - 12 km north-west of the city centre, with over 300 exhibits including 10 full-size replica skeletons, plus huge bones, skulls and life-sized reproductions.
- Australian Reptile Centre - reptiles thematically exhibited to reflect Australia's tropical, temperate and arid zones, plus the hands-on, if you dare, Snake Tales educational program.
- Canberra Space Dome and Observatory - 5 km north of the city centre, offering tours of domes, equipment and telescopes, and, weather permitting, the chance to take a look through the telescopes.
There is a wide range of accommodation in Canberra, ideal for business or leisure travellers, and suitable for a wide range of budgets.