We took time out of our journey along the coast of New South Wales, to make a day trip to the Australian capital city of Canberra. The city is located in the Australian Capital Territory, and is an 150km drive inland from the coast, through the Great Dividing Range mountains.
The purpose built capital is considerably smaller than the countries more popular cities, and is never high on any list of where to go in Australia. However it is increasing in popularity, and we decided it would be well worth a day exploring.
We started by driving to the Mount Ainslie lookout. It was a perfectly clear morning and the views across the south of the city were great, with the Parliament House and Lake Burley Griffin dominating the view.
It was interesting to read how the location for the capital was decided as a compromise between Sydney and Melbourne, as well as the competition to design the city, which was won by the American architects, Walter and Marion Griffin, in 1911.
Driving through the centre of the city at rush hour we were struck by how unstressful it was. We would never dream of doing this in most capital cities, but it was very easy to navigate and definitely a benefit of such a modern and planned city.
We got a chance to see Australian democracy in action with a visit to Parliament House. The vast complex was only opened in 1988, and it is a sharp contrast to the UK’s historic Houses of Parliament and all the traditions that go with it.
We visited the viewing gallery’s of both the House of Representitives and the Senate, before walking through the portrait gallery of all the previous prime ministers. However, the star attraction was the roof garden, which is also open to the public. This allows you to get much closer to the huge flagpole centrepiece, and provides great views of the city and across to Mount Ainslie.
Canberra is home to many of Australia’s national museums, with the majority of these free to enter. Unfortunately due to our limited time we were only able to briefly visit two of these.
Although very infrequent visitors to art galleries, we enjoyed our walk around the National Gallery of Australia and its various exhibits, especially the aboriginal artwork on display. However our highlight was the sculpture garden, especially with the weather being so nice.
We made a quick visit to the National Museum of Australia, which was far to short to take in all of the exhibits. However, it was especially interesting to read about the founding of the country’s major cities, and how the early settlers went about exploring the vast Australian outback. Again our favourite part was outdoors – the Garden of Australian Dreams, which can be found at the centre of the museum complex.
There was also time to make a visit to some of Canberras suburbs. We spent part of our morning walking around the very expensive looking Kingston area, before grabbing some breakfast at the nearby Silo Bakery, which is renowned for its almond custard croissants – we can confirm they definitley live up to the hype!
We had a look around two of the areas at the forefront of Canberra’s apparent increasing popularity. We walked along the north bank of Lake Burley Griffin to reach NewActon, where the highlight was the interesting design of the Nishi building, a complex of restaurants, offices and apartments.
The second area is centred around Lonsdale Street, where there were plenty of bars, restaurants and street food stalls, some that wouldn’t look out of place in Melbourne. However, despite it being late afternoon, as with the rest of Canberra it seemed very quiet, and we almost had the place to ourselves.
We finished our day with a trip to another of the cities viewpoints at Red Hill. Unfortunately this was far less impressive, with trees blocking large parts of the view. We then made the journey back to our base for the night, Majors Creek, a small village very much in the middle of nowhere!