Canberra Destination Guide
Far too often overlooked in favour of its bright-light neighbours, Australia's capital is a beautifully laid-out city intertwining cultural and political roots and a modern outlook. Canberra has world-class scientific and sporting facilities too and the surrounding mountains and national parks offer plenty for nature lovers. With 4 major centres, rather than just one CBD, the priority urban planning has taken in the city's formation show in the ease with which everyone can get around this city. Its a cyclist's dream as well, there are bike paths everywhere. Lake Burley Griffin was created at the city's heart and the oldest and prettiest parts of Canberra flank its shores.
Canberra's top attractions include Old and New Parliament House; the National Science and Technology Centre (Questacon); the National Gallery of Australia; the Australian Institute of Sport and the Australian War Memorial. In Spring: Floriade. Allow a couple of hours at least to appreciate each – you'll find more than you bargained for. Part of Canberra's beauty is its compact nature, so if you're driving, you can readily reach all these within 15 minutes from Civic (as the CBD is known). When you want to get above it all, take in a brilliant view of Canberra's surrounds from Black Mountain Tower.
Eat and Drink »
Canberra restaurants can serve up a fine dining experience, fabulous Vietnamese, excellent Italian, modern Australian fusion, hearty pub fare... Whatever your palate pleases, you can find it here. In addition to the eateries of the well-to-do Manuka (impress the locals, pronounce it correctly: Mar-ni-ka) you'll find many purveyors of tasty treats tucked away in suburban areas, not immediately findable. Ask a local to point you in the right direction if you have a hankering for something in particular. There are also 2 breweries in the city – the Wig and Pen in Canberra city and Zierholz at Fyshwick. There are almost 30 wineries in the surrounding area too.
Canberra accommodation spans hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts, apartments and residential colleges. So you'll find something to fit your budget whether you're in town for a night, a weekend or several weeks. If you're staying during summer, campus accommodation is available at the Australian National University and the University of Canberra. Conversely, if you're looking for an upmarket property within the Parliamentary Circle, you'll be well-received at Hyatt Hotel Canberra. Or if you'd prefer a snug bed and breakfast near Lake Burley Griffin, try Annies@ Yarralumla. If you just want to be in the Canberra vicinity, try a room at the turn-of-the-century homestead on the working farm at Brindabella Station.
Market lovers might find a bargain at the Old Bus Depot Markets each Sunday, amid its mix of handcrafted jewellery, art, clothes, wine and produce. Vintage treasures can be 'dug up' at each Saturday's Gorman House Markets. The city's flagship mall is the Canberra Centre and there are other arcades in City Walk and Garema Place. Canberra shopping extends to a direct factory outlet (DFO) in the suburb of Fyshwick but it's at its most appealing in the 1920s shopping centres of Manuka and Kingston. Australian and international designer labels can be found here amid, gourmet food, antiques and exquisite jewellery.
Canberra like a Local
Many of Canberra's top attractions are free or have low admission prices but if you're visiting with your family, the 3 in Fun ticket may be a good option. It includes entry to Questacon, Cockington Green and the Australian Institute of Sport, with a 10 per cent discount and free re-entry to your favourite venue. If you're in town in summer the kids (and the big kids alike) will love the Big Splash Waterpark. NASA has representation here too: at Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex out at Tidbinbilla – a 45-minute drive from the city.