Purpose built as Australia’s capital city, Canberra is a 3-hour drive from both the snowy mountains and the beautiful beaches of New South Wales. It is a city which honors Australia’s past and shapes its future.
With an expansive bush beauty, a relaxed attitude and colorful events, Canberra is far more than political capital. Designed for a young nation that was just finding its feet, this city is home to many of the country’s most important stories; stories that have come to define what it means to be Australian.
The lookout at Mt Ainslie
At the heart of Canberra’s creation story is Lake Burley Griffin. A long-standing rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne meant that neither one could be the nation’s capital. Instead, in 1911, the government launched an international design competition seeking a master plan for a brand new city. The victor, Chicago architect Walter Burley Griffin, won with a garden city design focused on a man-made lake which fits perfectly within the landscape.
To understand the genius of the design, head to the lookout at Mt Ainslie, just a short drive from the center of town.
The Parliament House
The shores of Lake Burley Griffin are home to the Parliamentary Triangle, a precinct filled with some of Australia’s most significant buildings that weave together Australia’s stories.
Parliament House is a national icon, that is instantly recognizable to all Australians. Like the city itself, its design was the winner of the international competition.
Although the center of political power in Australia, its approach to welcoming visitors is relaxed. Take a tour and see history as it happens, and then head up to the lawn-covered roof for sweeping views.
Just a short stroll away is Old Parliament House. The corridors of this beloved building are a time capsule of some of Australia’s most pivotal moments. Walk into the Prime Minister’s office which looks exactly as it did the day the government moved buildings in 1988.
The National Museum of Australia
The building that houses the National Museum of Australia, was designed around the theme of a jigsaw puzzle intertwining the many tales of Australia. See a prototype of the Holden, Australia’s first locally made car and the enormous heart of Phar Lap, an Australian racehorse that captured the imagination of the entire country.
The National Gallery of Australia
Throughout its history, few characters have captured Australia’s imagination, like its most infamous outlaw, Ned Kelly. Head to the National Gallery of Australia to see Sidney Nolan’s bushranger series But for a true glimpse into the very essence of this land, spend some time amid the astonishing masterpieces of some of the nation’s leading indigenous artists.
The National Portrait Gallery
Visit the National Portrait Gallery to enjoy a stunning collection of portraits of prominent Australians who have risen to the top of their fields. From the talented duo behind the international fashion powerhouse Sass and Bide to Andy Thomas, the country’s most famous astronaut, these pictures tell thousands of stories.
The National Library
More incredible stories await, at the National Library. See Captain Cook’s original diary which accompanied him on his first historic voyage to Australia. In 1770, Cook claimed this great southern land for England, opening a European chapter in the country’s history. A little over 100 years later, the Commonwealth of Australia was established.
At certain times of the year, the National Archives of Australia displays the original constitution, signed by Queen Victoria.
The Australian War Memorial
Perhaps the most powerful monument in this city of stories is the Australian War Memorial – a symbol of a young nation’s courage, sacrifice and willingness to defend its allies across the oceans. Immerse yourself in the experience of war with a seamless blend of technology and storytelling. With wall-sized touch screens and surround sound, the heroic deeds that established Australia on the world stage come alive here.
See a bullet-riddled landing boat from Gallipoli, the campaign that gave birth to the ANZAC legend. Experience a powerful reenactment of a bombing raid over Berlin featuring G for George, a World War 2 Lancaster bomber.
The Eternal Flame and the pool of reflection
Stand before the Eternal Flame and the pool of reflection and read the roll of honor, a poignant reminder of the tragedies of war.
Hipster coffee shops, and Microbreweries
If Canberra is passionate about honoring the nation’s history, this young city is also creating new stories of innovation and cool. In inner-city suburbs like Braddon, you’ll find innovative architecture, hipster coffee shops, and microbreweries.
The National Dinosaur Museum
If you are traveling with kids, Canberra also has many special things to offer. Step back in time at the National Dinosaur Museum and see the animals that populated the earth around 150 million years ago.
The Royal Australian Mint
Many of the country’s stories have been stamped into its currency. Visit the Royal Australian Mint to see where coins have been made for more than 50 years.
The nation’s future innovators could easily spend a day enjoying the interactive displays at Questacon – the national science and technology center.
The viewing platform at Telstra Tower
When Burley Griffin designed this city, he included many natural pockets to showcase the spectacular flora created by Canberra’s diverse seasons. In autumn, see the city’s canopy explode in brilliant reds and oranges from the viewing platform at Telstra Tower.
In spring, the whole city celebrates with Floriade, an iconic event that has been going for almost 30 years.
Mount Majura Vineyard
The city’s climate is also perfect for grape growing and there are more than 30 boutique cellar doors on the city’s doorstep. Enjoy a glass of wine overlooking this quintessentially Australian landscape.
When the nation’s Governor-General stood in a dusty paddock in 1913 and announced the name of the new capital, he told the nation that the city had, lying before it, a splendid destiny. Over 100 years later, that destiny has been fulfilled in a city that preserves the great chapters of Australia’s history and continues to write the future pages of the nation’s story.