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The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) is the smallest entity in Australia, only measuring 2,366 square kilometres. Although many travellers avoid the area, if on purpose or not, there are some areas of interest. Half of the territory is protected as national park or reserve and is a mix of mountain ranges and hills covered in bushland, so plenty to keep hikers, campers and nature-lovers busy for a few days. And of course there is also Canberra, the capital city of Australia to visit, with many interesting museums and Parliament house to visit.
The ACT is a landlocked enclave in New South Wales, conceived during the federation conventions of the late 1800s as neutral location for a new National Capital. The ACT is bounded by the Goulburn-Cooma railway line in the east, the watershed of Naas Creek in the south, the watershed of the Cotter River in the west, and the watershed of the Molonglo River in the north-east. The ACT also has a small strip of territory around the southern end of the Beecroft Peninsula, which is the northern headland of Jervis Bay.
Apart from the city of Canberra, the Australian Capital Territory also contains agricultural land (sheep, dairy cattle, vineyards and small amounts of crops) and a large area of national park (Namadgi National Park), much of it mountainous and forested. Small townships and communities located within the ACT include Williamsdale, Naas, Uriarra, Tharwa and Hall.
Tidbinbilla is a locality to the south-west of Canberra that features the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, operated by the United States' National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as part of its Deep Space Network.
There are a large range of mountains, rivers and creeks in the Namadgi National Park. These include the Naas and Murrumbidgee Rivers.
The ACT's only city is Canberra.
ACT's summermonths are from November to March, when average daytime temperatures are between 25 °C and 28 °C, sometimes rising to over 35 °C. Nights are relatively cool, averaging around 10 °C to 14 °C. During the wintermonths of June to August nights are only around zero on average, rising to 10-12 °C degrees during the day. Rainfall is fairly even throughout the year, but usually is a little less than average during winter with the highest rainfall in October and November.
Canberra International Airport is served by Qantas and Virgin Australia. Destinations include Melbourne, Perth, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide. Brindabella Airlines serves Albury Wodonga and Newcastle. There are no regularly scheduled international flights.
The southern services of Xplorer (CountryLink) provide sercives between Sydney and ACT/Canberra. Train services to Melbourne are provided by way of a CountryLink bus service which connects with a rail service between Sydney and Melbourne in Yass, about one hour's drive from Canberra.
Well maintained roads lead into ACT from New South Wales and there are easy connections to Sydney and Melbourne.
From Sydney: Travel along the Hume Highway and turn off at the Federal Highway near Goulbourn. Travel time is roughly 3 hours.
From Melbourne: Take the Hume Highway and turn off at the Barton Highway at Yass. Travel time is roughly 7 hours.
Greyhound has services to Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney.
ACTION buses run all across Canberra. Bus timetables can be collected from the offices in the bus interchanges in Civic (city), Woden, Tuggeranong, and Belconnen. Alternatively, they are all available on the ACTION website. The best option for travellers would be to purchase a Travel Ten card from a Canberra Newsagent. The ticket system is based on time - each ticket is valid for 90 consecutive minutes of travel, regardless of where you travel in the network.
The bus to the Airport is not operated by Action. Check the Canberra International Airport website for more information on this.
If you want to make the most of Canberra, consider buses or hiring a car as the landmarks are too spread out for walking to be a viable option.
There are plenty of companies you could choose to hire a car from, including Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz and Thrifty. Car hire is often not available to drivers under 25, or if it is, it's more expensive for younger drivers.
Bicycles are a practical way to get around Canberra while visiting, and will get you to most attractions using a well developed network of off-road cycle paths. Visitors can rent bicycles from several businesses, including Row 'n' Ride and Mr Spokes. There are also several bicycle shops along Lonsdale Street just north of Civic.
Canberra also has generally well developed on-road cycle facilities but the on-road cycle lanes sometimes end and start in utterly inexplicable places.
The attractions around the lake are accessible on fairly flat paths, and hilly segments are short. Attractions which involve “mountains” e.g. Mount Ainslie, Black Mountain, the Arboretum or the Stromlo Observatory will obviously have steep access. However, travel from the Civic towards Belconnen or Canberra University is mainly uphill. Pedal Power has a list of commuter and other routes. Bicycles are permitted on footpaths in the ACT (except when passing shops during trading hours).
There are bike racks to lock your bike up at most shopping centres and points of interest. Bike helmets are compulsory.
Most ACTION buses have front bike racks which can carry 2 bicycles at no additional cost. The bike racks have clips, so no additional equipment is necessary. Only 20" tyres or larger bikes are carried. Kids must be accompanied by adults, and child seats and other accessories must be removed from the bike.
A new bicycle map is available online.
Canberra has many fine eateries, but beware - many will be closed on Sundays. All public buildings in Canberra are smoke free.
Canberra's many bars and clubs will be closed on Sunday nights and early into the week. Civic can appear to be a ghost town but there are areas such as Bunda Street where you will always find some happening funky bars.
Most of Canberra's hotels are located in or around Civic or the suburbs which are adjacent to the Parliamentary Triangle. In recent years a small number of hotels have opened in the Belconnen, Gungahlin, Tuggeranong and Woden town centres. Note that the availability of accommodation can be tight during periods in which Parliament is sitting.
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