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Canberra

Photo © RBruceW

Travel Guide Oceania Australia Australian Capital Territory Canberra

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Introduction

Canberra Parliament house

Canberra Parliament house

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Canberra is the capital city of Australia and is located in the Australian Capital Territory to the southwest of Sydney. Following a long dispute over whether Sydney or Melbourne should be the national capital, a compromise was reached: Canberra. It was constructed in the early 1900s following a design by architect Walter Burley Griffin. The highly organised layout is evidence of the planning that went into this city. As a result of being the nation's capital, Canberra is home to many national monuments and institutions such as the Australian War Memorial, the National Gallery of Australia, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Library of Australia, the National Archives of Australia, and the National Museum of Australia.

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Sights and Activities

Canberra is home to many of Australia's most significant cultural institutions.

  • Parliament
  • National Museum of Australia
  • National Library of Australia
  • National Gallery of Australia
  • Australian War Memorial
  • Questacon - large interactive science and technology centre for kids.

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Events and Festivals

Summer in Australia is all about Outdoor Music Festivals. With single day events, camping festivals out of town and week long festivals, there is definately a music festival to suit all tastes. Further reading: Outdoor Music Festivals in ACT.

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Weather

Canberra'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 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.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max27.7 °C27 °C24.4 °C19.8 °C15.4 °C12.1 °C11.2 °C12.9 °C16 °C19.2 °C22.4 °C26 °C
Avg Min13 °C12.9 °C10.7 °C6.6 °C3.1 °C0.9 °C-0.2 °C1 °C3.1 °C6 °C8.5 °C11.2 °C
Rainfall61.5 mm53.6 mm52.6 mm49.5 mm47.8 mm39.6 mm42 mm47.4 mm52.8 mm65.3 mm64.2 mm52.5 mm
Rain Days7.76.57.27.48.49.19.911.110.210.69.97.8

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Getting There

By Plane

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.

By Train

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.[1]

By Car

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.

By Bus

Murrays, tel +61 132251, Murrays operate up to 10 daily express services between Sydney (Central Station) and Canberra with extra services on peak days. They are the main operator on this route. Service takes around 3 1/2 hours. They always have $15 fares available on the web, for the early or late services and $18 for some others. Popular services or last-minute booking is around $35. The service is non-stop (with some services via Sydney International Airport). Murrays also run a daily service from Canberra to Wollongong and Canberra to Narooma. The coaches are more cramped than the trains. Seats are unassigned, so it helps to be there early and not to have luggage to go under the bus, as that lets you get on first and secure your window seat. Buses often fill to capacity, and can experience delays due to peak traffic into and out of Sydney, although the non-stop nature means that they have been known to arrive 10–15 minutes early on a good run.

Greyhound,tel +61 131499, operate a bus service competing with Murray's. Fares seem to be either $15 or $36, so you might get lucky and get a cheap ride. Note that it may not be possible to get the $15 fares when booking a return journey; if so, you probably need to book each leg separately. They also offer a direct service to Melbourne. Greyhound's coach services usually include video entertainment. The Greyhound services have stops which make the service slower than Murrays'.

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Getting Around

By Public Transport

ACTION buses run 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 which means that 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.

By Car

Canberra roads are generally of excellent quality and relatively uncongested.

Most of the major attractions provide free parking. During working hours high demand, from both visitors and employees, can see parking spaces very limited in the Parliamentary Triangle (which contains the National Library, Questacon, Old Parliament House, National Gallery, Commonwealth Place etc.).

The default speed limit on all roads in the ACT is 50 km/h, unless signposted otherwise. Major roads in the ACT have speed limits between 60 and 100 km/h. Occasionally, the same road has a different speed limit for traffic heading in opposite directions. The ACT also has the highest number of speed cameras per capita in Australia. Fixed speed cameras have warning signs in advance via overt signage; red light/speed cameras have much smaller warning signs, usually not coupled with a sign reminding of the speed limit. Mobile speed camera vans operate in the ACT (typically, but not always, on major roads); these may be overtly or covertly parked, and are identified by a large white sign on the roof.

40 km/h school zones are active throughout the school day (unlike surrounding New South Wales where they only operate for an hour or two at the beginning and end of the school day). School zones are rigorously policed.

The main shopping and commercial area of Canberra is known as Civic, but you will never see a signpost to Civic. It is signposted as "City".

Take change for parking meters in Civic if you want to park on the streets, or in the government parking lots. Parking in the town centres is difficult on weekdays. It is also difficult to park at night in Civic. There are several multi-level carparks near the Canberra Centre with ticket pay-stations and pay-booths. Note that all day parking in the Canberra Centre is cheaper on the rooftop level. You will need to collect a parking entry ticket from the first boom gate and then feed the ticket into the second boom gate as you enter the rooftop level.

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.

By Bike

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.

By Foot

Canberra can easily be explored on foot as well.

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Eat

A good place to start is by checking out the following websites, which allow you to search on restaurants, cafes and bars according to cuisine, location etc. and view customer reviews:

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Drink

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.

Nightlife

Canberra has a limited but varied nightlife. For cheap drinks and student types, try the city which is called Civic. Mooseheads on London Curcuit is very popular with the very young party goers. King O'Malleys in Garema Place is a decent Irish Pub with live music most weekends.

Kingston and Manuka are more upmarket options. Lot 33 in Kingston is the place for pop-techno all night dancing, but beware as it doesn't really pick up until midnight at the earliest. Irish pubs Filthy McFaddens and The Durham in Kingston are good fun, but get very crowded.

Smoking is banned in all Canberra clubs and pubs.

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Sleep

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.

Budget

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Dickson Backpackers4-14 Woolley Street DicksonHostel72
Victor Lodge Bed & Breakfast29 Dawes St KingstonGUESTHOUSE-
Canberra City YHA7 Akuna Street CityHostel77
Forrest Hotel and Apartments30 National Circuit Forrest, ACTHotel-
Canberra Short Term & Holiday Accommodation47 McMillan Crescent GriffithHotel-

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafés are very common in the larger Australian cities and popular tourist destinations. However, once you leave the major population centres, you might have trouble finding somewhere to log on. Free wifi is getting more and more common (either with or without a code) in places like restaurants, some bars and coffee places and hotels. Sometimes a fee is required.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

Australia is on a GSM 900/1800 network, so if you have an unlocked phone that works on those frequencies, you will be able to buy a prepaid SIM-card and stick into your phone when you're in Australia. You will receive a new Australian phone number with the SIM-card.

To dial out of Australia use the prefix 0011, followed by the calling code of the country you are trying to reach, followed by the area code of the city/town (without the 0!) and finally the phone number.

Within Australia, it is necessary to add an area code to the phone numbers if you are calling from outside the area. Below are Australia's area codes:

  • 02 - New South Wales & Australian Capital Territory (Sydney, Canberra)
  • 03 - Victoria & Tasmania (Melbourne, Hobart)
  • 07 - Queensland (Brisbane)
  • 08 - Western Australia, South Australia & Northern Territory (Perth, Adelaide, Darwin)

000 is the emergency telephone number in Australia, but the international GSM mobile emergency telephone number 112 also works on mobile phones.

Post

Australia Post is the government's postal service. Most suburbs will have at least one post office. Opening times are mostly from around 8:00 or 9:00am to 5:00pm though larger ones keep longer hours sometimes. A standard letter or postcard sent within Australia will cost $0.60. Internationally, it costs $1.70 to send postcards anywhere in the world. Letters cost $1.85 to send within the Asia Pacific region and $2.60 to anywhere else in the world.[2]. It is also possible to send things as parcels or by express mail. You can also use use private courier companies like TNT, UPS or DHL as they are competitive and reliable.

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References

  1. 1 Source: http://www.countrylink.info/
  2. 2 Australia Post. Sourced 10 May 2013

Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: -35.28204
  • Longitude: 149.12858

Contributors

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This is version 40. Last edited at 8:07 on Aug 24, 16 by Utrecht. 16 articles link to this page.

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