Canberra

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.

  • Old Parliament House (featuring the Museum of Australian Democracy), King George Terrace, ☎ +61 2 6270-8222. The headquarters of Australian government from the 1920s to 1988, this building is a must for political and/or historical junkies. The building gives a real feel of what it was like when it was in use and has in the past regularly featured rotating exhibitions on the controversies and scandals that rocked Australian politics. It is now a permanent museum. Most of the main rooms - the Prime Minister's office, the Cabinet Room, the various party rooms, the two houses - are open to visitors, as are many smaller rooms like the whips' offices and the broadcasting area. There are also historical photos of Canberra as it used to be, including the times prior to the creation of the artificial lake that show Canberra under snow during winter (the lake warmed up the city and snow falls rarely on the city now). The gift store has decent souvenirs. Parking is free, admission is A$2 for adults, A$1 concession. Allow 2–3 hours.
  • Parliament House of Australia, Capital Hill, ☎ +61 2 6277-5399, +61 2 6277-2727 (for recorded information). The seat of Australia's federal government and legislature and a remarkable piece of modern architecture. Outside, the forecourt faces Federation Mall and has iconic views. Much of the inside is open to the public during business hours (your bags are x-rayed and persons pass through a metal detector at the entrance). When inside the building, do not miss: Queens Terrace upstairs towards the forecourt, and the roof (via an elevator close to walkway to the House of Representatives). Various art, including portraits of past prime ministers are hung in the hallways. Enthusiastic guides perform free tours daily at 10AM, 1PM and 3PM (no booking required). Tours are shorter when Parliament is sitting as the chambers are occupied.
  • National Museum of Australia - Lawson Crescent, ☎ +61 2 6208 5000, e-mail: information@nma.gov.au. Daily 9AM-5PM. This museum presents a thematic rather than a chronological account of Australian history, and spent its early years embroiled in a controversy over whether its displays were politically biased. The NMA has been revamped and expanded and includes some excellent galleries on Indigenous Australia and many interesting items, but the museum as a whole is somewhat underwhelming and not likely to be of much interest to non-Australians. Free, except special exhibits
  • National Library of Australia -☎ +61 2 6262-1111, fax: +61 2 6257-1703. King. The library is primarily a research centre, but houses a permanent display of historically significant items as well as temporary exhibitions showing parts of the collection. Also notable for its neo-classical architecture. The library is adjacent to Commonwealth Avenue Bridge on the southern side of Lake Burley Griffin near the National Gallery of Australia and Questacon, and is a short walk from a bus stop on the Inter-Town route. It is open 9AM-9PM Monday-Thursday, 9AM-5PM Friday-Saturday and 1:30PM-5PM on Sundays.
  • National Gallery of Australia - ☎ +61 2 6240-6502. Parkes Place, Parkes. 10AM–5PM. Located by Lake Burley Griffin, this modern structure is one of the country's largest, and best, art galleries. It has a vast collection of paintings and sculptures collected from Australia and the rest of the world and has excellent Aboriginal artwork. A nice gift store and a large bookstore on the upper level. Free except for special exhibits. The Gallery offers free public one-hour tours: Australian and International art at 11AM and 2PM daily, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art at 11AM on Thursdays and Sundays. Allow at least half a day and possibly more.
  • Australian War Memorial - Treloar Crescent, ☎ +61 2 6243 4211. Daily 10AM-5PM. Not just a memorial, this is one of Australia's premier museums, covering Australian military history from Federation to the present day and including fascinating exhibits of equipment, memorabilia and battle dioramas. You could easily spend a full day here (it has a café, or bring a picnic lunch if the weather is nice and sit on the lawns at the front). Anzac Parade, leading up to the War Memorial has a number of memorials to different wars and those involved in wars. Free entry, allow 4–7 hours. The AWM opens its large storage warehouse in the industrial suburb of Mitchell to the public once every few years (usually in September or October), and this is a must-see event for people interested in military history.
  • Questacon - Questacon is an interactive museum of science with exhibits illustrating scientific ideas from the principles of physics to the motion of an earthquake. Great for kids and excellent science books can be picked up here. Allow at least half a day. $15.50 adults, $10.50 concessions, $9 children, and $46 for a family of 2 adults and 3 children.

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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. International flights now link Canberra with Singapore (Singapore Airlines) and Doha (Qatar Airways).

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.

  • Canberra City YHA, 7 Akuna Street, ☎ +61 2 6248-9155, fax: +61 2 6249-1731), e-mail: canberracity@yhansw.org.au. Canberra City, (. Beds in a shared dormitory from $26 per night. Double or twin rooms from $76 per night. Family rooms $96 per night.
  • Victor Lodge, 29 Dawes St, Kingston, ☎ +61 2 6295-7777, fax: +61 2 6295-2466, e-mail: contact@victorlodge.com.au. Reception 7:30AM-9PM. Kitchen is only open from 11AM-9PM but breakfast is provided and included in the rates. Free parking. Shops, cafes and grocery store are nearby. Dorm beds from $27.
  • Belconnen Premier Inn, 110 Benjamin Way, Belconnen ACT 2617, ☎ +61 2 6253 3633, toll-free: 1800 672 076, fax: +61 2 6253 3688, e-mail: info@belconnenpremierinn.com. Belconnen Premier Inn is one of the few accommodation options if you want to stay in the Belconnen area. The motel has standard rooms, deluxe rooms and two bedroom apartments, and is situated within walking distance of Belconnen Town Centre - useful if you need to visit one of the offices situated there (e.g. Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Australian Bureau of Statistics, etc.) Full Rates range from $190 for a standard room to $320 for a 2 bedroom apartment.
  • Best Western PLUS Garden City Hotel, 55 Jerrabomberra Avenue, NARRABUNDAH ACT 2604, ☎ +61 2 6295 3322, fax: +61 2 6239 6289, e-mail: reservations@gardencitycanberra.com.au. This motel is situated in Narrabundah which is located away from Canberra's main attractions so having access to a car is highly recommended if staying here. Rooms are small but provided you have a car, accommodation tends to be substantially cheaper than accommodation options in Civic. Full Rates range from $150-220 for a standard room.
  • Rydges Eagle Hawk Resort, ☎ +61 2 6241-6033, fax: +61 2 6241-3691, e-mail: reservations_eaglehawk@rydges.com. Federal Highway. A large resort, a few kilometers from the outskirts of Canberra, with motel-style accommodation. It is on the Federal Highway just across the border. Rooms include small kitchenettes, and it is possible to get two interconnecting rooms for families or groups (at less than the price of two rooms). The resort has a large pool, a breakfast room and restaurant, and a small spa and sauna area. Double rooms $140 per night without breakfast and $170 with breakfast. Rates may be as low as $110 if you pay in advance and agree to a 48 hr cancellation period via the Rydges Direct system. edit
  • Novotel Canberra Hotel, 65 Northbourne Avenue, ☎ +61 2 6245-5000, fax: +61 2 6245 5100, e-mail: H2796-RE@accor.com. In Canberra's Civic Centre on Northbourne Ave, Novotel Canberra accommodates business and convention visitors, and families travelling with children. Directly above the Canberra Coach Terminal. Rate range $150 – 250.
  • Rydges Lakeside Canberra, toll-free: 1300-857-922. London Circuit, Rydges Lakeside Canberra is on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, walking distance to Civic.
  • Rydges Capital Hill, toll-free: 1300-857-922. Cnr Canberra Avenue & National Circuit Forest. Located across the lake from Civic, close to Parliament House.
  • University House, 1 Balmain Crescent Acton, ph: +61 2 6125 5276 email: UniHouse@anu.edu.au,. This hotel is located on the campus of the Australian National University about halfway between Civic and the National Museum of Australia. Accommodation options range from single rooms with shared bathrooms ($95 per night) to two bedroom apartments ($185 per night). Several of the ANU's residential colleges also offer tourist accommodation over the summer months.
  • Hyatt Hotel Canberra, Commonwealth Avenue, Yarralumla, ☎ +61 2 6270-1234, fax: +61 2 6281-5998, e-mail: canberra@hyatt.com.au. tel 13 1234 (local call within Australia). Double room from $190 per night. Hotel Canberra on Wikipedia Hotel Canberra (Q10930619) on Wikidata edit
  • Hotel Kurrajong, National Circuit, Barton, ☎ +61 2 6234-4444, fax: +61 2 6234-4466. Each of the Kurrajong’s 26 rooms have King size beds, mini bar, tea and coffee making facilities, in-room safe, free in-house movies.
  • Hotel Realm, 18 National Cct, Barton, ☎ +61 2 6163 1800, fax: +61 2 6163 1801, e-mail: reservations@hotelrealm.com.au. Canberra's newest 5 star hotel, in the Parliamentary triangle close to Parliament House and other attractions.

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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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

Accommodation in Canberra

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Canberra searchable right here on Travellerspoint.

Contributors

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This is version 43. Last edited at 11:56 on Jul 23, 18 by Utrecht. 17 articles link to this page.

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