Canberra is Australia’s capital, located inland 281 km south-west of Sydney and 660 km north of Melbourne. In addition to being the seat of Australia’s Parliament, the city overflows with colour and cultural venues, ranging from art galleries and museums to Canberra’s spectacular spring flower festival. the Floriade.
The vote to build the Australian capital here, in 1908, sparked an international contest to design the city. Chicago architect Walter Burley Griffin was victorious, and his vision of flowing streets and roundabouts has made Canberra a real pleasure to drive around. Get your bearings after picking up your Canberra rental car by heading to Telstra Tower, for spectacular panoramic views of the city.
Drive back down to earth, to Parliament House, the sleek, impressive structure that crowns Capital Hill. Afterwards, note the distinct contrast between the new and the Old Parliament House, home to The Museum of Australian Democracy. Canberra also has 80 embassies, so take a tour of the Yarralumla district to compare their mix of traditional and modern architecture. Highlights include the longhouse-style High Commission of Papua New Guinea, the Mexican Embassy’s high shingled roof and the fusion of traditional and contemporary design at the Royal Thai Embassy.
Foodies should head to Courgette, just a short drive from Parliament House, for French-inspired modern Australian fare created by Sydney-born and European-trained chef James Mussillon. Try the Snowy river rainbow trout with tempura scampi, tomato and basil, wasabi and ocean trout pearls.
Circle Lake Burley Griffin en route to the Carillon, a 50m-high landmark with 55 bronze bells. From there, it’s a small leap to a science fix at Questacon – The National Science and Technology Centre, where youngsters can spend hours enjoying hands-on exhibits, including the Imagination Factory, Earth Quest, and Perception Deception.
The National Gallery is another enlightening stop-off. Its extensive collection of contemporary art runs to 160,000 piece across four main categories: Australian, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Asian, and European and American. The National Film and Sound Archive explores the history of the flicks, from Felix the Cat to Bond, Pixar and everything in between. Don’t miss a glimpse of the world’s only stained-glass platypus skylight, inside the museum’s Teatro Fellini café.
For day-trips around Canberra and further afield, you’ll appreciate booking a Canberra car hire. Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, a 40-minute drive from the city, is a sanctuary that kangaroos, wallabies and koalas call home. Tidbinbilla is also great for hiking into the beautiful Australian bush, where the Nasa Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex scours the inky night sky.
Summer temperatures soar in Canberra, so who could argue with a trip to the ocean to cool off. Kangaroo Valley and Batemans Bay, two hours from the city, have snorkelling, diving and fishing. Put your foot to the gas and cruise the stunning New South Wales coastline, or take things to another level in the Australian Alps. Snowy Mountains, for example, is a scenic three-hour drive away.