Old Jan 12th, 2006, 06:17 AM
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Most people don't even know that Canberra is the capital of Australia, let alone visit it. For our upcoming trip in August, we've made a point to see the capital, although for just a day, perhaps a day and half. What are the must sees? I really want to see the Parliament buildings and the National Museum of Australia. What else should/can I see?

Keep in mind, that I realize the time I've allocated is not enough to see it all. I've been to Ottawa more times than I can count and I still wound't say that I've seen/done everything there is. Thanks!
DasFX is offline  
Old Jan 12th, 2006, 08:08 AM
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Canberra is one of my favorite cities in the world and I was lucky enough to live there for several years. I'm so glad you've decided to spend some time there. We were back there for a visit just last August, so here are my recommendations for your visit--make it a day and a half!
1. Parliament House is beautiful! They offer free tours on the hour from the visitor's desk. I highly recommend this tour as you will learn a lot about the history and architecture of the building. If Parliament is not in session, you'll have the chance to visit both houses. If Parliament is in session (you can find their schedule on the official Parliament website), I recommend booking a seat (free) for Question Time at 2pm. As an American, I found it fascinating. I didn't always know the issue they were discussing, but it was always a lively discussion! You'll also get a good look at the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition. Be sure to take the elevator to the top of Parliament House for the excellent view of the city, particularly of Old Parliament House and the Australian War Memorial. Good gift shop. (Also, there is free and plentiful parking under Parliament House).
2. Old Parliament House--Possibly worth a quick look. Costs A$2 for admission, but free tours available. Also houses part of the National Portrait Gallery. Good gift shop and an award-winning cafe with really good food (but you can go casual).
3. National Gallery of Australia--I love it! Free admission and free daily tours at 11 am and 2 pm. You can also get free audiotours at the front desk. Excellent exhibit of Aboriginal art, but I love the modern art and the Australian art--don't miss Sydney Nolan's "Ned Kelly" series. (Might want to listen in on a school tour to learn about this series if you don't already know the story.) Often have special exhibits that are worth the extra charge.
4. The Australian War Memorial--If you are interested in military history, this is the place for you even if you are not Australian. My son is a military history buff and we literally spent the whole day there. It is also a free musuem with guided tours on the hour, so if you don't have much time for a visit, you can see the highlights on a tour.
5. The National Museum of Australia--This is actually my least favorite museum in Canberra. I went there right after it opened and found it hard to navigate and disjointed, so I never returned. I have been to all of the other museums numerous times, so I know them much better.
6. I recommended Namadgi National Park in one of your previous posts, but I realize now you probably won't have time to do it--takes at least half a day. Too much to see and do!

The weather in Canberra can be dreadful or gorgeous in August. We had a bit of both last August. On the day we arrived, it was cold and rainy. But on the other 4 days of our visit, we had gorgeous blue skies and mild temperatures--shortsleeves.
Hope you have a fabulous visit in Canberra!
longhorn55 is offline  
Old Jan 12th, 2006, 04:03 PM
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longhorn55 has given good advice. Question Time in particular - I assume Canada's House of Commons has the same custom, albeit probably conducted more politely. A sad feature of QT is what's known as the "Dorothy Dixer", a prearranged question from a Government MP which allows a Minister to wax lyrical about some aspect of his/her portfolio. This tactic is employed to use up time that Opposition members would otherwise devote to probing the Government's shortcomings.

I also second the Australian National Gallery and War Memorial, an outstanding museum which I think has wide appeal. The tours conducted by volunteer guides at Old Parliament House (OPH) will also provide an entertaining and sometimes irreverent view of Australia's political history. Again, a Canadian will find much of the terminology and tradition familiar.

I'm also a bit doubtful about the National Museum. Time permitting it's worth a visit, but the eclectic, frequently pop-culture choice of exhibits and postmodern design isn't to everyone's taste.

Parliament House, OPH and the Gallery are all within walking distance of each other within the so-called Parliamentary Triangle south of the lake. From PH the War Memorial can be seen on the opposite side of the lake, with Mt Ainslie in the background. Car parks are at the rear of the building.

For the record, the tours at the War Memorial are at 10:00, 10:30, 11:00, 13:00, 13:30 and 14:00, but extra tours are being conducted during the summer holidays.

If time allowed I'd suggest a visit to the National Botanical Gardens, and the view from the top of Telstra Tower at the summit of Black Mountain, but what you've got already will fill up your time.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Old Jan 13th, 2006, 01:57 AM
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Neil - who was Dorothy Dix? or is this rhyming slang too?
I think we should be told...
fuzzylogic is offline  
Old Jan 13th, 2006, 10:11 AM
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Dorothy Dix was the Ann Landers or Dear Abbie of her day. She would answer questions from readers, only most of the questions were ones she (actually, she was a he) made up.
USNR is offline  
Old Jan 15th, 2006, 12:21 PM
Join Date: Apr 2004
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If you get hungry while you're in canbera, and most people do, then catch a cab to Franklin Street Manuka, pronownc'd Marneka.

There you'll find a number of different eateries and you can stroll down the street and walk into whichever one you like the look of.

My favourite Bar & Grill in the world is in Manuka, it's called ElRancho.

For family groups or couples. The service is good, the food is excellent and the vibe is great. I eat there every time I'm in Canbera.

One must-see in Canberra is the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier at the War Memorial. If your time is limited you can simply flit in. You don't need to tour the whole memorial.

The tomb is underneath the huge vaulted dome which you see from the outside and it's a very reverential and moving experience.

nevets is offline  
Old Jan 23rd, 2006, 06:01 PM
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I'm also an ex-Canberran and an ex-guide at Parliament House, so I can (albeit with bias) recommend the PH tour and question time (you can do both, tours are shortened on sitting days). To check whether sitting while you are here or not visit: .
also for how to book tickets.

Old PH also great (especially when you compare the two and how small the Old parlie house was (always designed to be a provisional home for the Parliament. tours 45minutes, starting at 9.30am. can also do self guided tours in both old and new PH.

with a day and a half (gee whiz) If Parliament not sitting, I'd probably go New Parliament House first thing in the morning (opens at 9am), allow 2 hours, (tour 50 mins, plus there are other things to look at). I'd then be tempted to walk down to Old Parliament House and have lunch - if the weather is nice, there's a lovely little cafe on the other side of the road to Old Parliament House called the rose garden cafe (where the lobby restaurant is). we used to go down there for lunch and it's just lovely (and cheap).

After lunch, I'd either head to War Memorial or National Museum. I personally love the NMA, I think it's great fun. Lots of hands on interactive things to do as well and a lovely location on the lake. So if you were a bit weary, I'd probably go there and choose to look at some of the more lighthearted exhibitions, then do the War Memorial the next morning.

If you are active, you could hire a bike (acton ferry terminal) and do a loop around the lake (over commonwealth bridge, down by the national library, high court, over kings bridge and back round to the bike hire place (could even ride to the museum, hop skip and jump from there too). If it's a windy or cold day (or both) I'd forget it though! august can definitely be beautiful or miserable.

botanic gardens are nice, top of either black mountain tower, mt ainslie or red hill all give good views over the city (mt ainslie behind war memorial good option).

good to see people going to canberra, it's a great place!
lancefan is offline  
Old Jan 23rd, 2006, 08:34 PM
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Manuka is definitely a good place to eat, a good buzz and livelier than the city centre ("Civic&quot after 6. If you prefer Asian food head for Dickson, Canberra's small but busy Chinatown, about 3 km north of the city centre. For my money (well, yours): the Ruby (Cantonese), Pho Phu Quoc (Vietnamese), Taj Agra (Indian) Rasa Sayang (Malaysian/Chinese), Two Sisters (Lao/Thai). IMO the best Thai restaurant is the Sukothai, tucked away at the end of a short arcade at the (very un-busy) Yarralumla shops.

Incidentally, most restaurants in Australia let you bring your own wine (not beer or spirits, unless they're unlicenced), avoiding their 100% (or more) markup and charging a usually modest corkage fee. Some pricier restaurants don't allow BYO, or if they do charge corkage at a rate designed to make you wish you hadn't. Liquor shops with decent selections of Australian, NZ and some foreign wines are everywhere. August in Canberra will be a good time to sample a robust shiraz, or you could go local and try one of the Canberra region's increasingly popular cool-climate wines.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Old Jan 24th, 2006, 04:50 AM
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longhorn55 said: "The Australian War Memorial--If you are interested in military history, this is the place for you even if you are not Australian. My son is a military history buff and we literally spent the whole day there."

I second a visit to the Australian War Memorial even if you are NOT interested in military history! I was kind of dragged along to this museum..definitely not someplace I'd have thought I would find interesting and was extremely pleased to have gone.

It has been many years since I went but I understand that it is still excellent and probably much better than when I went. Incidentally, some friends with a daughter, early teens, visited this museum a few years ago and she liked it too.
LynAK is offline  
Old Jan 24th, 2006, 11:35 AM
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Can't find a map with enough detail, but is there a road / highway that goes from the Blue Mountains to Canberra?

Whenever I plot a route from the Blue Mountains into Canberra, I am routed back to Sydney, but I can see a road that goes south from the Blue Mountains and joins the Hume Hwy. Am I wrong?
DasFX is offline  
Old Jan 24th, 2006, 01:05 PM
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No you're not west thru the mountains onto Oberon (you might want to visit the Jenolan Caves) and then south to Goulbourn and the HUme Highway.Some is unpaved but I am not going to tell the rent a car mob if you don't.

If you have some time do a loop thru the central mountains-bathurst-carcoar-cowra-booroowa-canberra.

A town like cowra is a fine example of an aussie country town with a few twists.
johhj_au is offline  
Old Jan 24th, 2006, 04:24 PM
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John's route would certainly be more interesting, but if you want fast-and-simple,

* take the M4 (Great Western Hwy) from the Blue Mts east as far as its intersection with the new M7 tollway - at a guess this will be about 15 minutes after you pass Penrith, which is at the foot of the Mountains.

*Take a right (south) on the M7 until it ends at the M5, where you turn right.

* Now you're on the Hume Hwy, and you needn't get off it for a while

* After you pass Goulburn (about 150 km on) take the turnoff left to Canberra (Federal Hwy). Follow your nose.

* The Federal Hwy becomes Northbourne Ave as you enter Canberra. Keep an eye out for the Visitor Centre on the left, after the first major intersection. Pull in, equip yourself with a street map and tourist info and figure out where your hotel/motel is - the staff will help. Ahead of time you might like to search for discounted accommodation.

NB: the M7 is an electronic tollway with no provision for cash payment. If you intend to use it, before your journey you should log on to the website below and set up a temporary visitor's account. This will cost you $1.50 setup fee + $0.75 per trip Vehicle Matching Fee + $5.93 toll charge between the M4 and M5, a total of $8.18. This may sound like more detail than you need right now, but it took me so long stuffing around on two bloody frustrating websites that the rest of you may as well bear with me.

(DasFX, the fact is that since I'll be using the M7 regularly myself I need the information anyway. I can tell anyone who at this point is still reading that it's a huge improvement on the lousy Northern Road which runs from Campbelltown to Windsor via Camden and Kingswood. Toll charges are calculated on km travelled and are capped at $5.98. Not supercheap, but the saving in petrol, time and frustration is substantial.)

Maps in PDF format are at
Neil_Oz is offline  
Old Jan 24th, 2006, 05:57 PM
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Thanks Neil i was interested in the m7 for my own benefit.

Given Das is the bloke who is doing half the continent in 3 weeks he would be better off on the M4-M7.
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