Canberra- worth a visit?

Nov 3rd, 2002, 03:08 PM
John Paul
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Canberra- worth a visit?

We will be in Sydney, with a rental car for four days. We will already have had five days in Sydney itself previously in the trip.

In these last four days, we were planning to go to the Blue Mtns, the wine region. Do you think we should try to drive to Canberra as well?

What are the highlights to see in Canberra?
Nov 3rd, 2002, 03:37 PM
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Hi, John Paul!
I think Canberra is worth a visit at any time of year (but especially in Spring, so I hope you are about to embark), and I frequently lament in this forum that most tourists leave it off their list of "must sees", probably because it is not on the coast, which is what everybosy comes to see. Canberra, however, is a major Australian city, and unlike any other, and no trip to Australia is complete without a visit, preferably for three days and two nights (though you could probably find a week's worth of things to do). It is rather like a mini-Washington D.C. (which was used as the "model" by Canberra's designer, Walter Burley Griffin). It's an interesting circular plan, designed very much with nature in mind, so that all the commercial centres (shops, gas stations, McDonalds, billboards) are kept off the main roads. This makes Canberra a pretty place to drive around in, but also a rather difficult one (even though there are plenty of roadsigns), as there are few easily-recognisable landmarks to assure you that you're on the right path. However, all roads seem to lead, eventually, back to the city centre, and as long as you can see Parliament House in the distance, you know roughly which way to head.
Sights? The afore-mentioned Parliament House is a "must", as is the Science Museum, the brand-new Museum of Australia, the National Art Gallery, and the Australian War Memorial. You could spend half a day in any of these. Then there's the "old" Parliament House, the National Library, and the Film and Sound archives, where you can see one of the two or three most valuable "oscars" in the world (and learn why). A cruise around some of the embassies is always worth a couple of hours: the US building is stunning. Many of these used to have tours, but these may well be a thing of the past in the current climate -- check with the Visitors' Information Centre, which you can't miss if you are driving from Sydney.
Out of town, there is the Observatory, and Cockington Green (a Maduram-style mini-village, unexpectedly enchanting). There are also a couple of lookouts -- one is the Telstra Tower, which is a typical major-city construction, but there are several others which are on the tops of the surrounding mountains, and these are really something to see; like seeing Washington from the air.
The parks around the lake are a riot of colour in spring; the city has just finished its month-long Floriade, which is worth a visit all by itself, but, if you're quick, the flowers will still be there, without the crowds.
If you're from the U.S., you will want to visit the American War Memorial.
As you can see, there's a lot to recommend Canberra, and I haven't even gone close to covering everything. Other posters will be able to add lots more to the above list of attractions. Be warned: in mid-summer, Canberra can be punishingly hot by day, and in mid-winter the nights are icy. All the main buildings, however, are climate-controlled, and there is usually parking right at the entrances. Driving is no problem (only 3 1/2 hours from Sydney), as they seem never to have heard of anything as vulgar as a peak hour. Enjoy yourself!
Nov 3rd, 2002, 09:31 PM
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I would vote for a visit to Canberra as well. The new Parliament House is spectacular architecturally, and it would be an added bonus if Parliament is in session - quite a shock for us Yanks who are used to a bit more decorum in our politics!

Questacon, the science museum, is one of the best we have ever seen, and my family makes it a point to visit such things wherever we go.

Alan points out some of the high spots of the ACT - Mt. Stromlo Observatory has a large exploratory section that is a fine adjunct to Questacon, and you could finish off the science/astronomy theme with a visit to Canberra Space Centre, which contains several tracking stations for NASA spacecraft. The exhibits are very informative here as well, except for the shameless NASA self-promotion (you should have expected something was up when admission is free!).

Finally, the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is huge - you could spend several hours strolling the grounds and visiting the animals.
Nov 3rd, 2002, 11:16 PM
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AM sure it must be worth it...
I recently read Bill Bryson's book on OZ - about a Sunburned Country - and he was quite dismissive about the city.
Nov 4th, 2002, 02:19 AM
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Yeah, we all know what Bill Bryson said. He's a great one for the broad generalisations, even though he's a funny writer. And we all know that a lot of Aussies from other than Canberra bag it, but we've been a number of times, and really enjoyed it. There are any number of great places to eat, in addition to all the stuff Alan and Alf have listed. So the answer to your question - in one word - "absolutely"
Nov 4th, 2002, 05:01 AM
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Is it easy to get to Canberra without a car? If yes, how long and what's the best way.
Nov 4th, 2002, 07:12 AM
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Very easy to see Canberra without a car - it's a nightmare with a car due to perverse curlycue road layouts. Take any of various daily bus tours for around Au$100. Besides hotel pickup, you can just walk to their terminal in basement of the casino in darling hbr.
Nov 4th, 2002, 03:50 PM
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Jt, it is very easy to get to Canberra without a car if you are starting from Sydney. There are three fast trains per day (just over 4 hours, for $47) from Sydney Terminal, and there are also daily coaches from right outside Sydney Terminal Station (they take a bit longer, but are, I think, cheaper.) You can also fly, of course, but by the time you have been through the airport formalities nowadays, you could be halfway there on the train. A good site to look at is
Nov 5th, 2002, 09:07 AM
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YES YES YES...worth 2 days! ALAN is very very very RIGHT when it comes to this city!

We did a 1 day tour from Sydney...IT was just enough to make us wish we had MORE time to spend there. The architecture, the landscaping, the birds, AWESOME

Don't go on Friday--Parliament is OUT...or any of the holidays. Other than getting out of Sydney--the trip was like driving on a US interstate road. Very easy driving.

I would definitely GO back and spend a full 2 days there!

TOO bad I may have to wait 30 years for enough time off to explore the rest of OZ that I didn't get to see this time around!

Military Museum was incredible. View of Parliament from Museum....spectacular...
also did the History Museum...very very good! Cooks Fountain in the lake....we then took a drive up to the top of some mtn and had an even better overall view...can't recall the is listed in the guide books for the bus tours.

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