- ACT redirects here. For Waco, Texas' regional airport's IATA code, see Waco, for Ascot's railway station code, see Ascot
Canberra was built to be the capital city of Australia, taking up all of Australian Capital Territory in the southeast of New South Wales. A planned city with national monuments, museums, and galleries all built around large man-made lakes. The bush capital - Canberra is also a great place to enjoy the outdoors, with excellent cycling, gardens, parks, bushwalking and nature reserves.
|Civic (City) |
The urban core and the central business district (CBD) of Australia's capital albeit a small one home to many shopping malls and dining options. It provides some of the most magnificent views of Parliamentary Triangle, one of the most important places in Australia.
Canberra's university district, home to the Australian National University and many museums with it, along with the Australian National Botanic Gardens, containing perhaps one of the finest selections of flora from all over Australia, from remote Western Australia, to the pines of Norfolk Island, and perhaps the only place where one can walk from tropical rainforests of Queensland to temperate forests of Tasmania around about in two minutes.
|North Canberra |
While mostly comprised of residential neighbourhoods, many travellers come to the district to see the Australian War Memorial, one of the country's largest and most important war memorials and perhaps one of the premiere military museums and sites in Australia.
|South Canberra |
Contains many of Australia's most important federal buildings, mostly contained within Parliamentary Triangle which includes Parliament House, and several other government buildings, many of which are open to the public. The district also contains many of Canberra's museums and the Royal Australian Mint.
A largely residential district to the north of Canberra with not many sights, but contains many shopping precincts and restaurants, making it a quieter alternative to Civic.
One of Canberra's newest residential areas, mostly visited for the Gold Creek Village, a village of specialty stores, family-friendly attractions and restaurants, hotels (to drink, not to sleep) and a popular weekend destination for Canberrans. It's arguably the largest tourist attraction in Canberra outside Canberra Central.
|Weston Creek, Molonglo Valley and Woden (Woden, Weston Creek, Molonglo Valley, and Stromlo)|
To the west and southwest of South Canberra, home to the National Arboretum containing some of the most scenic and impressive views of Canberra. To the west is Stromlo Forest park, one of the largest MTB parks in close proximity to a city.
|Tuggeranong and Country ACT |
A large settlement in the southern suburbs of Canberra which is a gateway to the Australian Alps, and a vast open space where one can truly experience the bush capital, Canberra's nickname.
Country ACT is also home to Namadgi National Park, the Australian Capital Territory's only national park, taking up around a good forty-seven percent of the ACT's land area. Being the northernmost of all the heritage listed Australian Alps National Parks the park enjoys a good array of snow. The park also has plenty of MTB trails.
This tiny village shy of 300 predates its establishment over 30 years before Canberra's establishment. Nestled between New South Wales, Belconnen and Gungahlin, it has a distinct identity, and feels more like rural New South Wales or any other rural Australian town rather than a district of the ACT.
|Airport and East |
Another smaller segment of Country ACT, but in the east of the ACT instead. It doesn't have a lot of sights of interest, nor is it even on the bucket list for even regular visitors to Canberra. It's mostly filled with the Kowen Forest and bits of Queanbeyan that have creeped over the border, but it will certainly please you if you're the kind of person who likes visiting lesser known, unimportant destinations whilst appreciating nature at the same time.
Other areas associated with the ACT but not covered under here
- Queanbeyan is often regarded as Canberra's fifth town centre if you exclude Gungahlin, and in many respects, it has closer connections to the ACT and all major roads towards Queanbeyan pass through the ACT in some way or another, but it is in New South Wales and hence not covered here. The same goes with some other minor towns in the area like Bungendore (though it's accessible via road without going through the ACT) and Wallaroo.
- Although its local supermarket erroneously claims that Jervis Bay Territory (JBT) is a part of the ACT, it isn't – or at least, not any more. In 1915, NSW was forced to surrender a tiny bit of its coast so the capital could have a port, managed by the federal government with a grand port city constructed nearby. However, this vision was never realised and today, most of the federal territory is comprised of a jointly-managed Commonwealth national park/reserve, home to some of the world's whitest beaches.
The requirement for an Australian capital city to be built was specified in the Australian constitution at federation in 1901, and seven years later the site for what would become Canberra was established. A design competition was held for the city in 1911 which was won by Chicago-based architect Walter Burley Griffin in 1912. The name "Canberra" was made official in 1913. However, much of Griffin's plan was not implemented during his lifetime in part due to the Great War, the Great Depression and conflict between Griffin and the commission tasked with implementing his ideas. To give just two examples, Lake Burley Griffin was part of his original design but only implemented in the 1960s, almost three decades after his death and the light rail system Griffin originally envisioned took over a century to see even the first line enter service.
The Australian Capital Territory was created from land inside New South Wales, and originally governed directly by the federal government. In 1988 the federal government granted the area "responsible government" (aka "home rule") and the first local elections were held in 1989 with parties opposed to the very idea of a local government for the Capital Territory garnering significant support. Politically the local Legislative Assembly has often been a "hung parliament" with neither right wing Liberals nor left wing Labor able to govern on their own, but the office of Chief Minister has mostly been held by the Labor Party.
Canberra is a highly planned city, its primary design conceived by the American architect Walter Burley Griffin, built on the shores of a man-made lake (Lake Burley Griffin). Populated at first largely by politicians and public servants, it has taken time to develop its own identity and culture. Extensive building of national facilities and museums has made it a unique destination.
The planned creation of this new city was not without critics - cynics having said it was a "waste of a good sheep pasture". Not unlike Brasilia or other "planned capitals", Canberra's design has often clashed with the needs of its actual inhabitants and the somewhat awkward location chosen as a political compromise (and to develop the interior) has put it slightly off the beaten tourist path.
Lake Burley Griffin divides central Canberra. The central shopping and commercial area, known as "Civic", is on the north side and the parliamentary triangle and embassy area are on the south side. National institutions are likewise divided, examples being the National Museum of Australia and the Australian War Memorial on the north side and the National Library and National Gallery of Australia on the south side.
There are suburbs surrounding central Canberra, and also suburbs surrounding several outlying town centres. These town centres are Belconnen and Gungahlin to the north, and Molonglo Valley, Tuggeranong, Woden and Weston to the south, while there are a few towns and villages outside the metropolitan area but still inside the ACT. The ACT also has surrounding towns, such as Murrumbateman, which boasts a strong cool-climate wine selection. The historic villages of Tharwa and Hall are also on the outskirts of Canberra.
Many people who live in Canberra have moved there to study or take up employment with the Australian Government. A common pattern is that people from other parts of Australia move to Canberra, study or work for a few years and then return to their place of origin or move on to elsewhere. As this means a constant influx of new arrivals to Canberra, you should not be reluctant to ask for directions and the like from locals - they are more than used to it and usually only too happy to help. In 2019, there was a population of 427,000 people in Canberra.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
While Canberra has a reputation as a cold city, it can get just as hot as anywhere else in Australia during the summer months, with temperatures above 30°C a frequent occurrence from December through to March. Winter days can be bitterly cold (June–August) owing to the city's altitude being part of the Australian Alps and proximity to the Snowy Mountains. Overnight temperatures in winter frequently drop below zero and tend to hover slightly above 10°C during the day. However, it is usually a clear, brisk cold, and rarely a dull, damp cold. It almost never snows in Canberra, because the below freezing temperatures (at night) usually coincide with clear skies. Most Canberrans believe that late Autumn (mid-April to May) has the city's best weather. Spring weather can be highly changeable.
Canberra is less humid than Australian coastal cities. The hottest days are often mitigated by welcome, cooling, mountain breezes, particularly towards the end of the day, and the temperature drops overnight. Bring a light pullover or jacket when visiting in Summer as the nights can be surprisingly cool. Layered clothing, which can be adjusted to fit the changing temperature during the day, is particularly effective.
- 1 Canberra and Region Visitors Centre, Regatta Point, Barrine Drive, Parkes, ☏ , [email protected]. M-F 9AM-5PM; Sa Su holidays 9AM-4PM. The ACT Government operates a comprehensive visitors centre co-located with the National Capital Exhibition at Regatta Point on Lake Burley Griffin. It provides information on attractions in Canberra, and staff can book accommodation as well as tickets to local events.
Foggy mornings at Canberra Airport
Canberra Airport is sometimes affected by morning fog from around May to September, causing delays or cancellations. Many Canberrans avoid morning flights if they can at this time of year, and travellers will probably want to do the same. Aircraft parked at the airport overnight can generally fly out through fog, so early departures are normally unaffected. However, arrivals and subsequent departures can be delayed even after the fog lifts, typically by about 10AM.
- Adelaide operated by Qantas and Virgin Australia; up to three flights daily.
- Ballina operated by Fly Pelican
- Brisbane Airport operated by Qantas and Virgin Australia, at least eight flights daily.
- Doha Hamad Airport operated by Qatar Airways; one flight daily (via Sydney)
- Gold Coast operated by Virgin Australia, six flights per week.
- Newcastle operated by Fly Pelican; at least two flights daily.
- Melbourne Airport operated by Qantas and Virgin Australia; at least 16 flights daily.
- Perth Airport operated by Qantas; one flight daily.
- Sydney Airport operated by Qantas and Virgin Australia; at least 26 flights daily.
Canberra Airport is developing international connections, with Singapore Airlines flying to the city from Singapore, and Qatar Airways flying from Doha via Sydney. Otherwise Sydney Airport is the closest gateway airport with flights from many worldwide destinations, but also consider Melbourne as an alternative with easier terminal transfers.
The current terminal building, completed in 2013, is fitted with all the trimmings of a small modern airport, including aerobridges for jet flights and enclosed terminal areas. There are only a handful of food outlets and a single newsagent inside the terminal, with the meal options being expensive and low quality even by airport standards. ATMs and payphones are located on both sides of security. Qantas and Virgin have their own airport lounges within the terminal, and the waiting area for international flights offers fairly basic lounge-style services for all passengers. To keep yourself entertained you could venture around the terminal and its grounds to try and locate six public art sculptures that are on display.
As Canberra Airport is fairly new and small, the process of passing through security at the start of a flight and collecting your luggage on arrival is usually very fast in comparison to the other capital city airports. Completing immigration and customs checks for international departures and arrivals is also much faster than at major airports.
Taxis are available from the indoor taxi queue on the ground floor and cost $25 to Civic. Fares to Canberra's suburbs can be much higher, for instance at least $50 to Tuggeranong or Belconnen.
Ridesharing service Uber operates in Canberra and is usually cheaper than taxis. Canberra Airport has a dedicated passenger waiting lounge located 20 metres from the ground floor exit of the arrivals hall.
Canberra Airport is connected to Civic by public bus route R3. Services arrive and depart from outside the baggage claim area on the ground floor of the airport every 15 minutes or less during weekdays, and 30 minutes on weekends. The route is serviced by standard ACTION buses, which do not include luggage racks for large suitcases, however most have space for medium-sized suitcases near the driver, and the buses are rarely crowded. A Single adult fare between Civic and the airport is $4.90 each way, or less if using a MyWay card.
The Royale Group also runs a shuttle which costs $10 one way to/from Civic. Frequency is 30–60 minutes, the ride takes 20–30 minutes and it operates daily 7AM-6PM (reduced frequency on weekends).
Several car rental services have kiosks in the Arrival Hall. Internationally known and reputable companies like Budget Car Hire, Thrifty, Hertz, RedSpot, Avis, and Europcar are available. When returning car rentals, there is a Caltex petrol station adjacent to the terminal.
It is possible to use Canberra's off-road cycleway network to reach the airport. Follow the cycleway along the north side of the lake. A section of cycleway runs along the Molonglo River underneath the Monaro Highway Bridge; it veers left and passes underneath the Pialligo Avenue bridges. Turn right, cross the creek (beware of the gravel surface at this point), cross over Fairbairn Avenue, use the airport service road through the airport precinct, and make your way to the terminal. The ACTION public bus also carries bicycles on the front racks.
There are ample-sized covered and uncovered car parks within walking distance of the terminal. The uncovered car park is cheaper. Expect to pay $20–25 per day, with special weekend rates.
For arriving passengers expecting a pick up, the pick up area is in the closest uncovered car park 100 m from the terminal exit. Private cars have a 10-minute grace period to enter and leave that area. Close by, there is a Caltex station/Subway Restaurant with limited parking spaces where cars can wait.
Sydney to Canberra on a budget
Thanks to an expansive NSW TrainLink network and capped pricing, you can travel from Sydney to Canberra, via Goulburn (a terminus of the Sydney suburban train system), on the cheap. First you must take an unbooked Sydney Trains train service from Sydney to Goulburn, costing $8.60, and a subsequent booked TrainLink Xplorer service to Canberra, ranging between $11-17 depending on your travel period. This can equate to a saving of $20-30 compared to the direct Xplorer option. Unless you do want to spend time in Goulburn, refer to the timetables to minimise your layover.
NSW TrainLink runs Xplorer train services from Sydney to Canberra three times daily, taking around 4 hours 20 minutes from Sydney's Central Station. Despite being slower than a bus or driving, the train journey takes a very scenic route through the Southern Highlands and the Molongolo Gorge, compared to an unexciting freeway journey by road. Economy train fares cost $56 in peak season (Christmas and New Year period or school holidays) and $40 in off-peak, with discounts sometimes available on last minute or advance bookings. If you do take a bicycle on board they must be boxed and checked-in as luggage on NSW TrainLink services. There is a fee of $12.10 per bicycle and there is room for only three on any train. On some days it is possible to do a day trip by train from Sydney and get 5–6 hours to spend in Canberra.
The train terminates at 2 Canberra Railway Station in Kingston, a suburb located southeast of the main centre of Canberra (Civic) in South Canberra. If you are light on luggage, the cheapest option is to take one of the local ACTION buses which service the station, costing $4.80 to Civic (less if you use a MyWay card). On weekdays, bus route R2 run every 15 minutes to Civic, with route R2 operating on weekends every 30 minutes. You can also get a taxi from the rank, or book an Uber. You may even be able to walk from the station to your accommodation if you are staying on the southern side of Lake Burley Griffin, taking up to 25-30 minutes depending when you stay.
NSW TrainLink also runs a once-daily train/bus between Melbourne and Canberra: the bus runs from the centre of Canberra (City Bus Interchange) via the Barton Highway, Burley Griffin Way and the Olympic Highway to the town of Cootamundra, where travellers switch to the XPT (NSW TrainLink) to Melbourne's Southern Cross Station; tickets cost $91 in off-peak and $107 in peak season.
V/Line runs a competing train/bus service (Canberra Link) between Melbourne and Canberra daily. Coaches depart from the Jolimont Centre coach terminal (across the road from the City Bus Interchange). Services run relatively directly via the Barton and Hume Highways and change for the train at Albury. Tickets cost $46.
V/Line also run a Canberra service to connect with their Melbourne train at Bairnsdale. This service is called Capital Link. Services run twice a week (three times a week during Victorian school holidays). At Bairnsdale a road coach will take you via Orbost, Cann River and Cooma to Canberra, with stops at Canberra Railway Station (Kingston) and the Jolimont Centre (across the road from the City Bus Interchange). Tickets on this service also cost $46.
3 Jolimont Centre is the sole coach terminal servicing Canberra, with all coaches stopping here even if they are just passing through Canberra. Located in Civic, the centre itself has limited amenities, including showers, internet access, a few eateries and phones to call the tourist centre and accommodation. Due to its location, it is only a short walk to many hotels or shops and is near the City Bus Station, where all local ACTION busses will pass through.
Murrays, ☏ , 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 3½ 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 Pioneer, ☏ , 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. 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 sometimes include video entertainment. Some Greyhound buses on the Canberra/Sydney route have on-board wifi at no additional cost, but it is very slow and occasionally drops out. The Greyhound services may stop (at passenger request) at Goulburn and at Sydney airport; if this happens, it can introduce significant additional travel time. At busy times, Greyhound sometimes run two services between Canberra and Sydney, one which stops at Sydney airport and another which does not.
V/Line, ☏ . V/Line have two services which connect Canberra to Melbourne. The fastest option is a bus from Canberra to Albury with a connecting train to Melbourne. This takes around 8 hours. The more scenic option is to travel to Melbourne via Cooma, Sale and Bairnsdale. Likewise, this service connects with a train at Bairnsdale allowing you to continue your journey southwest towards Melbourne.
The drive from Sydney to Canberra is 290 km and takes around three and a half hours from the Sydney CBD, less from outer suburbs in Sydney. The road is a divided-highway, freeway-like conditions from Sydney all the way to Canberra, mostly with a 110 km/h speed limit, via the M5 Southwest Motorway, Hume and Federal Highways. There are three sets of on-road services located on the Hume Highway between Sydney and the turn-off to the Federal Highway to Canberra, as well as many well-maintained and often scenic rest stops with toilets and picnic tables ideal for a picnic. Take drinks, as the rest areas have no water, or tank water which is not recommended for drinking. A third option which will enable you to see more of the countryside is to stop at one of the small towns in the Southern Highlands on the way, all of which boast many cafes and restaurants open for breakfast, lunch and dinner (but not 24 hour).
It is rare to make the entire trip between Canberra and Sydney without at least one police speed trap. The city of Goulburn, on the way to Canberra, is the training centre for New South Wales police officers who often send new recruits to run speed checks on the freeway. There are also several fixed speed traps, all of which are signposted in advance.
The drive from Melbourne to Canberra is 650 km and takes roughly eight hours on the Hume and Barton Highways, again mostly on dual-carriageway roads. A great alternate driving route uses the Monaro Highway and travels through interesting terrain in the Snowy Mountains.
Canberra is a car-centric city with excellent roads, and tourists who want to travel away from Civic and the main tourist attractions are generally better off renting a car than relying on the infrequent, though generally reliable, bus services. A first 12 km (7.5 mi) tram line opened in 2019 and will hopefully make it easier to get around without a car in the future but it's not yet clear whether the network will grow significantly in the 2020s.
ACTION buses cover the majority of Canberra, with reduced services on weekends/public holidays. While Canberreans whinge about it, ACTION's services are generally reliable and it has a useful range of routes for tourists. If you're staying in or near Civic and intend to only visit the main tourist sites, there's little need to rent a car.
Fares are $5 for adults and $2.50 for concessions (have your student or concession card ready to show the driver. For international students, it's always good to have an ISIC Card because many drivers—although not strictly supposed to—will accept these). An all day ticket costs $9.60 for adults and $4.80 for concessions.
If spending more than $20 on tickets, consider purchasing a MyWay stored value card, which is more convenient, and offers discounts on travel. Value can be added onto the card, but there are no refunds. It can take up to 48 hours for value added to a MyWay card to be usable on the card. Apply for concession fares at a MyWay agent e.g. ANU students need to do so at the ANU Union annually.
The cross-city routes (e.g., R4) are frequent, reliable, have fewer stops and travel quickly between interchanges. They also can be crowded during peak times. The R4 is sometimes referred to as the Blue Rapid or Intertown. On weekends, these route run at a reduced frequency. These services are not of much use to tourists, however, as they do not pass many attractions except routes R2 and R6 which travel in the Parliamentary Triangle. ACTION maintains a useful list of the services to the main tourist attractions on its website.
Other services are less frequent, even less-so during off-peak and weekends. Some meander slowly through suburbs. Check routes and timetables carefully on the ACTION website. It's generally a good idea to arrive at suburban bus stops 5–10 minutes before the bus is due during the middle of the day and in the evening as they often run fast.
Confusingly, ACTION buses are painted several different colours. Most are white and green (like that in the photograph in this section), but smaller numbers are either blue or orange.
During weekends, there is easy parking at Woden, Belconnen and Tuggeranong car parks, which makes the Blue Rapid a good alternative to parking in Civic. During weekdays, a Park and Ride permit is required. ACTION often provides free one-off services from city centres to major events e.g. between Belconnen/Woden etc. to show days, Skyfire, sporting events, Floriade or the Arboretum. These are announced on the ACTION website and through social media.
Bicycle cages along the cross-city routes can be used without additional charge. However, they are only available to registered MyWay card users, who have further applied for access to individual cages.
Users can plan ACTION bus trips on Google Maps. Transport Canberra's NXTBUS website provides live updates.
Tips for riding the buses:
- Board the bus through the front doors. Boarding through the rear doors is allowed at bus stations for MyWay card users.
- If you need to change buses to get somewhere, ask for a transfer ticket; it'll let you on to as many buses as you need within 90 minutes of getting on the first bus.
- Tell the driver where you need to get to (and how quickly if that's important) and ask them what your options are. Some buses snake through the suburbs and can take a while to cover a relatively short distance while others may be more direct or express services.
- Most buses do not operate after 9:30 PM on Sundays and public holidays. They do not operate overnight, after midnight or before 5AM. There is however a 'flexibus' or 'nightrider' system with certain routes running at these times—for a flat fare of $10—that operates on weekends in early summer, but not throughout the year.
- As of October 2018, 84% of the fleet is wheelchair accessible. Buses that are wheelchair accessible have a wheelchair ramp at the front door.
- Most buses have a bicycle rack attached in front. Bicycle racks can only carry 2 bicycles at a time.
- If using a MyWay card, remember to tag off before alighting.
- Culture Loop shuttle bus. This free bus service links most of Canberra's main cultural institutions. It only involves one bus though, which conducts hourly services. A combination of this route and ACTION services or taxis would be more convenient than needing to schedule your trip to the bus' timetable. Free.
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 Cycle Canberra. A single dockless bicycle sharing company, Airbike, operates in the area around Civic and the Parliamentary Triangle. 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.
Due to the popularity of cycling in Canberra, most road users are aware of cyclists and considerate of them.
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. You can take your bike on board Canberra's trams, or lock it at a tram station.
Openstreetmap shows cycle paths and water fountains. Some books which feature local rides are Cycling Around Canberra by Bruce Ashley, and Where To Ride Canberra by Bicycling Australia.
Walter Burley Griffin's original 1912 plan for Canberra called for an urban tram service but it took over a century - and many false starts - for the first line to open in 2019. Canberra's first tram line stretches from Civic to Gungahlin. Primarily a commuter route to the Canberra suburbs, It gives you a pleasant enough ride up Canberra's main avenue, and past the showground and exhibition centre and on to Gungahlin town centre in Canberra's north. There are plans for extensions and new lines, and since the first tram line was a hot button political issue in the 2016 ACT election, the October 2020 one being won by pro-tram Labor (and their likewise pro-tram Green coalition partner) bodes well for the future of the system.
Use your MyWay card to ride. Transfers work seamlessly to buses. Tag-on and off at the platform before and after boarding.
Drivers are often confused by the many signs around Canberra that direct you to the "Town Centre". The unanswered question that the sign poses, is "Which Town?". The city centre, also known as "Civic", is its own centre, but the other Canberra "towns" are Belconnen and Gungahlin (to the north of the lake), and Woden, Weston Creek, Molonglo and Tuggeranong (to the south). Each of these towns has its own suburbs. You will see signs directing you to each of these towns, but once you get closer the sign will simply direct you to the "town centre". You need to know which town you are in for the sign to make sense.
National rental companies operate kiosks from Canberra Airport. Alternatively, all major operators have locations in the civic for easy access to vehicle hires.
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. In urban areas, major roads in the ACT have speed limits between 60 and 90 km/h, while freeway-grade roads in Canberra and most rural-ACT roads have a speed limit of 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. 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.
Fuel. There are few service stations on the main roads; instead they tend to be located near local shops, off the main roads. Look for the small blue fuel pump signs pointing off the main roads. Start looking well before you run too low. There are several service stations just east of Northbourne Avenue at Civic. Petrol is also more expensive in Canberra than Sydney.
- Individual listings can be found in Canberra's district articles
Canberra, as the national capital of Australia, contains a lot of government buildings, and many of them are often open for tours. By far the most significant one is Parliament House in Capital Hill, but other important buildings include the High Court of Australia, Old Parliament House, the Government House, the Royal Australian Mint and The Lodge, though not all of them are always open to the public. There are other buildings that are of national importance too, such as the National Library of Australia and the Australian War Memorial.
Most of the time, much of what to see in Canberra is located in South Canberra, or to be more specific, particularly more centred within Parliamentary Triangle which contains the High Court, National Archives, National Gallery, National Library, National Portrait Gallery, both the current Parliament House and the Old Parliament House and the science museum of Questacon.
The other parts of South Canberra don't have as many points of interest, but they are nevertheless still great sights worth visiting. The most notable sight in South Canberra outside Parliamentary Triangle is the Royal Australian Mint.
North Canberra too has several important sights, the most important of them all being the Australian War Memorial though there are many military sites in the east of North Canberra, particularly on Anzac Avenue.
Being the capital of Canberra, the city has no shortage of museums for a city of its size. Many of its museums are located in two particular districts, South Canberra, and Acton. Many of South Canberra's museums are mostly spread out evenly, while most of Acton's museums are part of the Australian National University campus, and as such, many relate to educational content that's found at unis.
Not withstanding, there are plenty of museums in other districts too, just not as many – such as the National Dinosaur Museum in Gungahlin, which showcases a good range of dinosaur exhibitions in Australia, or the Canberra Space Centre, which is one of the premiere astrotourism sites in Australia.
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, and free tours are operated at certain times. On sitting days, you are allowed to view proceedings in the public gallery from 2PM onwards while viewing Question Time from the House of Representatives galleries can be done via a booking.
Parliament House is arguably less politically restricted than say the White House in the United States – you will be screened upon entry but that's about it.
As the national capital, Canberra hosts the embassies of most countries, listed below in Embassies. Many of the embassies are built in an architectural style typical of their country. In Yarralumla (the closest embassy district to the city), the Embassy of China, Embassy of Papua New Guinea, The Royal Thai Embassy and the building which hosts the Estonian and Finnish embassies are particularly worth a look. The Embassy of the United States of America is also worth a drive past, being the oldest embassy in Canberra. It is best to have a car or bicycle for touring so you can stop and have a look around. Most of the embassies in the suburb of O'Malley are converted houses, and none feature interesting architecture. Several of the embassies hold annual open days on weekends in Spring and Autumn which usually include stalls serving their native food.
Nature and scenery
With Canberra unofficially crowned a bush capital, it is no surprise there is plenty to see when it comes to exploring its natural scenery. There are many hiking paths to explore around Canberra along with plenty of great vantage points to view the city, with many being accessible by car or by foot. Wildlife are commonly found in the surrounding nature reserves, but on lucky occasions you may spot wildlife that venture into the suburbs. Kangaroos occasionally penetrate into Civic, and hop down Northbourne Avenue from time to time. If ever you encounter wildlife on your visit be sure to admire from a distance.
For the easiest spot to experience the bush capital, the Australian National Botanic Gardens specialises in Australian flora. The gardens represent most Australian climates from the rainforests of the north, to the deserts of the interior to the pines of Norfolk Island or pretty much any landscape in Australia.
From the botanic gardens, you can drive to the top where the Black Mountain Nature Reserve is, but it's much better to walk there. There is a good trail that starts at the Botanical Gardens, which too is a good place to experience the bush in the bush capital.
Another park that is important but doesn't have much greenery and bush in it is Commonwealth Park between the city and Lake Burley Griffin; this park was designed by famed landscape designer Dame Sylvia Crowe in 1964. Here you can find the sculptures, ponds and walkways, and an open-air theatre. On the hill there is an exhibition of Canberra's creation.
A bit to the west is Weston Park which is very popular with residents of Canberra, where there are good places to have a picnic, a small train and a maze. Somewhat hidden, there is an English garden, a cafc, a small art gallery and an abandoned arboretum near the nurseries.
Most of the other nature reserves are located in the countryside. Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is one not far from Canberra, and was destroyed by a bushfire in 2003, but nature is stubborn and, despite everything, it is still a good reserve to experience the Australian bush and animals.
Namadgi National Park is the largest and the only national park in the ACT, taking up half the territory, there are plenty of opportunities to hike or camp in this beautiful national park.
As the development of Canberra didn't take off until the 1950s, the city has few noteworthy historic buildings. In addition to those which host major national institutions described elsewhere, there are some buildings are considered historically significant. As Canberra was just a farming area, to grip a better understanding of the area, Blundell's Cottage or Calthorpe's House are historic cottages of some of the earliest settlers of the area and picture the early days of the territory.
Other interesting historic buildings include the Sydney and Melbourne buildings in Civic and were the first commercially-funded buildings in Canberra, and have been important local landmarks since the 1920s and both surrounded by loggias modelled on those of buildings in Florence, Italy. They are occupied by a mix of restaurants (most of which are quite good), nightclubs, pubs and small businesses.
For a bit of military tourism, the Royal Military College - Duntroon was a training college established in 1911 making it one of the oldest institutions in Canberra. It includes a chapel built by Australian prisoners of war being held in harsh conditions at Changi in Singapore during the Second World War has also been relocated to here, and is located halfway along Miles Road.
And for a church, many don't associate Canberra with one, but St John the Baptist Church was consecrated in 1845 and this Anglican church is the oldest church in Canberra and pre-dates the establishment of the city by almost 70 years! It has a small museum too.
The majority of the Australian Capital Territory is actually not the urban parts of Canberra City and there is a large area of national park encompassing the northern part of the Australian Alps. While most people don't spend any time outside of the city there is plenty to do in Country ACT if you want to get away from the museums and attractions for a while.
Country ACT is also home to Namadgi National Park, making up about 47% of the entire ACT and the most northerly of the Australian Alps national parks. There are lots of walking tracks, including scenic views over the Brindabella Ranges, mountain bike trails and scenic drives (on unsealed roads), and rock climbing at Booroomba Rocks. Enquire at the visitors centre on Naas Road or see the website for further details. In winter roads in the park may be closed because of snowfall. The park is a good place for those who'd like a bit of snow.
There are several historic homesteads in Country ACT of early Canberra settlers, and some of them have guided tours and walks, cafes for lunch, coffee and cake. Popular ones include Lanyon Homestead, Calthorpe's House and Mugga Mugga house in Symanston. For other settlements reflecting "ACT before Canberra", there's Tharwa, a small village, one of the original settlements in the ACT area. See the old bridge over the Murrumbidgee River, visit Lanyon Homestead (see below) and Cuppacumbalong Pottery. Tharwa is also the gateway to Namadgi National Park and Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve.
Space and astronomy
For space buffs, Canberra's vast open green spaces outside the highly urbanised territory makes it an ideal location to view the stars and conduct research. Historically, inside Namadgi National Park are Honeysuckle Creek and Orroral Valley, the former sites of tracking sites for the Apollo Moon Landings. Today, there are only remnants of what used to be there, but if you're both a history and space buff, it's worth checking it out.
Another astrotourism site, the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, is part of a network of three NASA facilities worldwide used to maintain contacts with probes launched from Earth. The facility is visually impressive, and claims to have "the largest antenna complex in the southern hemisphere". It also has an interesting visitors centre. The complex is only about a 45 minute drive from Civic.
If you're looking to see the stars and planets, there's one major observatory in Canberra – Mount Stromlo Observatory in Country ACT just west of Weston Creek. It is Australia's premier astronomical observatory and while it was badly damaged in the 2003 bushfires, the partially rebuilt observatory reopened in October 2004. They run a Saturday night star gazing event for the public, but it's more spectacular when you visit the observatory during an important astronomical event.
If you're still into space, but don't have a car to get around Canberra, getting to the above sites is difficult, but the CSIRO Discovery Centre in Acton just north of the Australian National Botanic Gardens has some space exhibits and a bit about its many space and astronomy research projects. If you're not aware of who CSIRO is, it is Australia's leading science and technology agency, making this a true space exhibit, and not just "any other space exhibit".
- See the districts articles for more listings.
- Ride Canberra's Mountain Bike Trails: There are several locations around Canberra to ride mountain bicycles, many of which are considered some of the best in Australia. See Canberra Off Road Cyclists (CORC) for locations. Canberra is also home to the largest 24-hour Mountain Bike Race in the world, held in early October each year.
- Helpfully between Civic and the War Memorial, walk through the Heritage-listed suburb of Reid. Observe the houses with leafy surrounds, the wide roads, little walking paths and recreation areas, in one of the oldest untouched Canberran suburbs. As (some) locals would say: “as Burley Griffin intended”.
- Geocaching. Canberra has an incredibly active Geocaching community.
- Explore Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, which is about a 40-minute drive south of Canberra via Tuggeranong Parkway and Tharwa Drive. There are a large number of walks which offer stunning views of the Brindabella Mountains. You can also take Ranger-guided walks or have fun with the hands on displays such as the interactive computer program on Tidbinbilla's bird species and look at the live animal displays. The gift shop sells an interesting range of clothes, toys, books, cards and souvenirs. Coffee and light refreshments are also available.
- Go tobogganing in Corin Forest, Tourist Drive 5, ☏ . Weekends, ACT school & public holidays, 10AM-4PM. This alpine recreation facility features a bobsled ride in summer, and snowplay and tobogganing in winter. It is high enough to receive natural snowfalls. Check the website or call before heading up that the road is open, and that there is snow. Free entry, rides from $7, all day pass $35.
- Go wine tasting in the Wineries around Canberra (most are outside of the ACT but all very close to Canberra). They are described as cool climate wines and some are very well known and regarded. Try Jeir Creek, Gallagher, Clonakilla or Lark Hill. There are '33 wineries within 35 minutes of Canberra'. Visit the Canberra Wineries website for more information.
- Blow Glass learn to blow glass at the Canberra Glassworks and make either a paperweight or small glass in a short 20-40 minute lesson. The building is located near public transit and the cost is between $95-130. Learn more about the programs offered from their website.
- Take a scenic drive into the southern ACT - recommended by locals:
- Head south to Tharwa, and then take the road to Adaminaby. Take the signed road to Honey Suckle Creek. Very important historical site, this is where the signals from the Apollo 11 space landing were received, and then beamed around the world. Also a nice drive, and a very good camp ground.
- On the same road, not far off the Adaminaby Road is a walking (Fire ranger) trail to the top of Mount Tennant. About a 5-hour round hike, but worth every step. Go back onto the Adaminaby road, and head south. Another site of a space centre on the right down the road, worth a look, but not as interesting
- Remaining on the road for another ten kilometers, entering the Namadgi National park, and two hundred meters after a single-lane bridge is a signed turn off to Yankee's Hat. This is a 4-km drive, any car can take it, and look for Kangaroos. Hundreds either side of the road. The walk to Yankee's hat will take you to see aboriginal art.
- Road to Adaminaby. If you have a robust vehicle, take the road south. The country is magnificent. It takes about an hour from Yankee's Hat.
- See also: Hiking and bushwalking in Australia
Befitting the term “The Bush Capital”, the “bush” is frequently very close to housing areas, e.g. in non-winter months, it’s not uncommon to see families walk through the local nature parks after dinner time. Or for locals to climb up a hill after work before heading home. One of the most popular with visitors is the walk to the lookout atop Mount Ainslie from North Canberra. Other popular bushwalking destinations within the urban pars of Canberra include Cooleman Ridge, Mount Taylor, Oakey Hill, The Pinnacle, Red Hill etc. and ACT Walking for Pleasure have maps, and schedules each week.
- Floriade. Festival of flowers, a yearly event held in spring (September–October), not to be missed at Commonwealth Park. Tulips are the main feature but many other colourful flowers and floral displays are featured. There are also sculptures, garden stalls, makeshift restaurants, activities, live music by local performers and sometimes there is even a gnome or scarecrow festival where children (and some adults) paint gnomes or make scarecrows and enter a competition to choose the best. Great for a photo opportunity!
- Summernats. A festival of modified cars, car cruising, burnouts, etc., which takes place first thing in the new year. If you are not into this culture, this is a good time not to be in Canberra, as even the most civilised hotels are overtaken by drunken 'nats'.
- The Multicultural Festival. A must to visit, has many events, such as concerts, performances and an International Food Fair with over 200 stalls selling food of different countries. Happens every year in February.
- Thai Food & Cultural Festival. Annual festival held in September at The Royal Thai Embassy in Yarralumla. The Festival is a bonus for floriade visitors and Canberrans alike and it's the Embassy's biggest free event of the year. Exotic event hall and beautiful court yard with 2 outdoor stages for live performances plus Thai food & beer, "made-in-Thailand" quality products, and fun & games for children. Do not miss this! The Philippines, Sri Lanka and some other embassies do similar events sometimes.
- The National Folk Festival - held every Easter over 5 days, featuring local, national and international folk musicians, dancers and craftspeople.
- The Canberra Show, Exhibition Park, ☏ . Held in February featuring shows, amusement park rides and agricultural competitions. Has most of the features of the Sydney Royal Easter Show, but on a smaller scale with less crowds.
- Canberra Balloon Spectacular. Claimed to be "one of the top three hot air ballooning events in the world", hot air balloons fly over Canberra on most mornings in March. The balloons typically take off from the Parliamentary Triangle, and fly over the lake and centre of the city. The numbers of balloons flying tends to be greatest during early March and on weekends.
- Check out the Canberra Times newspaper on Saturday for upcoming events.
- Canberra Truffle Festival. Held June - August, an eight week celebration of the local Black Perigord Truffle harvest
Lake Burley Griffin
Lake Burley Griffin is a core part of Canberra's design, separating the two subdistricts of North and South Canberra; only generalised information is covered here. Otherwise, see the district articles.
Whether it's on or off the water. You can:
- Take a scenic cruise on the lake with Lake Burley Griffin Cruises. ☏ .
- Rent a boat to sail the lake yourself through Goboat , Boat4Hire
- If you're up for some exercise, you can walk, run, cycle or skate around Lake Burley Griffin. A shared path runs along the edge (the eastern edge at Kingston is interrupted), and the 2 bridges intersect it into 3 “loops”. The Western Loop is 16 km, the Central Loop (“bridge to bridge”) is 3.7 km, and the Eastern Loop is 9 km; visitors can travel along each, or combine them as fitness or time permits. Each segment has its own highlights. The entire circumference is approximately 25 km. Hire is available from:
- , toll-free: 1300 588 533. Rent high quality mountain bikes and tour around Canberra's extensive bicycle path network and off-road trail system.
- Segways. Can be rented close to the lake at Parkes Place.
- The Australian National University (ANU) is in the suburb of Acton, bordering the city centre. It is highly regarded internationally and is rated as one of the best universities in the world in the various international rankings. It is also locally known for its expansive green campus which boasts an interesting sculpture collection. The ANU often hosts public talks by Australian and international academic experts and politicians, and includes a small classics museum which is open during weekdays.
- The University of Canberra (UC) in the suburb of Bruce (about 8 km (5 miles) NW of the CBD). While not as large as the ANU, UC delivers courses across a wide range of subject areas.
- The Australian International Hotel School (AIHS) awards undergraduate and graduate degrees in business and hospitality fields, and is well regarded internationally.
- The Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA), a campus of The University of NSW, provides teaching for military and civilian undergraduates and postgraduates.
- The Australian Catholic University (ACU) Canberra campus is in the suburb of Watson, offers Education, Nursing, Social Work and Theology
As the national capital, Canberra is also home to a number of research-oriented facilities. The National Archives of Australia, Australian War Memorial and National Library of Australia are important research centres, including for people researching their family history. Readers cards are available for free to Australian residents, though the institutions charge for photocopying. The National Museum of Australia, ANU and several government departments also maintain specialised archives and facilities which are available to researchers. The ACT Heritage Library serves as Canberra's state library and administers a collection of items related to the history of the territory.
Canberra is home to several markets, and they're scattered across the territory (except the country bits). Most of them operate during Sundays, and each and every market is has different. Some of them may appear to be just "another plain old Sunday market" while others such as the Trash and Treasure Market, which is exactly the name of the market suggests.
Being the capital, there are several shopping malls in Canberra. They don't exactly have the same availability as you would find in places like Sydney or Melbourne, but you have to remember that Canberra is 10 times smaller than either of the two cities. The important malls as follows:
- Canberra Centre in Civic is a large shopping mall in Civic, covering a large section of the central Canberra shopping district. It has department stores, food hall and eateries, specialty shops for adults and kids fashion both upmarket and basic. There are also electronics, books, CDs, souvenirs and Australian made products.
- City Walk is an outdoor pedestrian mall in Civic that is home to a large range of shopping outlets, alfresco dining and a few bars. The mall is also home to the Canberra Merry-Go-Round and the Canberra Times fountain.
- Belconnen Mall An enclosed shopping mall owned by Westfield in the Belconnen Town Centre to the north. Although it does not have as many clothes stores, it features a Myer department store, a K-mart, two supermarkets and a food court. It has three levels.
- Woden Westfield and Tuggeranong Hyperdome are the two major enclosed shopping centres to the south, in the Woden and Tuggeranong town centres respectively. Woden Plaza features a David Jones department store, a Big W, two supermarkets, approximately 200 specialty stores, and a food court. The Tuggeranong Hyperdome (further south) features a K-mart, a Target, supermarkets, a food court, and specialty clothing stores.
- Fyshwick is the suburb to shop for appliances, technical stuff, furniture, and homewares. It is also Canberra's "red-light" district. Most of Canberra's antique shops and several second hand bookshops can also be found here. The large Canberra Outlet Centre is also located in Fyshwick.
- Lonsdale Sreet in Braddon (close to Civic) houses a growing number of boutiques which specialise in independent clothing labels, other designer objects, and many, many, coffee shops and casual restaurants. The southern end of Lonsdale Street is also the home to many of Canberra's outdoor clothing and camping stores as well as several bicycle shops.
- Manuka is another area that has boutiques and restaurants. Millers of Manuka boutique sells leading women's fashion brands like Max Mara and others. For less expensive women's clothing try Witchery. Booklovers would do well to check out Paperchain bookstore.
- Kingston is another shopping and restaurant area not far from Manuka.
Many of the most interesting shopping experiences are at the national institutions, almost all of which have specialist shops inside. The National Gallery has a superb range of art books, both overseas and indigenous. Likewise the National Library, the Questacon Science Museum, the War Memorial, the National Museum at Acton, the Film and Sound Archive, and so on - if you're looking for unique Australian items, these are the places to go.
Canberra's bookstores showcase many different things from Asian history, to military history, to non-fiction, the city is well-covered with bookstores. While Canberra is a bookish city, it lacks a stand-out bookshop but each is worth going to in its own right.
- Individual listings can be found in Canberra's district articles
|This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:|
Canberra has many fine eateries, but beware - many will be closed on Sundays. There are large clusters of restaurants in Civic, Braddon, Dickson, Kingston and Manuka. An unusual feature of the Canberra dining scene is that some of the city's best restaurants are hidden away in small suburban shopping centres - locals often nominate these as their favourites.
All public buildings in Canberra are smoke-free.
Just like the rest of Australia, coffee culture in Canberra is strong and Canberrans make good use of their cafes, and as such there are cafes nearly everywhere. In most cafes, all the important Australian coffees (such as espresso, flat white or a mocca) plus a couple of additions like hot chocolate are a standard in nearly all cafes. On top of that, many cafes will also typically have what you can expect to find at most bakeries, modified to suit a cafe. However, do be aware that most of what you get in cafes in Canberra can get very sweet.
Australians are generally casual and laid back though it's a bit more formal in Canberra, but still feel free to wear whatever you think suits well. Although most people make an effort to dress up for fancier restaurants, there is no requirement and both restaurants and diners alike are relaxed about dress standards, and so it is quite uncommon to see people wearing jeans at restaurants, especially among the younger generations.
Canberra has had authentic restaurants from every corner of the globe since the early 21st century. Still, it doesn't quite compare to the range found in the Big Four (i.e. Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth), but how much more can you expect from a city of just 400,000? If you're after ethnic food, you need not worry because Dickson Centre or the Dickson Shops in the suburb of Dickson, North Canberra should have you covered. It started out like any other shopping precinct but with the addition of many Chinese restaurants, it eventually earned the title of Canberra's Chinatown. It has since grown and now there are many Asian restaurants in general. There are also a few Indian and Italian restaurants too, but there aren't many, at least for the time being.
As Canberra isn't very large, there are few fine dining options in Canberra. They are generally located Civic, North Canberra and the Parliamentary Triangle.
If you want to make a visit to any one of Canberra's fine-dining restaurants, bookings should be made well in advance, as they do get booked out quite a bit.
With regular days where the temperature hits above 35° during summer, and sometimes even 40 more, what is better to have than a nice cool ice cream. Canberra's ice cream flavours don't exactly match up with the flavours of Sydney, but there are several ice cream parlours where you can just get your fit.
The major chains specialising in ice cream that are generally found throughout Australia can also be found in Canberra, such as Ben & Jerry’s, Oliver Brown or Gelatissimo. The latter of the three has some good gelato ice creams if you're looking for gelato, while Oliver Brown has some good chocolate ice cream. Meanwhile Ben and Jerry is somewhat a standalone shop, because it doesn't really specialise in any particular kind of ice cream.
If you're looking for something local, there are many ice cream shops in Braddon, near the central business district of Canberra, though ice cream shops can be found throughout Canberra. Some particularly good ones include That Gelato Place, in Weston Creek, which has a distinct variety of gelato ice cream as the name says, Stripey Sundae in Ginninderra, Gelato Messina in either Kingston or Braddon, Via Dolce in the city or if you're looking to see a bit of creativity, try Mookie or Goodberry’s. For a bit of Filipino flavours, try Lolo and Lola, which is a Filipino owned ice cream shop with plenty of flavours in it – and quite a unique one.
However, do be aware that the ice cream stores in Canberra are very sweet, more so than the ice cream found pretty much elsewhere in Australia. Nevertheless, if you're prepared to embrace the sweetness, they are worth a try.
- Individual listings can be found in Canberra's district articles
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.
- Individual listings can be found in Canberra's district articles
Most of Canberra's hotels are in or around Civic or the suburbs which are adjacent to the Parliamentary Triangle. A few hotels have opened in the Belconnen, Gungahlin, Tuggeranong and Woden town centres. The availability of accommodation can be tight during periods in which Parliament is sitting - the schedule for parliamentary sittings is available here.
Generally, it is not too hard to find mid-range accommodation in Canberra because practically nearly every hotel and motel in Canberra falls into the "mid-range" category.
There are a number of splurge hotels in Canberra; many of them are located in South Canberra near Parliamentary Triangle. The price range is usually above $250 for a night, but this can significantly go up during holiday season, and Parliament sittings.
Bed and breakfast
There are a number of Bed and Breakfast places just off Northbourne Avenue, in North Canberra. These tend to be mid-range, cost-wise, but are comfortable and refreshing if you are looking for a 'home away from home'.
Serviced, short-term apartments are widely available throughout Canberra and are available for stays as short as one night. Amenities typically include kitchen, washer and dryer, and separate bedrooms. A full range of properties exist from budget to 5 star.
Canberra is a very safe city and enjoys one of the lowest crime rates in all of Australia. Take the usual precautions against opportunistic crime, however. Valuables should not be left in sight within unattended cars, especially overnight.
Despite its apparent affluence, Canberra has people who live the rough life. Particularly around Civic, it is not unusual to be asked for money. If you simply say that you don't have any money, the beggar will usually move on.
Once you leave Civic, Canberra is fairly spread out. For much of the year, evenings can become cold and windy fairly quickly. Don’t count on adequate lighting even in otherwise popular or marked footways/cycleways. Similarly, when traveling on such routes in between city centres, or when in the bush, it is possible not to see any one else for an entire journey. Have a map and appropriate clothing. On hot days, carry water. For bicycle riders, having the means to fix a puncture, and having proper lights is necessary in Canberra.
If you go bushwalking, don't count on mobile phone reception. This is especially the case for tracks in the parks located outside the Canberra urban area. If you're walking in those areas, carry an alternate form of communication such as a personal locator beacon in case you or a member of your party needs assistance.
Do not swim in the lakes (including Lake Burley Griffin) until you check online, as low water quality can make doing so unsafe. Few Canberrans ever swim in the lakes due to algal blooms in summer, but water quality is now higher than it used to be.
Death cap mushrooms (Amanita phalloides) are common in many Canberra suburbs, and ingestion of a single one can cause death
Being the "bush capital", you might encounter wildlife, even in the city areas. An eastern grey kangaroo can grow over 2 metres tall, taller than a very tall man, and can seriously injure you. Do not get too close, especially to a mother with a joey, and appreciate them from a distance. Keep an eye out for kangaroos when driving, especially at night.
Free Wi-Fi is available in Civic, the town centres and some other areas of Canberra through the CBRfree service provided by the ACT Government.
The National Library of Australia provides free Wi-Fi and free internet access on 40 computer terminals (webmail is blocked on some computers, so ask the staff to show you which ones you can access webmail from).
All the ACT public library branches have free Wi-Fi and computers. Membership or proof that you are not a resident of the ACT is required to use the computers, and you may have to book a few hours in advance due to high demand.
Maccas restaurants in Australia offer free Wi-Fi, no purchase required. The restaurants in Civic are at: corner East Row & Alinga St, and corner Cooyong Street & Northbourne Avenue.
Embassies and High Commissions
A large number of countries maintain missions in Canberra. Note however that some do not offer consular services, with these being provided through consulates located in other Australian cities. Several countries have their mission to Australia located elsewhere, typically Sydney or Melbourne. The Department of Foreign Affairs maintains a complete list of foreign missions in Australia and their contact details on its website.
Several of the embassies located in Yarralumla are tourist attractions in their own right due to their architecture.
- Queanbeyan - located just across the NSW border
- Yass - Service town, near the road to Melbourne
- Goulburn - Country town, worth a visit if you are travelling onward to Sydney.
- Snowy Mountains - its possible to spend a day skiing from Canberra, leaving early, and returning late.
- Batemans Bay - the closest ocean beaches to Canberra - just under two hours away.
- Collector - a small historic town 30 minutes drive towards Sydney. Famous for a kidnap and murder by bushrangers. A quick stop on the way to Sydney, or part of a local loop day-trip.
- Gundaroo - a small historic town north of Canberra, you can follow the range from Gundaroo through to Collector as a scenic alternative to the federal highway. Some dirt roads are involved (between Gundaroo and Collector, the road between Canberra and Gundaroo is all sealed).
- Bungendore - a small town 20 minutes drive from central Canberra, via Queanbeyan.
- Braidwood - a heritage listed town on the highway to the South Coast of New South Wales about an hour from Canberra
|Routes via Canberra|
|Cooma ← Michelago ←||SN||→ END|
|END ←||SN||→ Goulburn → merges with → Sydney|
|Yass ← Murrumbateman ←||NWSE||→ END|