Canberra is the national capital of Australia and an ideal weekend-away destination from Sydney – especially for overseas visitors.
The city has many wonderful museums, galleries and monuments that will give visitors to Australia an insight into our history, culture and society.
By car, Canberra is an easy 3.5 hour drive from Sydney. It is impossible to see all the sights of Canberra in one weekend but here are a few recommendations to choose from.
Canberra & Region Visitors Centre
Firstly, it’s a good idea to stop at the Canberra & Region Visitors Centre on 330 Northbourne Ave, Dickson (1300 554 114) – you will pass it on the way into Canberra from Sydney. Pick up copies of brochures and maps to help you find your way around.
We recommend taking a tour of Parliament House. There is a free tour that takes approximately 30-45 minutes. The tour includes the Marble Hall entrance, the Great Hall, the Senate, the House of Representatives – with an interesting and informative guide.
Visit the top of Parliament House for excellent views over the city.
For more details on tours see – www.aph.gov.au/Visit_Parliament/Tours
The National Gallery of Australia
The NGA is home to a permanent collection of Australian, Asian, European and American art.
We were particularly impressed with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art. Especially beautiful is The Aboriginal Memorial – 200 hollow log coffins from central Arnhem Land on display as you enter the gallery.
Admission to the permanent collections is free. During the year there are many excellent exhibitions for which there is an entry charge. For details see gallery website – www.nga.gov.au
On our visit we had morning tea at the Gallery Cafe. New caterers had just taken over and the food was excellent.
The Australian War Memorial
It is a moving experience visiting the War Memorial. There are excellent permanent and special exhibitions and one could easily spend a whole day there. Admission to the memorial is free. See their website for details – www.awm.gov.au
Mount Ainslie Lookout
For excellent views over Canberra, take Mount Ainslie Drive to the top of Mount Ainslie Lookout. It is not far from the War Memorial.
Embassies and Consulates
Pick up a map of the embassies and consulates drive from the Canberra & Region Visitors Centre – most embassies are located in the suburb of Yarralumla – and it is an interesting drive around the streets to see the various architectural styles of the embassies.
Questacon, Australia’s National Science & Technology museum, is billed as one of Australia’s most popular attractions – and rightfully so. For young and old it has amazing displays – many of them are interactive and make learning about science and technology fun. Don’t miss it! See details at www.questacon.edu.au
National Portrait Gallery
This gallery is housed in a fabulous building. “The purpose of the National Portrait Gallery is to increase the understanding and appreciation of the Australian people – their identity, history, culture, creativity and diversity – through portraiture.” For more information on exhibitions see www.portrait.gov.au
Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House
Apart from its permanent exhibition (Living Democracy: The Power of the People), this museum has wonderful changing exhibitions. It is worth a visit to see Australia’s first seat of government, experience the atmosphere, history, architecture and memorabilia on display. Don’t miss the gardens. At the time of writing, admission to the museum is $2.00 – a bargain! See www.moadoph.gov.au for more information.
National Museum of Australia
We had visited this museum shortly after it opened in 2001 and found it to be a wonderful experience – the exhibitions gave an excellent insight into life in Australia via memorabilia throughout our history. Visitors could literally walk through the history of Australia. We didn’t enjoy it quite so much on this occasion. While the introductory 16-minute audiovisual ‘Circa’ was every good, once into the exhibition areas, we found the circulation through the museum a little difficult and disjointed. However there appeared to be renovations under way so this could have disrupted normal events.
There are 5 permanent collections (which change every 7 to 10 years), and temporary galleries with exhibitions ranging from 3 to 10 months.
For details of current exhibitions see their website at www.nma.gov.au
We stayed at Clifton Suites on Northbourne at 100 Northbourne Avenue, Canberra.
We booked a two bedroom apartment at the back of the building. The apartment featured a very well equipped kitchen with a full size refrigerator, dishwasher, oven, cooktop and microwave. Cupboards were stocked with wine glasses, tumblers, cutlery, cooking utensils, pots, pans, salad bowls, etc. There was an iron and ironing board provided. The spacious living room was well furnished with dining table, sofas, coffee table, flat screen TV, desk and Daikin Inverter airconditioning.
Main bedroom had a king bed and ensuite. The second bedroom had a queen bed. The main bathroom featured a bath with shower over bath, behind cupboard doors was a front loader washing machine and dyer on top plus a laundry tub. We can highly recommend this accommodation – it was clean, convenient, well furnished and well equipped, with parking underneath the building.
Eating Out in Canberra
When looking usually head for Manuka where there is a good selection of cafes and restaurants. On this occasion we ate at Abell’s Kopi Tiam – an excellent Malaysian restaurant – highly recommended for good food at a reasonable price.