Australia's capital city, Canberra, had a difficult birth, punctuated by political infighting, wars and the Great Depression, but it is now a thriving modern city which, together with its surrounds, makes up Australia's Capital Territory. Canberra lies 95 miles (150km) inland from the East Coast, by road 175 miles (280km) from Sydney, and 415 miles (660km) from Melbourne.
Like most capitals of the world, Canberra boasts an architectural heritage in its civic and government buildings, but Canberra is also blessed with some of the loveliest surroundings of any national capital. There are more than 30 Australian artistic and cultural institutions located in Canberra, ranging from the Australian War Memorial to Parliament House, surmounted by a colossal stainless-steel flagpole and set in 23 hectares of gardens. In the centre of Lake Burley Griffin, the impressive Captain Cook Memorial Jet shoots a six-ton column of water 482 feet (147m) into the air, while on the shore the National Gallery of Australia houses the country's premier public art collection spanning about 5,000 years of international art.
Anyone interested in the history and politics of Australia, and the country's artistic heritage, will enjoy spending a holiday in Canberra seeing the sights. The city also caters for the more active, offering plenty of recreational opportunities, most centred on lovely Lake Burley Griffin, like kayaking on the lake, or cycling around it. Canberra is also known for its spring festival, Floriade, when the parks and gardens surrounding Lake Burley Griffin explode with colourful displays of massed tulips and other blooms. The city, with its many parklands, is especially beautiful in spring and autumn.
Opened to the public in 1979, Cockington Green at Gold Creek Village is an award-winning display of miniature buildings and landscaped gardens and one of Canberra's best-loved attractions. The park was created by Doug and Brenda Cockington and has been a family-run business ever since. The family make sure to keep the park in perfect condition, adding new attractions whenever possible. As well as the wonderful miniature displays and breath-taking gardens, there is a Heritage Rose Walk, a maze, several cafés, a barbecue, picnic and playground areas, and a steam train ride that circles the grounds. A fairly recent addition, created with funding from the Sultanate of Oman, is a small-scale replica of Oman's Jabrin Fort. Other international small-scale replicas include one of Israel's Masada Northern Palace, and a large collection of great historical Australian homes.
Located on the south shore of the lake, the National Gallery has the best collection of art in the country. The Australian collection ranges from traditional Aboriginal art through to 20th-century works by Tom Roberts, Arthur Boyd, Sidney Nolan and Albert Tucker. Aboriginal works include bark paintings from Arnhem Land, burial poles from the Tiwi people and printed fabrics from central Australia. A permanent feature is The Aboriginal Memorial (1987-88), an installation of 200 painted hollow log coffins by the artists of Ramingining in Arnhem Land. The Memorial, a collaborative work involving 43 artists, is dedicated to all indigenous Australians who have lost their lives defending their country since European settlement.
There's also plenty of foreign art from all eras, and many important international exhibitions are featured in Canberra on their way around the world. The collection is not confined to paintings: sculptures, prints, drawings, photographs, furniture, ceramics, fashion, textiles and silverware are all on display.
Consistently voted Canberra's premier tourist attraction, the Australian War Memorial is not only a fitting tribute to the men and women who gave their lives in service of their country, but also a fascinating, highly-informative museum that seeks to educate modern Australians about the conflicts that have blighted their country's past. Housing an in-depth exhibition for every war Australia has ever been involved in, and boasting passionate, knowledgeable tour guides, visitors are strongly advised to set aside at least half a day to do the museum justice. The Australian War Memorial is a must-see for anyone seeking a sobering, humanising reminder of how dearly war can cost a nation, and it is a good introduction to the country's history for foreigners. Entrance to the Memorial is free, and there are free tours conducted daily by knowledgeable volunteers.
On average, Canberra has seven hours of sunshine a day all year round, which, together with a low rainfall average, makes this a fine holiday destination year-round. The city enjoys an oceanic climate, with the chance of rain in any month, but plenty of sun. Summer weather in Canberra is generally hot and fairly dry with mild easterly and northwesterly winds prevailing. Nights become cooler when autumn sets in, and winter is characterised by the arrival of numerous cold fronts. Temperatures are lower in winter, but the sun still shines most of the time. In summer, between December and February, temperatures average between 52°F (11°C) and 82°F (28°C); and in winter, between June and August, temperatures average between 33°F (1°C) and 55°F (13°C).
The highlight of the cultural calendar of Australia's capital city is the National Multicultural Festival, an extravaganza of entertainment and art, usually in mid-February. The festival launches with a huge concert which is followed by a wide variety of exhibitions, open air markets, music performances, theatre, dance and numerous other events organised by all manner of businesses, organisations and diplomatic missions. The festival's focus, as the name indicates, is on multiculturalism, featuring a variety of artists from different cultures and highlighting exhibitions on various topics featuring different cultures represented in Australia.
The countryside comes to town for the Royal Canberra Show, popular with all ages for its livestock shows, exhibits, fireworks and grand parades. More than 150 attractions pull the crowds to Exhibition Park, along with 5,000 or more animals, hundreds of trade displays and thousands of competitors vying for various awards. The main competition categories are Alpaca, Art, Cats, Cavy, Crafts, Demolition Derby, Dogs, Cattle, Donkeys, Goats, Horses, Produce, Sheep, Woodchopping, Wool and Yard Dogs. There are displays of farm animals with contests for the best example of each breed, exhibits of farm implements, as well as other less farm-related attractions to draw those less interested in livestock. Plenty of stalls are available selling delicious food to keep festival-goers fuelled, as well as stalls selling various trinkets and homemade goods.
Thousands of entertainers, from story-tellers to circus clowns, and folk singers to crafters, gather together each Easter in Canberra for a mammoth festival of folk music. No stone on the vast field of Australia's multicultural population is left unturned in this exciting themed event in a cleverly created village atmosphere.
Besides a full concert programme, dance performances, poetry readings, free music lessons, and children's entertainment, the festival offers thrilling shopping opportunities at hundreds of stalls and lots of delicious food, from paella to pizza and beyond.
Festival goers gather here from all over Australia, sharing talents and stories. If you are looking for a festival with a great community feeling and the chance to get to know people from all over the world, this is the place to go.
Canberra's most important touristic event, Floriade is 'Australia's celebration of Spring'; a flower and entertainment festival held annually in Commonwealth Park, that draws thousands of visitors from all over the country. Against the backdrop of over a million blooming flowers, the event's programme also includes floral art displays, craft and fine art exhibitions, horticultural shows, practical demonstrations and advice on home gardening and outdoor living from celebrities and experts, a 35-metre Ferris wheel to let you gaze out on the resplendent gardens, and a sizzling entertainment line-up, featuring live music, street performers, comedy acts, and dance. There are always more people in Canberra over Floriade than at any other time of year, so join the throng and head down to Commonwealth Park for a memorable, sun-soaked day out.
Public transport is limited and Canberra is spread out, with limited weekend bus services and little transport after about 10pm, meaning that visitors are best off hiring a car. There is plenty of parking at the tourist sites and the road system is excellent and uncongested. To hire a car drivers must be 21 years of age and hold a valid driver's license, sometimes in conjunction with an international driver's permit. The Action bus company routes cover most tourist attractions from four town centre bus interchanges: City, Woden, Tuggeranong and Belconnen. A day bus pass is available from bus drivers or the tourist information centre. Cycling is also a popular means of transport in Canberra and there is an extensive network of bicycle paths around the city. Taxi ranks are available in most major areas of the city and when taxis cannot be found on the street they can be ordered by phone.
Canberra is a well-organised city with top-class amenities, lots of leisure opportunities and some brilliant cultural sightseeing options. Sites like the Australian War Museum, the National Gallery of Australia and the National Museum of Australia are proud Australian cultural landmarks and well deserving of the time of travellers. But these stately attractions aside, Canberra is also a fun city for families travelling with kids, offering attractions like the National Zoo and Aquarium, Cockington Green, Questacon and the Australian Railway Historical Society, where old-fashioned steam train rides can be enjoyed.
Special tourist discount deals are available, including 3infun Canberra which provides one ticket to visit three of the city's most popular attractions: the Australian Institute of Sport, Cockington Green, and Questacon - The National Science and Technology Centre. If purchased online this ticket gives something like a 25 percent discount.
Canberra's city centre is relatively compact and easy to get around for visitors, with many of the top attractions close together. Possibly the best way to see the city of Canberra is on a hot air balloon ride, and those who happen to be visiting in autumn shouldn't miss out on the grand extravaganza of Canberra's Fiesta, during which dozens of colourful hot air balloons rise gently into the early morning air from the lawns in front of Canberra's Old Parliament House. Canberra has a busy events calendar and tourist numbers peak during popular events like the Fiesta and the spring festival of Floriade.
No direct flights from Heathrow to this Destination