Canberra is often described by Australians who haven’t been there as a boring town, full of politicians, bureaucrats – and not much else. But those who go there find beautiful galleries and museums clustered around a lake and cupped in bushland. One of only two capital cities in the world that have been built to a premeditated design, Canberra is rather eerily symmetrical. Placed about its nice, planned combinations of straight and curving streets are the old and new Parliament Houses, the National Gallery, and the National Museum.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Canberra having gone to a university in New South Wales. Canberra is never a MISS if you are planning to bring your guests for a day tour or a SPRING season break. There is plenty of Bryson’s parkland and once all the politicians jet home for the weekend, it’s a very livable city. One thing I can never understand is why it has such a large concentration of “Nationals”: the National Library, National Museum and, more recently, National Museum of Australia. All fine institutions and worth the taxpayers busks, but why are they in a city that’s mutually difficult to get to for both Sydney and Melbourne? But it’s not all bad in the ‘berra. Once you find these Nationals they’re rich treasure troves.
The ACT is 80km (50mi) from north to south and is about 30km (19mi) wide. It is landlocked within the mountainous terrain of southeastern New South Wales, 305km (190mi) from Sydney by road. Canberra and its surrounding suburbs are in the northeast of the territory, while the Namadgi National Park occupies the whole southwestern area. The population grew from 50,000 in 1960 to 100,000 in 1967 and has soared to more than 300,000 today.
Canberra is arranged around the artificial Lake Burley Griffin. In the peculiarly named central business district, Civic, on the northern side of the lake, are the shops, businesses, university and suburbs such as Reid, Braddon, Turner and Acton. Parliamentary and other administrative buildings are located to the south of the lake, surrounded by suburbs such as Parkes, Barton, Forrest, Deakin and Yarralumla (home to the prime minister, when he deigns to tear himself away from Sydney, and the governor-general). Canberra is also surrounded by the satellite towns of Woden, Belconnen and Tuggeranong.
Canberra’s airport is about 7km (4mi) southeast of the city. Interstate buses arrive at the Jolimont Centre, which is in the centre of Civic. The railway station is in Kingston, on the south side of the lake. Most shops and restaurants are in Civic and Manuka, also just south of the lake, with a few cafes sprinkled through the inner suburbs. Each satellite town has its own charming mall. Civic is also the centre of Canberra’s nightlife, which is somewhat more lively than its reputation suggests.
Public transport in Canberra means the ACTION bus service (popular tourist buses covering most sights include Nos 33, 34, 40 and 80), which runs regular routes throughout Canberra and is a relatively cheap way to get around. ACTION’s Flexibus evening service will, incredibly, veer off the set route to go as close to its passenger’s destination as possible. They will also come and collect you if you call (13 17 10). The airport is 7km (4mi) southeast of the city centre. A shuttle minibus runs to the Jolimont Centre in town and to various hotels.
Another good way to see Canberra is by bicycle; Canberra has an excellent network of bike paths.
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