My sister has lived in lots of places both in Australia and overseas over her lifetime. She lived in our rural country town, experienced the bright lights of Sydney, spent a semester in Sweden, lived in the midlands of the UK and she even lived in the Italian Alps for a year when she didn’t know a word of Italian. Her husband and she relocated from Birmingham a few years ago (he had never been to Australia and yet moved without hesitation- but that is another story for another day) and after a brief stint staying back with the parents, they made the move to Canberra. Yes, Canberra. You can probably hear me roll my eyes when I say this.
I seriously don’t mean any disrespect to Canberra or its residents but really my only memories are of school trips, roundabouts so many roundabouts, stopping for a Macca’s on the way to my grandparents on the way to the coast or a brief end of school girls trip when we weren’t even really old enough to do anything fun so just shopped and visited Telecom tower. I also slightly resent Canberra as a whole as it’s close to Mum and Dad so they spend a lot of time there visiting my sister. I know the inner 16-year-old version of myself is coming out.
My sister, however, has been constantly trying to encourage my other half and I to 1)move home and 2) move to Canberra. I even got a Canberra tea towel from her one birthday as if that could tempt me further. Nice try Sissy.
In her bid to promote Canberra as a place I could move to I asked her to send over 10 reasons why people should visit Canberra.
If you aren’t familiar with Canberra it is the capital city of Australia and located in the Australian Capital Territory. Australia has only two territories and these are the ACT and the Northern Territory (NT). It’s home to Parliament House, National War Museum and was a purpose built capital city that lies directly equal distances between Sydney and Melbourne.
So here are Canberra’s Best Bits according to my Sissy..
1. It’s the bush capital
Canberra strikes a great balance between having all the amenities and convenience of cities but a small population and large open spaces. Within a five minutes drive of her high-density apartment complex, she can be in the bush with no sign of development.
If you want a true bush experience there is the Canberra Nature Park (30+ separate areas) across Canberra allowing you to walk and hike in the bush. Plus you can hike up Mount Ainslie, Black Mountain or Red Hill for great views of the city. And if you’re really keen, there are plenty of bushwalks just outside of Canberra (such as Mount Tennent or Mount Painter). If you’re keen to see Australian wildlife, it is pretty much guaranteed at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve.
2. It may not be on the water
Unlike most Australian states and capital territories, Canberra isn’t located on the coast. However, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t any water fun to be had. In the middle of Canberra is Lake Burley Griffin neatly dividing Canberra into south and north (with a fairly competitive rivalry to accompany it).
There are also smaller lakes in the some of the Canberra districts – Lake Ginninderra (Belconnen), Gungahlin Pond and Yerrabi Pond (Gungahlin) and Lake Tuggeranong.
There’s also plenty of swimming locations. Casuarina Sands (swimming in the Murrumbidgee River) is highly recommended but there is also Uriarra Crossing, Kambah Pool, Cotter Dam/River, Gibraltar Creek (with some nice waterfalls) and other spots to be discovered.
3. It encourages an active lifestyle
Due to the large open spaces, Canberra encourages an active lifestyle. Not only are there cycling tracks all around the lakes, there are plenty of shared off-road paths and on-road bike lanes linking the main areas of Canberra. And if you get tired, all the buses come equipped with bike carriers so you can just get the bus home!
You can also row, sail, kayak, stand-up paddle board on the water and cycle, walk or Segway on the 40km path surrounding Lake Burley Griffin.
It’s a rarity in Australian states and territory capital cities (excluding Melbourne with its four seasons in one day and Tasmania) that all seasons are fully experienced in Canberra. What’s even better are the events that accompany the seasons. No matter when you travel to Canberra, there is likely to be something on.
Summer kicks off with Christmas markets and light displays.
Canberra holds the world record for largest number of Christmas lights on a residential home and also the world record for most Christmas lights on an artificial Christmas tree.
Canberra has a free New Years Eve concert and fireworks (though don’t expect them to be anything like Sydney’s).
Free Australia Day concert
Multicultural festival – three-day event that is massive – sort of like Tumbafest on a bigger scale with daytime drinking encouraged
Ignore Summernats – highly recommend avoiding Canberra on this weekend
Autumn may not be what you expect – in March the days are still warm (often getting up to 30 degrees) with cool nights. From late April (Anzac day onwards) the temperature drops, but the days are generally sunny and bright.
Enlighten and the Night Noodle market in March
Canberra Day – public holiday – second Monday in March
SkyFire – Random Saturday night of fireworks over the lake – in March
Balloon Spectacular – nine days balloon festival near Lake Burley Griffin – in March
Anzac dawn service at Australian War Memorial
Canberra District Wine Harvest
Sports – rugby union, rugby league, AFL GWS
Corin Forest – skiing, snowboarding, sledging and snow activities 45 minutes from Canberra
Ski fields – the best ski fields in Australia are less than three hours from Canberra
Night Fest (part of Floriade – comedy shows, drinks, music, cooking demonstrations and imaginative light display
Canberra Nara Candle Festival – Nara (Japan) is the sister city of Canberra – over 2000 candles with Japanese music and other Japanese-themed events
In addition to your typical shopping centres, Canberra has thriving markets. You can get your food for the week or crafts and clothing.
*Old Bus Depot (weekly) – has food, clothes, craft, art etc
*Hall markets (monthly)
*Canberra Handmade markets (quarterly) – the very best products from independent designers, artisans, craftspeople and gourmet food makers. Categories include – Art & Photography, Skincare & Grooming, Things for Children, Fashion, Food, Homewares & Textiles, Jewellery & Accessories, Paper & Craft, Furniture, Pets and Christmas.
*EPIC Farmers Markets – every type of produce you could imagine.
6. Dinner and drinks
When we used to go to Canberra as a teenager, we always ended up eating in Manuka as that was the “Canberra eating area”. Thankfully, (and while Manuka still has good restaurants) Canberra is undergoing a transformation and other areas have developed.
*Braddon has led the trend of hip and quirky nightlife.
*The Bentspoke Brewery brew all their beer and cider on the premises – they have up to 18 different beers on tap at any time.
*The Hamlet – Food truck venue and bring your own alcohol (with a bottle shop conveniently across the road)
*Mandalay Bus – Canberra institution
*Frugii Dessert Laboratory – amazing ice cream in a strange variety of flavours
*Grease Monkey – used to be a mechanic shop, now does amazing burgers
In addition to Braddon, Kingston Foreshore, New Acton and Civic are highly recommended spots for great food.
If you’re in the mood for a pub experience, the Old Canberra Inn is the oldest pub in Canberra and predates Canberra itself by over 50 years (although it was a home for a large amount of that time). It’s an amazing old building that is very cosy and does amazing food. It only serves craft beers and always has different beers on tap.
Canberra has also joined the trend of concealed, laneway bars. Molly is an amazing underground (literally) whisky bar, Suke Suke is a Japanese cocktail bar that’s also underground (and down a dodgy looking lane), Highball Express is a Cuban themed bar up a fire escape and unlike most laneway bars is very airy and spacious, Hippo Co is another whisky bar, Bar Rochford has a lovely open fire in the winter.
The most important meal of the day and you’re bound to be impressed by the breakfast and coffee available in Canberra. A Canberran barista has won the Australian Barista Championships for the past two years.
The freakshake trend started in Canberra at Patissez who incidentally do amazing ricotta pancakes. Another place where you can get a side serve of diabetes with your breakfast is Ricardo’s – their display cabinet is a rainbow coloured delight. The Cupping Room does great breakfasts and quite often has a queue outside the front door.
8.The iconic Canberra experience
Forget about your year six excursion to Canberra, some of the main tourist spots are fascinating.
The Australian War Memorial is incredible and depressing; Questacon is just as fun as when you were a teenager (and I highly recommend the adult only nights – science and alcohol!?); the National Gallery of Australia currently has Treasures from the Palace of Versailles on display; there is a lot to see in Canberra and you may as well roll down the hill at Parliament House while you can (they’re building a fence).
9. Jervis Bay
Jervis Bay has the most amazing beaches in Australia and the world. Part of Jervis Bay belongs to the Australian Capital Territory so that the capital has access to the sea. The Booderee National Park is part of the Jervis Bay Territory has truly incredible beaches and campsites. Murray’s Beach is probably and all time favourite beach.
10. She lives there and its closer to home than I am currently
Do I need any other reasons??