Australian Capital Territory Travel Guide

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Australian War Memorial - This massive building is a museum of Australia's war history. Opened in 1941, it houses an amazing collection of pictures, dioramas, relics and exhibitions, including a fine collection of old aircraft. Of special mention is the miniature battle scenes which are absorbing to anyone with an interest in toy soldiers. The Hall of Memory is the focus of the memorial. It features a beautiful interior, some superb stained-glass windows and a dome made of six million Italian mosaic pieces. The Memorial is open daily from 10am to 5pm, and admission is free.

National Gallery of Australia - The National Gallery probably has the best collection of Australian art in the country. It houses a collection ranging from traditional Aboriginal art, to 20th-century works by artist like Arthur Boyd, Sidney Nolan and Albert Tucker. The collection of Aboriginal art includes bark paintings from Arnhem Land, printed fabrics from central Australia, and pukumani burial poles made by the Tiwi people. There is also a fine representation of European and Asian art. Visitors can attend free lectures on the collection held at the museum. There is a selection of restaurants on site, and you will find some interesting buys at the Gift Shop.

Diplomatic Quarters and The Mint - A trip to Canberra's diplomatic quarters, Yarralumla and Forrest, completes any political sightseeing tour. The buildings were constructed to deploy the typical architecture of the countries they represent. The result is an international compendium of architectural styles. Special mention is the American Embassy's plantation-style mansion, and the embassies of Thailand, Indonesia, the People's Republic of China and Papua New Guinea. At the Royal Australian Mint, visitors can watch money being "made" on weekdays, and coin collectors can acquire a few items for their collection at the Collector's Shop. The Mint is open daily from 9am to 4pm, and admission is free.

Lake Burley Griffin - The northern shores of Lake Burley Griffin have plenty on offer to the visitor. Starting with the National Zoo, at the far western end of the lake, visitors walk through tunnels of acrylic glass while sharks, stingrays and other creatures glide past. Located on the outside is a bear park, a monkey island, kangaroos, emus and dingoes. On the Acton Peninsula, you will see the National Museum of Australia. The building itself is quite a spectacular sight, and the exhibitions are interesting. East of the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge, visitors will pass the National Capital Exhibition at Regatta Point, comprised of a small theatre, displays and models depicting Canberra's development. Further east is Blundells Cottage, which is one of the few historic buildings in the city Canberra. Built in 1860, this simple farmhouse has been preserved as a small museum.

Outdoors

Australian National Botanic Gardens - On the lower slopes of Black Mountain, behind the Australian National University, the beautiful 50-hectare botanic gardens are devoted to Australian flora. There are educational walks, including one among plants used by Aborigines. A highlight is the rainforest area, achieved in this dry climate with a misting system, while the eucalypt lawn has 600 species of this ubiquitous Australian tree. Take a guided walk, or take a seat in the pleasant Kookaburra Cafe. The Gardens are open daily from 9am to 5pm, and admission is free.

Ginninderra Village - If you are looking for some peace and calm, Ginninderra Village is the place to go. It is the area's centerpiece, a collection of colonial-era buildings quantified into Devonshire tea spots, Australian galleries, wood-turning workshops and shops. Next door, Cockington Green is a sprawling miniature English village, complete with cricket streakers and a working steam train, it is rather overpriced, but the children will love it. Just outside the village, the National Dinosaur Museum is a private collection with replica skeletons of 10 dinosaurs, as well as a bunch of real bones and fossils.

Namadgi National Park - Part of the park borders the mountainous Kosciuszko National Park in New South Wales' Snowy Mountains. There are seven peaks over 1600m in the park, and some of the bushwalking is downright challenging. Booroomba Rocks is one of the most popular spots in the park, with some great climbing and scrambling over its huge granite boulders. Sometimes there is enough snow in Namadgi for cross-country skiing. There are several picnic sites and two campsites, and visitors can either get to the park in their own car on the road south from Tharwa to Adaminaby, or take a tour with one of a couple of operators in Canberra.

Tidbinbilla - The Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, 45km southwest of Canberra, is criss-crossed with walking tracks. The reason most visitors come here is to feed the semi-tame kangaroos, be terrorized by the sandwich-snatching emus, or scan the trees for the possibly non-existent koalas. The visitors centre here has some great displays on native fauna and flora. Tidbinbilla is a great spot to take the kids for a picnic, or to do a couple of short walks. North of the nature reserve, the Tidbinbilla Tracking Station, a joint US-Australian eye on the sky. The visitor centre here has displays of spacecraft and tracking technology, and it is free to get in. South of the reserve, Corin Forest is an adventure playground, with its 1km metal bobsled run, snow-making machine and flying fox.

Moving around

The Australian Capital Territory is served by the major domestic airlines and feeder services from nearby provincial cities. Long-distance buses and modern express trains run daily. The internal transport system is based on a network of commuter buses, but many visitors prefer to travel by private cars, using the area's well developed wide roads and freeways.

If you are fit, you will be better off on a bicycle in Canberra. The city has an excellent network of bike paths, which might be a better option than traveling by public transport. Public transport in Canberra means the 'Action' bus, which is the Australian Capital Territory Internal Omnibus Network. There are, however, too few services on weekdays and almost none after 10pm or on Sundays.

National festival and holidays

The Canberra Festival - The festival takes place over 10 days in March. It is a celebration of the city's birthday, and is celebrated with music, food, a mardi gras, displays, a raft race and a parade.

National Folk Festival - Another festival happening in March each year. The venue is Canberra and it is a huge affair, not to be missed if you are visiting the area during this time. The festival is celebrated with displays of folk art, music, dance, and food galore.

Floriade Festival - Spring is celebrated with the Floriade Festival, when Commonwealth Park becomes a riot of floral colour.

Street Machine Summer Nats - A festival at New Year, bringing hot-rods and wet t-shirt competitions to the nation's capital.

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