If you want to experience sophisticated urbanised Australia without the traffic of Melbourne or the over-crowded centres of Sydney, Canberra comes as a top contender for such a place. Located in the South-East of the beautiful land of Australia, Canberra is not only the nation’s capital but a vigilantly crafted capital. The Australian Capital Territory does not share the clamour and commotion of its bigger counterparts like Melbourne and Sydney, nor does it have the dullness and mundaneness of a small country town. Enriched with lakes, world-class museums and galleries, hills and mountains, natural scenic beauty and even cluster of skyscrapers, Canberra, in my personal viewpoint is an under-rated tourist destination of Australia. Having lived here and explored much of it over the years, here are the 5 reasons why Canberra is worth visiting.
Bike ride along Lake Burley Griffin (and water sports)
Lake Burley Griffin
Lake Burley Griffin has to be Canberra’s one of the most well-known landmarks. Interestingly, the artificial lake was named after the architect Walter Burley Griffin who designed the city of Canberra. The lake is the centrepiece of the capital and many other famous landmarks including the National Museum, national gallery, national library and the High court were built on its shores. Apart from its splendid beauty and beautiful spring trees on its shores, the most sought-after activity to do at the lake is a bike ride along its border. The bike ride is not only enjoyed by the locals, but even the tourists hire bikes to feel the cool breeze while riding. If you’re not much of a cyclist, a jog or even a walk is favourite among the travellers. Visit Canberra, government’s official tourism organisation also lays out a map for the cyclists to follow. However, this is not it for this centrepiece. The lake also features a variety of water sports for you to indulge in. The water activities include swimming, canoeing, sailing and paddle boating. One can also take a cruise or a double-decker boat, however, sports like jet skiing, wakeboarding and hovercraft are not allowed yet.
Canberra is not known as The Bush Capital for no reason. Unlike other major urbanised Australian cities, Canberra has managed to preserve its wildlife and natural bushes and trees. Around the town, it’s very common to see Kangaroos jumping around while you’re driving or taking a walk, which is very cool, given I have literally had to spend dollars to see Kangaroos in Sydney and Melbourne. Possums, wombats, Echidna are also a common sight in and around the city. Exquisite birdlife, ducks and swans call Lake Burley Griffin their home. Apart from that, Canberra Nature Park, Arboretum Canberra, and Australian National Botanic Gardens feature plenty of wetlands, grasslands reserve and also local birds, water dragons and Grey Kangaroos. Beyond the city boundaries, you can find even rich and dense wildlife. About 40 kilometres from Canberra, northern end of the Australian Alps, you can enter the wonderful Namagdi National Park and Tidbinbilla nature reserve. You can organise a guided tour through the national park or try exploring yourself for hours or even days. The nature reserve also conducts breeding programs for endangered species.
World class Museums and Galleries
If you are still not impressed with what Canberra has to offer, and you are after a rather quiet afternoon full of artistic crafts and history lessons, you’re in a for pure delight. In my opinion, no other Australian city has museums and galleries as elegant as the capital, and what’s more impressive is most of these are FREE! Ranging from aboriginal art to classic English art; from historical artefacts to science museums and film archives, Canberra has a broad spectrum of all types of museums and galleries to satisfy your lust for art and history. The most famous museums include National Museum of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Australian war memorial, National portrait gallery, Questacon and many others. Not to mention the Australian Parliament (old and new) and the National Library of Australia are also situated in the capital.
Hills and lookouts
Unlike other major Australian cities, Canberra is not a coastal city. Therefore, it does not feature splendid beaches and coastal lines to drive along. But what Canberra does have is a collection of breathtaking hills and mountains, atop of which are perfectly placed lookouts that allow you to catch the wonder of the whole city in one frame. Most of these hills have actual roads to drive on to reach the top. Mt. Ainslie and Red hill have the most popular lookouts, from which the whole city is visible. The iconic Telstra tower allows a 360-degree view of the capital from a height of about 200 metres above the Black mountain. Apart from these Mt. Taylor, Mt. Majura and Mt. Painter have great trekking tracks just in case you want to test your muscles, with Mt. Majura being the highest peak in Canberra Metropolitan (890 metres).
Festivals all year around
Anyone who tries to associate the word ‘boring’ with Canberra clearly has not attended any of the festivals that take place around the city across all seasons. The most popular and spectacular festival has to be the Floriade (or at least I feel so). What better way could be to welcome spring than a show of flowers? Spring is when buds on trees start to bloom again. Floriade features flowers of all colours, sizes and fragrance. The festival, however, is not just a flower show, it also attributes diverse programs of music and other entertainment, workshops and activities for kids and crafts like horticulture and photography. Other notable festivals worth attending are, the multicultural festival in February, Enlighten festival in March, balloon spectacular and beer festival. Canberra may not be a beast of a city as other Australian cities, perhaps even less fancy, but its uniqueness and sophistication definitely make it worth a visit. At the end of the day, it is the capital of the country.