Canberra: The Bush Capital of Australia

Many people wrongly believe the capital city of Australia is Sydney. It’s an understandable mistake. Sydney is often the landing point for international travellers coming to Australia, it draws in celebrities and is home to the iconic opera house. Canberra on the other hand, is a small city in a low-lying valley. It sounds rather bland compared the dazzling glamour of Sydney. So why is it worth a visit?  

The bush at your hotel door

Scenic views in Gordon

Scenic views on a morning walk in Gordon.

If you’re planning a trip to Oz you’ve probably heard about the beauty on offer. Why else would you be reading this right? It’s true, the landscapes, from the red centre to the shaggy mountain ranges of the East, are exquisite and drool worthy. The best part of visiting Canberra is wandering the city and stumbling onto a breath-taking view of the bush that surrounds it. Almost anywhere you visit within the city will offer a view of the charming mountains cradling the valley. There is something truly awe-inspiring about starting your day walking up the nearest hill and soaking in the views whilst the kangaroos are still grazing. Canberra was designed and built with the intention to keep the buildings below the tree line. You may be standing in a city, but I guarantee a view from one of Canberra’s lookouts will make you feel like you’re at home with the bush.

The best views of the bush capital:

  • Mount Ainslie
  • Mount Taylor
    Sunset in Tuggeranong.

    Sunset in Tuggeranong.

  • The Cotter
  • Cooleman ridge
  • The Arboretum
  • The Carillion and Lake Burley Griffin

A little further out:

  • Gibraltar falls
  • Tidbinbilla
  • Molonglo Gorge
  • Namadji National Park

Under three hours to paradise

Beach along New South Wales coastline.

Beach along New South Wales coastline.

Canberra is the ideal base to explore the diversity of the New South Wales region. Only two hours east and you have a pocketful of beaches and dreamy coastal towns to unwind at. A local favourite is Bateman’s Bay, home to gorgeous beaches, superb rock pools, and a short trip from the delightful Mogo.
Barlings beach, Bateman's Bay area

Barlings beach, Bateman's Bay area

In contrast, if you head south and slightly further inland you reach the Snowy Mountains, a real winter wonderland. Thredbo and Perisher are both popular snow destinations for those coming from Canberra. Both offer you the opportunity to tackle the slopes on skis, snowboards or a toboggan. Of course, if you’re after something closer to your home away from home, Canberra has some little known, much loved local favourites for those days when you can’t find the time to jet away. There are numerous rivers in the Canberra region which are perfect for a summer’s afternoon. You might not be at the beach, but the likes of the Cotter and Pine Island are great locations for swimming, barbeques and exploring the local hiking trails. Similarly, less than an hour away from the city lies Corin Forest, a mountain recreation resort. Set within the Tidbinbilla Mountain range the park radiates beauty. The resort is most popular during the winter for its family snow play area, giant alpine slide and snow fields which offer the chance to ski and snowboard.
One of many adorable lolly shops found in NSW.

One of many adorable lolly shops found in NSW.

Paradise in the city:

  • Cotter Bend
  • Casuarina Sands
  • Pine Island
  • Kambah Pool
  • Corin Forest

Popular day trips:

  • South coast of NSW
  • Bateman’s Bay
  • Thredbo
  • Perisher Blue

The history

Canberra is a relatively young city and yet it is rich with history. Sure, it can’t even begin to compare with the likes of Athens or Washington, but its home to some of the most significant buildings in Australian government.  There’s no better place to learn about the history of Australia. Still not sold? Canberra also offers the opportunity to witness history in the making. The city has some astounding research institutions which are changing the world as we know it. The Australian National University draws students from all over the world, and for good reason. The university has superb science facilities and drives students to contribute to research on real world problems over the course of their degree. Want to attend a lecture on star gazing and astronomy? They have it. Just pop over to the Mount Stromlo Observatory, an institution run by the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at ANU. If you don’t like astronomy, there are countless other topics and lectures on offer.
Telstra tower.

Telstra tower.

Places of interest:

  • Australian National University (ANU)
  • Parliament House
  • Old Parliament House
  • The War Memorial
  • National museum
  • National art gallery
  • Questacon
  • Blundell’s Cottage
  • Royal Australian Mint
  • Telstra tower
  • National Film and Sound Archive
  • Lanyon Homestead
  • Canberra Glassworks
  • Centenary Trail
  • Mount Stromlo Observatory

The rising foodie scene

In the past decade Canberra has seen the rise of new, small business owners who are passionate about food and who are making meals more enjoyable in ways you’d never have thought. There are some delicious culinary delights on offer in the city if you look from them; Belluci’s and Penny University are two of my favourites if I had to name just two. Canberra has always been home to a diverse array of food, so whatever cuisine you fancy there’s sure to be plenty of options.
Patissez freak shake.

Patissez freak shake.

Whoever said Canberra was dull is long past due a visit to Guild. A rather new restaurant, but a leader in innovative ways to engage with your fellow friends over a meal, Guild specialises in wood-fired pizza, beer and board games. That’s right, board games. The idea of the restaurant is to enjoy a board game from their extensive collection whilst sharing a meal with your family and friends. Their staff are wizards on the topic of any board game, and best of all, they make the best wood-fired pizzas in town. There’s no better way to spend a rainy afternoon than eating pizza and laughing till you stomach hurts! Canberra holds a special treat for vegans in the form of a small, thriving café just outside of the city centre. Sweet Bones offers a delicious breakfast and lunch menu and an assortment of truly amazing juices and smoothies. The Elvis smoothie and Immunity juice are mouth-wateringly good. I’m drooling just thinking about them…

Best eats in Canberra:

  • Belluci’s- delicious, gigantic Italian meals
  • Guild- board games, pizza and beer
  • Via Dolce- boutique European-style pastry and cake shop
  • Penny University- delicious coffee, delicious breakfast
  • Patissez- famous for those freak shakes plastered all over the internet
  • Me & Mrs Jones
  • Sweet Bones- vegan cafe
  • The Cupping Room
  • Dobinsons- cake shop
  • AKIBA- bar with Asian food
  There you have it! Canberra might not have the same dazzling vibrancy as Sydney, but it is travel-worthy none-the-less. So what are you waiting for? Come and see it for yourself!

Alannah Alley Freeman

I’m a young explorer navigating the real world with no real sense of direction. I love exploring the new and the old, seeing new cities for the first time and finding new nooks and crannies in my own. I write to make sense of the world and to share what I’ve come across in the hopes to inspire and help others.