Canberra is a great city to drive around. Its fantastic urban planning makes it easy to navigate, so there are no traffic jams or toll roads – even peak hour is hardly a hindrance. Parking here is cheaper than any other Australian capital. Book your car hire in advance, at the airport or a city rental office upon arrival.
ACTION operates Canberra's public bus service, which includes the major tourist sites. Daily tickets are ideal for sightseers and can be purchased at ACTION ticket agents or with cash on the bus. The main interchanges are along Alinga Street, East Row and Mort Street. Visit the information centre on the corner of Alinga Street and East Row for timetables and route information.
There are plenty of taxis in Canberra to make getting around easier and save you time. Hail a taxi on the street or book ahead by phone, or find a taxi rank in one of the major city locations. Nightlink taxis also operate on Friday and Saturday nights from midnight to 6.00am for the party animals, departing from East Row.
Canberra has a great network of walking paths and tracks, and the city centre is very easy to walk around. Explore the many established walking routes, which are often informative too, including the Australians of the Year Walk, the Burley Griffin Walk, or the Old Parliament House Gardens Walk. Otherwise go bush to Black Mountain or Mount Ainslie for brilliant city views.
Canberra is one of the few Australian cities that reflects the changes in season. The trees blooms in spring, it's sunny and warm in summer, gold and crimson leaves fall in autumn and winter brings the chance to curl up by a warm fire. Summer temperatures usually range between 12°C and 27°C, whilst winter is more like 1°C to 12°C.
There are three time zones in Australia. Canberra and the entire Australian Capital Territory (ACT) operates on Eastern Standard Time (EST), which is the same as the rest of New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. Usually ten hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+10.00), during the summer months Daylight Saving Time is observed, when the time shifts one hour forward (GMT+11.00).
Whilst you can wear the same informal attire as you would the rest of Australia, you will notice that the dress code in Canberra is generally a little more formal than other cities, being the seat of the Australian Government. Pack lightweight clothes for summer and heavy, warm garments for winter. Sweaters and scarves are great for spring and autumn.
Canberra is a relatively safe city for tourists, although you should always take the proper precautions. As with any destination you travel to, take care when out and about – when carrying cash or valuable personal information like ID cards or passports, keep them in a safe place close to your person. The Canberra Hospital is also located a short drive from the centre of town.
Take a short trip from Sydney to Canberra with Virgin or Qantas and get there in just 1 hour direct.
Fly to Canberra from Melbourne with either Virgin or Qantas and you will get there in just over 1 hour.
Get to Canberra from Perth in 4 hours when taking a daily flight, direct to the capital city, with Qantas
The Airport Express shuttle runs to and from Canberra Airport, Russell, and the city. Operated by Royale Coaches, a one-way ticket costs $10, which can be pre-purchased online or over the phone. The airport pickup point is located on the lower level of the terminal road system, near the undercover car park. There are 15 services on weekdays and six on weekends.
A taxi rank is located on the lower level of the airport terminal entry road, where they're usually ready and waiting. If you arrive particularly early or late and there are no taxis in sight, visit the Car Park Management Office where an attendant can book one for you. Expect to pay $40-$45 to Canberra's city centre.
If you like the idea of being greeted by your own personal chauffeur upon arrival, there are a number of services available. From corporate class vehicles to luxury limousines and mini-buses for larger groups, different companies offer different packages to suit. All chauffeur services however must be pre-booked before arriving. Your driver will meet you inside the terminal.
If you prefer to transfer from the airport to your accommodation via your own car, there are several car hire companies you can book through. You can choose to book before your flight or make a selection upon arrival. If you decide to hire at a later time, you can do so at a number of car hire locations throughout the city.
Opened in 1988, Australia's third home of the Federal Parliament is rather extravagant. Literally dug into Capital Hill, landscaped gardens and grassy slopes rise onto the roof, from where you'll discover fantastic 360-degree city views. Large areas of the house are open to the public daily, though close early during sitting. Free guided tours are available daily.
Offering an in-depth look at Australia's history and modern existence, the National Museum of Australia poses an interesting mix of displays. Permanent exhibitions explore the people, events and issues that have shaped Australia, including environmental change, Indigenous culture, national icons and more. With a focus on sharing stories, the museum encourages debate and opinion. Interactive displays even invite visitors' contributions.
Home to Australia's finest scientific collection of native plants, the Australian National Botanic Gardens expand across 90 beautiful hectares on the lower slopes of Black Mountain. Boasting around 90,000 plants of more than 5000 species, highlights include Rainforest Gully, Eucalypt Lawn and the Aboriginal Plant Use Walk. Stop by the visitor centre and bookshop for information, maps and free guided tours.
Built to commemorate the Australians that died while serving their country, the Australian War Memorial is the nation's most visited museum. Overlooking Anzac Parade and Lake Burley Griffin, the touching museum explores the battles that have shaped Australia through a massive collection of relics, pictures, dioramas and exhibitions. Weaponry, uniforms and heavy machinery are also on display. There are free guided tours.
For a unique Australian dining experience look no further than Ginger Room, housed in Old Parliament House. Offering views out over rolling lawns, rose gardens and Lake Burley Griffin, history and class merge with fine food here. Inspired by Australian produce and Asian flavours, the fixed-price menu is complemented by white-linen service and an extensive wine and cocktail list.
For enticing Italian fare and authentic wine, head to Italian & Sons for the best local wood-fired pizza. It also boasts an impressive selection of antipasti, cured meats and cheeses, as well as pastas, wholesome regional dishes and set menus. A modern trattoria verging on a fine bistro, it's cosy, warm and inviting. The hanging salami is a unique finishing touch.
Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, Urban Pantry is a chic bistro located in the popular dining hub of Manuka. Modern and airy, the space exudes an earthy and rustic finish with sunny outdoor tables. The menu is mostly modern Australian with touches of European and Asian influence. Highlights include Sonoma organic sourdough bread, sharing plates and boutique wines and beers.
For fine dining in the capable hands of an international chef with experience in Michelin-starred restaurants, book a table at Aubergine, where strong French and European-inspired flavours collide. With an emphasis on fresh, seasonal produce, choose between a two or three-course fixed-price menu. The split-level dining room is elegant and classy, the atmosphere refined and the service highly professional.
If you're pining for a cocktail and want plenty to choose from, head to Muddle Bar on West Row. The atmosphere is buzzing and the service friendly. With a warm and cosy interior, heavy velvet curtains and plush lounges adorn the room in style. The outdoor courtyard is popular in the summer.
For a reliably good night out head to Phoenix, an Irish bar that's not so typical. The atmosphere is mellow and comfortable, the decor worn in with character and the stage home to many local musicians, bands and theatre acts. Pick from foreign and local brews, spirits, wines and cocktails.
Converted from a cinema into a bustling nightclub, Academy is the place to go for pumping beats and a crowded dance floor. Local and international DJs, a video projector screen and disco balls set the scene. Spread across two levels, the Candybar cocktail lounge is a bit more chilled out.
Housed in the heritage-listed Acton Hotel, Parlour Wine Room is an experience that transports one back to the olden days. It's elegantly decked out with vintage furniture, early 20th century posters and parquetry floors. The drinks list is extensive, with cocktails, champagnes, 120 different wines and great food and dessert items.
Head straight to the obvious attraction, Parliament House, and take the free guided tour inside. Wander the expansive grounds and be sure to walk to the very top of Capital Hill to catch fantastic city views. This is also a great way to get your bearings on day one. Then explore the area of Parkes, including Old Parliament House, the High Court and the National Portrait Gallery or the National Gallery of Australia. At the end of a long day, head to Kingston and Manuka for dinner, where you'll be not far from the great views of Lake Burley Griffin.
Enjoy a slow and leisurely breakfast in one of the cafes of Civic and watch the world go by in Canberra's city centre. When you're ready to launch into the day, wander the streets and see what you find between the various shopfronts, boutiques and office buildings. Then head to the Australian War Memorial, still north of Lake Burley Griffin. Be sure to take part in one of the free 90-minute guided tours. You can easily spend all afternoon here – for history buffs, much longer. Finish the day with dinner then a show at Canberra's Theatre Centre back in Civic.
Escape the usual sights and head to the Australian National Botanic Gardens. Stop by the visitor information centre then wander the morning away. Be sure to explore Rainforest Gully, the Eucalypt Lawn and the Aboriginal Plant Use Walk. If you're keen, climb to Telstra Tower at the top of Black Mountain for a coffee and fantastic views of Canberra. Then make your way back down to the National Museum of Australia. If you have kids, don't miss Questacon, a family attraction that people of all ages seem to love. When it gets dark, retire with a few wines or cocktails and a lovely meal in Dickson.
Get out of the city and explore a little further afield. Hire a car so you can drive out to Namadgi National Park, which takes up 46 per cent of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). Here you'll have ample opportunities to bushwalk, climb and relish in outdoor adventures in the fresh Australian Alps. Watch closely where you're going as scattered around the park are many Aboriginal campsites, ceremonial stone arrangements and rock art. In Orroral Valley you'll also find an early European homestead. If you bring a fishing rod, you can even fish in the streams during summer. Near the village of Tharwa is the Namadgi Visitor Centre, where you can pick up maps, brochures and books about the park.
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