In 1912 Walter Burley Griffin, an American landscape architect from Chicago, won the international competition for the design of the future Australian capital, CANBERRA. His plan envisaged a garden city for about 25,000 people based in five main centres, each with separate city functions, located on three axes: land, water and municipal. Roads were to be in concentric circles, with arcs linking the radiating design. Construction started in 1913, but political squabbling and the effects of World War I, the Depression and World War II prevented any real progress being made until 1958, when growth began in earnest. In 1963 the Molonglo River was dammed to form long, artificial Lake Burley Griffin; the city centre, Civic, coalesced along the north shore to face parliamentary buildings to the south; while a host of outlying satellite suburbs, each connected to Civic by a main road cutting through the intervening bushland, took shape. The population grew rapidly, from fifteen thousand in 1947 to over three hundred thousand today, completely outstripping Burley Griffin's original estimates – though Canberra's decentralized design means that the city never feels crowded.
Being such an overtly planned place populated by civil servants and politicians, Canberra is in many ways a city in search of a soul: while there are all the galleries, museums and attractions that there should be, many seem to exist simply because it would be ridiculous to have omitted them from a national capital. Still, several key sights definitely justify staying a couple of nights, particularly the War Memorial, the extraordinary, partly subterranean Parliament House, the National Gallery and the National Botanic Gardens.
Canberra's nightlife – in term time at least – is alive and kicking, thanks to a large and lively student population, and the city is also said to have more restaurants per capita than any other in Australia, which is saying something. Canberra also holds the dubious title of Australia's porn capital, due to its liberal licensing laws, which legalize and regulate the sex industry.
Surprises are abundant everywhere in Canberra's districts. Take time to get out and explore, and you are sure to take away fond memories of the bush capital. Ginninderra Falls is a short drive from Belconnen, while Mt Stromlo Observatory and the Cotter Reserve are only 15 minutes drive from Woden. Tuggeranong is the gateway to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve .
This beautiful, historic rural village is on the way to Namadgi National Park and is home to Australia's oldest bridge. Enjoy a picnic at the Tharwa Bridge Reserve or take time to peruse the Cuppacumbalong Craft Centre during your rural outing.
Settled before Canberra, Queanbeyan is a typical inland Australian "city" with a township built around the main street, a welcome lack of high-rises and one shopping mall. Although only a 15 minute drive from Canberra's city center, Queanbeyan can feel like a world apart. The city is close to Molonglo Gorge and the magnificent Googong Dam — which is both an amazing engineering feat and a pleasant spot for a picnic, fishing or bushwalking.
Rural Bungendore is Canberra's historical region. This small, colonial-style village established in 1880 is now a thriving tourist attraction. Art, craft, and antique stores are great for shopping or just browsing. And the Bungendore Wood Works is a must. The beautiful Carrington Hotel in the center of the village serves as restaurant and function center, and even has a resident ghost!
Originally a booming mining town, Captains Flat is now a great place for an afternoon drive, being only 45 minutes from the city center. Tipped to become one of the city's next big tourist venues, Captains Flat is still a sleepy township that seems miles from anywhere. Enjoy a peaceful picnic in the park, a bushwalk or a lazy lunch at the pub while you can.
Another rural village center, Murrumbateman is an ideal stopping off point between Canberra and Yass. Home to many of the region's noted wineries, such as Clonkilla Wines and Doonkuna Estate, Murrumbateman makes a great destination for wine lovers. Antique stores are also plentiful here.
Canberra's wining and dining scene will come as a pleasant surprise to many visitors. For a city of its size, there is a great variety of restaurants, cafes and bars, ranging from upmarket venues catering to politicians and executives, to cheap and cheerful establishments frequented by university students.
You will find an abundance of international restaurants, trendy cafes, tapas bars and stylish dining venues. Pavement dining is particularly popular and "Canberrans" can spend hours over a leisurely lunch in the sun! The quality of cuisine in the region is excellent, thanks to a smorgasbord of fresh produce, including seafood and excellent local wines.
Being the well-planned place it is, Canberra's main drinking and dining venues tend to be clustered in certain suburbs. However, there are a few notable establishments located outside the main centers that are definitely worth a visit.
Great for families and those heading out for tasty, well-priced food. Wooley Street, in Dickson, is dedicated almost exclusively to exciting, international cuisine. For Italian, check out Zeffirelli's , which serves inexpensive yet consistently great pizzas and pastas, and Belluci's Trattoria , an old favorite. If you are after Chinese, try the Ruby Restaurant , which has an authentic Cantonese menu and fabulous seafood. If you are after something less exotic, El Dorado's , an American-style bar and grill, serves great steak and chips.
Manuka is the home of Canberra's stylish cafe society. The streets are lined with boutiques, restaurants and cafes. Tables and chairs spill onto the street and many people come simply to "be seen" sipping flat white coffees under the trees! A consistent favorite with locals and visitors alike is Caph's , a well-established, bustling restaurant and cafe. Fine dining is also well represented with Atlantic and Daniel's is regularly patronized by Canberra's discerning diners.
Kingston is a bustling, picturesque square, famous for its outdoor cafes. Soak up the sunshine over a coffee and brunch at Zest Cafe , or gossip over champagne and lunch at the Holy Grail . Come evening, the Holy Grail transforms into a trendy night-spot with live bands and an upwardly mobile clientèle. La Rustica , with its Tuscan decor and hearty Italian food is a perennial favorite. Kingston is also the home of British pubs, with Filthy McFadden's and the Durham Castle Arms serving up Guinness, fine scotch and live music until late.
The central shopping area abounds with stylish restaurants and alfresco cafes. During the day, shoppers and executives relax in the sun over Mediterranean-inspired dishes at laid back cafes like Caffe Della Piazza , Red Back Cafe and Woodstock .
For a night out with a group of friends, you cannot go past the party atmosphere (and a margarita or three!) at Montezuma's . Other destinations for get-togethers are the Australian Pizza Kitchen and the ever-popular Little Saigon . Antigo's , with its friendly service, contemporary menu, modern decor and large outdoor seating area is where revelers ready themselves for a night on the town.
Civic is the hub of Canberra's eclectic nightlife, where virtually anyone is guaranteed a great Saturday night. Heaven Nite Club and the Red Room cater to the hardcore dance crowd, with live local and national DJ acts. Insomnia , Babylon and Pandora's attract the hip young things, with more mainstream dance music and plenty of neon atmosphere. Gypsy Bar is grungier, with pool tables, a dance floor, live music and a friendly, laid back feel. If you are after a beer and a laugh, head to the Wig and Pen or PJ O'Reilly's —both cozy wood-paneled pubs serving Guinness and steak and kidney pies to university students.
Braddon is a main business district and tends to cater to the after-work crowd. Arguably the best bar in Canberra, All Saints Tapas Bar , with its cool interior, distinctly urban feel and friendly service, is a regular watering hole for many. Also worth a visit in Braddon are O Stratos (where you will actually believe you are on a Greek Island) and Mosaics , a fun, vibrant brasserie and bar.
Many of Canberra's suburbs harbor little gems known only to locals. Of particular note is Tilley's Devine Cafe and Gallery in Lyneham, an art deco lunch spot which becomes a great live music venue at night. All Bar Nun in O'Connor is an unpretentious, laid back bar, perfect for a quiet weekend drink. And if you are after top-quality international cuisine, head to Belconnen for Indian ( The Tandoor , Taj Agra ), and to Weston for Thai ( River Kwai , Thai House ) .
All restaurants and cafes in Canberra are non-smoking.
Canberra is a city scattered through beautiful parks and bushland, where modern national icons sit side by side with serene natural areas brimming with wildlife. Ways to see Canberra are just as diverse as the attractions. You can choose walking and cycle tours, hire a limousine, go "outback" on a four-wheel driving tour, or see the sights from boat or plane.
Lake Burley Griffin
Our first tour features Lake Burley Griffin . Come here and spend some time in the natural beauty of the lake and surrounding ecosystems while still right in the heart of the city. Continuing our tour, we move on to the nearby Australian National University , where you can pay a visit to the Canberra School of Art Gallery, and you can also stop into the University Refectory for a quick bite and refuel. After your lunchbreak, head over to CSIRO Discovery , an interesting, family friendly exhibit about the environmental sciences. Finally, you can round your tour out with a leisurely stroll through the Australian National Botanic Gardens .
One of Canberra's most famous landmark, this tour starts at the Telstra Tower , located in the center of the Canberra Nature Park. At the tower you can go enjoy incredible views of Canberra, as well as visit the telecommunications museum and the revolving restaurant. Moving on from the tower, you will come to the close by National Museum of Australia . The museum features all kinds of exhibits for visitors to get to know the history and culture of Australia, through all aspects: environment, people, politics and more. For more Australian history, the historic Duntroon House was built in 1833 and is open for self guided tours of the house and gardens. When you're done, head to The Republic for some contemporary Australian fare.
National Aquarium & Wildlife Park
The National Aquarium & Wildlife Park is the only combined zoo and aquarium in Australia. Visitors can even book (in advance) interactive Cheetah encounters. Moving on from the zoo, you will come across the Government House and the Royal Australian Mint . After all this excitement, stop in for some delicious grub at the Manuka Village Cafe .
Australian War Memorial
For those interested in Australia's war history, visit the Australian War Memorial and the Royal Military College . For a more pacifist kind of history, All Saints Church , built in the mid 19th Century, was originally a funerary train station, and its architectural detail is a delight to any visitor.
Gold Creek Village
Gold Creek Village , consisiting of Federation Square and the Gold Creek Cultural Centre provides visitors with a wonderful taste of Australia. Here, you can watch traditional candle making, quilt making and woodturning, not to mention the aboriginal crafts on display and for sale. Also located in Gold Creek Village is the National Dinosaur Museum . Here, you can view fossils of all kinds of dinosaurs and prehistoric plants, as well as tons of kid-friendly exhibits. If you can drag the kids away from the Dinosaur Museum, head to Cockington Green to see a miniature replica of an old English village, all constructed with accurate, but small, materials like bricks and trees. After this, finish up in Ginninderra Village , where all the buildings are heritage listed and provide even further information about old Australia. Stroll through this quaint village and window shop and grab a bite to eat at one of the little restaurants.
Canberra Guided Tours (+61 02 6258 9293)
Lynette Private Tour Guide (+61 02 6238 2433)
Explorer Bus – Canberra Day Tours (+61 13 0055 4114 / http:// www.canberradaytours.com.au)
Lake Burley Griffin Tours (+61 04 1941 8846 / http://www.lakecruises.com.au)
Canberra Lake Cruises (http:// www.canberracruises.net)
Lakeside Ferry Cruises (+61 02 6241 5831 / http:// www.canberralakecruises.com.au)
Bushrang 4WD Tours (+61 04 1225 1442 / http://www.bushranging.com.au/index.html)
Adventures Unlimited (+61 02 6285 1569)
Brindabella Bike Tours (+61 02 6242 6276 / http:// www.brindabellabiketours.com)