Canberra - the gentle Australian Capital

Chosen as a capital due to a compromise between Sydney and Melbourne, Canberra is still struggling to be respected. Those who live there love their city, though they tend to escape during the weekends to the more cosmopolitan Sydney or Melbourne.


Canberra - the gentle Australian Capital

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Quan on January 4, 2001

Canberra is a totally planned city. Designed by Walter Burley Griffin, who won the international competition, Canberra is a city with wide tree-lined avenues and spacious parkland, therefore giving visitors a feeling of spaciousness and order. Building heights are restricted, and billboards are hard to find. I can see why Canberrans love this city--it is small enough to still maintain the atmosphere of a small town, but due to the large expatriate community, does offer pockets that are very cosmopolitan. But Canberra is one of those cities that grow on you, and so it wasn't really by the third time I visited that I grew to like it. Maybe you would be more lucky. ${QuickSuggestions} ${BestWay} The city layout can be very confusing, so first-time visitors will find it relatively challenging to drive. Of course, as I am used to driving on the opposite site, can be somewhat intimidating, especially at turns, where everything is just totally weird. Canberra itself is based on a system of roundabouts, which, while well-marked, tend to point the driver towards districts rather than streets. So arming yourself with an extremely good map will help, as well as a sense of adventure.

Canberra I think is somewhat of a city of contrast. In some areas, the city is totally unfriendly to pedestrians, as many streets were built without sidewalk. However, in other aspects, the lakes, the parks, the numerous green spaces mean that you have plenty of space to wonder around. So what does that mean? Maybe that walking is great if you are wondering aimlessly around, but don't count on it as a means of getting easily from one point to the next? Another possibility is taking the buss--the city's attractions are fairly confined, and traveling by bus will get you to most of the city's highlights with no problem.


Hyatt Hotel Canberra

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Quan on January 4, 2001

The capital''s poshest hotel, it is a renovation of the Hotel Canberra, a historic landmark built in 1925. The hotel has a low-key atmosphere of a country club, and the palm trees and green spaces generally manage to convey this atmosphere. There are two wings, an old wing, with 39 rooms, and a new wing with a majority of the rooms. The old wing retains many of the characters of the old hotel with smaller but quirkier rooms (that tend to be a bit dark) but to one whom is extremely allergic to smoke, the new wing is preferable because its non-smoking rooms are truly non-smoking. The bathrooms in the new wings win hands-down as my favorite feature--the beautiful marble, the oversized bath tub is large enough to sleep in, and the large standing shower is as a shower should be, with high-pressure sprouts. Afternoon tea in the lounge is one of Canberra''s great institutions.
Park Hyatt Canberra
COMMONWEALTH AVE
Canberra, Australia, 2600
61-2-6270-1234

Parliament House

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Quan on January 4, 2001

In Canberra, Parliament House really does dominate the landscape, as the four-pronged stainless steel flagpole can be glimpsed from nearly every part of Canberra. To unite architecture with the landscape, most of the building is submerged, built into the hill so that its two sides seem to jut out of the earth, and covered by a domed glass roof. Visitors approaching Parliament House pass through a vast couryard, which in addition to the flagpole, contains a large aboriginal mosaic entitled Meeting Place. A water reservoir lends a cool refreshing contrast to the whiteness of the building and the coldness of the stainless steel.

Inside the building, native timber and marble have been used exclusively. On the wall of the main entrance, the carved wooden panels portraying the different plant and animal species of Australia are wildly beautiful. The central hall has an enormous mural sewn by a noted Australian artist. The color schemes are typically native--the marble in the hallway to the seat of the House of Commons are marked by the green of the eucalyptus tree. Visitors can choose to observe both houses of Parliament when they are in session. The favorite sessions are Question Time, which provides viewers with satisfying drama as the parties frequently grill each other on their politics and policies.
Parliament House
Capital Hill
Canberra, Australia
+61 (2) 62777111

National Gallery of Australia

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Quan on January 4, 2001

Admission $3, with additional fee for special exhibits.

The National Gallery of Australia is part of the Parliamentary Triangle. Though it has a smattering of work by Rodin, Andy Warhol, and Picasso, as well as a few Asian pieces, its highlight is its large collection of Australian art. It has an extensive display of aboriginal art, which includes numerous paintings, on canvas and on hide, of sequences of aboriginal dreams and lives, as well as aboriginal masks, and other instruments of worships and of everyday life. On the second floor, there is a large collection of paintings by Australian artists, including a large collection of painting depicting the life and time of Nat Turner, a famous Australian rebel. The bookshop on the first floor is fairly extensive, and in addition it has a good selection of Australian crafts.
National Gallery of Australia
Parkes Place
Canberra, Australia, 2600
+61 (0)2 6240 6502

High Court of Australia

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by Quan on January 4, 2001

The High Court of Australia is separated from the National Gallery of Australia by a sculpture garden. It is a gleaming concrete and glass structure, and is the ultimate seat of Australian law. It convenes only to determine matters of constitutional import and others that have major impact on Australian law. When the court is in session, the public can observe the proceedings. It is fairly informal, as you do not have to sign anything or ask for prior permission. Visitors who show up and ask for it are allowed in. The only requirement is that you remain quiet and respectful during the proceedings. We noticed that visitors who left the proceedings always signaled their respect by bowing to the justices.
High Court of Australia
Parkes Place
Canberra, Australia, 2600
+61 (0)2 6270 6811

Tidbinbilla Natural Reserve

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Quan on January 4, 2001

Another attraction of Canberra is its approximity to bushland. In fact, just a 40 minute drive southwest of the city center, the reserve has a number of bushwalks lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to almost a whole day. The reserve is dedicated to the preservation of the gum forest, along with its animals: the wallabies, kangaroos, koalas, emus, and other animals that roam the area. In fact, the first animals we encountered were the emus, who seemed totally fearless of us, and actually managed to intimidate us when one of them approached our car with what seemed to be total anger in its eyes. We promptly rolled up the window, from where we were taking their picture, and drove away. Thinking back, we can only laugh.

Once inside a designated parking area, you pass by an enclosure to enter a park. The enclosure is loose, meaning that the animals are allowed to roam fairly free, so that visitors not only can observe them in their natural environment, but can have actual encounters with them to boot. As for ourselves, we came fairly close to a large group of kangaroos, before they decided we were just too boring and left us. At another enclosure in the park, the attraction is to walk among large tall trees in search of koalas.
Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve
Paddys River Road
Canberra, Australia, 2620
+61 (0)2 6205 1233

Canberra Deep Space Communications Center

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by Quan on January 4, 2001

Though I have expected that satellite stations are located in areas with no interference, it is still a shock to drive through the bushlands, with beautiful eucaplytus trees and sightings of kangaroos, to come upon the Canberra Deep Space Communications Center, with its four giant satellite antennae. We learned that this complex is one of the three tracking stations in earth linked to the Deep Space control center, an arm of NASA, and that the antennaes relay signals from NASA to the orbiting satellites. The tour book also informed us that this station was the first to receive the first pictures of men walking on the moon.
Canberra Deep Space Communications Center
35 km outside Canberra along Tourist Drive 5
Canberra, Australia
6201 7880

Dining in Canberra

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Quan on January 4, 2001

The dining scene in Canberra is dominated by two locations, Civic in the center of town, and Manuka to the South. In both locations, most restaurants are cluttered within a two block radius. There you can find food of all persuasion, from Italian to Chinese to modern Australian fare to Pan Asian food. For some reason, every modern or ethnic restaurant in Australia seems to have its own version of laksa, a Singaporean noodle soup. I doubt you can find so much laksa anywhere outside Singapore.

I have a number of recommendations for dining in Canberra. At the Oak Room in the Hyatt Hotel, you will find a huge wine list, impeccable service, and innovative modern Australian fare that manages to blend local meat and seafood with Asian flavors and European cooking technique. At Chairman Mao and Yip in Civic, the interesting Chinese menus of duck pancakes, lobster shiu mai, and steamed fish with kumquats are served on beautiful vessels amidst a d├ęcor of Maoist artifacts. Manuka has an amazing Turkish restaurant, whose name has for the moment escaped me, but I promise to find out. It serves the most amazing lamb and eggplant concoctions--the most satisfying of meals I have had since I visited Turkey.

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