The elegant and beautiful national capital
Canberra is an artificial city created as a result of the federation of Australian states. In 1908, 2330 square kilometres of good quality sheep-grazing land was carved out of New South Wales, and on 1 January 1911, the Australian Capital Territory was handed over officially to the Commonwealth Government. That same year, a competition was launched for the design of a city for 25,000 people. The competition was won by an American, Walter Burley Griffin, whose design based on a series of geometrically precise circles and axes, was similar to the street patterns of Washington and Paris. Today, Canberra is a city of great beauty, with broad thoroughfares, superb parklands, and many elegant buildings. On a clear spring or autumn day it is a city which is captivating in its graciousness.
The city has an excess of attractions designed to be both "national" and appealing to visitors to the country's capital. These include the National Art Gallery (which boasts a superb collection of works), the National Library, the Australian War Memorial, the old and new Parliament Houses, the Australian Museum, the Film and Sound Archive (which shows early Australian movies) and the High Court. For those wanting other attractions the city has a large number of outstanding restaurants, there are excellent lookouts, there are boats for hire on Lake Burley Griffin and an excellent walking and cycling path around the lake.
Canberra is located 286 km south west from Sydney and 663 km north east from Melbourne.^ TOP
Origin of Name
There are a myriad of unproven theories about the name although it does seem to have originated as a result of Robert Campbell calling his property "Canberry". This name was taken up and used to describe Canberry Plain and Canberry Cottage. There are a number of theories why he called his property Canberry. It is also known that by 1865 it was known as Canberra. Another unproven theory is that "canberra" was an Aboriginal word meaning either "meeting place", "neutral place", "corroboree ground", "head of the river", "space between a woman's breasts", or "laughing jackass". It was named in 1913 after a competition had produced an hilarious collection of names including Cookaburra, Symeladperho and Swindleville.^ TOP
Things to See and Do
There are so many things to do in Canberra that it is easy to be overwhelmed. Decide what you are particularly interested in (art, politics, the history of the city, lakeside walks, dining out, adventures in science) and stop at the excellent Visitor Information Centre and load up with brochures and useful information.
Parliament House was built on a 33 hectare site on Capital Hill overlooking Lake Burley Griffin. It dominates Canberra and can be seen many vantage points around the city. The History of Parliament House records: "The Fraser government established the Parliament House Construction Authority to develop a new building, as the provisional Parliament House has become inadequate to accommodate the needs of the parliament. The design was selected through an international two-stage competition conducted by the Authority. The competition drew 329 entries from 28 countries, with the winning design a visionary approach from the New York-based architectural company of Mitchell/Giurgola & Thorp, with the on-site work directed by Italian architect Romaldo Giurgola. There were many factors that the designers of Parliament House considered, including its size and its inevitable grandeur. Its relationship to the Burley Griffin plan of the city within which it was to occupy the symbolic centre—the Parliamentary Triangle—was also critical. The new building was seen as an intimate part of Canberra, but it was designed not to dominate the city."
Parliament House is surrounded by 23 ha of landscaping with formal and semi-formal gardens Designed so that visitors can actually walk on top of the building, the new Parliament House boasts an excellent art gallery and facilities which feature Australian timbers and gracious interiors. There are standard guided tours every 30 minutes - they include the Great Hall, the Members Hall and the Parliament House Art Collection. They must be booked. Check out https://www.aph.gov.au/Visit_Parliament/Whats_On/Tour/Guided_tours. There are other specialised tours - the Yeribee Indigenous experience of Parliament tour; the art and furniture collection tour and the Architecture of Parliament House tour.
Of particular interest are the 9 ha of native gardens with 4,500 trees and 135,000 shrubs; the formal gardens with 3,500 plants and Chinese lions; the RSL Fountain made from South Australian black granite blocks and four bronze sculptures; and the Armillary sphere sundial which was donated by the Country Women's Association. See https://www.aph.gov.au/Visit_Parliament/Things_to_Do/Explore_the_gardens for more details. For information about opening times (usually 9.00 am - 5.00 pm and 9.00 am - 6.00 pm on sitting days). Contact Visitor Services, tel: (02) 6277 5399. It is essential to book a visit.
Old Parliament House - the Museum of Australian Democracy
Located at 18 King George Terrace, Parkes, the first parliament house (now known as Old Parliament House) was completed in 1927. The architect was John Smith Murdoch, the first Commonwealth Government architect, who was so determined his style should consistently prevail that he even designed most of the original furniture and waste paper baskets. Timber from almost every state was utilised. "Murdoch’s provisional parliament building was modest and functional, and was filled with natural light from windows, skylights and light wells. With its verandahs and colonnades, and strong horizontal lines." See https://www.moadoph.gov.au/collection/the-building for more details. The brief for the building was that it should last for 50 years. It lasted for 61 years and was replaced in 1988 by a new Parliament House which was built on Capital Hill overlooking Lake Burley Griffin. It is possible to wander through the rooms, check out the chairs, listen to a wide range of oral histories, observe the cramped quarters as the parliament grew and the building remained the same. Be amused by a hidden safe revealed by stepping on a particular floorboard, a secret hiding place for journalists above the opposition leader's office, doodles made in the drying cement by the original builders, and other eccentric aspects to the building. It is open from 9.00 am - 5.00 pm, entry is free. For more information and opening times tel: (02) 6270 8222 or check out https://www.moadoph.gov.au. It is essential to book with visitors either exploring at their leisure or taking a Building History Tour. See https://www.moadoph.gov.au/visiting. There is an impressive, downloadable brochure - Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House. Check it at https://moad-web.s3.amazonaws.com/heracles-production/cd3/983/7db/cd39837db3d717f9ffa95453639880fe05299521fbb7b166ca3fe3f70ca6/Museum_Overview_12_10_16.pdf
Located at 120 Commonwealth Avenue and historically known as the Hotel Canberra, the Hyatt Hotel is a monument to early Canberra. It was proposed in 1921 as a hostel (it was originally known as Hostel No.1) and, as the ACT Heritage Library website explains: "was to accommodate 200 Parliamentarians, dignitaries and high Commonwealth officials in sophisticated simplicity and was intended to raise the public image of the new capital. Commonwealth Architect John Smith Murdoch recognised the importance of privacy and more home-like conditions and designed an arrangement of ten alternating single and two storied pavilions radiating from two garden courtyards, all set in a larger garden. The pavilions are linked by enclosed glazed verandahs to a central administration and dining block, to form a figure eight ... Its Garden Pavilion style is characteristic of 1920s Canberra and the garden city ideas of the time. The gardens were designed by TCG (Charles) Weston. His first garden plan was for a Mediterranean style more suited to the dry climate and lack of water. He was persuaded by general opposition together with an improved water supply and the development of a suitable grass species to redesign the garden, which today retains much of the original planting and layout. The golf course was situated just behind the hotel, and tennis courts, a bowling green (based on the Chatswood Bowling Club in Sydney) and croquet lawn were established for guests." It is located within walking distance of both the old and new Parliament Houses. It is definitely worth visiting either to walk through and admire; to stay a night; or, most charmingly, to have high tea and feel as though you are back in the 1920s. Check out https://www.library.act.gov.au/find/history/frequentlyaskedquestions/Place_Stories/hotelcanberra for more detailed information.
National Library of Australia
Located at Parkes Place, this is an outstanding national library which has become, since it was established in 1960, the largest reference library in the country. It has a huge and ever-growing collection of Australiana which, as the National Library Act explains, is aimed at: "maintaining and developing a national collection of library material, including a comprehensive collection of library material relating to Australia and the Australian people". It now houses over 7 million items. The building was designed by Bunning and Madden in the style known as Twentieth Century Stripped Classical. The building is worth visiting for the Leonard French stained glass windows and the three tapestries by Mathieu Mategot. There is always an exhibition of famous documents and books. Its appeal to the visitor lies in the richness of the building itself as well as its regular exhibitions which range widely from literary to historical subjects. The exhibitions change on a regular basis. For more information, and information about current exhibitions, check out https://www.nla.gov.au. It is open from 9.00 am - 5.00 pm daily.
National Science and Technology Centre (Questacon)
Located on King Edward Terrace, Parkes between the High Court and the National Library, the National Science and Technology Centre, known as Questacon, is a wonderland of science and technology and consequently is hugely popular in school holidays and a popular place for school excursions. There are over 200 interactive exhibits, most of which are 'hands on'. It also has a range of changing exhibits as well as games and puzzles, experiments and experiences which range from the biological through to chemistry, earth sciences, mathematics, physics and astronomy. The exhibits are cleverly arranged in a huge cylindrical tower which has a spiral staircase. It was opened in 1988. For general information tel: (02) 6270 2800. It is open every day from 9.00 am - 5.00 pm. Check out https://www.questacon.edu.au for more detailed information.
National Gallery of Australia
Located in Parkes Place East, next door to the High Court, the National Gallery of Australia is the home of the national collection of paintings. It now houses over 166,000 works of art. It was designed by the architects, Colin Madigan and Andrew Andersons, and opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1982. It regularly hosts major international art exhibitions. Perhaps its most famous painting is Jackson Pollock's 'Blue Poles' which was bought for $1.3 million in 1973. Of its many Aboriginal exhibits the most widely admired is probably the Ramingining artists The Aboriginal Memorial 1987-88 which was purchased with the assistance of funds from National Gallery admission charges and commissioned in 1987. It is open from 10.00 am - 5.00 pm. For more details tel: (02) 6240 6411 or check out https://nga.gov.au.
National Portrait Gallery
Located opposite the National Gallery on King Edward Terrace, the National Portrait Gallery, which was originally housed in Old Parliament House, is an impressive combination of changing exhibitions and an important collection of portraits of Australians. For details about the portraits and the exhibitions check out https://www.portrait.gov.au. The gallery is open every day from 10.00 am - 5.00 pm. Of particular interest is the beautiful Sculpture Garden which lies between the gallery and Lake Burley Griffin.
High Court of Australia
Located on Parkes Place, the High Court of Australia is an impressive and unusual building which is open from 9.45 am - 4.30 pm Monday to Friday and from Midday to 4.00 pm on Sundays. The High Court of Australia website explains: "The High Court building is an outstanding example of late modern Brutalist architecture. It has light-filled, bold geometric shapes and spaces, raw massed concrete, dynamic internal movement, and strong links with neighbouring buildings and landscape. It is monumental and asymmetrical, but also functional. A national design competition for the building announced in May 1972 was won by the architectural firm of Edwards Madigan Torzillo and Briggs (EMTB). EMTB was also responsible for the adjacent Australian National Gallery (as it was then) and links. EMTB Director and architect Christopher Kringas led the design of the High Court, working closely with Feiko Bouman and Rod Lawrence. Kringas died in 1975, just prior to construction. Colin Madigan, who was the team leader for the National Gallery, and Hans Marelli, oversaw the construction phase of the High Court building."
Visitors can inspect the Great Hall - it has an educational display and often has exhibitions - and three court rooms. There are Court Guides which take people around and answer questions. There is also a strict court etiquette.
Most of the court's business is complex and will have little interest to the visitor. However there are moments when it changes Australian history (the famous 'Wik' decision is a good example). It is the highest court in Australia. The cafeteria and the surrounding parklands are popular at lunchtime. Tel: (02) 6270 6811 and for very detailed information check out https://www.hcourt.gov.au.
Lake Burley Griffin, Captain Cook Memorial Water Jet, The Carillon and Cruising and Boating
Lake Burley Griffin, named after the city’s planner, lies at the heart of Canberra and is surrounded by important public buildings including the High Court and National Library. The lake was finally completed in 1963 when the Molonglo River, which had slowly filled the dam, turned it into a watery playgroup where people can swim, row, sail, cruise and kayak. It is also possible to walk around the lake.
* Walking around the lake
The distance is 4.9 km between the two bridges but the total distance is 16 km on the Western Loop and 9 km on the Eastern Loop.
* Captain Cook Fountain/Memorial Jet
The lake's major attractions include the Captain Cook Fountain/Memorial Jet which was added in 1970. It was part of the celebrations marking the bicentennial of Captain James Cook's journey up the continent's east coast.
* The Carillon
The Carillon is located on Aspen Island in the lake. The website (https://www.nca.gov.au/carillon) explains: "the National Carillon was a gift from the British Government to the people of Australia to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the national capital. Carillons have a minimum of 23 bells. With 57 bronze bells the National Carillon is large by world standards. The pitch of the bells ranges chromatically through four and one half octaves. The bells each weigh between seven kilograms and six tonnes. Cast in England by John Taylor & Co of Loughborough, they are fine examples of the art of bellfounding. With the tower rising to a height of 50 metres, this allows the music of the bells to drift across Lake Burley Griffin and through Kings and Commonwealth Parks. The tower is lit at night, providing a magnificent landmark in the national capital. The best location to listen to the National Carillon is anywhere with an unobstructed view of the tower, within a radius of about 100 metres. The carillonist may be greeted at the base of the tower approximately five minutes after the recital."
* Cruising and Boating
It is possible to take a cruise on Lake Burley Griffin or hire a boat or kayak. Check out Lake Burley Griffin Cruises which is located on Queen Elizabeth Terrace, tel: 0419 418 846 or https://www.lakecruises.com.au. But for a more comprehensive range of cruising and boating options check out https://www.nca.gov.au/attractions-and-memorials/lake-burley-griffin/lake-operators.
National Capital Exhibition
Located in Commonwealth Park on Barrine Drive, Parkes, the National Capital Exhibition is open Monday to Friday from 9.00 am - 5.00 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 10.00 am - 4.00 pm. There is a free guided tour every day at 11.00 am. The website explains: "The National Capital Exhibition tells the Story of Canberra as the capital city of Australia ... Explore displays featuring the people, events, history and design of this unique, modern, planned city. Discover the people behind the design – Walter Burley Griffin and his wife Marion. Canberra is unique and innovative in the history of town planning ... Highlights include:
* The scale model of the national area of Canberra, including a projected presentation
* The augmented reality overlay on a replica of an original plaster of Paris landscape model
* The Story of Canberra – a brief film in the Foundations Theatre
* Interactive displays on alternative designs and changes to the Griffin plan over time.
For more information tel: (02) 6272 2902 or check out https://www.nca.gov.au/attractions-and-memorials/national-capital-exhibition.
Located on Wendouree Drive, Parkes, the historic Blundells Cottage lies on the shore of Lake Burley Griffin. It is a unique opportunity to experience Canberra before it became the national capital. Built in 1860 by William Ginn, the head ploughman at Duntroon House, this stone cottage was handed over to the Canberra and District Historical Society in 1964. Since 1999 it has been managed as a museum by the National Capital Authority. The appeal is that here is a European building which predates the national capital and is a reminder of the life of the early settlers. It is open from 9.00 am - 5.00 pm Monday to Friday and from 10.00 am - 4.00 pm on Saturday and Sunday. Phone 02 6257 1068. There is very detailed information at https://www.nca.gov.au/blundells.
Australian War Memorial
Located on Treloar Crescent, Campbell this impressive building provides a huge display covering Australia's involvement in war. There are excellent displays and an impressive Pool of Reflection with its Roll of Honour which lists 102,000 Australians who have died at war. There are fascinating displays of memorabilia, paintings and models. Aware of the varying needs of visitors the Memorial has created three suggested itineraries:
* One Hour Itinerary - which looks at the Anzac Hall Galleries
* Half Day Itinerary - which looks at the galleries, the Commemorative Area and includes the Last Post Ceremony
* Full Day Itinerary - which looks at the First World War and Second World War galleries, the Anzac Hall gallery, the Commemorative Area and includes the Last Post Ceremony
It is open from 10.00 am - 5.00 pm. For more details check out the very detailed https://www.awm.gov.au/visit/visitor-information. The website should be studied before visiting the Memorial.
Below the War Memorial Anzac, Parade stretches to the waters of Lake Burley Griffin and is aligned so that the visitor can see across the lake to Parliament House. Anzac Parade was opened on Anzac Day, 1965 to commemorate fifty years since the landing of Australian troops at Gallipoli. To experience this elegant parade there is a downloadable self-guided walking tour which inspects, and describes in great detail, the 13 memorials on a route which covers 2.5 km and takes approximately 100 minutes. The Memorials on Anzac Parade include:
* The Australian Hellenic Memorial
* The Australian Army National Memorial
* The Australian National Korean War Memorial
* The Australian Vietnam Forces National Memorial
* The Desert Mounted Corps Memorial
* The Boer War Memorial
* The New Zealand Memorial
* The Australian Peacekeeping Memorial
* The Rats of Tobruk Memorial
* The Royal Australian Air Force Memorial
* The Australian Service Nurses National Memorial
* The Royal Australian Navy Memorial
* The Kemal Ataturk Memorial
It can be downloaded from https://www.nca.gov.au/attractions-and-memorials/anzac-parade. It also lists dozens of other memorials around the national capital ranging from the Indian Ocean Tsunami Memorial to the HMAS Canberra Memorial.
St Johns Anglican Church and Schoolhouse Museum
Located at 45 Constitution Avenue, St Johns Anglican Church is one of Canberra's oldest buildings. It was designed by Robert Campbell, the foundation stone was laid in 1841, the bluestone was quarried on Black Mountain, and on 12 March, 1845 it was consecrated by the Right Reverend William Broughton. The original building was short-lived. In 1851 the main tower was struck by lightning. The church authorities then invited Edmund Blacket (architect of the Quadrangle at Sydney University) to extend the church. It was extended between 1860 and 1872. Blacket decided on a very simple three stage stone tower with corner buttresses. In the graveyard adjacent to the church are gravestones dating from before the church's consecration and the nearby is St Johns Schoolhouse, which was the first schoolhouse in Canberra. It was completed in the late 1840s and totally restored in 1969. The church is open from 9.00 am - 5.00 pm seven days a week. For more detailed information check out https://www.stjohnscanberra.org/history. The website includes the following description of the church: "There's a place in Canberra that evokes the appearance and atmosphere of an English country parish. The churchyard at St John's Anglican Church in Reid has an attractive steepled building, an old school house and rectory, lychgates and a graveyard."
National Film and Sound Archive of Australia
Located in McCoy Circuit, Acton the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia contains the country's finest collection of old films and sound recordings - more than 3 million works. Its role is to preserve, maintain and promote a national collection of film, television, sound, radio, video games and new media. The collection ranges from the late nineteenth century to the present day. It was created as early as 1935 and became independent in 1984 when these headquarters were opened. It has regular exhibitions and shows historic films and documentaries. Some of the material dates back to the 1890s. It is open from 10.00 am - 4.00 pm. Tel: (02) 6248 2000, 1800 067 274 or check out https://www.nfsa.gov.au.
National Museum of Australia
Located on Lawson Crescent, the National Museum of Australia celebrates the land, nation and people of Australia by exploring the key issues, events and people that have shaped our nation. It contains over 210,000 objects. The Museum has a number of permanent exhibitions that bring together Australia’s stories, each presented with state-of-the-art technology and hands-on interactive exhibitions. Notable exhibits include the Aboriginal warrior Pemulwuy, the Gold Rushes, the Gallipoli Land, the launch of the Holden car and the importance of Marriage equality. The Museum is open from 9.00 am - 5.00 pm. There is an excellent and detailed website - check out https://www.nma.gov.au. The website explains that "The National Historical Collection contains one of the world’s largest collections of bark paintings and the holdings of the former Australian Institute of Anatomy, including the heart of racehorse Phar Lap. The collection features historical vehicles, material related to Australian politics and politicians, more than 300 convict tokens, and an extensive collection of Aboriginal breastplates."
A Self-Guided Driving Tour of the Embassies in Canberra
Embassies are often showpieces for countries and in Canberra this is no exception. Often an embassy will be designed to be a symbol of the country it represents. Thus, as the excellent Diplomatic Mission Self-Guided Driving Tour (see https://www.nca.gov.au/diplomatic-missions-self-guided-driving-tour) explains, the High Commission of Canada at 150 Commonwealth Avenue is a building where "Canadian timbers have been used throughout the building, including red cedar eaves, and two Canadian maples planted by the flagpole. The totem pole was carved by Haida artist Clarence Mills for the Canadian pavilion at the 1988 Expo in Brisbane. It represents members of his family." and the High Commission of Papua New Guinea at 39 Forster Crescent where "The building is a Haus Tambaran or Spirit House from the Sepik River. These were meeting places for tribal elders and storehouses for sacred objects. The stylised painted images of clan ancestors and the carved totem poles were created by students from the National Art School in Port Moresby." There is a downloadable brochure with information about all the embassies.
Other Attractions in the Area
Mt Ainslie Lookout
Often cited as the best view in Canberra because it offers a view from above the War Memorial which looks down Anzac Avenue to the south across the city which is almost directly in line with the War Memorial and the Parliament House, Mount Ainslie is simply the best view to understand the design of Walter Burley Griffin. It is accessed by continuing east beyond the War Memorial on Fairbairn Avenue and turning left onto Mount Ainslie Drive. There is a detailed description at https://www.canberratracks.act.gov.au/heritage-trails/track-3-looking-at-canberra/mt-ainslie-lookout which explains: "The main view takes in Griffin's plan and its modifications. Lake Burley Griffin forms a unifying design element. Looking across the lake to Parliament House, you are sighting along Griffin's land axis, aligned with four hill summits from Mt Ainslie through Camp Hill, and Capital Hill to distant Mt Bimberi, admittedly less conspicuous than Griffin imagined in Chicago. Crossing this at right angles is the water axis along the lake formed from the Molonglo River and named for the architect himself. His wife was also instrumental in the winning of the design competition is commemorated at this viewing platform which was changed to the Marion Mahony Griffin View in 2013."
Mt Pleasant Lookout
Located at the top of General Bridges Drive which is off Fairbairn Drive near the Australian Defence Force Academy at Duntroon, the Mt Pleasant Lookout offers a view west over Lake Burley Griffin and the Jerrabomberra Wetlands. There is useful signage at the lookout. Check out https://www.canberratracks.act.gov.au/heritage-trails/track-3-looking-at-canberra/mt-pleasant for detailed information about the lookout. It notes of the guns and the stone wall at the lookout "two 64 pounder guns at the summit form part of the Royal Australian Artillery National Memorial. The memorial's stone outer wall symbolises the early forts defending the ports of the Australian colonies."
Black Mountain and Telstra Tower
Black Mountain stands above the city. The Telstra Tower on the mountain can be seen from most parts of Canberra and certainly from the foreshores of Lake Burley Griffin. The lookout and the tower are accessible via Clunies Ross Street and Black Mountain Drive. The Telstra Tower is 195 metres above the summit of Black Mountain and provides visitors with public viewing areas as well as a restaurant, snack bar and theatrette. It was opened in 1980 and houses Canberra's radio and television facilities. Below it lies the Black Mountain Lookout. The Canberra Tracks website notes that the view from Black Mountain allows visitors to see the "western terminus of Griffin's water axis running through the Molonglo floodplain – now Lake Burley Griffin. Griffin's plan set aside the hills as open space, including Black Mountain and Mt Ainslie. They are both nature reserves in Canberra Nature Park, with regrown woodland and abundant bird life. You can also see the Jerrabomberra Wetlands at the eastern end of the lake. This important conservation reserve is the ACT's largest wetland, where 77 species of waterbird have been recorded." For more information check out https://www.canberratracks.act.gov.au/heritage-trails/track-3-looking-at-canberra/black-mountain.
National Botanic Gardens
Located off Clunies Ross Street at the base of Black Mountain, the Australian National Botanic Gardens "maintains a scientific collection of native plants from all parts of Australia." It proudly declares that it has "the world’s most comprehensive display of living Australian native plants." There is an excellent brochure and map which can be downloaded at https://parksaustralia.gov.au/botanic-gardens/pub/anbg-visitor-map-and-guide.pdf. It identifies the numerous trails and specific gardens - the Eucalypt Lawn, the Red Centre Garden, Banksia Garden et al. The gardens are open from 8.30 am - 5.00 pm daily with the Visitor Centre being open from 9.30 am - 4.30 pm. The website - https://www.anbg.gov.au/index.html - provides extensive information on the plants in the gardens.
Red Hill Lookout
Red Hill Lookout lies to the south of Parliament House and is accessed by taking the southern axis away from Parliament House (called Melbourne Avenue) which becomes Gowrie Drive and then Red Hill Drive which head for Red Hill Lookout. This is a popular lookout which offers a very different view of Canberra and Capital Hill. Canberra Tracks explains "The two separate lookouts show contrasting scenes illustrating two key periods in Canberra's history. The view north-east is across Parliament House and Lake Burley Griffin up Anzac Parade to the ancient volcanic shape of Mt Ainslie" and "Move uphill to look west and take in the first phase of metropolitan Canberra after World War Two. Woden-Weston Creek was the location of soldier settlement farms until suburbs were built in the 1960s. Woden Town Centre, marked by tall buildings, was the first of the NCDC's new towns." For more detailed information check out https://www.canberratracks.act.gov.au/heritage-trails/track-3-looking-at-canberra/red-hill-lookout.
Australian Institute of Sport
Located on Leverrier Street in Bruce, the Australian Institute of Sport is not only a place where elite athletes train but it is also open to the public who can go for tours of the facilities, inspect an interactive sports exhibit, and use the facilities. The AIS has the following facilities which can be used by the public:
* AIS Fitness Centre
* AIS Track and Field Centre – public training
* Hire of AIS Grass Fields
* Public swimming
* Aqua and Recovery classes
* Swim classes
* AIS cafe (Monday to Friday, 8.30 am - 1:30 pm).
The institute was created out the country's inability to compete on an international level notably the failure to win a single gold medal at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
It was established as a training powerhouse for elite athletes and has subsequently produced a number of notable Olympic gold medallists and world champions. It was officially opened in 1981 with the founding sports being basketball, gymnastics, netball, swimming, tennis, track and field, football and weightlifting. It enjoyed almost immediate success when, at the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane in 1982 AIS athletes won 12 gold medals, 12 silver and seven bronze. It is open from 8.30 am - 5.00 pm seven days a week. There are 90 minute public tours at 10.00 am, 11.30 am, 1.00 pm and 2.30 pm daily. For more details, tel: (02) 6252 1444 or check out https://www.ais.gov.au.
Located at 11 Gold Creek Road, north of the centre of Canberra, Cockington Green is one of Canberra's oldest tourist attractions. It was opened in 1979 having been started in 1972. The primary attraction is a collection of handcrafted, miniature building which include a Scottish castle, a windmill, a village and Stonehenge. It is set in extensive gardens with good picnic facilities and attractions now include miniature steam train rides, a Waverley dolls house, a garden cafe and free barbecue facilities. It opens from 9.30 am - 5.00 pm. For more information and details of tours tel: (02) 6230 2273 or check out https://cockingtongreen.com.au.
Mount Stromlo Observatory
Located on Mount Stromlo Road at Weston Creek (off Cotter Road west of Canberra) this observatory is part of the Australian National University's Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics. The Mount Stromlo Observatory Visitors' Centre "has something for everyone with science exhibits, a kids zone, and information about Mount Stromlo’s rich history of tragedies and triumphs. There’s also a heritage trail with augmented reality to transport you to a different time as you stroll past kangaroos while taking in the sweeping views across Canberra and the surrounding mountains." The website has information about the "Public Astronomy Nights", the site tour, the Heritage Trail and the Education programs. The Observatory was established in 1924. "Its original interests lay in solar and atmospheric physics. During the Second World War, the observatory served as an optical munitions establishment and, after the war, it developed new research directions in stellar and galactic astronomy (with a change of name to The Commonwealth Observatory)." The Observatory site is open from 8.00 am - 6.00 pm. For more information tel: (02) 6125 0232 or check out https://rsaa.anu.edu.au/observatories/mount-stromlo-observatory.
Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve
Located off Paddys River Road at Tidbinbilla (41 km south west of Canberra via Cotter Road), this pleasant reserve is home to a number of Australian native animals in a pleasant rural setting. The visitor can expect to see both red and grey kangaroos, magpie geese, koalas and satin bower birds in a variety of flora environments. The most popular activities in the Nature Reserve include:
* The Sanctuary - a wetlands ecosystem surrounded by bushland that has been protected by a predator-proof fence for around 40 years, creating a refuge for a range of native animals. It has a 2.1 km wheelchair accessible pathway. The website explains that animals that can be seen include "platypuses and a variety of bird species at the ponds. This area also supports populations of Cunningham’s skinks and Antechinus, as well as reintroduced free-ranging populations of Long-Nosed Potoroos and Southern Brown Bandicoots as well as a Brush-tailed Rock-Wallabies."
* The Eucalyptus Forest - a 17 ha wet sclerophyll forest on the floor of the Tidbinbilla valley which is surrounded by a predator-proof fence. It is home to a population of threatened Long-nosed potoroos and koalas. There is a 700m Koala Path where koalas, potoroos and wallabies can be viewed. There are guided tours and the Nature Reserve is open from 7.30 am - 6.00 pm (it stays open until 8.00 pm in the summer months) with the Visitor Centre being open from 9.00 am - 5.00 pm. There are 21 walking trails in the park range from short easy tracks (Hanging Rock is on 500 metres) to extensive walks of which the most difficult is the 19 km return walk to Camels Hump which takes around 8 hours and is designated "Hard". See https://www.tidbinbilla.act.gov.au/do/walking-trails for details of all the walks. For more information, details of tours and fees and charges, check out https://www.tidbinbilla.act.gov.au.
Tidbinbilla Deep Space Tracking Station
Located at 421 Discovery Drive, Tidbinbilla (35 km south west of Canberra via Cotter Road), this is one of only three deep tracking stations in the world. The website explains: "The Canberra Space Centre offers visitors the chance to learn about the role that Australia plays in the exploration of space. You can take in magnificent views of the largest antenna complex in the southern hemisphere, see a piece of the Moon that's over 3.8 billion years old, check out the latest images from across the Solar System and beyond, check out spacecraft models, plus flown space hardware and memorabilia. Discover the foods that astronauts eat on the space shuttle and space station, watch a movie on the history and future of space exploration, or take a hands-on trip around the Solar System or across the galaxy." It is open from 9.00 am - 5.00 pm. For more information and details of tours tel: (02) 6201 7880 or check out https://www.cdscc.nasa.gov.
Located 40 km north of Canberra on the main road between Sydney and Canberra, Lake George is, as one academic has explained "a depression that turns into a lake when it fills. There’s always water below the lake floor, and amazingly, it is saline, but if you have more rainfall, the lake fills up,”. Most of the time it is nothing more than water in the distance and sheep grazing on particularly good pastures near the road which now has a number of parking areas where visitors can stop and admire the dry lake bed or "the lake" according to its moods. When full Lake George covers 155 square kilometres. It is 10 kilometres wide and 25 kilometres long. This makes it one of Australia's largest freshwater lakes. Lake George is a freak phenomenon. It has been known to disappear virtually overnight. It was first sighted by a European when Joseph Wild reached it in 1820. He was so impressed by the site, and obviously so out of touch with where he was, that he thought he had reached the Pacific coast. In 1820 it was named by Governor Lachlan Macquarie after the British king. The lake has been totally dry in 1837, 1870, 1902, most of the 1930s and the early 1980s. It has been completely full in 1852, 1897, 1925, the 1950s and the mid-1980s. There is no pattern to this strange phenomenon. The best detailed description of the geology of the lake can be accessed at Geological Sites of NSW - check http://www.geomaps.com.au/scripts/lakegeorge.php which notes that "Lake George is thought to be one of the world's oldest lakes; it is shallow and has a history of dramatically fluctuating water levels, despite having no outlet. Originally, there was no lake in the area at all, and water drained straight from the Great Dividing Range west into the Yass River. That was before a massive geological uplift that occurred some five million years ago. Around the Mid Miocene period, there was a major crustal movement along a strong fault line and this formed the Lake George Range - a natural dam blocking the creeks. This type of lake is known as an endorheic basin; a closed drainage basin that retains water and allows no outflow to other bodies of water such as rivers or oceans. Any rain or moisture that falls within its small catchment does not flow out naturally and so can only leave the drainage system by evaporation and seepage."
* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was home to First Nation people from the Ngarigo and Ngunnawal language groups. They had lived in the area for at least 21,000 years. The population in the district was estimated at around 300-400.
* The first Europeans into the area were Joseph Wild, Charles Throsby Smith and James Vaughan who reached Lake George in 1820.
* Later in 1820 Dr Charles Throsby reached Tuggeranong.
* In 1823 Major John Ovens and Captain Mark Currie travelled through the area.
* By 1824 the explorer Allan Cunningham had reached the Molonglo River. European settlement of the district started in that year when Joshua Moore's Canberry station was established.
* By 1825 Robert Campbell had settled at Duntroon. He was accompanied by a shepherd named James Ainslie who remained in the area until 1835.
* In 1827 John McPherson took up land which included Black Mountain.
* In 1837 Sir Terence Aubrey Murray, MLC established the Yarralumla estate.
* By 1840 there were less than 100 First Nation people in the district.
* In 1841 work started on St John the Baptist Church.
* By 1844 a school had been built.
* St John the Baptist Church was consecrated in 1845.
* By 1851 the European population had reached 2,500.
* Blundell's Cottage was built in 1859 for William Ginn.
* The last corroboree was held in the district in 1862.
* By 1880 there were no full blood First Nation people in the district.
* In 1897 'Queen Nellie' Hamilton died. She was reputedly the last full blood First Nation person in the district.
* In 1908, after much debate, it was decided that 2 360 square kilometres of sheep grazing land in New South Wales would become the site for the capital city.
* In 1911 the Australian Capital Territory was handed over to the Commonwealth Government. That same year a competition was launched for the design of a city for 25 000 people.
* In 1911 the first intake of cadets occurred at the military academy at Duntroon.
* In 1913 the American architect, Walter Burley Griffin, won a competition to design Canberra. That year the settlement was officially named Canberra.
* In 1914 a railway connecting Canberra to Queanbeyan was opened.
* In 1917 a Royal Commission determined that Griffin was being undermined by Commonwealth bureaucrats.
* In 1918 an internment camp for German POWs was established at Fyshwick.
* In 1919 the internment camp became a worker's camp.
* Griffin resigned in 1920. That year the Prince of Wales laid a foundation stone for the city.
* In 1923 Telopea Park School, the first school in the ACT, was opened.
* The first blocks of land were offered for auction in 1924.
* The Molonglo River flooded in 1925. The year also saw the arrival of public transport and the establishment of shopping centres at Manaka and Kingston.
* By 1927 the first Parliament House was opened and over a very extended period (it was still going on in the 1960s) the head offices of Federal government departments were slowly moved to Canberra. The ACT Police Force was formed this year.
* The Albert Hall was opened in 1928.
* In 1931 the radio station 2CA began broadcasting.
* The UK High Commissioner was appointed to Canberra in 1936.
* The US established a mission in Canberra in 1939.
* In 1940 a military airforce base, RAAF Station Canberra, was established.
* The Australian War Memorial was opened in 1941.
* The Australian National University opened as a research centre in 1946.
* In 1958 the National Capital Development Commission was formed.
* Construction of Lake Burley Griffin started in the early 1960s.
* The suburb of Woden was established in 1964.
* In the 1960s Canberra Airport was opened.
* The National Library was opened in 1968.
* In 1970 the Captain Cook Fountain on Lake Burley Griffin was opened.
* A flood killed seven people at Woden in 1971.
* In 1973 St Christopher's Catholic Church became a cathedral.
* Bruce Stadium was opened in 1978.
* The High Court of Australia moved to Canberra in 1980.
* The National Gallery opened in 1982.
* A new Parliament House was opened on Capital Hill in 1988. The ACT was granted full self government that year.
* The National Museum was opened in 2001.
* In 2003 500 homes were destroyed by bushfires to the west of the city.^ TOP
Canberra and Region Visitors Centre, 1 Constitution Avenue, tel: (02) 6205 0666.^ TOP
The official local website can be accessed at https://visitcanberra.com.au.^ TOP