Canberra: Exploring the Best Kept Secrets of Australia’s Capital

Canberra: Exploring the Best Kept Secrets of Australia's Capital

Canberra is the capital city of Australia, located in the southeastern part of the country. It is situated in the Australian Capital Territory, a small enclave surrounded by the state of New South Wales. The city was purpose-built as the capital in the early 20th century and is home to many of Australia’s government buildings and institutions.

Canberra is often compared to other national capital cities such as Washington D.C. and Ottawa due to its planned city design and abundance of government buildings. However, it differs in size and population, being smaller and more sparsely populated than its counterparts. Additionally, Canberra boasts a unique blend of urban and natural spaces, with a focus on outdoor recreation and the arts.

Canberra is often compared to other major Australian cities such as Sydney and Melbourne, but it differs in many ways. Unlike the coastal cities, Canberra is located inland and has a more planned layout, as it was designed as Australia’s capital city. Canberra is smaller in size and population compared to Sydney and Melbourne but has a high standard of living and a strong focus on government and education. While Sydney and Melbourne are known for their bustling city life and cultural diversity, Canberra offers a quieter, more relaxed atmosphere with a focus on outdoor activities and natural beauty.

Short History

Canberra is a relatively young city, established in 1913 as the capital of Australia. Prior to that, the country did not have a designated capital and the two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, vied for the title. A compromise was eventually reached to build a new city to serve as the capital, and a competition was held to design it. The winning plan was submitted by American architect Walter Burley Griffin, who envisioned a garden city with a layout centered around a lake. Construction began in 1913 and the city was officially inaugurated in 1927.


Canberra is known for its diverse architecture, with a mix of historic and modern styles. Here are some of the prominent architecture styles you can find in Canberra:

  • Federation style: This architectural style was popular in Australia during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and can be seen in many of Canberra’s heritage buildings. Features include decorative brickwork, ornate verandahs, and detailed timberwork.
  • Art Deco: This style emerged in the 1920s and 1930s and is characterized by its geometric shapes, bold colors, and use of materials such as glass and chrome. The Hotel Kurrajong is a notable example of Art Deco architecture in Canberra.
  • Brutalism: This style was popular in the 1950s and 1960s and is characterized by its rough, unfinished concrete surfaces. The National Gallery of Australia is a well-known example of Brutalist architecture in Canberra.
  • Postmodernism: This style emerged in the 1970s and is characterized by its playful use of color, shape, and materials. The High Court of Australia is a notable example of Postmodern architecture in Canberra.
  • Contemporary: Many of Canberra’s newer buildings feature contemporary architecture, with sleek lines and modern materials such as glass and steel. Examples include the Nishi Building and the John Curtin School of Medical Research.

Overall, Canberra’s architecture reflects the city’s unique history and character, and is worth exploring for anyone interested in design and history.

Museums and Galleries

Canberra is home to some of the best museums and galleries in Australia. Here are some of the most interesting ones:

  • National Museum of Australia: This museum explores the social, cultural, environmental and political history of Australia. It has a vast collection of artefacts, including the world’s largest collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art.
  • Australian War Memorial: This memorial honours those who have served and died in war. It has an extensive collection of exhibits, including weapons, uniforms, photographs and art.
  • National Gallery of Australia: The gallery has an extensive collection of Australian and international art, including works by Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, and Sidney Nolan.
  • Questacon – The National Science and Technology Centre: This museum is a great place for kids and adults alike, as it is filled with interactive science exhibits that teach visitors about the world around them.
  • Australian National Botanic Gardens: The gardens showcase Australia’s diverse flora and fauna, with over 50,000 plants on display.
  • National Portrait Gallery: The gallery features portraits of famous Australians, including politicians, athletes, artists, and entertainers.
  • Museum of Australian Democracy: Located in the historic Old Parliament House, this museum explores the history of democracy in Australia.

Whether you are interested in science, art, politics, or nature, there is something for everyone in this vibrant city.

Landmarks and Monuments

Canberra is a city with a valuable history and culture, as evidenced by its many museums, galleries, landmarks, and monuments. Here are some worth mentioning:

  • Australian War Memorial: The Australian War Memorial is a national memorial to the members of the Australian armed forces who have died in the line of duty. The museum and memorial are located in a beautiful building and house a vast collection of artifacts and exhibits related to Australian military history.
  • Parliament House: The Parliament House is the seat of the Australian government and houses both the House of Representatives and the Senate. It is a modern and impressive building with a unique design that symbolizes the country’s democratic principles.
  • National Museum of Australia: The National Museum of Australia is dedicated to the country’s social history, culture, and environment. It features a vast collection of objects and interactive exhibits that tell the story of Australia’s diverse past.
  • Australian National Botanic Gardens: The Australian National Botanic Gardens is a beautiful botanical garden that showcases the country’s unique flora and fauna. Visitors can stroll through the gardens, learn about the different plant species, and enjoy the stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
  • National Portrait Gallery: The National Portrait Gallery is a fascinating museum that features portraits of notable Australians, including politicians, athletes, artists, and cultural figures. The gallery also has a program of exhibitions and events throughout the year.
  • Mount Ainslie: Mount Ainslie is a popular lookout point that offers breathtaking views of the city and surrounding landscapes. Visitors can hike to the top of the mountain or drive to the lookout for stunning views.
  • Lake Burley Griffin: Lake Burley Griffin is a large artificial lake in the center of Canberra, offering opportunities for water sports, cycling, and walking. The lake is surrounded by beautiful parks and gardens, making it a popular spot for picnics and relaxation.

From the memorials to the galleries, there is much to see and learn about the country’s past and present. The city’s natural beauty is also a highlight, with the Australian National Botanic Gardens and Lake Burley Griffin offering visitors a chance to experience Australia’s unique flora and fauna.

Parks and Green Spaces

Canberra is a city that is surrounded by natural beauty, and it offers many opportunities for visitors to explore the outdoors. Here are some of the most notable ones worth visiting:

  • Commonwealth Park: Located in the heart of Canberra, Commonwealth Park is a large park that hosts many events and festivals throughout the year. It features a large lake, walking paths, gardens, and picnic areas.
  • National Arboretum Canberra: This 250-hectare park is home to over 44,000 trees from around the world. It offers stunning views of Canberra and the surrounding region, as well as walking trails and a visitor center.
  • Australian National Botanic Gardens: These gardens showcase over 6,000 species of Australian plants and are a great place to learn about the country’s flora and fauna. They also have walking trails and a visitor center.
  • Black Mountain Nature Park: This park is located on the Black Mountain and offers panoramic views of the city. It has walking and cycling trails, picnic areas, and a visitor center.
  • Lake Burley Griffin: This artificial lake is a central feature of Canberra and offers many recreational opportunities, such as sailing, kayaking, and fishing. It is surrounded by walking and cycling paths, parks, and picnic areas.
  • National Zoo and Aquarium: This is Australia’s only combined zoo and aquarium, featuring a variety of native and exotic animals, as well as marine life. It has several animal enclosures, a reptile house, and an aquarium tunnel.
  • Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve: This reserve is located just outside of Canberra and offers hiking trails, wildlife viewing, and educational programs. It is home to many native Australian animals, such as kangaroos, koalas, and echidnas.

Overall, the parks and green spaces in and around the city are some of the best in the country and offer a chance to learn about Australia’s awesome nature. From the stunning views at Black Mountain Nature Park to the diverse wildlife at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, there is no shortage of outdoor activities to enjoy in Canberra.


Canberra is a landlocked city and does not have any beaches nearby. The closest beaches to Canberra are located on the South Coast of New South Wales, which is approximately a 2-hour drive away. Some popular beaches in the area include:

  • Batemans Bay Beach: A long stretch of golden sand that’s great for swimming, sunbathing, and surfing.
  • Mollymook Beach: A beautiful beach that’s perfect for swimming and surfing, with clean white sand and crystal clear water.
  • Jervis Bay Beach: Known for having some of the whitest sand in the world, this beach is great for swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking.
  • Hyams Beach: Another beach in Jervis Bay, Hyams Beach is famous for its crystal-clear water and white sand.
  • Pebbly Beach: A popular beach with families, Pebbly Beach is known for its resident kangaroos that often come down to the beach to sunbathe.
  • Narooma Beach: A sheltered beach that’s great for swimming, Narooma Beach is also a popular spot for fishing and surfing.
  • Tuross Head Beach: A long and wide beach that’s perfect for walking, swimming, and fishing.
  • Broulee Beach: A family-friendly beach with plenty of facilities, including picnic areas, barbecue facilities, and showers.
  • Merimbula Beach: A beautiful beach that’s perfect for swimming, surfing, and kayaking, with stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
  • Eden Beach: A secluded beach that’s great for swimming and fishing, with clear blue water and soft sand.

The listed beaches offer a range of activities such as swimming, surfing, and fishing. With some of the whitest sand in the world, crystal clear water, and stunning views of the surrounding mountains, these beaches are definitely worth a visit.

Shopping Districts

As the capital city of Australia, Canberra has a lot to offer when it comes to shopping. Here are some of the best shopping districts in Canberra:

  • Canberra Centre: This is the largest shopping centre in Canberra, featuring over 300 stores including high-end fashion boutiques, department stores, and international brands.
  • Braddon: This trendy neighborhood has become known for its boutique shops and galleries, selling everything from handmade jewelry to vintage clothing.
  • Kingston Foreshore: Located along the waterfront, this shopping precinct has a range of shops and cafes, as well as stunning views of the lake.
  • Manuka: This upscale shopping and dining precinct features a range of designer boutiques and specialty stores, as well as cafes and restaurants.
  • Westfield Belconnen: Located in the suburb of Belconnen, this shopping centre has over 270 stores, including major retailers and a cinema.
  • Fyshwick Fresh Food Markets: For those looking for fresh produce, this market has a range of vendors selling fruits, vegetables, meat, and more.

In addition to these shopping districts, there are also several markets and street fairs that are worth visiting, such as the Old Bus Depot Markets and the Handmade Market.

Overall, whether you’re looking for high-end fashion or unique handmade goods, Canberra has plenty of shopping options to explore.

Food and Drink

Canberra has a vibrant and diverse food scene that reflects the multiculturalism of the country. Here are some must-try food and drinks in Canberra:

  • Meat pies: Australians love their meat pies, and Canberra is no exception. These savory pastries are filled with minced meat and gravy and can be found in many bakeries and cafes throughout the city.
  • Fish and chips: Another classic Australian dish, fish and chips are a must-try in Canberra. Fresh seafood is readily available, and there are many restaurants and takeaway shops that serve up crispy battered fish and hot chips.
  • Tim Tams: These chocolate biscuits are an Australian icon and are a popular souvenir for visitors to bring back home. They consist of two chocolate biscuits filled with a creamy chocolate filling and covered in a layer of milk chocolate.
  • Australian wines: Canberra is surrounded by vineyards, and the region is known for producing some of Australia’s best wines. Shiraz and Riesling are popular varieties, but there are many other options to try as well.
  • Craft beer: The craft beer scene is booming in Canberra, with many breweries and taprooms popping up in recent years. Visitors can try a variety of locally brewed beers, from IPAs to stouts.
  • Vegemite: This spread made from yeast extract is a beloved Australian staple, although it may be an acquired taste for some. It’s often eaten on toast for breakfast or as a snack.
  • Lamingtons: These sponge cakes are coated in chocolate and shredded coconut and are a popular dessert in Australia. They can be found in many cafes and bakeries in Canberra.
  • Flat white: This coffee drink originated in Australia and is made with espresso and steamed milk. It’s similar to a latte but with less milk and a stronger espresso flavor.

Whether you’re a foodie or just looking to try some Australian specialties, Canberra has plenty to offer.


Canberra is a relatively small city, and it is easy to get around by various modes of transportation:

  • Walking: Many of the popular attractions and destinations in Canberra are located close to each other, making it an excellent city for walking.
  • Biking: Canberra has an extensive network of bike paths and lanes, making it a great city for cycling enthusiasts. Bikes can be rented from various locations in the city.
  • Public transport: Canberra has an efficient public transport system, including buses and light rail, that operate throughout the city.
  • Car rental: Renting a car is a convenient way to explore Canberra and its surrounding areas. Many car rental companies are available in the city.
  • Taxi or ridesharing: Taxis and ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft are also available in Canberra, providing a convenient and comfortable way to get around.

Overall, the transportation options in Canberra are reliable, safe, and affordable, making it easy for visitors to explore the city and its surroundings.


Canberra is generally considered a safe city to visit and live in. However, like any other city, there may be some areas that are safer than others, and visitors should take the usual precautions to ensure their safety. It is recommended to stay aware of your surroundings, especially at night, and avoid carrying large amounts of cash or valuables.

Expensive or Cheap

Canberra is considered one of the more expensive cities in Australia. The cost of living in Canberra is higher than the national average due to its high median income, a strong economy, and the city’s relative isolation from other major Australian cities. However, there are still plenty of options for budget-conscious travelers, including affordable accommodations, public transportation, and dining options.

Best Time to Travel

The best time to travel to Canberra is during the shoulder seasons of spring (September to November) and autumn (March to May). During these seasons, the weather is pleasant with mild temperatures and fewer crowds compared to the peak summer and winter seasons. However, keep in mind that Canberra can experience four distinct seasons, with hot summers, cold winters, and occasional snowfall. It’s also worth noting that some of the major events in Canberra, such as the Floriade flower festival, are held during the spring, making it an ideal time to visit.

Date Ideas and Activities

Canberra has a lot to offer when it comes to romantic activities and experiences. Here are some date ideas, activities, and experiences to try in Canberra:

  • National Gallery of Australia: Enjoy a romantic stroll with your partner in one of the country’s largest art museums, featuring collections of Australian and international art.
  • Balloon rides: Take a hot air balloon ride over the picturesque city and witness the sunrise, creating a perfect moment to share with your significant other.
  • National Arboretum: Take a walk in the National Arboretum and enjoy the stunning views of the city from a different perspective.
  • Mount Ainslie: Take a hike to the top of Mount Ainslie and watch the sunset, one of the most romantic spots in the city.
  • Lake Burley Griffin: Take a romantic walk or bike ride around the lake, or even rent a kayak or paddleboard for a unique date experience.
  • Questacon: Learn something new with your partner while having fun at Questacon, a hands-on science museum with over 200 interactive exhibits.
  • Australian War Memorial: Explore Australia’s military history with your partner and attend the daily Last Post Ceremony, a tribute to the soldiers who died during the wars.
  • Old Bus Depot Markets: Take your partner on a shopping spree at this vibrant market, featuring local produce, handmade crafts, and unique gifts.
  • Cockington Green Gardens: Stroll around the miniature world and enjoy the beautiful gardens featuring tiny replicas of famous landmarks from around the world.
  • Nightlife: Discover Canberra’s nightlife by visiting one of the many bars and restaurants in Braddon, a trendy neighborhood in the city.
  • Mount Stromlo Observatory: Explore the night sky with your significant other at Mount Stromlo Observatory, where you can witness stars, planets, and other celestial bodies.
  • National Zoo and Aquarium: Enjoy a day with your partner at the National Zoo and Aquarium, where you can get up close and personal with a variety of animals, including sharks and crocodiles.

From exploring art museums and hiking to the top of mountains to enjoying the nightlife and stargazing, there is something for every couple to enjoy in this beautiful city.

Fun and Interesting Facts

Canberra is a modern city with an exciting cultural heritage and plenty of things to see and do. Here are some fun and interesting facts about Canberra:

  • Canberra is the capital city of Australia, and was purpose-built to be the capital in the early 20th century.
  • The name “Canberra” is thought to come from an indigenous word meaning “meeting place”.
  • Canberra has the highest average income of any Australian capital city.
  • The city is home to several important national institutions, including the Australian Parliament House, the National Gallery of Australia, and the Australian War Memorial.
  • Canberra is known for its abundance of green space, with over half of the city’s area consisting of nature reserves, parks, and gardens.
  • The city is home to a number of annual events, including the Canberra Balloon Spectacular, the National Multicultural Festival, and the Floriade flower festival.
  • Canberra is also known for its world-class food and wine scene, with numerous award-winning restaurants and wineries in the surrounding region.
  • The city has a thriving arts and culture scene, with a number of galleries, theatres, and music venues showcasing the work of local and international artists.
  • Lake Burley Griffin, located in the heart of Canberra, is a popular spot for swimming, kayaking, and other water activities.
  • Canberra is surrounded by picturesque mountains, making it a popular destination for outdoor activities such as hiking, skiing, and mountain biking.

Whether you’re interested in history, nature, or simply enjoying the finer things in life, there’s something for everyone in this dynamic Australian capital.


Canberra, Australia’s capital city, offers a unique blend of history, art, culture, and natural beauty. From its stunning architecture to its beautiful parks and galleries, Canberra has something for everyone. It is a relatively small city, which allows visitors to explore everything it has to offer in a short amount of time. Despite its smaller size, it is still a bustling and vibrant city with plenty of activities and events happening year-round. Whether you’re interested in history, art, nature, or adventure, Canberra is sure to exceed your expectations.