Canberra Accommodation

Things to do

Despite being the nation's capital city, Canberra is laid-back and casual. Having in common with Australia's state capitals a climate conducive to outdoor activities, it offers plenty of opportunity for golfing (at the Royal Canberra Golf Club www.royalcanberra.com.au), cycling, canoeing, sailing, running and walking without leaving the city bounds. Hire a bike and, with a Cycleways map available from any newsagent, see the sights at a leisurely pace (www.netspeed.com.au).

Canberra's parks are spacious and well laid out, with bicycle and walking paths, informative aboreal displays, barbecues and picnic areas. Apart from the 35km lake frontage available to the public, they include:

  • Australian National Botanic Gardens

  • Telopea Park, Barton

  • The Bird Walk, Federation Square, Gold Creek Village

  • Cockington Green – miniature architecture

and an extensive network of established parks and regenerated nature reserves.

Perhaps more than any other city in the world, Canberra is a 'shopfront' for embassies and high commissions of all the world's countries with which it shares diplomatic relations. Built specifically as the national capital, Canberra is a smallish city comprising the seat of federal government, many of its agencies and institutions, and diplomatic representations. One of the most interesting things to do, and unique to Canberra, is to drive yourself (or take a tour with one of the tour operators: www.acaciatransport.com ; www.oztrails.com.au) around the embassies, many of which are 'dressed' in national costume.

If it's Australian politics and history you are interested in, then you have come to the right place. Visit the Old Parliament House (OPH) and see the setting for some of Australia's biggest political battles, including the dismissal of the Whitlam government in November 1975. The chambers are much as they always were: green and red leather seats designating the opposing sides of the parliament, dominated by the Speaker's chair and enclosed in sombre wooden panelling. The foyer of the OPH is now the National Portrait Gallery, where you can put faces to the names of the politicians and prime ministers who made their reputations in the adjoining chambers.

New Parliament House, situated on Capital Hill, is dominated by its four-legged flagpole and, despite its commanding position, snuggles into the hillside under its grassed-over roof. Designed by the Italian architect Romaldo Giurgola, the building is the most expensive ever in Australia's history, costing more than one billion dollars. Beautiful native timber work graces the interior, while Australian art and craft decorate the public spaces. When parliament is not sitting, there are tours every 30 minutes from 9am to 5pm – and shorter ones during sitting times. You can watch the proceeding from the House of Representatives or the Senate gallery (bookings 02 6277 4889).

On a more cultural note, visit www.canberraarts.com.au for classical and contemporary music, as well as theatre, dance, opera, film, comedy and kids' events. Here you will also find information on all the exhibitions in Canberra. Or call the Hotline on 02 6257 4347.

MORE: Galleries and Museums, Monuments and National Icons, Skiing and outdoor activities

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