"A Capital Idea" Top 5 Page for this destination Canberra by iandsmith

Canberra Travel Guide: 945 reviews and 2,593 photos

The Vision Splendid

Dorothea Mackellar (whose famous poem includes the title words) must be rolling in her grave!
Then again, maybe not. After all, Canberra has a lot of parkland, though not very much of it has a sunburnt appearance. Nay, the gardens are watered using equipment that every taxpayer can be proud of; which is just as well, since we paid for it.
There are many who will tell you Canberra is a dull place, filled with boring bureaucrats, no night life. Like every rumour, there is some truth in it but, having said that, you make your own fun in life.
I believe one of the immediate impressions that people glean is that there are no people or bustle immediately apparent as you drive through and that leads to this "dead" impression. However, the town is designed that way, thanks to the winning design of the ex-American Walter Burley Griffin. You don't get traffic jams in Canberra, unlike the crap you have to put up with in ill-conceived places like Sydney who have had so many chances to get it right and still continue to err.
No, Canberra, once you get used to going around in circles, is a great place to drive, cycle or walk.
In the background here is the Telstra Tower. It rises 195 meters above the summit of Black Mountain and provides 360-degree views of Canberra and the surrounding countryside. Panoramic views of the city can be seen by day and night from two open viewing platforms or an enclosed viewing gallery. It will be on your top ten list of things to do in Canberra and it contains all the usual kitch tourist paraphernalia.

Architecture - what to see

I think it's sad that many VTers will turn off immediately at the sight of this heading but, for me, it's so often what separates great cities from the mediocre. Where, for instance, would Rome be without Roman architecture? A lot poorer I would suggest.
I digressed. Canberra has a wealth of architectural delights; some planned, some imported but all approved. I class the National Library as one of Australia's 3 iconic buildings, along with the Opera House and Flinders St. Station (bound to open up some controversy there). You can love it or hate it, but, once you're in Canberra, you can't ignore it.
Situated lakeside with no blocking trees to hide its magnificence, it's a standout. It took me a while to come to terms with it. I used to think how fantastic to have an Opera House type building reflected in the waters of Lake Burley Griffin but this edifice has a power all its own. The solid bold straight lines of this building carry a strength and power few others can match. It exudes steadfastness yet, enclosed within its walls is the knowledge of nations; looking out from within are the previously unnoticed wonderful stainglass windows, seemingly at odds with the simple lines outside; exhibitions promote variety. It is a building of contrasts, but you have to look to see.
As an added bonus there are works of art located all around the building. Why, there's even a Henry Moore sculpture! Who said Australia doesn't have culture.
Then, if you move to some of the suburbs you'll see lots of other divergent works, notably some orthodox churches.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Lack of pollution, wonderful parkland, easy to drive around, classic buildings
  • Cons:Can be very cold in winter
  • In a nutshell:Better than most Australians will admit to.
  • Last visit to Canberra: Sep 2007
  • Intro Updated Sep 30, 2007
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Reviews (50)

Comments (18)

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    Oct 11, 2011 at 11:47 AM

    Hi, Ian! Thanks for your wonderful page and great story!~

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    Apr 7, 2010 at 1:05 PM

    What wonderful color and views of the buildings you took. I agree, architecture is the primary reason we travel. Good job of taking pictures and comments to introduce me to the area.

  • iwys's Profile Photo
    Nov 18, 2008 at 3:29 AM

    Very interesting pages. I agree with you about the importance of architecture. Such a pity that whenever I ask students in the Middle East, 'What is the capital of Australia?' they all answer unerringly, 'Sydney!'.

  • easterntrekker's Profile Photo
    Oct 3, 2008 at 3:55 AM

    Great pages. We loved Australia. Lucky you , heading into Spring , for us its Fall!!!

  • vpas's Profile Photo
    Aug 6, 2008 at 10:39 AM

    Informative page.Will help me plan my trip.thank you. Vpas

  • Jim_Eliason's Profile Photo
    Sep 18, 2007 at 8:38 PM

    Great tips Ian! You have convinced me Canberra is a must see!

  • Kakapo2's Profile Photo
    Jul 9, 2007 at 7:01 PM

    Thank you for your five star comment on my Coromandel page. I have put a link to your Canberra page in one of my Canberra tips just the other day because you list so many details about the War Memorial and Anzac Parade :-) Sissi

  • irisbe's Profile Photo
    Oct 22, 2006 at 1:45 PM

    What an exclusive page. The tips about the war memorials are really interesting!

  • paulapes's Profile Photo
    Oct 7, 2006 at 3:03 PM

    Photos are gorgeous! But your tips and comments on the war memorials and wars in general ".......and for what? To placate a few male egos? Such were the times. And what have we learnt from them?" Well obviously, quite a few have not learned a damn thing!

  • bugalugs's Profile Photo
    Sep 30, 2006 at 2:30 PM

    What moving tips about the war memorials, I especially liked the one with the donkey. I also liked the cockatoo in the tree, I love feeding the birds but we dont get these, just wood pigeons, robins, sparrows and blue *** but I love to watch them all.

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