Come to Canberra in the winter we were told by friends! The temperature has ranged from -5 to13 degrees in our week plus here. We have had frozen water in the pipes, condensation inside the van, brisk mornings but the secret – our friend was 100% correct. What a fantastic time to visit. The days have been golden. Forget the cold nights – clothes take care of that.
The city has been so well planned from impressive buildings to an endless number of gardens and parks and great street planning. It is just spectacular to see. The towering Telstra Tower sitting on top of Black Mountain always helps you with your bearings although we have managed to head in the wrong direction on more than one occasion.
So what do you do in Canberra in the Winter? If you have an hour I could tell you everything but here is a quick snapshot of our visit. We walked – we rode – we drove – we viewed museums – galleries – complexes – sculptures – stadiums – fields – buildings full of national treasure – historic houses – churches – memorials – lookouts – zoos – aquariums – aboretums – mint – consulars – outlet shops and we only scratched the surface. The place with the most to do Canberra!
Reconciliation Place, located in the democratic and cultural heart of our nation is a prominent symbol of Reconciliation and its national significance. It forms a pathway linking the High Court of Australia and the National Library of Australia.
Canberra’s No 1 Attraction – The Australian War Memorial
What a fantastic tribute to those who have served Australia! I have always heard how wonderful this memorial is and was not disappointed. It is jam packed with memorabilia, photographs and stories. This puts the human facet of the wars that have involved Australians – which was pretty much almost every conflict in the world since the Boer wars. Take the Free Tours and budget a full day for your visit to this superb monument dedicated to the outstanding men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of democracy.
We stayed for the Last Post at the end of the day and were amazed at how personalized they made it – they told the story of a soldier through the ceremony. How wonderful for the chosen men and women’s families.
The Anzac Parade Walk which leads up to the Australian War Memorial is peaceful – each memorial has it’s own story – take the time to take it in. An acknowledgement of heroic deeds past – unfortunately we will need to keep space for our future generations.
Julie’s No 1 – National Zoo and Aquarium
Despite the zoo in Canberra being small and not having a wide variety of animals it was a great experience. It is very easy to spot the animals and most of them were very cooperative. The snow leopard was lazing like a domestic cat against the enclosure – you could have reached out to scratch his belly (if game enough!). His coat was luxurious – he would be very warm to cuddle up with on a cold Canberra night.
There is so much happening behind the scenes with building and ground works that it will be a great zoo in the near future. They are very insightful with plans of hotel type accommodation overlooking your favourite animal enclosure so you can interact on a personal level through glass with the animal. Sounds fabulous and I am definitely wanting to come back to experience this – my only problem will be choosing the animal I want to watch. Trevor booked me in for a more exotic tour called a “zooventure” where I became part of a group of four who feed some of the animals. I got to have avocado spread smeared on my hand so the brown bear could lick it off through the bars of the enclosure– it gave me goose bumps. We also had a close feeding session with the white lions, cougar and otters. Towards the end of our time we even got to have a python draped around our necks.
Our guide was so lovely – he obviously loves his job and interacting with the animals. He told us lots of stories about the animals as we past their enclosures.
Parliament House – Old and New
We spent the whole day between the two houses of parliament. The old parliament has been turned into a museum of Australian Democracy showing our federation and journey thus far. It was very interesting and worth the time. Worth going on a guided tour with the volunteers.
New parliament house is stunning from the outside. Planning of this building and its location are exceptional. You can see it standing tall and proud from many roads as you drive around Canberra. The avenue from parliament up to the War Memorial tells the world how proud we are of our ‘diggers’. Well planned and landscaped – it takes your breath away. The avenue leading up to the memorial has memorials to all the forces and important battles they took part in.
Once again we had a tour with a volunteer guide. We were able to go into the lower house and see how the system works. The grand hall has a magnificent embroidered wall handing of Sydney Nolan’s painting of trees. It is amazing. He was originally asked to paint the mural in the hall but due to his age suggested his painting be turned into this medium. It is definitely a WOW! The many other artworks on display are really impressive.
We were lucky enough to be at parliament on their last day of sitting before a break so went along to ‘Question Time’. What a farce this is. It is all about point scoring, most of them are only interested in hearing themselves speak and behave like spoilt children. Bronwyn Bishop (Speaker of the House) had a hard time controlling them and evicted at least 4 of the opposition after a number of warnings.
Wow! What a place! Only opened last year for the centenary of Canberra and about 5 forests still needing to be planted, many forests still very little but give it 5-10 years and wow! We arrived just in time for a guided tour, which you really must do too understand the place. There are 70 of each variety of trees to be planted from seed raised here in Canberra. It’s amazing seeing all the different leaf shapes, tree shapes, colours etc. There is some spectacular artwork displayed around the place. You get a view of the Arboretum when driving around the city. Great forethought for future generations and fantastic vision of the developers.
Trevor went along thinking a day at looking at trees – wrong! I was introduced to a visionary plan to grow small forests of trees to compliment Australian natives and trees from various countries, the bonsai collection is worth the $0 entry fee alone. Great informative and interactive resources for kids and adults in the cafe – souvenir area, escorted tours to explain the process of the forest plantations. I walked away several hours later dreaming of returning in 10 years – the growth of the trees will be fascinating. Must visit.
Lake Burley Griffin
This great lake is the dammed Molonglo River and is spectacular. It is huge and has fantastic reflections of the many trees that have been planted around it. We got to see them in winter and can only imagine how gorgeous they would look in spring. We took an afternoon to walk part of the lake and another morning to cycle around it. It is the centre piece of the city – plenty of history and lots of future development.
What an impressive building! We piggybacked with a school group so got to listen in the story of the High Court and Court 3. We are a great country to have this avenue available for fairness to all.
National Portrait Gallery
Housed many of the Archibald Prize winners. Amazing to see the different styles over time.
How does Australia Mint its Coins? – Royal Australian Mint
If you want and need to know the answer and have a spare 1 – 2 hours while in Canberra there are worse places than the mint to kill some time. Lots of information – free tours available – platforms laid out to see the working operations of the mint. Heavy duty viewing … But has plenty of educational value.
We caught up with a game of Rugby Union – a first for Julie and by luck what a game it was. The locals ‘The Brumbies’ held on to beat the NZ Chiefs by two points a brisk Saturday night at GIO Stadium. Great game. We also made a visit to the AIS – very interesting venue to visit. They offer a 90 minute tour of the facilities under the guidance of one of the sportspeople in residence. They show you around all the different training sites and provide quite detailed information about them. They are also good at answering any questions. The first half hour is spent in a very large interactive sports room that is suitable for all ages. Visitors can try out many different sports. There is a good shop with a large range of sporting memorabilia.