Canberra, a City in a Park

by Medha Ruby

Parliament House, Canberra
Photo: Adam (Adz)

Canberra, the national capital and the only Australian city absolutely custom-built for a purpose, offers a stark contrast to the other attractions. For many people, Australia is all about blue ocean waters and sandy beaches, the thousand colored Reef, the rainforests bordering the reef, and the dry and dusty but adventurous outback. Canberra, on the other hand, is a man-made natural retreat spread with lush gardens; yet, alongside the golden fall and the sprightly spring lives a vibrant city with a wonderful people. There might not be any surfing or sea-diving in Canberra, but the relaxed life and the endearing sights and sounds would pull at the heart strings of the tourists long after they are gone.

Situated inland, Canberra has a continental climate with climatic extremes, January being the hottest and July being the coldest, with occasional thundershowers between October and March. You should pack your bags according to the season. While it is advisable to avoid the extreme months, Canberra can be enjoyed in all seasons, and all weathers. Planned around two perpendicular axes – one water and the other land – it is between 550m to 700 m above sea level. The Molonglo River flows through Canberra which has been dammed to form an artificial lake called Lake Burley Griffin, named after the American architect of the city.

Being the national capital always comes with its own significance. And like all national capitals, Canberra too has its national monuments and institutions. The Australian War Memorial, dedicated to all the martyrs who died defending the Commonwealth, is situated at the northern terminus of the city axis and includes a beautiful memorial, a commemorative area, a sculpture garden and a Remembrance Driveway. The National Gallery of Australia, designated as the national gallery houses priceless works from Australian Art (including the Aboriginal tradition), Western Art, Eastern Art, Modern Art, crafts, sculptures and visiting artifacts. The National Portrait Gallery, currently housed in Old Parliament House, features a collection of prominent Australians, and is a must-see for all visitors to the Commonwealth Place. Commonwealth Place, situated on the southern shore of the Griffin Lake, also house Reconciliation Australia - dedicated to the cause of greater harmony between the indigenous and the settler populations - public walks, restaurants and the Speakers Square. This location offers spectacular views of the Old and New Parliament houses as well as of Lake Griffin. Apart from this, tourists find the National Library of Australia, the National Archives, the National Museum (again, national) and other public buildings of interest. Beside Lake Griffin is situated the Captain Cook Memorial and the National Carillon. The Telstra tower, rising 195 meters above the summit of Black Mountain, offers panoramic views of the city and has a revolving restaurant at the top. The nearby Botanic Gardens features more than 5500 species of indigenous and foreign flora.

Other points of interest include the National Zoo and Aquarium, the Dinosaur Museum, the Questacon S&T Center, etc. The Canberra Theater and playhouse plays host to major concerts and programs. The Street Theater at the Australian National University is always bustling with boisterous student and amateur performances. Stonefest, held at the end of October at the University of Canberra, is the largest music festival. Many public festivals dot the city calendar, including the National Folk Festival, the Royal Canberra Show, the Summernats car festival, and the Celebrate Canberra held over ten days in March to coincide with Canberra Day (March 12). Known for its sportive ambience, Canberra is host to world class events and team in rugby, netball, field hockey, Australian Rules football, cricket and tennis.

Canberra sits close to its natural ambience. The ACT Forests and the Molonglo Gorge, the Bird Walk in Federation Square, the picturesque venues in Black Mountain, the Cooleman Ridge, the Casuarina Sands and Kambah Pool, the Corin Forest Mountain Retreat, the Cotter Reserve, the Googong Foreshores are just a few of the numerous natural wonders that beckon anlocken the tourists from around Australia and the world.

In a nutshell, Canberra is not just a typical capital city. It might be new, but it has its own distinctive look and feel. Its myriad attractions enamor visitors one and all.

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