8 interesting facts about Australia’s capital city

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There is a long list of exhilarating activities that both locals and visitors enjoy.

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March 23, 2015

Canberra, Australia’s capital city, is truly a star in its own right.

Home to almost 400,000 people, it is Australia’s largest inland city with modern infrastructure and award-winning urban developments, which is a delightful contrast to the untouched natural environment that surrounds it.

There is a long list of exhilarating activities that both locals and visitors enjoy. Imagine starting your morning drifting over the cosmopolitan city in a hot air balloon or experience the thrill of taking a bath beside a bear at the new Jamala Wildlife Lodge. You can have some family fun on a segway tour around Lake Burley Griffin or be adventurous and go on a bushwalk at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and get up close to native Australian animals.

And that’s not even half of what makes this great city tick. Here are 8 amazing facts you would want to know about Canberra.

 

1. It isn’t called the “bush capital’ for nothing

As much as the garden city is home to urban developments that will undoubtedly take your breath away, its nature reserves and natural bushland are no less awe-inspiring. Experience the best of both worlds when you’re in Canberra, which is just a three-hour drive or a quick 30-minute flight from Sydney.

At Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve you can spot koalas, emus, kangaroos, endangered brush-tail rock-wallabies, and possums in a natural setting. The reserve, with 14 protected habitats including wetlands, grasslands and sub-alpine areas, supports a wide range of wildlife. Take in the beautiful scenery as you enjoy a picnic or barbecue at designated spots while the kids have fun at the Discovery Playground.

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Kangaroos at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

Try bushwalking in Namadgi too, which is the best way to explore the Namadgi National Park. Once you take in the extraordinary views from Booroomba Rocks, you’ll understand why this should be on your bucket list.

The Jamala Wildlife Lodge at the National Zoo & Aquarium offers a unique accommodation experience. A stay in one of the luxury bungalows means that the only thing separating you from a lion, cheetah or bear’s den is a glass panel. Yes, this means sharing a room and having a bath near one of these magnificent animals! Discreetly, of course.

 

2. Canberra actually means “meeting place”

Nestled between two mountains – Black Mountain and Mt Ainslie, and located on the ancient lands of the Indigenous Ngunnawal people, Canberra’s name is thought to mean ‘meeting place’ that is derived from the Aboriginal word Kamberra.

The capital city is deeply rooted in its Australian Aboriginal culture so if you’d like to explore this connection, there are various places where you can get a glimpse into its rich cultural history. At Woolshed Creek Geological Monument for instance, you’ll get to witness 420-million-year-old fossils still intact.

Bushwalkers at Tidbinbilla
Bushwalkers at Tidbinbilla

Consider visiting Indigenous heritage sites such as Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and Namadgi National Park, which contain evidence that the area was inhabited during the last ice age, about 20,000 years ago. A walk and hike up here offers you a visceral experience of the Aboriginal culture.

 

3. Home to a jam-packed calendar of vibrant national events

Witness Floriade, Australia’s celebration of spring, as Commonwealth Park transforms into a tapestry of colour from mid-September to mid-October every year. Be it Floriade or Floriade NightFest, both offer a stunning spectacle of colour, light and entertainment that has become a significant event for the city.

View of Floriade NightFest
View of Floriade NightFest

Be sure to check out the dates of Canberra’s major events so you wouldn’t have to miss any. There’s a long list including Enlighten, Anzac Day at the Australian War Memorial, National Folk Festival, The Truffle Festival, Summernats and more.

If you’re crazy about cars and the works, plan a trip to Canberra in January 2016 as it plays host to Summernats – the hottest Street Machine festival. You’ll be an audience to cars with airbrushed artwork, restored and modified cars proudly paraded by their owners, the world’s best burnout battle and precision driving demonstrations.

 

4. A vacation in Canberra is like no other

Your itinerary for Canberra isn’t just all see; it includes some doing as well. And activities like these make the capital city truly unique.

A trip to Canberra would not be complete without taking a hot air balloon flight. There’s no better way to fully appreciate the capital’s charm than from a hot air balloon as you drift peacefully over the city – one of the only places in the world where you can get the chance to fly over a Parliament House.

Segway Tour, Lake Burley Griffin
Segway Tour, Lake Burley Griffin

If you’ve never experienced a segway, which is a self-balancing two-wheeled vehicle, Canberra is the place to give it a try. Join a segway tour around the Parliamentary Triangle and Lake Burley Griffin and you’ll love every minute travelling with this bad boy. If you’re more of a conventional rider, cycle your way around the Lake with Paralympian Michael Milton on the Bigfoot Adventures Canberra All Lit Up tour and see national monuments light up as the sun sets. Or you could tap into your inner cowboy and ride on horseback through the countryside with Burnelee Excursions.

 

5. Australia’s capital is a city of national significance

Several buildings and monuments are erected in the city’s honour, each with an inspiring story behind it. Coupled with the various national attractions that represent Canberra’s best, each will give you a glimpse into the evolving city.

On the southern side of Lake Burley Griffin is the National Gallery of Australia, the home of Australia’s largest collection of Indigenous Australian artwork, National Library, where you can see rare and unexpected gems from the Library’s extraordinary collection, Questacon or The National Science and Technology Centre which is fun for little kids and big kids too, and the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, a national icon and building with historical significance, and National Portrait Gallery where you come face to face with the famous, the infamous and the sometimes forgotten icons of Australian history.

The National Library of Australia
The National Library of Australia

A must-visit would have to be the Parliament House, a massive edifice sculpted into Capital Hill, where 2,500 people are accommodated in one of the most spacious legislative buildings ever erected.

Explore the Australian National Botanic Gardens, which showcase Australia’s varied and vast fauna with over 6,300 plant species. You should also head over to the National Arboretum Canberra, set on 250 hectares of rolling hills close to the city where Australia’s bonsai collection is housed. Relax and refresh at the café or enjoy a picnic while enjoying the stunning views over Canberra.

 

6. Canberra is a foodie’s dream come true

For a country renowned for its fresh, top-quality produce, its capital city is definitely no slouch in this department. Canberra is home to award-winning wineries, top-rated restaurants and gourmet produce that will please any foodie.

You can hunt for truffles during the annual Truffle Festival, Canberra & Capital Region, visit more than 30 boutique cellar doors within 35 minutes drive of the city to taste cool climate wines and more often than not, be served by the winemaker. Spend your Saturday morning shopping for fresh produce from the growers themselves during the Capital Region Farmers Markets at Exhibition Park, or find gourmet delights and regional food at the Old Bus Depot Markets held each Sunday.

Chef prepares food at Mocan and Green Grout in New Acton
Chef prepares food at Mocan and Green Grout in New Acton

If you’re interested in hipster cafés, wander through Braddon and NewActon for your sweet treats or caffeine fix. Canberra does fine dining right too and you can indulge at some of the capital’s top-rated restaurants to enjoy incredible culinary experiences at restaurants such as, Aubergine, eightysix, Ottoman Cuisine, Italian and Sons, and Temporada.

 

7. Beautiful and smart; the perfect combination

You’ll be delighted to know that Canberrans are both beautiful and smart, much like the city itself.

The Australian National University located in Canberra is easily Australia’s best university ranking #25 in the world for the year 2014. Canberrans aren’t just hospitable and fun with a utopian approach to the way of life, they’re smart too, contributing to Australia’s successful financial growth. Students from all over the world strive to get a place in the university, and why wouldn’t they, with comfortable weather all-year round despite seasonal changes and scenic views that are to-die for.

School of Chemistry
Australian National University School of Chemistry

And beautiful it certainly is. Within a few hours’ drive you can be exploring the beaches of the South Coast and the rural tranquillity of Southern Highlands. If you take a two and a half-hour scenic drive from Canberra to the Snowy Mountains, you’ll be able to witness and hike the highest mountain in Australia – Mt Kosciuszko.

 

8. Canberra boasts world-class architecture

Canberra boasts several award-winning urban developments and architecture that are astoundingly breathtaking, and you’d have to be there to witness them.

The uber-cool Hotel Hotel in NewActon has won numerous design awards including an Australian Institute of Architects’ National Architecture Award. It is acclaimed for its multipurpose lobby, bar, restaurant area featuring timber, recycled and repurposed objects. If the hotel is a vision in pictures, what more in reality?

The National Arboretum Canberra – set across 250 hectares just minutes from the city centre – has won awards for its design of 100 forests and gardens of rare, endangered and significant trees from around the world. It recently picked up the Australian Medal for Landscape Architecture at the 2014 National Landscape Architecture Awards.

Last but not least, Canberra Airport is arguably Australia’s most attractive airport. Following a recent $480 million refurbishment, it was named Australian Airport of the Year 2013.

Canberra Airport Atrium
Canberra Airport Atrium