Backpacking in Australia: Canberra in a Nutshell

Backpacking in Australia: Canberra in a Nutshell

Canberra – Proud Capital City of Australia. So what was it like? In a word, inspiring. In lots of words – what you’re about to read. It would have been fairly dumb to leave the city of Canberra out of any sightseeing opportunity. Especially when its only 3 hours from Sydney (4 hours from Parramatta, our flat), my original landing point on the island/country/continent of Australia. So late January 2010, what better way to end the final few days of the first month of the, than going to Canberra?

There were 3 of us at this point, myself, Daniel and Neil (my two English travel buddies/former flatmates) and on a hot stuffy day we cruised through the deserted roads from New South Wales and into the ACT – Australian Capital Territory. We had arrived with all our bags in the city of Canberra. We had already booked the hostel, the Canberra YHA on Akuna Street. It has a swimming pool – more of a hotel than a hostel then really! On exiting our Greyhound bus from Sydney, we arrived with 15 minutes in our room (301) in the hostel.

First up was a walk through the city, before our night out (which I described as “Midnight In Canberra” in another post). We started walking round London Circuit. Street and road layouts make Canberra manufactured and uniquely beautiful so they do. London Circuit is a hexagonal street surrounding City Hill, where a yellow and blue ACT flag flies high. From there, the streets are all planned, well designed and in a logical pattern. The main road Northbourne Avenue runs in a direct straight line all the way across the bridge over Lake Burley Griffin and up Commonwealth Avenue to Parliament house.

From there an almost perfect 15 degrees angle shines the front of the Parliament House (New and Old) directly along Anzac Parade in another totally straight line up to the Australian War Memorial. All this designing makes Canberra special. My South Korean friend Chang Kyun Oh used the word “artificial” to describe it. I hadn’t actually thought of that word, as normally it means something negative. I couldn’t find many negatives about Canberra. One of the best things was how cheap it is. All the sights are FREE. The only money we had to spend there was on food, accommodation and drinks. Two of which are essentials to live anyway, and the other which is merely a luxury. (On top of this I bought some postcards and stamps).

We walked down by Lake Burley Griffin where we encountered Black Swans for the first time. By the lake we relaxed with a tin of VB. It was a Friday evening, it wasn’t so much a rush hour, as Canberra isn’t like that, but it was busy with happy people finishing work for the weekend. Quite a lot of people were cycling. I soon worked out why – in Canberra everything is so spread out, walking is a poor option. But we were travellers, so we did a lot of walking round Canberra.

I sometimes go into far too much detail on these blogs and since Canberra left a big impression on me, I’ll save some of the finer details for future posts and entries on it. This will be a wizz through the city of Canberra. Amongst others we managed to see Lake Burley Griffin (a massive man made lake in the centre of Canberra), National Carillon (Basically a loud bell on Aspen Island), Commonwealth Park (grass by the lake), Australia National Library (where books are kept) and Commonwealth Place (which has flags from countries from all over the world. Northern Ireland wasn’t there, but that’s OK cos I had my flag with me). Each and every one of those places had something special and different.

There are so many highlights to pick that every place we went had something to offer, but when it comes to the crunch, you have to choose the Australian War Memorial, Mount Ainslie and Parliament House. The beauty is you can go everywhere and its all free. You can sit in Parliament. You can see fighter planes from World War 2 and if you’re lucky at night you’ll see Kangaroos on the outskirts of city/up by the mountains.

Crime level in Canberra slows down to a halt. I didn’t see a peeler station, or a single peeler when I was there. We saw a bouncer in the King O’Malley’s pub, but he was having a laugh and spoke to us. It’s pretty safe, it’s pretty unique and for some bizarre reason, it’s the capital city of Australia.

Most people call it boring, I call the people that call it boring boring. They need to get out more and realise the beauty of a uniquely purpose built capital city such as Canberra. I’ve been in 90 capital cities on planet earth and Canberra can rank up alongside Belfast, Budapest and Reykjavik as one of the best. 

Where We Stayed – Canberra City YHA, Akuna Street

Nationalities Met – English, Australian, German, Swedish, South Korean, Irish, American.

You Might Not Know That…in March 1884, Polish explorer Dr John Lhotsky referred to the Canberra region as “Kembery” after an Aboriginal name for the Molonglo River. “Canberra” or “meeting place” in Aboriginal dialect is the site of Australia’s Parliament, while kembery Ale is fast becoming a part of the regions history and future. (stolen from the label on a bottle of Kembery Regional Ale – Canberra’s finest)

Bars Visited – Balcony at YHA, Transit Bar, King O’Malley’s, The Ainslie Bar at Olim’s Hotel, Botanic Gardens Bar, Wig and Pen

Bars Not Visited – PJ O’Briens (only cos it was shut)

Favourite Beer – Kembery (the local brew)

Key Song – Bon Jovi – Midnight in Chelsea (Canberra):


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