Australian Capital Territory
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Canberrais the federal (political) capital of Australia. It is locatedseveral hours drive west and slightly south of Sydney, (which is theState capital of New South Wales on the central eastern coast). Thisarea was farmland, settled by early pioneers about 150 yearsago. However, as Australia's fledgling white population grew,more States were declared and, when there were a number of them, itbecame obvious a federal government had to be elected, to speak forthe country as a whole. Having made this decision, the nextquestion was "Whereis it to be sited?" Many suggestions were put forward, buteventually this particular area of land, comprising some 250,000hectares (2,360 square kilometres), was chosen and purchased from thefarmers, to be set aside for a national capital. It was regarded asbeing central to all the eastern States, where most of the populationlived and accessible by air from the other States. A competitionwas held to design the finest capital city from bare pastures upwards - nothing being too good for politicians. This was eventually won byAmerican architect Walter Burley Griffin, after whom the lake in thecentre of town was eventually named. There they set aboutbuilding the first federal Parliament House 80 years ago, with all theinfrastructure and housing necessary to accommodate the manypoliticians and their myriad staff.
Today,Canberra is a beautiful city of some 300, 000 residents, with widesweeping avenues and boulevards in verdant landscaping. However,the original Parliament House became too small to accommodate all thepeople who needed to work there and so we have a grand new, sprawlingtrendsetter of a building, costing well over a billion dollars,standing proudly atop of Capital Hill, open to the public with plentyof underground parking, all at no cost to visitors. The oldbuilding became a popular parliamentary historical gallery.Although this city functions purely to keep the wheels of governmentrunning, it has a beautiful setting and a myriad of delightful touristattractions. It also has excellent accommodation, frombackpacker hostels, trailer, caravan and camping park sites and selfcontained family cabins, delightful bed and breakfast opportunities, awide range of motels and many hotels from three to five star, sothere's something to suit everyone.
ATTRACTIONS:First time visitors would be wise to call in at the Canberra touristInformation Centre on Northbourne Avenue, approaching the city, togather a free bag of literature covering all the things to do and seein Canberra. The obliging staff here can book tours, accommodation,balloon flights, horse riding treks, coach tours, lake cruises andmore.
EATINGOUT: In the heart of Canberra there is an attractive shoppingcentre, with some excellent restaurants, both traditional Australianand a wide variety of ethnic fare - there are more still in thesuburbs - take your pick.
HIGHLIGHTS:LAKE BURLEY GRIFFIN is always adelight, with its spectacular boating at weekends and when the yachtclub is holding regattas. On its banks you can inspect historic BLUNDELL'SCOTTAGE. Then there is the FLORIADE,which takes place each September, when literally carpets of brilliantflowers can be seen throughout the parks and gardens, most of whichare floodlit by night. The stark white concrete HIGHCOURT of Australia has a dramaticforecourt, with terraced waterfalls at the front and the lake at therear. Almost next door is the NATIONALGALLERY, another grand white cementbuilding, with ever changing collections of artwork on display andplenty of modern sculptures in the gardens at the rear. Theretoo can be found one of Canberra's nicest open air restaurants. The NATIONALLIBRARY is also in thevicinity. Both the old and the new houses of Parliament arebuilt in this same stark white and very expensive cement, to promoteCanberra's 'clean and green' environs and give an overall harmoniousappearance. Children and many grownups usually make for the NATIONALSCIENCE &TECHNOLOGY CENTRE,with its myriad hands-on equipment and displays. The AUSTRALIANWAR MEMORIAL,on Anzac Hill, is well worth a visit and has much to see of interestto everyone. Of course, there is no charge for admittance andthere are great views down to Parliament House from here. Then there'sthe NATIONAL MUSEUMof AUSTRALIA,the NATIONAL AQUARIUM& WILDLIFESANCTUARY and TELSTRATOWER on top of Black Mountain, with360 degree views from the restaurant or viewing platforms at the top.The NATIONAL BOTANICGARDENS, below Telstra Tower areworth a visit on the way up. Within the grounds of the AUSTRALIANNATIONAL UNIVERSITYis the NATIONAL FILM& SOUND ARCHIVESand you can also see where many of Australia's finest athletes aretrained at the INSTITUTE OFSPORT. A bit further out of the city,about 15-20 minutes drive, are great dualattractions that should not be missed. They are the relativelynew NATIONAL DINOSAURMUSEUM and, across the road, COCKINGTONGREEN, a vast miniature EnglishVillage that is an extremely popular tourist attraction with workingtrains and windmills etc. A little further out still is thegreat MT. STROMLOOBSERVATORY and DEEPSPACE TRACKINGCOMPLEX, the delightful TIDBINBILLANATURE RESERVE,scenic COTTER DAMin the Brindabella Ranges, NAMADGI NATIONALPARK and, forenthusiasts of Sydney Nolan's paintings, his extensive gallery inhistoric LANYON HOMESTEAD.CANBERRA EXPLORERbuses run around all the major attractions frequently. A looptakes an hour, if you do not want to get off the bus, but are happy tolisten to the commentary. However, the day ticket will allowpassengers to get on and off at as many attractions as they wish thatday. They pick up and drop people off at most of the popularaccommodation houses on request and it only costs about $6 for a fullday's use. Canberra is also surrounded by a variety of wineries, allof which offer free cellar tastings and tours. Then there is theRAILWAY MUSEUM,a BICYCLE MUSEUM,the CANBERRA MAZEand more, so it is wise to call into the Information Centre and getall the leaflets before planning your capital city tour.
HIRECARS: Most international vehiclehire companies have Canberra agents, both at the airport and in thecity centre
LOCALTOURS: Telephone Murrays Coaches on 132251 (24 hours) Free accommodation pickups are available fromthe central area.
LAKECRUISES: Contact Canberra Cruises
NEARBYPLACES OF INTEREST:The small historic townships of COOMA,BUNGENDORE and QUEANBEYANare fairly close by and well worth some exploration.
Australian State Information
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