Australian Capital Territory
Capital City: Canberra
When the Commonwealth of Australia was formed in 1901, it was agreed that the seat of government was to be on neutral ground due to intense Sydney–Melbourne rivalry. In 1908, the southern tablelands of New South Wales, set along the Great Dividing Range, were chosen as the site for the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).
Chicago architect Walter Burley Griffin won an international design competition with his innovative plan for the Australian Capital Territory’s city area of Canberra. An associate of renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, his plan showed a city laid out in a series of circles and rectangles, echoing the natural amphitheatre formed by Mount Ainslie, Black Mountain and Pleasant Hill. One criticism of Griffin’s plan was its generous scale, allowing for wide streets and boulevards – one wit described it ‘as a good sheep paddock spoiled’. Yet the scale of the city has allowed Canberra to grow as a modern metropolis.
Although the name Canberra is said to be from an Aboriginal word meaning ‘meeting place’ , it is only in more recent decades that the long Aboriginal history related to the area has become more fully acknowledged. The Ngunnawal people are the traditional owners and their rock-art sites in Namadgi National Park are a tangible reminder of another aspect of the ACT’s history.
Some more things to do while you're in the Australian Capital Territory
Canberra wine district
Canberra’s cool-climate wineries have a reputation for consistent quality.
Anyone who assumes Canberra is all about politics hasn’t experienced its eco-friendly side. Australia’s capital has a range of delightful outdoor activities to choose from: not only is it the perfect destination for a cycling holiday, but the magnificent Namadgi National Park is just a stone’s throw away.
Test your driving skills on the narrow fairways of Royal Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory, working your way up to the blind tee shot on the Augusta-like sixteenth.
Restaurants & cafes
You’re unlikely to go hungry in Canberra. Manuka is the acknowledged epicentre of the city’s dining scene, but the other suburbs boast a healthy range of international eateries, as well as some highly regarded, reasonably priced ‘Mod Oz’ restaurants. A tour of the Canberra wine district is a must for gourmet travellers.
Restaurants & cafes by region
While the Australian Capital Territory is not a prolific beer-producing region, what may surprise travellers is the fact that a brewing scene exists at all. Author of The Australian Beer Companion Willie Simpson’s pick is Canberra’s brewpub Wig & Pen. With an output spanning seasonal and regular ales, the Wig & Pen is certainly worth a visit.
The ACT may be small, but it’s got more going for it than just the delights of our national capital. The stunning Namadgi National Park sprawls across almost half of the ACT, offering a range of campsites for campers to enjoy. There’s some beautiful alpine scenery to take in, as well as activities such as bushwalking, cycling and rock climbing. Try to catch a glimpse of politicians or other local wildlife!
Campsites by region
Although you could conceivably make the trip between Melbourne and Sydney in one day’s caravanning, it would be a shame to bypass Australia’s bush capital, Canberra. A handful of parks in the city – and another couple in nearby Sutton and Queanbeyan – make convenient bases from which to explore Canberra’s monuments, museums and galleries.
Caravan parks by region
Hotels, motels & B&Bs
Between them, Canberra and neighbouring Queanbeyan offer some agreeable accommodation possibilities, catering predominantly for mid-range and high-end budgets. Rub shoulders with visiting politicians in an up-market Parliamentary Triangle hotel, or relax in a peaceful wine-country guesthouse. Refurbished vintage tram and train carriages, and good-value country inns are other options.
Hotels, motels & B&Bs by region
Rest areas by region
There’s more to Canberra than politics and man-made lakes – the city also boasts a lively events calendar. Culture buffs will enjoy the National Multicultural Festival, while motoring enthusiasts can rev up at the street-machine spectacular, Summernauts Festival. Wine, food and music are also cause for celebrations throughout the year.