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In the early 1900’s when the states and territories of Australia merged to form the Commonwealth of Australia, and the nation prepared for its first ever general election, the politicians were already squabbling. Would Sydney or Melbourne become the nations capital? Melbourne was bigger, and reaping the riches of the world’s greatest goldrush, but Sydney was the traditional home of Australia and more well known internationally. The arguments raged on and on, but eventually a compromise was reached. Neither Sydney or Melbourne would become the nations capital. Instead, a new city would be built, somewhere midway between Melbourne and Sydney. And so, Canberra was born.
If you like the great outdoors, then Canberra is certain to please. After an international competition, a meticulous city plan was picked that allowed for wide avenues, vast tracts of parkland, and a massive manmade lake, all of which still dominate the city today. Mere minutes from the city centre can have you at a number of parks, but these aren’t your garden variety style. This is inland Australia, so it’s more so bushland, sometimes even complete with kangaroos! Yet more parks drape the low rolling hills around the city, providing excellent access to miles of walking tracks, cycling trails, and marvellous city views. And to top it all off, each spring (September/October), Canberra hosts the hugely popular Floriade festival, the Aussie equivalent of our Ellerslie Flower Show.
THE NATION’S CAPITAL
It took a little longer than expected (27 years after the first election to be exact), but Canberra was eventually crowned as Australia’s capital city. As you would expect, many national institutions such as the National Museum, the National Gallery and the Australian War Memorial are located here. No trip to Canberra is complete without a visit to at least a couple of these attractions. The National Museum has a fantastic collection of Australia’s most precious artefacts, including perhaps the best Aboriginal exhibits in the country. Other gems include the first ever prototype of a Holden vehicle, and the preserved heart of Phar Lap. Over at the National Gallery there’s over 160,000 pieces in a collection which includes some of Australia’s most famous works of art, as well as international favourites such as Picasso, Cezanne and Warhol. You can even visit Parliament House with its iconic 81 metre flagpole dominating the city skyline. But most popular of all is the impressive Australian War Memorial. History buffs will love the incredible detail on not only every war Australia has participated in, but every battle! Kiwis especially, will relate with the significant Anzac display too. Or if that doesn’t interest you, simply wander the grounds, take in some time at the reflection pool, and marvel at this architectural triumph.
Canberra is blessed with a wide range of experiences available in her surrounding regions. Sample unusual varities in one of the 33 wineries within 35 minutes of the city, or at some of the over 100 wineries further afield. Go bush in the Murrumbidgee River Corridor, heaven on earth for picnickers, campers, fishers and trampers. Head to the slopes in the Snowy Mountains, perhaps Australia’s premier ski resort. And there’s even a coastal region at Jervis Bay known as the South Coast, reportedly home to ‘the Whitest Sand in the World’.
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