At the northwest end of the city center, the old and leafy residential area of Turner bordering the northern ends of Acton, a suburb almost entirely consumed by the campus of the Australian National University (ANU). Nestled between Civic and Black Mountain and easily accessible by a rental carthe native landscaped grounds of 150 hectares make a great place for a stroll, and for travelers on a budget, the university Union offers cheap food and entertainment.
Nearby, at the south-east end of the ANU, Soundscreen Australia (formerly the National Film and Sound Archive) houses several interactive exhibitions, dedicated to the last 100 years of film heritage, television , Australia’s radio and recorded sound. Housed within an old Grand Deco building on McCoy Circuit, Soundscreen also hosts numerous film festivals throughout the year.
National Museum of Australia
Opened in March 2001, the National Museum of Australia is Canberra’s newest and most exciting attraction, receiving an astonishing 100 000 visitors in its first month! Superbly situated overlooking the lake on Acton Peninsula (the former site of Canberra Hospital), the museum explores the history of Australia and its people, through a large of ultra-modern exhibitions and multimedia presentations. To the left of the museum’s main entrance, a separate hall is dedicated to temporary exhibitions such as the Gold & Civilization collection currently on display (ends June 24, 2001). The National Museum is also home to an excellent cafe and restaurant, and apart from the temporary exhibitions, entry is free.
Behind the university on the gentle slopes of the Black Mountains, the Australian National Botanic Gardens is the largest collection of native plant species in the country. Separated into specific groups, the 50-hectare gardens recreate most of the main eco-systems found in Australia, and their exploration is easy. A variety of walks all start and end at the pleasant Kookaburra Cafe, and the elevated boardwalk through Rainforest Gully is just one of the many highlights. Perched high on the Black Mountain summit directly above the gardens (you can hike or drive), the 195-metre Telstra Tower is Canberra’s most visible landmark, visible from almost anywhere corner of the city. A short trip up the tower elevator provides visitors with unrivaled views in all directions. Vantage points include several viewing platforms and an up-market revolving restaurant.
Welcome to Dickson
Just minutes from the city center after Northbourne Avenue, the suburb of Dickson has become a thriving restaurant district, specializing in a variety of good value Asian cuisine. Other quality meals can be found just over the road at the huge Canberra Tradesman’s Union Club on Badham Street. Never closed, this enterprising social club also incorporates the Canberra Bicycle Museum, which houses ten restored trams as well as a large collection of antique and unusual bicycles. In the adjacent suburb of Downerthe Downer Club also hosts some unlikely attractions including an Antarctic igloo, and the excellent Canberra Space Dome and Observatory.
Further up Northbourne Avenue on the northern fringes of Canberra, the National Motorcycle Museum and Treloar Technology Center are located in the industrial suburb of Mitchell. The Motorcycle Museum displays an incredible range of over 250 restored bikes, covering many brands, styles and vintages. Just around the corner, Treloar Technology Center is a private collection of great war relics such as tanks and aircraft.
On the Federal Highway beyond the outskirts of the city, local winemakers have transformed the surrounding countryside into a small but celebrated wine growing region. Tastings are available, but not all vineyards have cellar door operations, so it’s best to tap into some local knowledge. There are several tour companies that run specialist and informative tours around the area, or, alternatively, pick up the wineries map and brochure at the Canberra Visitor Center on Northbourne Avenue.
Welcome to Manuka
Canberra has more sunny days than any other capital city in Australia, which may help explain the local fascination with al-fresco dining. The beautiful urban villages of Manuka and Kingston have embraced this concept with gusto, both with a disproportionately high number of cafes, restaurants, and gourmet delicatessens.
After a good meal, interesting shops and trendy boutiques help create a timely diversion from your stomach. Close to Kingston’s shops and Canberra’s only railway station, the nation’s oldest steam locomotive as well as other engines and carriages are on display at the Canberra Railway Museum. Kingston also gives the easiest access to the Jerrabomberra Wetlands, a nesting ground for waterfowl on the eastern shores of Lake Burley Griffin.
Further south, the diplomatic precinct of Red Hill it is full of spectacular consulates, which generally reflect the cultures they represent. At the summit of Red Hill, there is an excellent cafe and restaurant in the middle of several lookouts that offer great views over the city.