Today, we took a break from our Sydney escapades. Instead, we set off to explore Australia’s official (and sometimes forgotten) capital city, Canberra. With a humble population of 410,000, it’s only Australia’s eighth largest city. Canberra was actually elected as the country’s capital in 1908 because governors couldn’t decide between Sydney and Melbourne, Australia’s largest cities. I’ve got to warn you beforehand – the weather was shocking! We probably couldn’t have picked a worse day for our travels to Canberra, ironically.
Mount Ainslie, Canberra
It takes just over 3 hours to drive to Canberra in Australian Capital Territory from Sydney. For that reason alone, it wasn’t too inconvenient that the weather was pretty poor.
It did, however, mean that our first stop was not so ideal. We went to Mount Ainslie, which normally offers clear, sprawling views of Canberra for as far as the eye can see. There’s an observation deck with panoramas across the city, as well as plaques to point out what you’re looking at. Sadly, it wasn’t quite the view we’d anticipated thanks to the cloud and mist, but it was still a pretty cool sight across the city. You can just about see the red mall which takes you to the Australian War Memorial, with the red stones representing the blood shed from the wars.
Our tour guide, John, gave us the lowdown on the city and the sights we should look out for.
Australian War Memorial, Canberra
Our next stop was the Australian War Memorial itself. It’s a really beautiful national monument that’s there to cherish those who lost their lives fighting for Australia. It’s very peaceful and calm, and a little eerie. There’s nowhere quite like it. Guests can also purchase a poppy for a donation, and join in those remembering all those that have been lost.
We wandered inside the War Memorial to explore the impressive ceiling and stained glass windows. Outside, a flame burns on in memory of all of the lost.
National Gallery of Australia
Once our tour guide had finished showing us around the memorial, we shuffled on to our next stop: the National Gallery of Australia. Although I couldn’t take any pictures, it’s most definitely worth a visit. I wish we had a little longer to explore the awesome works and exhibitions in there.
We whizzed our way around some fascinating Aboriginal pieces that represented a few really harrowing truths, and some more contemporary Australian art also. The Ned Kelly paintings are a highlight in particular. If that’s not your thing, you can always feast your eyes on Monet’s waterlilies. There are plenty of other European classics in the current exhibition if you visit soon.
One of my personal highlights was the Jackson Pollock painting thrown in amongst the pop art displays. A very controversial – and eye wateringly expensive – painting, it really is one you either love or hate. Paintings by his girlfriend were also very interesting. It’s thought he abused her, and she painted in the dark, with splashes representing her tears.
Australian Parliament Buildings, Canberra
Once we’d finished up our brief tour at the gallery, it was back on the road. This time, to the Australian Parliament Buildings. We had to clear security for obvious reasons, so once again unfortunately I was unable to take many snaps. The experience was really interesting. I was amazed at how much you can see on the inside. We also actually watched parliamentary debates which got very heated! It was good entertainment that’s worth catching.
After parliament, we had a quick detour to see the embassies. Each embassy is built and decorated in the style of its respective country, which was pretty cool. The British Embassy looked very authentic, with roses and ivy trawling across the building. The American Embassy was also pretty interesting. It’s supposedly the biggest and built on real, imported American soil! Make of that what you will. It felt like a super speedy tour around the world in just a short drive.
That was it for our flying visit to Canberra! What a pleasure it was, and I’d like to see more. Back on the road, and back to New South Wales (if only for a short while) for another day in Sydney.
Have you been to Canberra? What did you get up to in Australia’s capital city?