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Trip Report: 1 day 2 nights in Canberra in August

Chapel Hill, NC
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Trip Report: 1 day 2 nights in Canberra in August

Hey All. Just returned from an 18-day trip to Aussie. This will be the fourth of several trip reports to help those who are planning future travels.

We spent a Monday night with my wife’s family outside of Albury. Albury was nicer than I expected, a quaint little city albeit with nothing much to see. We did a day trip Tuesday from there to the Milawa gourmet region and Beechworth, both which were enjoyable places to visit, particularly the cheese factory, mustard tastings and wineries in Milawa and the Beechworth Bakery.

On Tuesday night, after dinner, we made the drive to Canberra. We were amazed at the poor quality of the road from Albury to Canberra (which is mostly on the Hume Highway, the main route between Melbourne and Sydney). I know they are improving it all to dual carriageway, as of now (aside from tremendous amounts of construction with low speeds) but there are still sections signed at 40 km/h. That’s absolutely unfathomable to me. And driving at night, when there were no cars, going 60 km/h for stretches was infuriating. I felt entirely comfortable driving by this point, and the night driving was not a hassle at all. It’s amazing how the constant reminders of speed cameras forces you to drive the speed limit, such a foreign concept for this American! The entire drive was about three and a half hours and we made it to our hotel, the Quest Canberra in City Centre, at about 10pm.

The Quest is mostly a business hotel atmosphere with little charm, somewhat dated rooms (although we did have full one bedroom) and crazy additional fees, like $6/hour for internet. As an aside, we were amazed so many hotels in Aussie required you to pay for internet, and commonly excessive fees such as this Quest. I find this disgraceful, especially in a business hotel.

We got an early start the next morning and began navigating through the city. We got to the War Memorial at 10am. We were again lucky with the weather; it had been below zero for several nights before we arrived, but never dropped below 6 while we were there, and it didn’t rain, although it was mostly grey. Why Australia chose to puts its capital in an area that seems to have some of the worst weather I will never understand. The Memorial is a sight to be seen. We took the immediate 10am tour, which lasted 90 minutes. This was a fantastic tour and we learned a great deal from our tour guide, who really knew the place well. It was great to get another perspective on wars I know about. I found it particularly interesting that Pearl Harbor Day in Oz is December 8, due to the time zones. It was weird to hear it like that. We stayed for the light show in the hangar area of the museum, which was very well done, and then had lunch at the very affordable café. Overall we spent three hours here. It could have been more, but I felt it was adequate since neither of us are very interested in war history.

Next up we headed to Parliament for Question Time. There was some debate on these forums about the value of a visit to this daily spectacle of Australian Government (daily when they are in session). I found this to be the highlight of our trip to Canberra. It worked where each party – the majority and minority – asked the PM questions one after another. It was so educational to watch the politicians bicker with each other all the while keeping some sort of quasi professionalism and order. The opposition just kept grilling the PM, and the controlling party just kept lobbing softball questions. We were enthralled the entire time. Highly recommended for those with interest in politics.

We finished our day with a visit to the Australian Museum. It is a visually stunning museum with a little too much spectacle but a lot of worthy exhibits, especially on the Aboriginal Peoples. Kind of goofy but imaginative revolving theater in there was fun. We spent about two hours here, by which time I must admit we had museum fatigue. Final note here, it was impressive that this museum (and Memorial) are free, but we felt donations were prudent.

That night we met up with more family and had a great time in an Indian restaurant, the Taj Mahal, and a couple of pubs (Wig & Pen recommended). We met several people in this working town pub and had interesting conversations. Real nice vibe.

The next morning we left early for the Blue Mountains. So we basically had one day in the Aussie capital. The city is definitely not pretty (I assume the landscape is much nicer in the warmer months). It is also not anywhere near as exciting as Melbourne or Sydney, or even Hobart. It’s a fabricated place with confusing traffic circles and kilometers of planned communities (I loved the signs everywhere “Shops –->,” since all the shops and restaurants are zoned in such a calculated fashion) with a large transient population. I imagine it must be a ghost town on weekends – we were there mid-week, in session. There were a lot of people who told us to avoid Canberra, and I understand why. But overall I am glad we saw the capital. It gave us a good understanding of what it means to be an Australian, and that’s important on a holiday.

I appreciate all the help on this forum in planning our trip. I hope this report helps others in their own travels.

Wangaratta...
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1. Re: Trip Report: 1 day 2 nights in Canberra in August

Thanks for the great review. Glad you enjoyed the War Memorial and Museum. You certainly did not see canberra at its best in mid winter. The best time to visit Canberra is in Autumn (Fall) in March and April when the colours are spectactular.

Sydney, Australia
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2. Re: Trip Report: 1 day 2 nights in Canberra in August

jahausa

you certainly covered a lot of ground on your trip. I'm glad you liked Beechworth - a lovely old town where I believe once Ned Kelly was incarcerated before being moved to Melbourne Gaol.

Albury would have changed quite a bit I would imagine since your wife left it. How did she find it?

And finally, I do like Canberra but I understand your sentiments - it is a planned city and feels like one too, but there are quite a lot of things to do there and Floriade is a fantastic sight.

Thanks again for your Trip Reports.

Melbourne, Australia
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3. Re: Trip Report: 1 day 2 nights in Canberra in August

One day, two nights...about the same time Bill Bryson spent here!

Seriously, i would be embarrassed about trying to report on a destination given that amount of time...you haven't even scraped the surface of the place...

Gungahlin, Australia
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4. Re: Trip Report: 1 day 2 nights in Canberra in August

Hi Jahausa. Thanks for taking the time to post such a long and mostly interesting report.

I did have mixed feeling about some parts of it. I felt that you were buying into some of the negative perceptions of Canberra as people seem to do, without any analysis. For example as I understand it the climate here is milder than the climate of your capital. Btw (whispering) the reason Canberra was put here was to avoid the whole Sydney/Melbourne argument, but we won't go there. The transient population/ghost town on weekends idea also seemed like a cliche to me.

I did smile at the unfavourable comparison with Hobart, I must admit I love Hobart. And being confused by the traffic circles (roundabouts) is a traditional activity for visitors.

It's a shame you couldn't have come in spring or fall as bigw said. Last autumn I went for a walk around the lake, the Manchurian pears were displaying their autumn colours and the weather was pleasantly warm and I thought this is just gorgeous, people should come and see this. On the other hand I feel the city centre "could do better" and that's particularly obvious on cloudy winter days. I do have some personal gripes about the state of the Sydney and Melbourne Buildings especially, that area could be done much better IMO. Also the relationship between the city and the lake, and the area around Albert Hall...

Anyway, I'm glad you decided it was worth having a brief look and you found some things of interest even at the dreariest time of year. Thanks for taking the time to post.

Sydney Australia
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5. Re: Trip Report: 1 day 2 nights in Canberra in August

Another very enjoyable and interesting report :o) I love hearing how people find things like the AWM or parliament. I agree with you on trying to understand what it means to be of from country you're visiting, I always find it adds so much to the trip to have done some pre-reading too...and sometimes it's helped me to understand my own country better as well..

I love Canberra more every visit. No perhaps not seen at it's best in mid winter, but it's a lovely place in spring and autumn ...and very interesting all year round.

Canberra, Australia
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6. Re: Trip Report: 1 day 2 nights in Canberra in August

Thanks for the trip report jahausa, always interesting to see what others think of my "home town" (these days).

"Why Australia chose to puts its capital in an area that seems to have some of the worst weather I will never understand" - as MacKnee says, it was a compromise, more or less mid way between Sydney & Melbourne which both had strong lobbies to be the national capital, and the reason it is so far inland was to put it out of range of naval artillery bombardment. Some of the other possible sites considered are in even cooler locations.

Sydney, Australia
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7. Re: Trip Report: 1 day 2 nights in Canberra in August

Interesting read..

funny I find Canberra often to be quiter mid week than weekends..

maybe becuase they host so many different sport events from Rally cars, world championship Mountains bikes, junior cricket and soccer national titles etc that it always seems to be busy on weekends but I mus also admist we stay in the pumping zone near Manuka and Kingston rather than the city centre..

I have to admit it is very much a cultural capital..museums and educational things being top on the list...

don't get me started on the Sydney building ATM..so many of our precious sandstones are showing their age and need a good scrubbing..icky balck car exhausts make them sad and tired...

Gungahlin, Australia
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8. Re: Trip Report: 1 day 2 nights in Canberra in August

I turned on the tv this afternoon in time to see part of this story. I was going to wait until the video and transcript are up on the website but in case I forget here it is.

www.abc.net.au/stateline/act/default.htm

"Civic Pride? What happened to all those grand designs for the city?"

Sydney Australia
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9. Re: Trip Report: 1 day 2 nights in Canberra in August

Thanks for the link Macknee. That looks like an interesting story.

Canberra
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10. Re: Trip Report: 1 day 2 nights in Canberra in August

"Why Australia chose to puts its capital in an area that seems to have some of the worst weather I will never understand."

I disagree, I think Canberra has the best weather in Australia. We get four distinct seasons a year. During winter it can get cold, but we usually have crystal clear blue skies - you must have come on the wrong day. It doesn't rain here very often.

I agree the city centre is a bit ugly, but the parliamentary triangle is nice, especially lit up at night.

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