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.