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Visit Canberra, ACT

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So what if you've "done" Canberra before. Maybe there was the obligatory family trip years back, to show the children the seat of power, the War Memorial, and get some fireworks. But there's more reason, now, than ever to go back.

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Just as this city is known for its seasons – it snows, it blows, leaves drop and, sadly, bushfires raged through the suburbs one summer – so too is there a season of change in Canberra. You still have the glum and squat government buildings and too much sixties-era civil-servant housing blocks (or at least that's what they look like) but even they are masked by boulevards of trees that green, glow, strip and bud in time to the seasons.

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Spring is especially important with the annual Floriade bringing thousands of visitors to wander through specially planted gardens holding thousands of bulbs and other flowering plants. It is so much more than a flower-fest for garden lovers. If you can imagine tonnes of tulips (literally, they routinely plant about 1.5 million bulbs and annuals) and dazzling banks of daffodils and narcissus, you begin to get the idea.

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The cooler climate of Canberra, about four hours drive south of Sydney, is ideal for growing stonefruit, apples and even a"new industry" truffles.

Weekend markets are the ideal places to come and stock up with food and all the other things you'll find there. Pack a shopping bag when you visit this city!

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The Old Bus Depot Markets are an absolute must to visit any weekend. Food, books, art, craft - it's all here...

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The showpiece of the city has to be the colourful, in-your-face National Museum of Australia (also see top), opened in 2001, which has already welcomed several million visitors.

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The building is not finished (metaphorically) because history is not finished. The various pavilions that compose and fill the space could, in theory, be moved. It's all very avant-garde, but essential to see for an overview of Australia and the people who have contributed to the country, with personal stories and memorabilia sprinkled throughout. It's as much about Vegemite and Hills Hoists as it is about fossils and Federation.

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If you take an early morning balloon flight and see its boomerang shape softening the overpowering symmetry of the city layout, spokes radiating out from the very centre of it all – Parliament House, the new one – on Capital Hill. Burley Griffin's graceful parades and promenades, circles and tree-lined avenues are best seen from above, and a flight in a basket across it all, silent except for the gentle whoosh of the balloon burners, even on a frosty autumn morning, is well worth the 4am wakeup call.

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Take a moment too to reflect on this country's history at the Australian War Memorial. The many displays are moving and thought-provoking and the building is serene and elegant.

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Canberra's eating has changed pace along with everything else. There's an inordinate ratio of multinational restaurants, bars, bakeries and cafes to the population. It makes you wonder if they're building kitchens in houses in Canberra any more. One place where there is one is in Old Parliament House. Here you'll find top restaurant The Ginger Room.

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As a weekend getaway from either Sydney or Melbourne, Canberra has much to offer. Wineries, fine ding, places to forage for bargains, pathways around the lake to cycle or walk. There are surprises everywhere.

You may find that another trip to Canberra may turn your preonceptions on their heads!

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You may find that another trip to Canberra may turn your preonceptions on their heads!

 


 

 

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