Travel to Canberra, Australian Capital Territory

You might not have heard of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), but you’ve probably heard of Canberra, the country’s capital city (no, it’s not Sydney). The ACT is the federal district where Canberra lives, enclaved within the state of New South Wales (yes, Sydney is there too). The ACT isn’t a big tourist destination, but there are still several reasons to visit Canberra while you’re in the region.

The ACT is arguably the only region of Australia not characterised by incredible natural sites and seemingly impossible wonders. Instead it’s the ideal place to engage with Australia’s recent history and art culture. Among the top things to do in Canberra are the Australian War Memorial, National Museum of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, and the Australian National Botanic Gardens. Being the capital, most Canberra tours will focus on Parliament House, Australia’s vast parliament building.

The ACT and Canberra are also popular destinations within Australia for those looking to study abroad, its federal connections allowing students to gain incredibly valuable experience. This is in part why the ACT is so multicultural, with around one-fifth of residents having been born outside Australia. It might be that you don’t stay long in the Australian Capital Territory, but even a short visit offers an invaluable look at the inner workings - both old and new - of this incredible country.

Flights to Canberra

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Adventure Tours

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Most people arrive in Canberra and the ACT by driving from (relatively) nearby Sydney and Melbourne, where many backpackers base themselves for a longer period. Flights to Canberra are also available from all over Australia, the city’s airport within easy reach of the action by a short bus or taxi ride.

Places to visit in Canberra generally revolve around museums, galleries - some of the best in the country - and government buildings old or new. Parliament House, with its grand 81-metre flagpole, is unmissable, and the Old Parliament House offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of Australia’s democracy. The National Gallery of Australia houses a sizeable indigenous art collection, and the National Museum boasts artifacts dating back some 50,000 years.

If you’re not Australian, you will need a visa to visit. There are a few available depending on what you're planning to do doing during your visit. If you’re visiting as a tourist, you need to apply online for an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA). This costs around £15. If you’re planning to stick around for a while and earn some money, you must apply for an Australian Working Holiday Visa. These must be arranged well before you’re due to travel, as they can't be acquired once you're in the country.

This is probably the only part of Australia where you won’t need sturdy walking boots - though comfortable shoes for cruising the museums are a good idea. The weather is generally warm year-round, and can be troublingly hot in summer, which is a great excuse to pack light. Just bring a light waterproof with you just in case.

As you’ll spend a lot of your time in Canberra inside air-conditioned buildings, it can comfortably be visited year round. That said, it can become very hot in Australian summer (December to February), and quite rainy during winter (May to August). This means that visiting between those times is often ideal. There may also be occasions when some Canberra attractions are closed due to official business - make sure you check ahead.

Realistically, unless you’re working or studying in Canberra it isn’t going to be somewhere you stay very long. It can be treated as a short break, a day or two often enough to see it all. If you don’t want to hurry, plan for three or four days and take everything at a relaxed pace before heading off elsewhere.

Within Canberra it’s easy to get around by on foot or by taking local buses. Services are regular and fares are generally reasonable. If you’re arriving by car it’s fairly easy to drive around Canberra, and having your own wheels will certainly be useful if you’re looking to go a little further afield within the ACT.

Canberra and the ACT’s proximity to both Sydney and Melbourne make it a great stop when moving between the two. If you’re coming from Sydney, you can hit Melbourne and then keep going west along the Great Ocean Road into South Australia. If you’re heading in the other direction, you can spend some time in Sydney before heading up the coast to Brisbane in the state of Queenland, with loads to see along the way.

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