Take a crash course in Australian history and culture in Canberra, Australia’s political and administrative centre. The national monuments and galleries of this planned, spacious city are all within easy walking distance of each other, radiating out from the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. Peer into Australia’s political past and creative culture as you circle the lake, then get up close to its native vegetation in the gardens and bushland. Discuss your Australian discoveries over dinner in Dickson, Civic, Manuka or Kingston. Then nurture your love of nature in Namadgi National Park, where you can hike, bike, horse-ride, rock climb and follow a fascinating trail of Aboriginal and European history.
Have breakfast on Lake Burley Griffin, where you can watch the joggers, cyclists, sail boats and determined dragon boat teams. This huge artificial lake is Canberra’s centerpiece, surrounded by many of the national attractions. Hear Canberra’s story at the National Capital Exhibition, hear the chiming of 55 bronze bells on the National Carillon on Aspen Island and visit the War Memorial. Head to the Parliamentary Triangle to explore Parliament House and Old Parliament House on Capital Hill. Learn about the birth of Australia’s political system and visit the public gallery to watch Australian politicians debate issues at Question Time. See famous Australians on canvas at the National Portrait Gallery, pore over historical documents at the National Library of Australia or check out Australia’s first constitution at the nearby National Archives. Complete your Australian cultural immersion with a show at Canberra’s Theatre Centre in Civic.
Drive to the Australian National Botanic Garden, where the main path meanders through a Tasmanian rainforest gully and a diverse range of native vegetation. Climb to Telstra Tower at the top of Black Mountain for a coffee and sweeping views of Canberra’s monuments and planned streets. Follow a walking trail through the bush, past native plants and animals and brilliant wildflowers in spring and early summer. After descending, peer into the life of 19th century settlers at Blundells Cottage and check out the exhibitions at the National Museum of Australia. Cross the lake for Questacon, a fantastic family attraction. Experience a volcano, go for a virtual six-metre free fall or play a harp with beams of light. When you’ve regained your bearings, browse the nation’s finest collection of Australian art at the National Gallery of Australia. In the evening, enjoy fine dining in Civic, Kingston, Manuka or Griffith.
Drive out to Namadgi National Park for a day of bushwalking and outdoor adventure in the Australian Alps. Explore forests of snow gum and alpine ash on the Square Rock walking track or do the short climb to Booroomba Rocks for spectacular views. To really get back to nature, take the Mt Franklin Road into the rugged Bimberi wilderness. Keep an eye out for kangaroos, wallabies, crimson rosellas and northern corroboree frogs amongst the wet gullies and woodlands. Visit an early European homestead in Orroral Valley or trace the story of the Ngunnawal people, who lived here thousands of years ago. Aboriginal campsites, ceremonial stone arrangements and rock art are scattered across the park in around 400 places. Mountain bike the fire trails, horse ride National Bicentennial Trail or rock climb and abseil the craggy granite outcrops. Fish from mountain streams in summer and cross-country ski the winter slopes. Camp overnight or return to Canberra for some creature comforts.