Australian Capital Territory, ACT, is an inland area located 150 km southwest of Sydney. ACT is positioned inside New South Wales. The area was established in 1908 to make room for the Australian capital, Canberra, which is also the capital of the region. Canberra was no more than a few modest sheds when the city was designed and planned. In the east, the ACT is surrounded by Australia’s largest mountain range, the Great Dividing Range, and in the west lies Australia’s highest mountain range, the Australian Alps, known for its popular ski resorts that comes to life during winter.
With its 2,400 square kilometres, Australian Capital Territory is small when measured in Australian standards, no bigger than a dot on the map, but it has a rich content. What distinguishes the territory is the vast areas of beautiful nature and the many historical remains. Over half of the area lies within the Namadgi National Park, and people have lived in different parts of ACT for more than 20,000 years. For those who like to hike and camp there is a variety of marked hiking trails and campsites, and in some places, you can swim in Murrumbidgee River. To try the locally produced wines, it is easy to do an excursion to any of the several vineyards scattered in the area.
The Australian capital Canberra is a city for those with an interest in history, politics and art. It is a political hub that retains parts of its small-town charm, while still housing a multitude of art galleries, historical museums and importantly, the Australian Parliament. Canberra has several smaller suburbs and districts that are very beautiful and exciting to visit. For those who want to meet new people and experience popular folk festivals of various kinds, this can be done at one of the many festivals and events that are often arranged around the ACT.
Australian Capital Territory has something to offer everyone but is often overlooked. A delightful hike led by an Aboriginal guide in a nature reserve can be followed by a visit to an inspiring art museum in the capital. Or why not take the opportunity to visit a local vineyard or two. This can be interspersed with live music and dancing at one of the many festivals organized during the year. ACT offers a great diversity that makes it an exciting area to explore.
ACT is a place for those who love nature and history. The Namadgi National Park (environment.act.gov.au/parks-conservation/parks-and-reserves/find-a-park/namadgi-national-park/namadgi-national-park) at the north end of the Australian Alps is perfect if you want to experience the Australian nature. In the national park, there are 390 famous Aboriginal heritage sites that are very exciting to visit for anyone interested in history. Here you can wander along the marked trails to get close to both nature and history, and in some areas, it is possible to camp. Several activities are held within the national park, such as horseback riding, guided tours and mountain biking (theaustralianalps.wordpress.com/the-alps-partnership/the-parks/namadgi-national-park).
Approximately a 45-minutes-drive from Canberra lies Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve (tidbinbilla.act.gov.au). The reserve has a fantastic nature and a rich wildlife that can be experienced at very close range. Meet animals such as koalas, kangaroos, emus, echidnas, platypus and water birds. Go for a guided tour to learn more. One can, for example, see when the pelicans are fed or go looking for koalas in the eucalyptus trees. There are also guided tours with overnight stays that gives the opportunity to discover more of the reserve’s hidden secrets. Information on scheduled guided tours can be found on the Reserve’s website (tidbinbilla.act.gov.au/experience/tours). If you are interested in nature and history, a guided tour is a fantastic experience.
For those who like to take part in popular festivities and festivals, ACT has much to offer. If you are staying in the area in August, visit Canberra’s annual celebration of winter, the Fireside Festival (visitcanberra.com.au/events/56b23aedb042386245d428df/skyfire-at-enlighten-festival). Enjoy good food, music and other activities with old and new friends. If you rather feel like celebrating the returning of warmth and life in spring, why not try the festival Floriade (floriadeaustralia.com) in Commonwealth Park in Canberra. The festival is Australia’s biggest tribute to spring, and it runs for one month from mid-September to mid-October. Entrance is free, and every year it has a new theme. Besides taking part of all the fantastic flowers planted in the park, you can listen to live music, performances from comedians or dance to various DJs.
Different festivals are organized also outside Canberra’s central parts during the year. If you for example like truffles, a truffle festival is organized in Canberra to celebrate the local titbit (trufflefestival.com.au). For those interested, a visit to the annual Canberra International Film Festival (ciff.com.au) can be very exciting. Not only do you get to see films and documentaries from all around the world, there are also panel debates and question times with directors, actors and producers. For those who want to socialize and meet new people in a festive atmosphere, a visit to one, or why not several, of the festivals is a hot tip. In addition to the many festivals organized, various sporting events, music events, historical events and more to suit all kinds of interests are taking place in the ACT. To find out what is going on in the area at a specific time, take a look at the government’s website and calendar (events.act.gov.au/events-calendar).
ACT is an excellent area for those who like to visit all kinds of museums. Those interested in space can for free visit the Canberra Space Centre located at the Deep Space Communication Complex in Tidbinbilla (cdscc.nasa.gov), about 35 km southwest of Canberra. Learn more about Australia’s role in the exploration of space and what an astronaut’s work might look like. If you get your coffee craving during the visit, the Moon Rock Café might be your solution. Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is only a few kilometres away from the space centre, making it possible to explore both in one day.
If one can’t get enough of Australian wild animals, a visit to the National Zoo & Aquarium in Canberra is a safe alternative where one can learn more. Discover animals such as sharks, giraffes, tigers and red pandas or go for a guided tour and, for example, meet Cheetahs here (wotif.com/things-to-do/national-zoo-aquarium-family-tour.a256998.activity-details). For the brave, a visit to Gold Creek in Nicholls in northern Canberra at the National Dinosaur Museum (nationaldinosaurmuseum.com.au) and the Australian Reptile Centre (reptilesinc.com.au/areashow.toy?animalnid=108978) can be a very fascinating experience.
Around Canberra lies the Canberra Wine District with about 140 vineyards. A variety of wines are produced in the area, such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Shiraz. A visit to one of the beautiful vineyards to participate in a wine tasting is an experience for all the senses. Either you can visit the vineyards yourself, or join in on one of the many organised tours (canberrawines.com.au). To get more information about tours and opening hours, you can either contact a tourist information or the vineyard directly. Be aware that some of the vineyards require visits to be booked in advance, making it a good idea to look this up before visiting a specific vineyard.
Planning and preparations
Depending on what time of the year you visit, there might be a risk of forest fires in the area. In some cases, controlled fires (hazard reduction burning) are planned in advance and it may be good to check if any is planned, for example on the government’s information portal on ACT (act.gov.au). There is a risk that some areas will be closed off during happenings like this. It is important to always keep up to date on information regarding forest fires.
The weather varies a lot during the year. During summer, it can get very hot while the winter can get cold, especially during the nights. It is therefore necessary to plan your choice of clothes according to season, and a warm sweater is always good to bring along.
There are several places to camp in the area. It is often necessary to book campsites in advance (bookings.act.gov.au/#ACT20Online20System). If you want to stay in a hotel or hostel, there are several possibilities for this in the centre of Canberra (hotelscombined.com/Place/Canberra_City.htm) and in surrounding areas (hotelscombined.com/Place/Canberra.htm). You will find the hostel Canberra City YHA right in Canberra city centre, costing around $40 per night (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Canberra_City_YHA.htm). If you want to stay at Bruce Ridge Nature Reserve with access to a pool, spa or tennis court, try Alivo Tourist Park Canberra (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Alivio_Tourist_Park_Canberra.htm).
To get to Canberra, besides driving a car one can choose between flying (wotif.com/Flights) or taking the bus or train. Within ACT, the easiest, and sometimes the only way to travel is by car (wotif.com/Car-Hire), unless you join in on a guided tour. To find out if there are any scheduled tours to or within a certain area, you can contact the tourist information (visitcanberra.com.au) or search online via Wotif’s website (wotif.com/discover/australia/australian-capital-territory/canberra.d6049663/canberra-insider-tips), which also has tips on good family activities in Canberra (wotif.com/discover/australia/australian-capital-territory/canberra.d6049663/things-to-do-in-canberra-with-kids).
A must for wildlife enthusiasts who travel within ACT is a visit to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and Namadgi National Park for an amazing scenery. Go for a guided tour to learn more about a specific theme, or hike and bike to maximize the experience. If you have camping equipment, you can spend a night on one of the campsites. If not, stay at one of the hotels or hostels that lie in the area.
A visit to one of the many vineyards in the territory is another tip. Not only are the vineyards very beautiful, it is also possible to try locally produced wines once in place. It is a very exciting experience for all senses. When you visit ACT, a stop in Canberra’s city centre for one or two days is to recommend. In the city you can visit, for example, museums (wotif.com/discover/australia/australian-capital-territory/canberra.d6049663/canberra-museums), galleries or Parliament (wotif.com/discover/australia/australian-capital-territory/canberra.d6049663/canberra-parliament-house-tours). A stop in one of Canberra’s smaller suburbs is also to recommend, especially if you want to meet new people and be part of festivities. Visit one of the festivals and events that are happening around the area. Whether you love truffles, are passionate about Australian football or live music, there may be an upcoming event suiting you.
ACT has a lot to offer depending on one’s interest and what one wants out of a trip. If you want to know what’s going on in the area, such as events and festivals and the like, visit the government’s event calendar (events.act.gov.au/events-calendar). When planning your trip, keep in mind that some things need to be booked in advance, such as campsites. ACT offers a great diversity of places to discover and activities for the whole family.