Canberra City – A Travelogue for First Timers

  • Cockington Garden, Canberra
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  • Parliament House, Canberra City
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Photography by Iza Sanchez

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Most of us know Australia for its iconic Opera House in Sydney or the glamorous skyscrapers of Melbourne. For a clueless foreigner, it’s easy to assume that either of these two cities is the seat of Australia’s federal government. But, surprisingly neither of them are. In fact, Australia’s capital is a more laid back city called Canberra.

In contrast to the big cities, you won’t see a lot of bustling cafes and sophisticated shopping centers there. In some streets you won’t even see any humans. There are few skyscrapers and on your journey you’d see more rolling fields, green hills and quiet suburban villages. It’s so tranquil that as you drive into the city you can almost hear a track from the Sound of Music playing in the background.

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A view of the park and the Parliament House in the distance from the Australian War Memorial

For a thrill-seeking tourist, boredom might be a challenge in a conservative city like Canberra. Nonetheless, you will be charmed by its fair share of Victorian buildings – remnants of the early colonial period and other national landmarks. If you are into history, museums and politics a trip to Canberra is a sure treat.

Australian War Memorial, Canberra

Australian War Memorial

Canberra is located in the southern part of New South Wales. Coming from Sydney it will take 3 to 4 hours to drive there. Traffic never seems to be a problem in Australia so you can expect a pleasant drive through the mountainous, inland region of NSW.


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Parliament House

Like any other government building, the parliament house is where Australian politicians converge to deliberate and debate on how to run the country. Next to the Opera House, this is the building you will likely see on the news everyday. Surprisingly, it is very open to the public but there are some restricted areas as well.

Parliament House, Canberra

Parliament House, Canberra


You can tell by its modern design that the Parliament House is relatively new compared to other buildings in the city. It was constructed in the 1980s and inaugurated by her majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Although, Australia has gained its independence from the United Kingdom several years ago. The Queen is still recognized as a head of state and to this day is highly respected in Australia.

australian ware memorial canberra

Australian War Memorial

The Australian War Memorial was constructed to honor Australian men and women who fought and died in every war that Australia was involved in. From the Parliament House you can view the Australian War Memorial, it takes a short walk and an even shorter drive to get there.

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The structure has a Byzantine style architecture and is shaped in the form of a cross. Inside there is a long courtyard with a shallow rectangular pool similar to the pool of reflections at the Sydney Hyde Park. There are two corridors on each side with arched windows facing a courtyard. Etched on the sides of the adjacent walls are the names of thousands of fallen war heroes.

Cockington Garden, Canberra

Cockington Garden, Canberra

cockington garden, canberra

Cockington Garden

The Cockington Garden is an amusing attraction that features miniature replicas of some of the world’s most celebrated sites like the Lahore Gate in India, the Aztec temples in Mexico and the ancestral home of a Sultan in the Philippines. Each replica is carefully crafted with impressive detail and installed among a variety of manicured plants and flowers.

Cockington Garden, Canberra

A replica of St. Andrew’s Church in Ukraine


The National Museum of Australia, Photo courtesy of Nick-D via WikiMedia Commons

National Museum of Australia

The National Museum of Australia is the most modern and highly interactive museum in Canberra. It houses displays of the early European settlements and the transformation of Australia to an independent federal nation, as well as its indigenous culture and geography. It is open daily from 9am to 5pm and is located at Lawson Crescent, Acton Peninsula.


Old Parliament House

The old Parliament house was the previous venue for Parliament meetings; it served this purpose from 1927 to 1988. With the completion of the new Parliament House in 1988, the old Parliament House was transformed into a museum.

The museum focuses on the evolution of Australia from a colony of the British Empire in 1788 to a dominion or self-governing colony in 1901 and finally to an independent federal nation in 1986.

Aboriginal Embassy, Canberra City

Aboriginal Embassy

The Aboriginal Embassy

Although it is not considered a tourist attraction, the Aboriginal Embassy is a spectacle that is impossible to ignore. It is a caravan style structure standing in the middle of the park across the old Parliament building. Its history dates back to 1972 when a group of protesters camped out to demand the government’s recognition of aboriginal land rights.

The crowds grew in numbers and the protest lasted for 6 months. Several other protests followed in succeeding years and the structure has been torn down and rebuilt many times over. To this day the Aboriginal Embassy still stands strong and has become a symbol of the ongoing fight for civil and cultural rights of indigenous communities in Australia.

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Want more of the land down under? Check out – Skydiving in Tugerah, Memoirs of a First-timer.

Cockington Garden, Canberra

Cockington Garden, Canberra

australian war memorial, canberra

Australian War Memorial

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Iza Sanchez

Iza Sanchez is a freelance ESL Teacher, adventurer and moderator of Take The Travel. She writes about solo-backpacking, travel saving tips and other awesome travel resources.

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