I took a little long weekend trip to Canberra last year. It was my second trip to Australia’s capital city. As I mentioned in my first blog about Canberra all those years ago (http://phillipdavid.blogspot.com/2013/04/canberra-nations-capital.html), many Australians mock Canberra for being a boring little backwater. But on this second trip there, I really enjoyed my time. The city’s population is fairly young and progressive, a new light rail is set to make getting around easier, and there is actually a fair bit to do and see (and even eat!) in Canberra.
I ticked off some of the big-ticket items on my first visit four years prior, such as Parliament and the Australian War Memorial, so I was keen to see what else was on offer.
Australian Institute of Sport
My travel companion visiting from the USA is an Olympics enthusiast and he requested we visit the Australian Institute of Sport. It wouldn’t have normally been on my list (and it wasn’t even in the Lonely Planet guidebook), but I’m actually super glad we went. The AIS is where many of Australia’s elite athletes come to train in advance of the Olympics and other competitions. There’s a smallish interactive museum inside the visitors’ centre, and a guided tour takes you around to check out the facilities, including athletes’ gyms, a giant Olympic swimming pool, and gymnastics facilities. The best part: the tour was led by a current athlete, in our case, a super cute male gymnast from Western Australia. Yummy!
National Gallery of Australia
The excellent National Gallery of Australia contains heaps of art from Australian artists, both indigenous and non-indigenous. There was also other eastern and western art, including a creepy installation from Filipino artist Rodel Tapaya featuring the upper half of humans flying away with their suitcases. I think it appealed to the traveller in me.
National Portrait Gallery
I’m so glad I didn’t visit the National Portrait Gallery on my first visit to Canberra, because it gave me four extra years of knowledge about famous Australians. The gallery features portraits of all sorts of famous Australians – historical and current – from the worlds of politics, business, sports, arts and entertainment, and more. There were many portraits of super famous people that I knew before hand – such as actresses Cate Blanchett and Nicole Kidman, and Harold Holt (the Prime Minister who famously disappeared while swimming) – but had I gone on my first visit, I wouldn’t have recognized many of the names and faces that are famous in Australia but not so famous around the world – such as Lee Lin Chin (news presenter), Cadel Evans (cyclist), Princess Mary of Denmark (who is actually Australian), Gough Whitlam (former Prime Minister), Sidney Myer (founder of the Myer department store), and more.
Royal Australian Mint
The Royal Australian Mint is where Australia makes its coins… and more! The museum inside has great information on the history of Australian coins, details of how they make them, and plenty of fun facts. The old 1 and 2 cent coins were on display, as well as the medals from the 2000 Sydney Olympics which were also made at the Royal Australian Mint. Did you know that the 1 and 2 cent coins that were retired in Australia were melted down and made into the bronze medals? How cool is that?!? The mint also mints coins for other countries, particularly the small Pacific island nations which can’t mint their own, and some of these were on display too.
I also re-visited some places in Canberra, like the viewpoint at Mt. Ainslie and the weekend Bus Depot markets, plus new cafes and restaurants. My favourite thing in Canberra, however, was…
Driving in Canberra is a dream. A dream! In the 8.5 years that I’ve lived in Sydney, the traffic has become increasingly heinous. It used to take about 35 or 40 minutes to get out to Costco. Now it’s well over an hour. It’s ridiculous. But Canberra was modelled after Washington DC, with wide lanes, long stretches of road, and roundabouts to help the traffic flow. And by “help the traffic flow”, I really mean, “help the four or five cars flow”. There is hardly any traffic in Canberra because it’s just not a big enough city yet. Things are quite spread out, but it hardly takes any time at all to get around. It’s joyful!
I took a few other trips last winter (North American summer) with my mate, Tyler, from the USA, and I’ll blog about those in the next few weeks. Hopefully. But first, let me take a… oh wait. I didn’t take any selfies in Canberra. Not a single one. Ugh. Here’s a picture of me at the Australian Institute of Sport instead. I won a gold medal. You can only guess what in!
To see more photos of my time in Canberra, follow this link: