Guide to Australia

Your Tour, Travel & Vacation Guide to Adventures in Australia!


Canberra is the nation's capital with 2,330 sq. km ceded by New South Wales to make the Australian Capital Territory. The ACT is approximately halfway between Sydney and Melbourne. The primary road routes in are the Monaro Highway (which leads almost straight north from Cooma), the Barton Highway (which comes in from the north-west just out of Yass), and the Federal Highway (which travels alongside most of the western shore of Lake George and originates just south-west of Goulburn). The enigma of Lake George is that its waters regularly recede, for no apparent reason, then fill again, often without the benefit of heavy rains.


Canberra and Lake Burley Griffin set against the backdrop of distant New South Wales


A great way to view the ACT is by hot air balloon - watch the sun come up over the Brindabella Ranges in the fresh air and with minimal traffic, then look down and see the design of the city of Canberra. There is a Balloon Fiesta each year, part of the National Multicultural Festival. Those wanting something a little more daring can try tandem skydiving or whitewater rafting; courses are available on the Murrumbidgee, Cotter, Upper Murray and Goodradigbee Rivers, at all levels of experience.


Over 40% of the ACT is taken up by Namadgi National Park, the most northerly alpine environment in Australia. Though devoted mainly to wilderness areas, the park allows horse riding in designated areas and its streams attract trout anglers. There are also picnic and camping areas along the main access roads and the visitors' centre on Naas Road provides not only information on the park but has audiovisuals and hands-on displays. The Australian National Botanic Gardens promise sightings of kangaroos, amazing native plants, a rainforest gully and many peaceful picnic spots.


Another park worth visiting in the adjoining area is Brindabella, which has some terrific 4WD tracks which eventually lead the visitor out of the park and through to Yarrangobilly Caves. Drivers should be aware, however, that local farmers have been known to block access to the more rugged areas. Magnificent mountain scenery and old cattlemen's huts, however, more than make up for any inconvenience.


What is less well known is that the Australian Capital Territory has an adjunct at Jervis Bay. History buffs should make time to visit Lanyon, some 30 south of Canberra. Lanyon preserves life as it was in a nineteenth century homestead, and is classified by the National Trust. There are many original Sidney Nolan paintings in the house, including some of the well known 'Ned Kelly' series, plus an Aboriginal canoe tree, rambling gardens and fascinating outbuildings. Further south, on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River, is Cuppacumbalong homestead, which has a private cemetery, a craft centre, a restaurant and pleasant areas for picnicking and swimming.


Two of Canberra's best-known landmarks, Parliament House and Old Parliament House (foreground). Commonwealth Place runs alongside the lake and includes the International Flag Display. Questacon is on the right


Other places worth visiting include Cockington Green, a miniature English village 9 km north of Canberra on the Barton Highway; the Gininderra Falls, which features craft and art galleries, shops and a restaurant, and is popular with abseilers; the National Dinosaur Museum (directly opposite); and Bywong Mining Town, a recreation of late 1880s mining settlements, which is off the Gundaroo Road. Though somewhat overshadowed by other radio telescopes such as the one at Parkes, Mount Stromlo Observatory was one of the first in Australia. At Tidbinbilla, about 40 km south of Canberra, is the Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex, which has models of spacecraft and some exciting audiovisual displays, and helps command, track and record results from various NASA space projects.


Visitors coming ths far should also take in the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, where kangaroos and koalas can be easily viewed and there are good picnic and BBQ facilities. Coring Forest Recreation Area, with its 1 km alpine slide and interesting bushwalks, and Cotter Dam Reserve, with river swimming, a children's playground and picnic and camping areas, are two popular spots for local people, a well as visitors.


One out of the way monument that is rarely alluded to any tourist information can be found on a dirt track that spurs of the Canberra-Queanbeyan road. It commemorates a disastrous 1940 plane crash in which top-ranking Air Force officers, Cabinet ministers and civil servants lot their lives. Coming in the darkest days of World War II, the crash could not have occurred at a worse time.


The ACT is one of the country's major tourist areas - it has varied countryside, historic dwellings, museums and wildlife parks to explore, as well as being home to some of the nation's most historical important buildings, and the seat of government.