3 Free Things to do in Canberra, Australia

by Rosemarie John on October 29, 2014

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free things to do in canberra

Canberra is the city where the rest of Australia mocks its quietude, but those that reside in it sing its virtues. Despite being the seat of power to one the world’s most developed country, Canberra remains somewhat of an unknown to the tourists interested in trekking down under.

Nestled between Sydney and Melbourne, Canberra’s birth was in fact the result of a long standing debate between the two former cities, regarding who should have the honour of hosting Parliament House; the intermediate compromise was, “let’s put it in the middle”. As a result, Canberra is a relatively new city, its history beginning only in 1913. However, due to this recency, Canberra’s cityscape is noticeably more well planned than any other city in Australia, as the layout was carefully designed from the start. Here are three free things to do in Canberra:

1. One of the main attractions and most visited spots in Canberra, is the Australian War Memorial and its commemorative boulevard. The Byzantine structure is both grave and grand, walking towards it can feel a bit overwhelming if you consider the circumstances for its inception. Past the shrine area is the national military museum. The exhibition here is superbly curated, with an extensive collection of arms, fighting crafts, wax models in action, and other battle miscellanea. Combined, it makes for an eerie and disturbing experience to walk through. You know how in one of those rare moments where reality hits you face on with the facts of life, and your perspective changes forever henceforth, well, not to sound too dramatic, but you will indeed come out of this tour with a different perspective on what the “horrors of war” actually look like; decidedly not so Hollywood.

2. Moving on. Straight across the river from the memorial is Government HQ. While Old Parliament House resembles something more akin to a traditional White House, imposing and important, the new structure, located further behind it – and is often the subject on postcards – was designed to be more approachable. Originally planned to sit on top of a slope and at the center of Canberra, the architects decided to remove the top dirt and plant the building such that the front looked as if it was protruding out of the slope instead – the result being more bunker than palace. Free tours of the compound are given inside, where you’ll be escorted around to all the important and stately rooms, and the minute details of the interior pointed out to you – down to the significance of the wooden floors. It is truly an interesting short excursion.

3. Lake Burley Griffin, the centerpiece that segregates Canberra into two zones, is a beautiful, family favourite place to meander, take photos, admire the jet fountain, and have a picnic. However, it is also perfect for couples too. Those looking to have a pre-date walk or an after meal arm-in-arm time, will not be disappointed by the short bridge-to-bridge route, as twilight lends it a romantic feel, while darkness gives it a touch of city magic. On the other hand, for persons who like to remain active during the days, bikes can be hired for a small fee, and a cycle around the lake is highly recommended.

If you are the kind of traveller who has become increasingly weary of the rambunctious settings of Sydney and Melbourne, delightful and unique metropolitan cities as they may be, and seek a city where tranquility can be found but without having to sacrifice the eye-opening, life-changing activities that you need in a vacation, then Canberra is the place you should to consider on paying a visit. Most if not all of the Government establishments, from museums, to art galleries, to scenic walks, have zero admission fees, so do take advantage of them when you come over!

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