With a week left in Australia before our flight back to Asia, we decided to rent a car from Sydney and have a whistle stop tour of a few towns and cities we had previously missed along the East Coast. We found the general consensus about Canberra is that there’s not a huge amount there and most people we met gave it a miss, but as we had come literally from the other side of the world we figured we may as well pop our heads in for a couple of days.
Still reeling from the price of the hostel in Sydney over Christmas and New Years, we were after cheap accommodation and our own space. Alex had the bright idea of checking out Canberra Uni Halls, as they had broken up for the Summer and the costs were (relatively) less. Sadly, we weren’t the only ones who thought of this and we were joined in our block by the loudest middle aged Ozzie birds, who clearly thought they had the space to themselves judging by their cackling about “Going to class” and in depth discussion about who from Tinder they were meeting up with that evening.
Desperate to get out of their shag pad (especially if their speaking volume was anything to go by) we made a trip Central to Lucky’s Speakeasy for a drink. Or at least that was the plan, the bar had actually closed for refurb, and the only other place open at the late hour of 9pm was the hotel bar at QT Canberra. Not serving bar food, or any other customers as the bar was completely empty except for us, we made a dinner of Pepsi and peanuts and retreated cautiously back to the halls. Fortunately it appeared that the ladies had as much luck as we had and they reappeared shortly afterwards, a little worse for wear but mercifully alone!
We made an early escape the following morning to avoid any awkward conversations and headed to the Parliamentary Triangle. A couple of things that struck us were that there were hardly any cars around, and we had never seen a capital city so green. During our walking tours in Sydney and Melbourne we were told that there were disagreements about which should be made the Ozzie capital, and in the end the compromise was to make it somewhere else entirely – enter Canberra, which beforehand had been an area of not much consequence. It didn’t quite add up as a capital city, but at least was a refreshing contrast to the blaring horns and shouting revellers of Sydney.
Parking up underneath the Parliamentary building, we got a good look at it from the outside, in all its asymmetric glory. We took the deceptively long walk around Lake Burley Griffin to the National Museum of Australia, accompanied by some lovely Galah and Cockatoos.
After our hobble back to the car (I’ve been incapable of finding shoes in the Southern Hemisphere that actually fit me, either we have different foot bone structures up North or I’m buying shoes so cheap they are destined to be uncomfortable… probably the first one) we headed over to The Hamlet for lunch. We were pleasantly surprised to find signs of life here – this is where everyone was hiding! We had very tasty Peruvian and Greek food, from Mr.Papa and Fillos Souvlaki respectively.
We spent our afternoon wandering round the Australian War Memorial, which was a humbling experience. During history in England you hear about the effects of the World Wars in the U.K., Europe and to a lesser extent America, but I had no idea about the massive devastation in many of the countries across Asia. Within the museum they were detailed frankly and without embellishment, and the monument inside is a simple, respectful tribute to the suffering and sacrifices made by Australian soldiers. It’s an eye opening experience if you are ever in Canberra.
Our final day in Canberra we headed over to the Australian Institute of Sport. Opened in 1981 after a poor Olympic performance, the Institute covers a massive 160 acres with success stories including Lauren Jackson, Patty Mills and Michael Klim (who the Ozzie visitors seemed impressed by, even if we hadn’t heard of them!). They run tours across the day for $19.50, which are conducted by athletes currently training at the AIS, so it’s a great opportunity to get a feel for the inner workings of the Centre, and the drive and dedication it takes to be a top athlete.
We walked through the gym, swimming pool area, gymnastics hall and watched a volleyball training session in action. The athletes were giving it their all and the care and attention put into perfecting one simple movement goes a long way to show why the elite are so successful. It was amazing and inspiring, and made me keen to get home and pick up a hockey stick again! After the tour we were given some time in an interactive room dubbed Sportex, where you could try activities like baseball pitching, rowing and even a skeleton bobsled simulator! The Centre absolutely fascinated me, and again if you are in Canberra I can’t recommend checking it out highly enough.
Overall, while you definitely wouldn’t need more than one or two days there, and we struggled to find much to do of an evening, there were a couple of great gems in Canberra which provide ample reason to at least give Australia’s capital a flying visit.