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Canberra is the Capital of Australia and the seat of the Commonwealth Government. It is located in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and is about 250 Km from Sydney and 650 Km from Melbourne by road and is an interesting destination for tourists. The ACT is surrounded by the state of New South Wales (NSW). It is only a 2 hour drive, to the east, from Canberra to the NSW south coast with its holiday areas and fishing villages. It is also only 3 hours drive, to the south, to the NSW snow fields. The ski season is from mid June to early October.
The ACT has a population of around 350,000, the majority living in Canberra and its suburbs. There are some small regional centres.
There are many national institutions in the ACT including:
The Federal Parliament
The National Library
The National Gallery of Art
The National Film and Sound Archive (formerly ScreenSound Australia)
The National Museum of Australia
The Australian War Memorial (incorporating an extensive museum)
The National Botanic Gardens
The National Science Museum (Questacon) - fun for kids
The National Zoo and Aquarium
The Australian Institute of Sport (which trains elite sports people)
There are also a number of educational institutions including:
Australian National University
University of Canberra
The Australian Defence Force Academy and
Duntroon Military College
The are many private and public primary and secondary education facilities.
The headquarters of most Commonwealth Government Departments are in the ACT.
Canberra consists of 5 distinct residential districts - Civic (the CBD), Belconnen, Woden/Weston Creek, Tuggeranong, and Gungahlin each with its own Town Centre and Shopping district. There is an excellent bus service accessing all residential areas from and via town centres. However, it gets scaled down significantly after-hours and on weekends.
There are a number of large lakes in Canberra each associated with one of the Town Centres. Lake Burley Griffin is the largest and is near Civic and splits Canberra in half. The others are Lake Ginninderra, Lake Tuggeranong, Gungahlin Pond and Yerrabi Pond.
As Canberra is inland and around 600 Metres (2000 feet) above sea level its climate is very wide ranging. Temperatures can be as high as 38C (100F) in summer and as low as minus 5C (20F) in winter. There is no distinct rainy season and rain may fall any time of the year but average rainfall is not high. The area, like a lot of southern and central Australia, has been experiencing a drought for the last 5 years.
Accommodation in Canberra ranges from 5 Star hotel/motel to backpackers. Do check out this site's accommodation reviews first though, as Canberra's hotels can be crappy, overpriced and lacking good service. If you end up in one of them, you may get a wrong impression of the town. There are also a number of Bed and Breakfasts and Caravan Parks.
Access is by air from Sydney and Melbourne. The airport is about 6Km from Civic. A number of interstate coach sevices also service Canberra. There is a rail sevice from Sydney. The road from Sydney is Freeway for the whole journey and an easy 3 to 3 1/2 hour drive. You can also travel by road from Sydney via the NSW south coast. Melbourne is reached via the Barton Hwy and Hume Hwy/Freeway and is about an 8 hour drive. Melbourne can also be reached by a much longer but scenic routes, either via the Snowy Mountains or the NSW South Coast and Gippsland in Victoria. Both these trips would require an overnight stop.
For more information on the surrounding area have a look at the Queanbeyan inside pages.