The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) was born of a dispute between Sydney and Melbourne, each competing to become the capital of the newly independent and federated Australia. Neither could bear for the other to triumph, so when a compromise was reached, a small chunk was carved out of New South Wales’ Limestone Plains 280km southwest of Sydney. This became the site for Canberra, and the country’s smallest self-governing territory.
The city of Canberra is a monument to the young country’s aspirations, its urban landscape expertly designed to show off the nation’s democratic and cultural institutions. The city is an excellent destination for museum addicts, with wonderful fine art and historical collections. Canberra is the nation’s political heart – its restaurants buzz with power-lunchers hammering out strategy, while at the city’s bars political reporters hang about hoping for a bit of gossip or a wine-fuelled indiscretion.
The ACT is known for its liberal politics, becoming the first jurisdiction to vote a woman its head of government and enacting progressive legislation on everything from gay unions and women’s rights to porn and marijuana.
Australia's almost too-tidy capital is cradled by mountain ranges and hills covered in bushland, beyond which are several charming villages and a growing number of cold-climate wineries. Half of the territory is protected as national park or reserve, with plenty to attract hikers, campers and nature-lovers of all kinds.
Best places to stay in Canberra
Australia - Canberra & Around (Chapter)
Canberra is where many of the decisions that shape Australia are made and where many of its major cultural institutions are located. Its museums and galleries are repositories of the artefacts and artworks that have defined Australia’s modern history and character.
Hit Australia's capital highlights: 2 days in Canberra
Some capital cities almost define the country they represent. What would France be without Paris, Italy without its Eternal City or England without London? Canberra, on the other hand, is so obscure many overseas visitors have never heard of it.
Canberra destination guides
What to do in November in Australia
Ah, November, that strange month before the Christmas holiday madness really begins. Before the silly season gets into full swing, here are some quick holiday breaks around the country.
Canberra Day Trip from Sydney
Visit beautiful Canberra on a day trip from Sydney. The nation's capital - a purpose built city, ultra modern, with imposing architecture yet a rural charm of lakeside, gardens and open spaces. Come and discover this hi-tech city - home of superb national monuments, museums and galleries.
Canberra Explorer: Australia's Capital City Tour from Sydney
Enjoy this comprehensive day tour of Canberra, Australian's capital city. Travel south by coach from Sydney through the Goulburn region, one of Australia's premier sheep and wool growing areas, and on to Canberra.
The 6 best cities to get lost in
Put your map away and spin round three times – it's time to get lost. Going off the radar in a strange city can be the perfect way to uncover its secrets, get a feel for the layout and meet the locals. Of course, there's good lost and bad lost.