ACT Destination Guide
If you think the rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne is fierce now, imagine what it would have been like when they were vying for the title of the nation's capital city? Luckily, purpose-built Canberra was introduced to settle the dispute.
Canberra is a town planner's dream come true – an urban centre purposefully designed as the country's powerhouse. Geometrically laid out with circuits, hexagons and highways connecting one side of town to the other, the home of democracy is also a breeze to get around on two wheels. It's not uncommon to see fleets of cyclists pulling up at hole-in-the-wall cafes for their morning coffee, attempting to combat the chilly temperatures that creep in.
When in Canberra, you can't avoid an outing steeped in history or culture. Take your place in the public gallery when parliament is sitting or tour the iconic marble-clad building. Admire artworks honouring those who have shaped the country at the National Portrait Gallery, journey back to the prehistoric at the National Dinosaur Museum, press your own commemorative coin at the Royal Australian Mint and pay your respects at the Australian War Memorial, which also houses an extensive collection of military memorabilia.
If you haven't had your fill of sightseeing, see the city from a boat bobbing on Lake Burley Griffin (named for Canberra's designer) or enjoy 360 degree views from Black Mountain Tower. Contrary to popular belief, there is more to the ACT than Canberra alone. A collection of state forests, nature reserves and national parks lie within the territory's boundaries, making up more than half of its land mass.
Stretching from the ACT through to New South Wales and Victoria are the Snowy Mountains – Australia's winter playground. If you're thinking about visiting Canberra in the cooler months, book a hire car and journey to Thredbo or Perisher Blue where the slopes are waiting to be shredded and the cosy resorts keep the fireplace stoked. While you're in the area, keen hikers can test their limits with an arduous trek to Australia's highest summit, Mount Kosciuszko.
If you prefer to keep both feet on sturdy ground, consider an outing to Canberra's wine country which continues to rake in the accolades. If you appreciate a fine Shiraz, Riesling, Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, visit the Capital Territory's rural countryside where dozens of family-run vineyards offer an intimate experience for wine lovers. Who says there's nothing to do in the ACT?