Australian Travel Directory

Canberra & Suburbs

Canberra (pronounced /ˈkænbᵊrə/, /ˈkænbɛrə/) is the capital city of Australia. With a population of over 345,000, it is Australia's largest inland city and the eighth-largest city overall. The city is located at the northern end of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), 280 km (170 mi) south-west of Sydney, and 660 km (410 mi) north-east of Melbourne. A resident of Canberra is known as a "Canberran".

The site of Canberra was selected for the location of the nation's capital in 1908 as a compromise between rivals Sydney and Melbourne, Australia's two largest cities. It is unusual among Australian cities, being an entirely planned city. Following an international contest for the city's design, a blueprint by the Chicago architects Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin was selected and construction commenced in 1913. The Griffins' plan featured geometric motifs such as circles, hexagons and triangles, and was centred on axes aligned with significant topographical landmarks in the Australian Capital Territory. 

The city's design was heavily influenced by the garden city movement and incorporates significant areas of natural vegetation that have earned Canberra the title of the "bush capital". The growth and development of Canberra were hindered by the World Wars and the Great Depression, which exacerbated a series of planning disputes and the ineffectiveness of a sequence of bodies that were to oversee the development of the city. The national capital emerged as a thriving city after World War II, as Prime Minister Robert Menzies championed its development and the National Capital Development Commission was formed with executive powers. Although the Australian Capital Territory is now self-governing, the federal government retains some influence through the National Capital Authority.

As the seat of the government of Australia, Canberra is the site of Parliament House, the High Court and numerous government departments and agencies. It is also the location of many social and cultural institutions of national significance, such as the Australian War Memorial, Australian National University, Australian Institute of Sport, National Gallery, National Museum and the National Library. The Australian Army's officer corps are trained at the Royal Military College, Duntroon and the Australian Defence Force Academy is also located in the capital. 

As the city has a high proportion of public servants, the federal government contributes the largest percentage of Gross State Product and is the largest single employer in Canberra. As the seat of government, the unemployment rate is lower and the average income higher than the national average, while property prices are relatively high, in part due to comparatively restricted development regulations. Tertiary education levels are higher, while the population is younger.


Before European settlement, the area in which Canberra would eventually be constructed was seasonally inhabited by Indigenous Australians. Anthropologist Norman Tindale suggested the principal group occupying the region were the Ngunnawal people, while the Ngarigo lived immediately to the south of the ACT, The Wandandian to the east, the Walgulu also to the south, Gandangara people to the north, and Wiradjuri to the north west. Archaeological evidence of settlement in the region includes inhabited rock shelters, rock paintings and engravings, burial places, camps and quarry sites, and stone tools and arrangements. The evidence suggests human habitation in the area for at least 21,000 years.

Blundells' Cottage, built around 1860, is one of the few remaining buildings built by the first European settlers of Canberra. The word "Canberra" is derived from the word Kambera or Canberry meaning "meeting place" in the old Ngunnawal language of the local Ngabri people. Alternatively the name was reported to mean "woman's breasts", by journalist John Gale in the 1860s, referring to the mountains of Mount Ainslie and Black Mountain.[8] The Ngunnawal name was apparently used as a reference to corroborees held during the seasonal migration of the Ngunnawal people to feast on the Bogong moths that pass through the region each spring. European exploration and settlement started in the Canberra area as early as the 1820s. There were four expeditions between 1820 and 1824. White settlement of the area probably dates from 1824, when a homestead or station was built on what is now the Acton peninsula by stockmen employed by Joshua John Moore. He formally purchased the site in 1826, and named the property "Canberry".

The European population in the Canberra area continued to grow slowly throughout the 19th century. Among them was the Campbell family of "Duntroon"; their imposing stone house is now the officers' mess of the Royal Military College, Duntroon. The Campbells sponsored settlement by other farmer families to work their land, such as the Southwells of "Weetangera". Other notable early settlers included the inter-related Murray and Gibbes families, who owned the Yarralumla estate—now the site of the official residence of the Governor-General of Australia—from the 1830s through to 1881.

The oldest surviving public building in the inner-city is the Anglican Church of St John the Baptist, in the suburb of Reid, which was consecrated in 1845. St John's churchyard contains the earliest graves in the district. As the European presence increased, the indigenous population dwindled, mainly from disease such as smallpox and measles.

The district's change from a New South Wales (NSW) rural area to the national capital started during debates over Federation in the late 19th century. Following a long dispute over whether Sydney or Melbourne should be the national capital, a compromise was reached: the new capital would be built in New South Wales, so long as it was at least 100 miles (160 km) from Sydney, with Melbourne to be the temporary seat of government (but not referred to as the "capital") while the new capital was built.

20th century

Newspaper proprietor John Gale circulated a pamphlet titled 'Dalgety or Canberra: Which?' advocating Canberra to every member of the Commonwealth's seven States Parliaments. By many accounts, it was decisive in the selection of Canberra as the site in 1908, as was a result of survey work done by the government surveyor Charles Scrivener. The NSW government ceded the Federal Capital Territory (as it was then known) to the federal government. In an international design competition conducted by the Department of Home Affairs, on 24 May 1911, the design by Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin was chosen for the city, and in 1913 Griffin was appointed Federal Capital Director of Design and Construction and construction began.

On 12 March 1913, the city was officially given its name by Lady Denman, the wife of Governor-General Lord Denman, at a ceremony at Kurrajong Hill, which has since become Capital Hill and the site of the present Parliament House. Canberra Day is a public holiday observed in the ACT on the second Monday in March to celebrate the founding of Canberra. After the ceremony, bureaucratic disputes hindered Griffin's work; a Royal Commission in 1916 ruled his authority had been usurped by certain officials. Griffin's relationship with the Australian authorities was strained and a lack of funding meant that by the time he was fired in 1920, little work had been done. By this time, Griffin had revised his plan, overseen the earthworks of major avenues, and established the Glenloch Cork Plantation.

The federal legislature moved to Canberra on 9 May 1927, with the opening of the Provisional Parliament House. The Prime Minister, Stanley Bruce, had officially taken up residence in The Lodge a few days earlier. Planned development of the city slowed significantly during the depression of the 1930s and during World War II. Some projects planned for that time, including Roman Catholic and Anglican cathedrals, were never completed.

Two of Canberra's best-known landmarks, Parliament House and Old Parliament House (foreground). Commonwealth Place runs alongside the lake and includes the International Flag Display. Questacon is on the right.From 1920 to 1957, three bodies, successively the Federal Capital Advisory Committee, the Federal Capital Commission, and the National Capital Planning and Development Committee continued to plan the further expansion of Canberra in the absence of Griffin; however, they were only advisory, and development decisions were made without consulting them, increasing inefficiency.

Immediately after the end of the war, Canberra was criticised for resembling a village, and its disorganised collection of buildings was deemed ugly. Canberra was often derisively described as "several suburbs in search of a city". Prime Minister Robert Menzies regarded the state of the national capital as an embarrassment. Over time his attitude changed from one of contempt to that of championing its development. He fired two ministers charged with the development of the city for poor performance. He ruled for over a decade and in that time the development of the capital sped up rapidly. The population grew by more than 50% in every five-year period from 1955 to 1975. Several Government departments, together with public servants, were moved to Canberra from Melbourne following the war. Government housing projects were undertaken to accommodate the city's growing population.

Most of rapid expansion was achieved after the National Capital Development Commission (NCDC) was formed in 1957 with executive powers, replacing its ineffective advisory predecessors. The NCDC ended four decades of disputes over the shape and design of Lake Burley Griffin—the centrepiece of Griffin's design—and construction was completed in 1964 after four years of work. The completion of the lake finally laid the platform for the development of Griffin's Parliamentary Triangle. Since the initial construction of the lake, various buildings of national importance have been constructed on its shores.

The newly-built Australian National University was expanded, and sculptures and monuments were built. A new National Library was constructed within the Parliamentary Triangle, followed by the High Court and the National Gallery. Suburbs in Canberra Central (often referred to as North Canberra and South Canberra) were further developed in the 1950s, and urban development in the districts of Woden Valley and Belconnen commenced in the mid and late 1960s respectively. Many of the new suburbs were named after Australian politicians, such as Barton, Deakin, Reid, Braddon, Curtin, Chifley and Parkes.

On 27 January 1972 the Aboriginal Tent Embassy was first established on the grounds of Parliament House; it was created to draw attention to indigenous rights and land issues and has been continuously occupied since 1992. On 9 May 1988, a larger and permanent Parliament House was opened on Capital Hill as part of Australia's bicentenary celebrations, and the Federal Parliament moved there from the Provisional Parliament House, now known as Old Parliament House.

In December 1988, the ACT was granted full self-government through an Act of the Commonwealth Parliament. Following the first election on 4 March 1989, a 17-member Legislative Assembly sat at temporary offices at 1 Constitution Avenue, Civic,[69] on 11 May 1989. Permanent premises were opened on London Circuit in 1994. The Australian Labor Party formed the ACT's first government, led by the Chief Minister Rosemary Follett, who made history as Australia's first female head of government. On 18 January 2003, parts of Canberra were engulfed by bushfires that killed four people, injured 435, and destroyed 487 homes and the major research telescopes of Australian National University's Mount Stromlo Observatory.

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Use this URL to find Postcodes

ACTON  2601

National Museum of Australia
Lawson Crescent Acton Peninsula
open daily 9 AM to 5 PM
02 6208 5000

National Film and Sound Archive
McCoy Circuit
open 9 AM to 5 PM weekdays
10 AM to 5 PM weekends/public holidays
1800 067274

Australian National Botanic Gardens
open 8:30 AM to 5 PM
Clunies Ross St
02 6250 9450

CSIRO Discovery
Clunies Ross St
open Monday to Friday 9 AM to 5 PM
closed Saturday
Sunday 11 AM to 3 PM
02 6246 4646

Lake Burley Griffin Boat Hire and Mrs Spokes Bike Hire
Acton Ferry Terminal

Black Mountain Tower
Black Mountain Drive
admission charge

Alto Tower
Black Mountain drive
revolving restaurant with stunning views of Canberra


Mount Ainslie
from here you get a magnificent perspective of how architect Walter Burley Griffin's plan for Canberra has come to life through the buildings and monuments
Mount Ainslie Dr

Best Western Tall Trees Motel
21 Stephen St
02 6247 9200

AMAROO  2914
ARANDA  2614
BANKS  2906
BARTON  2600

The Brassey of Canberra
Belmore Gardens
02 6270 3766


Belconnen Premier Inn
110 Benjamin Way
02 6253 3633

Belconnen Way Motel and Serviced Apartments
corner of Belconnen Way and Springvale drive
1800 559944


CSIRO Discovery
North science Road off Clunies Ross St
9 AM to 5 PM Monday to Friday
11 AM to 3 PM Sunday
02 6246 4646
charges apply

Australian National Botanic Gardens
open 8:30 AM to 5 PM daily
Clunies Ross St
02 6250 9540


Gorman House Markets
every Saturday
Ainslie Avenue

Canberra Contemporary Art Space
Gorman House, Ainslie Avenue
open Tuesday to Friday 11 AM to 5 PM, Saturday 11 AM to 4 PM
02 6247 0188

BRUCE  2617

Australian Institute of Sport
athlete guided tours take 90 minutes and depart daily at 10 AM 11:30 AM 1 PM and 2:30 PM. Costs apply.
Leverrier Crescent
02 6214 1010


The Australian War Memorial
open daily 10 AM to 5 PM except Christmas Day
Treloar Crescent
02 6243 4211


Canberra Visitors Centre
330 Northbourne Avenue Canberra
02 6205 0044


Lake Burley Griffin

Parliament House
Capital Hill
open daily 9 AM to 5 PM
02 6277 5399

National Museum of Australia
open 9 AM to 5 PM daily except Christmas Day
Lawson Crescent Acton Peninsula
1800 026132

Canberra Museum and Gallery
corner of London circuit and Civic Square
open 10 AM to 5 PM Tuesday to Friday
midday to 4 PM week ends
02 6207 3968

The National Science and Technology Centre
open 9 AM to 5 PM
closed Christmas Day
admission fees apply
King Edward Terrace
02 6270 2800

Casino Canberra
21 Binara Street
open daily from 12 PM
02 6257 7074

King O'Malley's Irish Pub
131 CityWalk
02 6257 0111

Capital Region Farmers Market
Saturday morning 8 AM to 11 AM
exhibition Park

Lake Burley Griffin Cruises
0419 418846

Explorer Bus

Hire a Guide
02 6288 7894

Row ‘n’ Ride Canoe and Bike
02 6228 1264

Civic Merry-Go-Round
City Walk and Petrie Plaza


Canberra City YHA
7 Akuna Street
02 6248 9155

Mantra on Northbourne
84 Northbourne Avenue
02 6243 2500

Capital Executive Apartments
108 Northbourne Avenue
02 6243 8333

Crowne Plaza
1 Binara Street
02 6247 8999

Diamant Hotel
15 Edinburgh Avenue
02 6175 2222

Novotel Canberra
65 Northbourne Avenue
02 6245 5000

Waldorf Apartment Hotel
2 Akuna Street
02 6229 1234

CITY  2601
CONDER  2906
COOK  2614
CURTIN  2605

Birch Corner B&B
31 Parker St
02 6281 4421

DEAKIN  2600

Royal Australian Mint
Denison St
open 9 AM to 4 PM Monday to Friday
10 AM to 4 PM weekends and public holidays
closed Christmas Day and Good Friday
1300 554114

Beaver Galleries
81 Denison Street
open daily 10 AM to 5 PM
02 6282 5294


ANCA Gallery
1 Rosevear Place
open Wednesday to Sunday 12 PM to 5 PM
02 6247 8736

Canberra Space Dome and Observatory
open Tuesday to Saturday evenings
Hawdon place
02 6248 5333


Pavilion on Northbourne
242 Northbourne Avenue
02 6247 6888

Quality Hotel Dickson
corner of Badham and Cape streets
02 6247 4744

Best Western Parklands Apartment Hotel
6 Hawdon place
02 6262 7000

DOWNER  2602
DUFFY  2611

Stromlo Luxury Villa B&B
10 Dolly McGrath St
0433 982938

DUNLOP  2615

Mount Pleasant Lookout
Morshead drive
overseeing Lake Burley Griffin and Jerrabomberra wetlands

EVATT  2617
FADDEN  2904
FARRER  2607
FISHER  2611
FLOREY  2615
FLYNN  2615

Forrest Hotel and Apartments
30 National Circuit
02 6203 4300

FRASER  2615

Jerrabomberra Wetlands
off Dairy Flat Road
02 6207 2087

GARRAN  2605
GORDON  2906
GOWRIE  2904
Diplomat Hotel
corner of Canberra Avenue and Hely Street
02 6295 2277

HALL  2618

Hall Markets
first Sunday of every month except January
Hall Showground

Redbrow Garden B&B
1143 Nanima Rd
02 6226 8166

HARMAN  2600
HAWKER  2614
HOLDER  2611
HOLT  2615
HUGHES  2605
HUME  2620
ISAACS  2607
KALEEN  2617
KAMBAH  2902

Edwil House
6 Rudder Pl
02 6231 4001


Blundell's Cottage
Wendouree Drive
fees apply
02 6257 1068


Old Bus Depot Markets
open 10 AM to 4 PM Sundays
21 Wentworth Avenue
02 6292 8391

Canberra Glassworks
open 10 AM to 4 PM Wednesday to Sunday
11 Wentworth Avenue
02 6260 7005


Clifton Suites on Northbourne
100 Northbourne Avenue
02 6262 6266

Oxley Court Serviced Apartments
corner of Oxley and Dawes Streets
02 6295 6216

Canberra Serviced Apartments
4 Tench Street and 16 Eyre Street
1800 655754

KIPPAX  2615
LATHAM  2615
LAWSON  2617

Kamberra Wine Company
Corner of Northbourne Avenue and Flemington Road
02 6262 2333

LYONS  2606

Grevillea Lodge
1 Florey Drive
02 6161 7646

MAJURA  2609

Mount Majura Vineyard
open 10 AM to 5 PM Thursday to Monday
RMB 314 Majura Road
02 6262 3070

MANUKA  2603

Manuka Park Serviced Apartments
corner of Manuka Circle and Oxley Street
02 6239 0000

MAWSON  2607
MELBA  2615
MONASH  2904

Hotel Heritage
203 Goyder Street
02 6295 2944

Narrabundah B&B
5 Mosman Pl
02 6295 2837



Cockington Green Gardens
open seven days 9 AM to 5 PM
internationally renowned display of miniature buildings and gardens from around the world
off the Barton Highway Gold Creek Road
02 6230 2273

The National Dinosaur Museum
corner of Gold Creek Road and Barton Highway
on Saturday to Thursday 10 AM to 5 PM

Canberra Walk-In Aviary
Federation Square Gold Creek Village O'Hanlon place
admission charge

The Australian Reptile Centre
open 10 a.m. to 5 PM daily

Aarwun Gallery
open daily 10 AM to 5 PM
02 6230 2055

Aboriginal Dreamings Gallery
19 O'Hanlon Place
by appointment
02 6230 2922

O'CONNOR  2602
O'MALLEY  2606
OXLEY  2903
PAGE  2614
PARKES  2600

National Gallery of Australia
open 10 AM to 5 PM daily except Christmas Day
Parkes Place
02 2640 6502

Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House
King George Terrace
open 9 AM to 5 PM daily
02 6270 8222

National Archives of Australia
Queen Victoria Terrace
open 9 AM to 5 PM daily
02 6212 3600

National Capital Exhibition
Regatta Point
open Monday to Friday 9 AM to 5 PM
Saturday and Sunday 10 AM to 4 PM
close to public holidays except Australia Day
02 6257 1068

High Court of Australia
Parkes Place
open Monday to Friday 9:45 AM to 4:30 PM
02 6270 6811

National Library of Australia
Parkes place
open daily 9 AM to 5 PM
02 6262 1111

National Portrait Gallery
King Edward Terrace
open daily 10 AM to 5 PM
02 6270 8236

Questacon -The National Science and Technology Centre
King Edward Terrace
open daily 9 AM to 5 PM
02 6270 2800

Old Parliament house gardens and the National Rose Gardens
King George Terrace

PEARCE  2607

Pialligo Estate Wines

RED HILL  2603

Calthorpe's House
24 Mugga Way
open 1 PM to 4 PM weekends
02 6295 1945

Red Hill Lookout
Redhill Drive

REID  2612
RIVETT  2611
SPENCE  2615
THARWA  2620

Lanyon Homestead
one of Australia's premier historic homesteads
open 10 AM to 4 PM Tuesday to Sunday
Tharwa Drive
02 6235 5677


The Sanctuary at Tidbinbilla
Paddys River Road
open 9 AM to 4:30 PM in the winter and 9 AM to 5 PM in the summer
admission charge
02 6205 1233

Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex
Discovery Drive
open 9 AM to 5 PM daily
admission free
02 6201 7880

TURNER  2612
WATSON  2602

Canberra Carotel
corner of Aspinall and Zelling streets
02 6241 1377

WESTON  2611
WODEN  2606

Southern Cross Club
92-96 Corrina St
open daily 9 AM to 4 PM
02 6283 7200


National Zoo and Aquarium
open 10 AM to 5 PM every day except Christmas Day
Scrivner Dam Lady Denman drive
02 6287 8400

Lennox Gardens
Flynn drive

Hyatt Hotel
Commonwealth Avenue
02 6270 1234