Exploring Acton a Leafy Suburb of Canberra

On the northwest edge of the city centre, the old, leafy residential area of Turner borders the northern fringes of Acton, a suburb almost entirely consumed by the campus of the Australian National University (ANU). Nestled between Civic and Black Mountain and easily accessible with a rental car, the 150 hectare native landscaped grounds make a great place for a stroll, and for travellers on a budget, the university’s Union offers inexpensive food and entertainment. 

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Soundscreeen Australia

Close by, on the south-eastern edge of the ANU, Soundscreeen Australia (formerly the National Film & Sound Archive) features various displays and interactives, dedicated to the last 100 years of Australia’s film, television, radio, and recorded sound heritage. Housed within a grand old Art Deco building on McCoy Circuit, Soundscreen also hosts numerous film festivals throughout the year.

National museum of Australia

Opened in March 2001, the National Museum of Australia is Canberra’s newest and most exciting attraction, receiving an amazing 100 000 visitors in the first month! Superbly set overlooking the lake on Acton Peninsula (the former Canberra Hospital site), the museum explores the story of Australia and its people, through a multitude of ultra-modern displays and multimedia presentations. Left of the museum’s main entrance, a separate hall is dedicated to temporary exhibitions such as the Gold & Civilisation collection currently being showcased (ends 24thJune 2001). The National Museum is also home to an excellent cafe and restaurant, and apart from the temporary exhibitions, entry is free.

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Botanical Gardens

Behind the university on the gentle foothills of Black Mountain, the Australian National Botanical Gardens is the largest collection of native plant species in the country. Separated into specific groups, the 50 hectare gardens beautifully re-create most of the major eco-systems found in Australia, and exploring them is easy. A variety of walks all start and finish at the pleasant Kookaburra Cafe, and the elevated boardwalk through Rainforest Gully is just one of many highlights. Perched high on the summit of Black Mountain directly above the gardens (you can hike or drive), the 195 metre Telstra Tower is Canberra’s most visible landmark, able to be seen from almost any corner of the city. A short trip up the tower’s elevator provides visitors with unrivalled views in all directions. Vantage points include several viewing platforms and an up-market rotating restaurant.

Welcome to Dickson

Only minutes from the city centre following Northbourne Avenue, the suburb of Dickson has become a thriving restaurant precinct, specialising in a variety of good value Asian cuisine’s. Other quality meals can be found just across the road at the enormous Canberra Trademan’s Union Club on Badham Street. Never closed, this enterprising social club also incorporates the Canberra Bicycle Museum, featuring ten restored trams as well as a large collection of old and unusual bicycles. In the adjacent suburb of Downer, the Downer Club also hosts some unlikely attractions including an Antartic igloo, and the excellent Canberra Space Dome and Observatory.

Further up Northbourne Avenue on Canberra’s northern fringes, the National Motorcycle Museum and Treloar Technology Centre are located in the industrial suburb of Mitchell. The Motorcycle Museum displays an incredible range of over 250 restored bikes, covering many brands, styles and vintages. Just around the corner, Treloar Technology Centre is a private collection of large war relics such as tanks and aircraft.

On the Federal Highway beyond the outskirts of the city, local wine-makers have transformed the surrounding countryside into a small but celebrated wine growing region. Tastings are available, but not all of the vineyards have cellar door operations, so it’s best to tap into a little local knowledge. There are several tour companies which conduct specialised and informative tours throughout the area, or alternatively, pick up the wineries map and brochure at the Canberra Visitors Centre on Northbourne Avenue.

Welcome to Manuka

Canberra has more sunny days than any other capital city in Australia, and this could help explain the local fascination with al-fresco dining. The lovely urban villages of Manuka and Kingston have embraced this concept with gusto, both boasting an disproportionately high number of quality cafes, restaurants, and gourmet delicatessens.

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After a fine meal, interesting shops and trendy boutiques help create a timely diversion from your stomach. Close to the Kingston shops and Canberra’s only train station, the nation’s oldest steam locomotive as well as other engines and carriages are on display at the Canberra Railway Museum. Kingston also gives the easiest access to the Jerrabomberra Wetlands, a nesting ground for water birds on Lake Burley Griffin’s eastern shores.

Further south, the diplomatic precinct of Red Hill is brimming with spectacular consulates, generally reflecting the cultures which they represent. At the summit of Red Hill, there’s an excellent cafe and restaurant in the middle of several lookouts offering superb views over the city.