17 May 2018
On our last full day in Canberra, we decided to travel like locals and rented bicycles. We peddled 25 km on the paved trails around Lake Burley Griffin. The bike paths are a great way to see the city. We did not rent a car so they gave us a fun way to expand our travel limits. Along the way we found several spots we wish we could have spent more time.
Canberra might be less exciting than larger Australian cities, however it also has less traffic, crime and unemployment. It might not make the top ten places to holiday but it seems like a great place to work and raise a family. In those ways it reminded me of our home town of Raleigh, North Carolina.
Australian-American “The Eagle” War Memorial (top left), National Carillon (top right), Beijing Garden (middle right), and Bike Trails (bottom left and right)
16 May 2018
For a small city Canberra has alot to offer, and much of it is free! In addition to Parliament House, Museum of Australian Democracy, and Australian War Memorial we also visited some of the city’s other attractions.
The Royal Australian Mint was interesting for the whole family. The guided tour was only 30 minutes but we spent another hour taking in the exhibits.
Australian National Botanical Gardens are at the foot of Black Mountain and the Telstra Tower. The gardens are nice but fall short of the botanical gardens we experienced in the larger cities. To be fair we visited in late Autumn, not exactly the best time of year to visit them.
National Museum of Australia is housed in a large sprawling modern building with a diverse range of exhibits. Throughout our travels across Australia we have been fortunate to visit most of the country’s major museums. The NMA sits on a prime piece of real estate and the building is architecturally daring however I think it failed to reach its potential. The collection has some interesting exhibits but much of it seems thrown together, loosely tied together with themes lacking definition. There are fantastic museums in Australia, this is not one.
We only had time to spend at one of the art museums. We chose the National Gallery of Australia over the National Portrait Gallery. The museum is a good mix of modern and classic art that had something for everyone in the family.
Royal Australian Mint
Australian National Botanical Gardens and Lakeside Walk
National Museum of Australia
National Gallery of Australia
15 May 2018
The Australian War Memorial is an impressive monument to service and museum of military history. We planned to spend a couple hours and ended up spending most of the day.
We started the day by taking a cab to Mount Ainslie Lookout – the best place to get a vew of the city – and hiked down the Summit Trail to the War Memorial. After a day at the memorial we walked down ANZAC Parade to see the various memorials along the way.
View from Mount Ainslie Lookout
Australian War Memorial
Wall of Honor
ANZAC Parade and Memorials
14 May 2018
Parliament House, completed in 1988, is the center of national government. It was designed by the Philadelphia architectural firm Mitchell/Giurgola whom also designed the Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center in Kill Devil Hills and Davis Library at UNC near our home in Raleigh, North Carolina. The shape was based on two opposing boomerangs. Instead of sitting it on Capitol Hill above the surrounding structures, the design buried most of the structure below grade allowing the public to enjoy the green space above. The concept was to put the people above the politicians instead of the other way around.
Parliament House is open to the public. We were lucky the Senate and House were not sitting the day of our visit so we had access to both chambers.
The Old Paliament House (1927-1988) was intended to be temporary until a suitable capitol building could be constructed. Sixty-one years later the original building transitioned into the Museum of Australian Democracy. We enjoyed seeing the Old Parliament House however the highlight was a gallery of 2017’s best political cartoons.
Old Parliament House, Museum of Australian Democracy
13 – 18 May 2018
Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory is the capital of Australia and next stop in our travels across the country. Similar in arrangement as Washington in the District of Columbia, the ACT is an independent territory surrounded by the state of New South Wales. The capital city has grown to about 396,000 residents making it Australia’s 7th largest. Since planning this trip we were surprised how many Aussies had a negative opinion of their capital. Most cited it as being unexciting and filled with no good politicians. When researching places to live before moving down under, Canberra rose to the top as a safe place with a strong economy and short commutes – perfect for a family like ours.
The Commonwealth of Australia gained it’s independence in 1901 with a peaceful separation from the United Kingdom. The site of Australia’s capital city was a comprimise, located between rival cities of Sydney and Melbourne. Canberra was named for the area it was built, orignally called Canberry. Other suggested names included Paradise, Captain Cook, and my favorite – a combination of kangaroo and emu – Kangaremu.
Canberra was developed during WWI and the Great Depression so initial progress was slow. The city was planned by Chicago architect Walter Burley Griffin and his wife Marion Mohoney Griffin. Walter Griffin worked under famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright and later became one of his professional rivals. He resigned from the Canberra project before the inital work was complete due to strife with appointed government officials – almost an identical story as the design and construction of Sydney’s Opera House. Much later the lake in the heart of the city was named Lake Burley Griffin in his honor.
After all the negative impressions we given of the capital city, we have another suggested name, Under-Rated. Here are a few pictures from our first few days with more posts to follow.
View from Mount Ainslie Lookout
National Carillon on Lake Burley Griffin
Autumn along the Lake
27 – 28 April 2018
The perfect way to end our trip to the Blue Mountains was a day in Sydney. We had such a good time here over the holidays, we were excited to visit again. Sydney is a great city. We enjoyed walking through Circular Quay, Darling Harbour, Hyde Park and the CBD. Lunch outside the Opera House highlighted a our brief return.
25 April 2018
In our effort to absorb Aussie sport my son and I were immediately interested in Supercars, Australia’s premier auto racing series. Having come from North Carolina, the birthplace of NASCAR, stock car racing is one of our favorite sports. It did not take long for us to hear about Mount Panorama at Bathurst and Peter Brock, the “King of the Mountain”. Peter Brock is Australia’s Richard Petty and Bathurst is their Daytona.
Bathurst is about an hour and a half west of Katoomba. Unlike the Blue Mountains, Bathurst sits in the lowlands area on the other side of the Great Dividing Range. We did not have high expectations and somewhat to our surprise, found a charming small town. It is the home of the National Motor Racing Museum and the most prestigious race, Mount Panorama.
Bathhurst’s big surprise however was Mount Panorama itself – you can drive the course! The four mile racing circuit, complete with starting grid and concrete barriers, is a permanent “scenic road” with residential properties inside and out. There is something sureal about seeing someone’s driveway entrance with crash barriers on either side. The speed limit is posted at 60 km/hr and the local police patrol it regularly so we couldn’t put our rental car through its paces but it was still a blast to drive it a few times. A visit to Bathurst is great fun for any race fan.