Canberra is located geographically within the state of New South Wales, but is a separate territory called the Australian Capital Territory or ACT. It is about 200 miles southwest of Sydney and is the capital of Australia.
The name Canberra comes from an aboriginal word meaning “meeting place”. This site was chosen in 1908 after the Sydney/Melbourne rivalry for being Australia’s capital resulted in a stalemate.
The city is small compared to Sydney and Melbourne with a population of only 500,000. It is considered by some as a colonial outpost without all the trappings of the cosmopolitan atmosphere of its larger rivals. However, for a visitor such as ourselves, we found it to be an extraordinary city, unique in its design and beauty and well worth the three days we spent there.
The city was built as a totally new and planned city. In 1913, an American architect and his wife, Walter and Marion Burley Griffin, won the international competition to design and build the city. Second place went to an architect from Finland and third to one from France. The original designs submitted by these three architects are on display at the reception in the Park Hyatt Hotel.
PARK HYATT CANBERRA
The best to stay in Canberra is the Park Hyatt hotel. It is the only five star hotel in town and within reasonable walking distance to all the major sites. In addition, its historical significance in the development of the city is quite remarkable.
The Hotel Canberra, also known as Hyatt Hotel Canberra is near Lake Burley Griffin and both the old and new Houses of Parliament. It was built to house politicians when the Federal Parliament moved to Canberra.
When James Scullin became Prime Minister in 1929, he refused to live in The Lodge, the official residence of the Prime Minister. So he and his wife lived at the Hotel Canberra during parliamentary sessions.
The reason we include the reference to James Scullin is because we had the privilege of staying in the James Scullin Suite. Suite is a bit of a misnomer, as it was an actual fullsize large, beautifully decorated apartment.
A project was begun in 1982 to restore and extend the hotel to its former glory. After several years of troubles with the backers, Hyatt Hotels re-opened Hotel Canberra in 1988 as the new "Hyatt Hotel Canberra", the only international five star hotel in Canberra.
Luis Gomez, Front Office Manager, along with the hotel staff, was very helpful in making our stay at the Park Hyatt Canberra a most enjoyable one.
NEW PARLIAMENT HOUSE
The first place we wanted to visit in Canberra was the new Parliament House due to its extraordinary and unique design. The principal design of the structure is based on the shape of two boomerangs and is topped by an 81-metre flagpole. At the time of the construction during the 1980s, it was the most expensive building in the world costing more than $1.1 billion. It was built on one of the highest points in Canberra with much of it being built into the hill.
The Commonwealth coat of arms above the entrance features an emu and kangaroo in the skeleton-like style of Aboriginal rock paintings.
The interior features exquisite turquoise and peach colored marble.
The Senate and House of Representatives are in the British traditional red and green colors, but contemporized with a pale shade of red and green.
The position and design of not only the new Parliament House, but of other government buildings and museums allows for a clear view to the Australian War Memorial.
OLD PARLIAMENT HOUSE
This was the first parliamentary building in the new capital built in 1927. It is now open to the public as a museum.
Our walking tour provided many interesting and beautiful sites.
Lake Burley Griffin – the center of the city around which are all the important buildings and sites.
The High Court of Australia – equivalent to the U.S. Supreme Court
Canberra is home to nearly 100 embassies and high commissions. Here are just two of them - the British High Commission and the Chinese Embassy.
AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL MUSEUM
As remarkable as is the Australian War Memorial Museum, the one mile boulevard, Anzac Parade, is just as remarkable and worth the extra time it takes to stop and enjoy each one of the war memorials.
The word “Anzac” is an acronym for "Australian and New Zealand Army Corps". Each of the memorials on Anza Parade commemorates a different war or division of the military.
The Australian War Memorial Museum takes your breath away with its majesty, history and beauty.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The Victoria Cross and other award medals
The Role of Honor walls
Views from the memorial to the old and new Houses of Parliament
Harman thanking and honoring a highly decorated veteran for his service
A precious souvenir from this very special place
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AUSTRALIA
If you were to visit only one museum in all of Australia, this is the one to visit. Not only is it an architectural landmark with its unique design inspired by the idea of a jigsaw puzzle, it has the largest permanent exhibition that relates the stories and experiences of the Australian aborigines. In addition, it shows and tells how the country developed from its early beginnings to the present day.
One of our objectives on this trip was to get up close and personal with some kangaroos. We were able to achieve our objective on a drive through nearby Sterling Park.
SEPTEMBER 11TH COMMEMORATION
Although we were in Melbourne on September 11th, we saw the commemoration being held in Canberra on the television and took some pictures which we include here. The ceremony took place on the shore of Lake Burley Griffin right at the spot where we had been only a few days prior. The photos are of the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and other dignitaries.