Canberra: Home To The Australian Story

The National Library during Canberra's Balloon Spectacular. Photo: Visit Canberra.
The National Library during Canberra’s Balloon Spectacular. Photo: Visit Canberra.

Nowhere is Australia’s journey as a nation better reflected than it is in the National Capital. A number of organisations and institutions within easy distance of each other capture the Australian story from very different angles. Whether it be our sporting obsession, our military history, our entertainment industry, our cultural diversity or our mix of people and characters, Canberra offers a complete picture of what that story is all about. Find out how the national character evolved and what it means to be Australian.

Aussie athletes and a snapshot of culture

Start on the northern side of Canberra in the suburb of Bruce not far from Civic, the main town centre. Here, next to the Canberra Stadium, home of the Rugby League’s Canberra Raiders and Rugby Union’s Brumbies, you’ll find the Australian Institute of Sport, home to many of our current top athletes as well as those in the making. There’s something here for everyone, whether it’s the shop, the café, the sporting facilities or just eyeing off the very fit looking people wandering around.

Heading back towards Civic it’s only a few minutes by car to the National Museum of Australia. Canberra might not have the sea but it has great water views over the lake especially from the deck of the museum café. As a snapshot of Aussie culture, the museum tells the stories of ordinary and extraordinary Australians, and explores issues and events that have helped shaped the nation. Open every day from 9 to 5, you could easily spend the whole day here.

The Australian War Memorial: one of Canberra's most iconic sites.
The Australian War Memorial: one of Canberra’s most iconic sites.

Audiovisual heritage, national archives and portraits

If you love cinema and especially Australian cinema, there is a little piece of heaven awaiting just up the road at the National Film and Sound Archive. Located in the grounds of the Australian National University, near the Shine Dome and just across from the New Acton dining precinct, it’s a living archive of Australia’s rich audiovisual heritage, containing more than 2 million items from film, television, radio and recording.

Leaving Civic, travel over the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge just across the lake to the parliamentary precinct. Here, up behind the Old Parliament House you’ll find the National Archives of Australia containing the records, both public and personal, of Australia as a nation. The exhibitions here are unusual and intriguing, and here’s a chance to find out more about your own family.

From here you can walk down to the National Portrait Gallery through the beautiful Old Parliament House rose gardens. But, take a slight detour to the lake, through Reconciliation Place, past the National Flags Display and check out the Australian of the Year Walk along the water’s edge. Then double back to the Portrait Gallery, first proposed by Tom Roberts back in the early 1900s, but not a reality till 2008. Here you can gain a greater appreciation of Australians – their identity, history, culture, creativity and diversity – through portraiture. Open every day from 10 to 5, there’s also a great café and a not-to-miss book and gift shop.

Poppies for remembrance at the Australian War Memorial. Photo: Visit Canberra.
Poppies for remembrance at the Australian War Memorial. Photo: Visit Canberra.

Australian War Memorial

From here it’s only about 10 minutes across the lake, this time over the Kings Avenue Bridge to the Australian War Memorial, one of the most iconic and popular sites in Canberra. The memorial commemorates Australians who have served and those who have given their lives in all the conflicts in which the country has been involved. End your day here but be ready for a surge of emotion as the bugler plays the Last Post.

More Canberra Itineraries

Canberra Feast of Festivals … Join the year-round fun
Canberra for Culture Vultures … Home to Australia’s main museums and galleries
Canberra’s Art, Design and Craft … Watch artists in action
Canberra for Families … There’s no such thing as being bored with these top things to see and do
Canberra’s Family Dining Scene … Top choices for hungry appetites
Canberra’s Indoor Family Activities … Young imaginations run free
Canberra’s Outdoor Family Adventures … Recreational paradise for big and little kids alike

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