I must admit, I fell victim to the external perception that Canberra is probably not a great place to live and work. How wrong could I have been?!
I have been pleasantly surprised with just how wonderful this city is from both a living and working perspective. A subtle mix of convenience, interest, comfort and activity, Canberra has much to offer.
Before I explain all the things I love about Canberra, let me set a brief context regarding perspective:
- I currently live in Canberra with my family (wife Katya and two children – both aged below five years old).
- I am here performing a consulting role.
- My family is active, and we enjoy getting out and about, trying new food and getting involved in whatever is going on at the time.
So, what is it that I love about Canberra so much?
It’s super convenient!
This cannot be underrated – Canberra’s well-planned layout makes getting around really easy. Canberra has several “satellite towns” that surround a Central Business District. Woden, Tuggeranong, Belconnen and Gungahlin are all an easy commute to the centre of Canberra, but each has the majority of facilities a family or independent traveler would need. Getting from one satellite town to another rarely takes more than 15-20 minutes. Anywhere in Canberra is accessible within 30 minutes which puts the traffic gridlock of other cities to shame. Pockets of traffic here are limited to short, peak bursts but reflect the norm in other cities. Public transport, comprised of an extensive bus service, is easy and comprehensive.
But that is just the start of it. Convenience is everywhere.
It takes 15 minutes to get from the centre of Canberra to the Airport (which now offers International flights to New Zealand and Singapore). When you get to the airport, it is rare to see a long line at check-in or security. Most times, I have been able to walk through within 5-10 minutes which is excellent.
Going out for dinner is a breeze. Parking is convenient and usually always available. No more parking kilometers away from our favourite restaurants!
Canberra just has a comfortable feel about it.
The facilities are just outstanding!
Underpinning the convenience of Canberra is World-class infrastructure.
Roads – to put it simply – Canberra has nailed its road system.
Health – Each satellite town has its hospital and range of health clinics. On the rare occasion, I have needed to use these facilities, getting an appointment has been easy and wait times have been short.
Schools – The range of public and private schooling of all levels is impressive for a smaller region. From kindergarten through to university, there are multiple options. We are yet to require education services and have heard anecdotally that it can be a little challenging to get a spot, but with the range of options, we are confident that we will get what we need, education-wise.
Child care – Child care is everywhere in Canberra, and I have found it to be super affordable. We had no issues in getting our oldest into child care two days per week and better yet, it is walking distance from our home.
Libraries – Canberra has an excellent range of conveniently located libraries:
ACT Heritage Library
Shopping Centres – shoppers rejoice! Canberra has a range of shopping options and all the great brands are represented. Our personal favourite is Costco for our bulk shopping needs.
Canberra Outlet Centre (formerly DFO), Fyshwick
Erindale Centre, Wanniassa
Kippax Fair, Holt
Majura Park Shopping Centre, Majura Park
Tuggeranong Hyperdome, Greenway
Westfield Belconnen, Belconnen
Westfield Woden (formerly Woden Plaza and Woden Shopping Square), Phillip
An outdoors lifestyle
Canberra is certainly an outdoors city. Wherever you go, you will see people walking, jogging or riding their bikes. The CBD has a range of outdoor eateries, and it is common to see people meeting over coffee or a snack. Parks, bike paths, and lakes are visible all across the city adding to the outdoorsy vibe.
The region has an abundance of National Parks and walking tracks – it is not called the “Bush Capital” for nothing. And within 2 hours, you have access to the beautiful NSW coastline or Australia’s important snowfields region.
Recently, we attended the Canberra Show, and I was a little blown away by the scale of it all. The family had a beautiful day there!
The other thing I have been pleased to notice is just how sports mad Canberrans are. Coming from Melbourne which is basically as sports mad as it gets, Canberra certainly is a sleeper regarding how sports mad they are. Just taking a drive through this city and all you see is Australian Rules Football, Rugby League, Rugby Union, Soccer, and Basketball – everywhere! Sometimes, there seem to be more cyclists on the roads than cars and if you are driving anywhere near Bruce, the suburb not the person, you might just see an Olympian training hard for the next Olympic Games.
Lots of Indoor fun too!
Canberra has plenty to do indoors as well and surprisingly, a lot of it is free. Of course, you have the Old and New Parliaments houses to visit and nearby, the National Museum of Australia is a must see.
But the best piece of advice I received when I arrived in Canberra was to take the kids to Questacon. It’s not free but is a seriously impressive setup. Our first trip there lasted 4 hours and resulted in one exhausted little four-year-old sleeping in the car on the way home (and what a peaceful journey that was!). A family membership was immediately purchased and a rainy day or any signs of crankiness are remedied with a short visit to Questacon!
Sure, Canberra has cold winters, but we have two outstanding indoor swimming facilities within 5 minutes of our home. There is the Canberra International Sports and Aquatic Centre and not far down the road is the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS). We ended up settling on the AIS for swimming lessons for our 4-year-old. What an inspiring place for a little one to learn to swim? Every satellite town has its own swimming complex, and there are much smaller venues located throughout the city.
A list of markets you can visit are:
Farmers and Foodies Market is open every Friday between 3pm – 7pm.
Address:21 Wentworth Ave, Kingston ACT 2604.
City Walk Markets are open Saturdays 10am – 4pm.
Address: Petrie Plaza (between the merry-go-round and London Circuit), Canberra’s CBD.
Old Bus Depot Markets is open every Sunday 10am – 4pm.
Address: 21 Wentworth Ave, Kingston ACT 2604
North Side of Canberra
Capital Region Farmers Market is open Saturdays 7:30am – 11:30am.
Address: Exhibition Park, Corner of Flemington road and Northbourne avenue, Lyneham
South Side of Canberra
Lions Woden Market is open Sunday mornings, 7am – midday.
Address: Carpark between Corinna St and Hindmarsh Drive, Phillip, Woden
Southside Farmers Market is on every Sunday morning 8am – 11:30am.
Address: Canberra College, Corner of Launceston Street and Yamba Drive, Phillip
Tuggeranong Homestead Markets (22km south of CBD)
Address: 51 Johnson Drive, Calwell ACT 2905
Canberra also has some exceptional major events that cater to locals and tourists alike. Some of the more popular events are:
The Canberra Times Good Food Month
Various locations, 0.4km from CBD
1-31 March 2017
Canberra District Wine Harvest Festival
Various venues, 27.0km from CBD
8-9 April 2017
National Folk Festival
Exhibition Park, Canberra 5.6km from CBD
13-17 April 2017
Anzac Day at the Australian War Memorial
Australian War Memorial, 1.8km from CBD
25 April 2017
Canberra Truffle Hunts
The Truffle Farm, 7.5km from CBD
2 June – 27 Aug 2017
The Truffle Festival – Canberra Region
Various Venues, 17.4km from CBD
21 June – 31 Aug 2017
Commonwealth Park, 1.2km from CBD
16 Sept – 15 Oct 2017
I may be a vegetarian but that doesn’t mean that I don’t love my food. My wife may be married to a vegetarian, but that sure doesn’t mean that she gets stuck eating only veggies!
We love getting out and about trying great food. Canberra has plenty of options.
For example, did you know that Canberra is the birthplace of the much copied “Freak Shake”? Did you also know that I have tried more than one of them? And I’m a little addicted? We take all our visitors here. They are all addicted too.
I could reel off a list of outstanding restaurants here in Canberra, but I won’t. Instead, I will tell you my three favourite and secret places to get a bite.
Breakfast – Dobinsons Bakery Cafe. They really know how to cook eggs properly!
117 Bunda Street, Canberra, 2600, ACT, Australia
(02) 6257 5966
Dinner – Burger Hero. These guys do a mean burger, even for a vegetarian for me.
31 Mort St, Braddon ACT
Chong Co Thai . I have never had a bad meal from here. Not once.
I will have missed many of the benefits of Canberra in the article. But rest assured, I will be writing more as we continue to explore. But, in the meantime, I issue you a challenge – come and visit Canberra and prove us wrong!