Destinations Feature

Canberra – Exploring Australia’s Capital City

Canberra - Old Parliament House

Canberra was the primary destination of my recent road trip with two friends. We spent four days driving south from Brisbane to reach Canberra. With a further three days scheduled for the return to Brisbane. I covered the southbound trip recently in a post here.

Canberra was the city that we spent the most time in, and yet we would only be here for less than 48 hours. However, we were not going to let a lack of time impact the amount that we could see while in Canberra. Except for one place, we had no real plan and just filled in the gaps.

  • Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex
  • Mount Stromlo Observatory
  • Telstra Tower
  • Old Parliament House
  • New Parliament House
  • National Dinosaur Museum

We wasted a rather minimal amount of time in Canberra itself, maximising what we were able to see. But at the same time, there is so much that we did not have time to visit. So I am now kind of wanting to take another trip to take a little more comprehensive look at the city.

Morning Walk

The first morning in Canberra was no different to other mornings on the trip. I was awake early and headed out for a walk to see what was around and also visit a coffee shop or two. Luckily I found a couple of good coffee shops because the location of the hotel was more in the suburbs, so not much to see.

The coffee shops I found were both actually coffee roasters, with their own choices of coffee. I often discover some of the best coffee at coffee roasters, and these two were no exception.

Canberra - Penny University Coffee RoastersPenny University Coffee Roasters

Canberra - Highgate Lane Coffee RoastersHighgate Lane Coffee Roasters

If you are in Canberra nearby to the area of Kingston, I would recommend both for a good coffee. But my enjoyment of the coffee soon came to an end, with my friends ready to see some sights.

Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex

The Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex is one of three sites funded by NASA as part of the NASA Deep Space Network. The site was opened in 1965 in Tidbinbilla around 20km from Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory. Even though NASA is the body that funds the operation of the facility is it CSIRO who operates the site on their behalf.

The site is home to eight different Antenna, of which four are currently active. While most of the site is physically off limits, there is an excellent visitors centre, with a lot of information. However, you do have a full or partial view of most of the Antenna.

Canberra Deep Space Communication ComplexThe view of the Deep Space Communication Complex on approach.

The largest of the antenna on the site is named Deep Space Station 43 (DSS-43). At 70m diameter DSS-43 is the largest steerable parabolic antenna in the Southern Hemisphere. Weighing in at over 3,000 tonnes and with a total surface area of 4,180 square metres.

Canberra - Deep Space Station 43 (DSS43)Deep Space Station 43

The visitor’s centre at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex has an extensive display. Including many different historical pieces and informative presentations about space travel, exploring Mars and satellites.

Another antenna on the site which is still in place but has been decommissioned is Deep Space Station 46 (DSS-46). This antenna was the one that received the first images of Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon and relayed them to the world. In 2010 it was declared a Historic Aerospace Site by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Canberra - Deep Space Station 46 (DSS-46)Deep Space Station 46

If you want to visit the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, you can find more information on their website.

Mount Stromlo Observatory

The next stop for the morning was at Mount Stromlo Observatory. We almost missed visiting this spot as we had passed the turn off when we realised where we were. Thankfully we decided to go back because it was well worth the time to have a look around at the history here. Plus the view from the mountain is quite good looking out over Canberra.

Canberra - Mount Stromlo View of CanberraView from Mount Stromlo.

The Mount Stromlo Observatory has been in operation for over 100 years. Growing from a small outpost to one of the great observatories of the world, until in 2003 a firestorm destroyed five telescopes and numerous other buildings. The remnants of the destruction are still visible in a number of damaged buildings that are still in situ. While some rebuilding has occured it is not on the scale that was once here.

Canberra - Mount Stromlo destroyed building home of the Oddie TelescopeThe remains of the building which housed the first telescope at Mount Stromlo

Canberra - Mount Stromlo Observatory destroyed 74in Refractor Telescope DomeThe dome which housed the 74″ Refractor Telescope, destroyed in 2003. The building looks in good condition from the outside but internally is completely destoryed by the firestorm of 2003.

Canberra - Mount Stromlo destroyed telescopeParts of a telescope destroyed in 2003

Telstra Tower

Telstra Tower is no doubt one of the most visually recognisable structures around Canberra. Located at the peak of Black Mountain the tower is visible from many locations around the city. Telstra Tower is 195.2m tall and contains a significant amount of television and communication antennas, along with three viewing levels for visitors.

Even with that being the case I somehow managed not to capture a good image of the tower itself. But I think the view is much more interesting to look at then the tower itself.

Canberra - Telstra Tower view of Lake Burley GriffinLake Burley Griffin from Telstra Tower

Canberra - Telstra Tower view to the south of Black MountainThe view to the south of Telstra Tower

Canberra - Telstra Tower MailboxCanberra’s Highest Mailbox at Telstra Tower

Old Parliament House

On the way back to the hotel to prepare for our night out we made a brief stop at Old Parliament House. The Australian Parliament used the building between 1927 and 1988. It is interesting to note that the building was designed to be neither temporary or permanent, just that it would serve the needs of the parliament for a maximum of 50 years.

Canberra - Old Parliament HouseOld Parliament House

Parliament House

During the evening we were to attend a function at Parliament House. Attending an event at Parliament House was most definitely an exciting experience and one that I will not forget soon. The timing allowed me to get a photo of Parliament house during the day as we arrived and in the night as we were leaving.

Canberra - Parliament House on Capital Hill by dayDaytime, Parliament House, Canberra, Australia

Canberra - Parliament House on Capital Hill by nightNighttime, Parliament House, Canberra, Australia

National Dinosaur Museum

The final stop in Canberra, which was actually on the morning as we were leaving the city was the National Dinosaur Museum. The museum has some big statues in the front and many examples of fossilised wood on display. While the gift shop inside has a vast collection of pieces that are for sale if they catch your eye. Unfortunately, we did not have time to visit the indoor display’s with some time restraints today. But always something to visit on the next trip to Canberra.

Canberra - National Dinosaur MuseumNational Dinosaur Museum

Canberra - National Dinosaur MuseumStatues at National Dinosaur Museum

Canberra - National Dinosaur Museum Fossilised WoodFossilised Wood Sample

Heading Home

Although the time in Canberra was rather short, I got to see some great sights. I do hope to have the opportunity to revisit Canberra and see the many other attractions and sights again soon.

There are still three more days of the journey to share with you which cover returning to Brisbane. For the southbound trip, we travelled the Pacific Highway. However, for the northbound route, we are taking a more inland approach and following the Newell Highway. We planning overnight stops in Dubbo and Narrabri and have a few sightseeing stops planned as well. You can read the other two posts here Part 1: Southbound | Part 2: Northbound

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