If you’re looking for where to stay while in Australia, I would recommend staying North of the lake near Canberra city center. I stayed at the Canberra YHA because they were affordable and close to several restaurants and grocery stores. (This is not a promotion, nor a recommendation, it is simply the cheapest hostel I found on Booking ;). ) A girl I’d met in Sydney was also staying there, so we decided to join forces and hit as many “Canberra highlights” as possible.
When navigating around Canberra you have 3 options:
- Rent a bike to get around
- Walk and when you’re tired call a taxi
- Take a bus!
- Or the 4th option, if you have a car ,or a rental, and are willing to pay for parking wherever you go.
I opted for the bus. There are 2 kinds of buses according to my hostel. There is the city bus that is reliable and affordable, in my opinion, and there’s the “tourist” bus(?) that stops at all major destinations but the cost for the day was just too expensive for me. The city buses are easy to use and they come frequently. The stops are all next to each other in the center and you can use google maps to know which one to take.
National Museum of Australia
First stop was the National Museum of Australia since it’s the North side of the lake and not far from the YHA. The first thing that really stuck out at me was the crazy architecture!
Not only was it beautiful on the outside, but it was equally pleasant on the inside. Oh, it was also free to enter which is always nice. The special exhibit going on was about history through objects, I wasn’t particularly interested in it but it’s nice to know you can pay a bit more to see the changing special exhibits. Perhaps the coolest thing in the museum is the small film just past the exit. You walk into a small room and watch a movie about the history of Australia with some of the items on display in the museum. It seems like any normal film you’d see in a museum until it started to move. The screen rotates around a few times and makes the experience more interesting.
There was also an exhibit showcasing individuals life stories. I looked up and saw familiar colored shirts and realized I was looking at the Wiggles’ shirts! I remember watching their show as a child and again I couldn’t believe that I had made it to Australia.
For no reason at all I want to share this super fluffy sheep that broke the world record. Just look at it, it’s hilarious.
The back of the Museum is simply gorgeous.
There is a map of all of the aboriginal tribes leading up to the aboriginal history exhibit (under the hill through the tunnel. There was a museum volunteer outside talking to my friend about the structure of this area. The most interesting thing he mentioned were the braille engraved plates surrounding the building. I didn’t know what those bumps were, I just thought it was part of the avant-guard architecture. Well, turns out all those plates read “We’re sorry” all around the building. I don’t know much about Australian history, but from what the man said this museum was commissioned when the left-wing party was in power and they made formal apologies to the aboriginals for all of te terrible things they have done and the way they have treated them. Here’s the kicker! Not long ago the party changed to right-wing and once they caught wind of what that braille meant they had the museum cover the braille, hence the little silver disks. I have a whole lot to say about the treatment of aboriginals in Australia, but I’ll save that for another entry.
National Gallery of Australia
On the south side of the lake, where the parliament house is, you’ll find more museums. I find the best way to tackle it all is to start in the East at the National Gallery of Australia and end in the West at National Library. The exhibit that was being showcased while I was there was Versailles: Treasures from the palace. I have never been to France, yet, therefore I have never been to the Château de Versailles. However, I CAN say that the exhibit was beautifully executed, it also was quite popular.
You can easily spend a few hours in this art gallery, even if you don’t enjoy art! There is also a spot for the kiddos to play, draw, and imagine. I couldn’t help but take pose with the impressive “Photo Stand-in”. While posing for the camera I didn’t realise I was photobombing a young girl who sat at an easel drawing a picture. Oops!
Funny story. Not even 5 minutes into the gallery and I nearly fell onto an art-piece. We were in the Aboriginal art section and there was an all blue room. I walked up to one of the pieces that interested me and as I got closer I didn’t realise that there was a step where the paintings were! My foot kicked the step and my arms stretched out in front of me. Rather than use the painting, or the wall, to stable myself I thrusted my hands towards the ground and made a loud thump on the ground. My friend nearly pissed herself laughing and the security guard came running to see what had happened. THANKFULLY I didn’t touch anything and all was fine. I guess if something would have happened, my ass would have ended up in jail.
After getting a little lost in the halls of the gallery I stumbled upon one of the famous Waterlilies by Monet. I asked one of the museum security guys why this painting had a little black box in front of the painting. Apparently if anyone get too close to the painting an alarm will sound. Yikes. He also told me that his job is to make sure no one touches the art. I didn’t think it was such a big deal, but according to him if a painting gets touched too many times they must destroy it. To me it makes no sense. A famous piece, such as this Monet, is worth thousands if not millions of dollars! They would rather destroy it over a few fingerprints than sell it off? I’ll never understand.
My friend and I were just getting ready to leave when the security guy asked whether or not we’d been to the Modern Art section on the lower floor. We completely missed it and were thinking of just skipping it until he convinced us. It didn’t disappoint. Modern art tends to be strange and sometimes questionable. The highlight of this section had to be the castle made out of bondage whips, etc. I have no idea what the name of this piece is but it’s probably something you’d find in Christian Grey’s Red Room. (Not that I ever saw/read 50 Shades of Grey).
Commonwealth place AKA flags of the world
This little path is just along lake and is pretty self-explanatory. There is a cafe close by where you can sit and watch the lake, but other than that you can spend a few minutes looking for your country’s flag and take lovely photos. Just to the left of these flags is Reconciliation place, a monument built-in commemoration of reconciliation between the indigenous and settlers.
National Library of Australia
Unfortunately, in Canberra, everything closes at 5. This entire city seems to run from 8.9-5pm everyday. Even though we had an early start, we only had time for one more stop and since we were working our way West the National Library of Australia was perfect. The library had exhibits, much like a museum, although not as big. The exhibit had to do with advertising in Australia and was certainly entertaining. The best part about this Library is the ability to use the computers for as long as you want, for free! I spent the rest of my afternoon trying to catch up on my writing.