Exploring Canberra in a day or two

from a Hop-on, hop-off bus


Many people can’t understand why Sydney or Melbourne weren’t chosen as Australia’s capital city. But when you visit Canberra you’ll understand why it is the capital. For starters, it’s very modern – it was designed by leading American architect, Walter Burley Griffin, in 1912. It’s incredibly organized and is full of Australian memorials, monuments and museums. It’s also what its name suggests (Canberra’s name comes from the Aboriginal word ‘camberra’ which means ‘meeting place’). Canberra is just that - a meeting place of cultures, and although it may not have Sydney’s glamour and Melbourne’s ‘cool’ factor, it has exactly what a capital city needs: Structure, world-class museums, leafy open spaces and a lakeside location.


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Hop on one of Canberra's sightseeing buses and explore the city's many charms, from world-class museums with fascinating displays like the historic National Museum and the unique Science Museum, the Questacon, to magnificent works of art in the National Gallery. Personalise your sightseeing so that you hop off to explore sights that you want to discover more about, and then hop on again so that the bus can take you to your next sightseeing location.


How much does it cost?

The ticket price depends on which bus you take… At the time of writing, a 4-stop pass ("full day") costs US$ 36.70 for an adult and US$ 26.20 for a child, and it allows you to board the first bus, that leaves at 9:30am, as well as on each of the other buses, so you can visit 4 different places… (The 3-stop, 2-stop and 1-stop passes cost less, respectively, but leave you with less time to explore the city's places-of-interest.  If you are really short of time and all you want to do is seat on the bus and listen to the commentaries as you travel through the city, you can opt for the US$ 21, 1- stop pass, which is valid for the last bus that departs at 1:30 pm)



The bus departs from Canberra's city centre every day, except Sunday, at 9.30am, 11am, 12:15pm and 1:30pm


Places to see and things to do along the route


1.    Northbourne Avenue, in Canberra's city centre, is the tour’s starting point. It’s a block away from Jolimont Centre, the city’s main bus terminal for buses departing from and arriving in Canberra.


2.    The famous Australian War Memorial is our next stop. This memorial is dedicated to the United States of America, who assisted Australia in the Second World War. The bronze memorial, which features a fountain, towers over the city; it was unveiled by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second of Britian in 1954, and features an eagle on a podium.


The Australian War Memorial, Canberra 

3.    Next stop is the National Library of Australia, where you will see the largest collection of material relating to Australia and its people. Aside from books, the collection also includes magazines, photographs, sheet music, maps and pictures. Over five million items are displayed here in some 200km worth of shelves, including some rare book materials and world-class Asian and Pacific collections.


4.    Next along the route is a must-see… it’s Canberra’s unusual Questacon, the National Science & Technology Centre, which is an absolute joy to explore. Experience a journey of discovery through eight unique interactive exhibition galleries, where science and technology is brought to life. Whether you’re young, or young at heart, this gallery is sure to be one of your trip's highlights.


5.    Hop off to visit three important cultural sites at your next stop: The National Gallery of Australia, the National Portrait Gallery, and the High Court of Australia. In the National Art Gallery you can see more than 100,000 artworks and displays that offer an excellent insight into Australia’s history, culture and identity. The Portrait Gallery boasts almost 400 portraits depicting the people who shaped Australia. And the High Court next door is also worth exploring. This unusual concrete and glass building boasts a large public hall, three courtrooms, an administrative wing and the Justices’ chambers.



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6.    Parliament House is the next hop-off point. Home of the country’s Federal Government, this building is renowned for its impressive architecture, lush gardens and collection of Australian contemporary works of art. Soaring high above Parliament House is an 81m flag, which has become Canberra’s most famous landmark. A visit here will enable you to experience a taste of the country’s government. You can enjoy a guided tour through the building and also view the proceedings of a parliament sitting.


7.    Your next stop is the Old Parliament House, now the home of the Museum of Australian Democracy. This is the country’s only museum dedicated to Australia’s democracy. Here you will find information on the people who have shaped the country, including Prime Ministers and ordinary folk.


8.    The next stop is a popular hop-off point. It’s your chance to explore The Royal Australian Mint and learn how Australia’s coins are made. The Mint has been operating since the 1960s, and it’s a great place to visit, with some fascinating items on display, including rare gold sovereigns, a penny dating from 1930 and even some forged coins.


9.    Next along the route you drive past some international embassies, as well as "the Lodge", the official residence of Australia’s Prime Minister. Built as a temporary home in 1927, The Lodge has remained the residence of every Prime Minister since then. It’s furnished in 1920s style, and boasts some excellent works of art from that time. It’s surrounded by beautiful gardens, a swimming pool, vegetable garden and even a croquet lawn. Unfortunately, it’s not often open to the public.


10. Next along the route is the National Museum of Australia whose exhibits offer an insight into the country’s heritage and culture through a series of interactive exhibitions that cover the themes of Land, Nation and People. Also here is the Gallery of the First Australians, which offers an excellent insight into the country’s indigenous culture.


11. Hop off and visit the National Film & Sound Archive (NFSA) at your next stop. At this fun location you can discover all about the world of Australian film, television and recorded sound. The museum opened in 1984 and boasts interactive displays, hundreds of film and sound clips, photographs and costumes. The museum also holds screenings in the little theatre and live presentations on weekends, all free.


12.  That's it… The bus returns to Northbourne Avenue, in the city centre, and that is where our Canberra sightseeing trip comes to an end.




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Did you know ??? Taking a hop on hop off bus tour is one the best ways to see any large city, as it saves you plenty of precious holiday time and takes you EXACTLY where you want to go... (Not to mention the great cityscape views you can enjoy on the way...). Our "Hop on hop off guides" cover quite a few cities across the world, including SingaporeHong KongSydneyThe Blue MountainsPerthAlice Springs and many other destinations..... (Click on the links to go directly to the city-guide of your choice, or click here to go directly to our world hop-on, hop-off guide).