Most international travelers jet into Sydney, Australia, fly north to Queensland's Great Barrier Reef or Gold Coast, and then jet off home again. In doing so, they short-change themselves. They miss the amazing diversity of the world's largest island. If you fall into that trap - after all the planning and expense of flying 'down under' - you will kick yourself when you get home and find out what you missed.
Do yourself a favor now. Put Canberra - the 'bush capital' - on your agenda, and multiply the richness of your visit to Australia. Oh, it will not compare with experiencing the dust and the flies and the emptiness of the vast Red Centre, or the beauty, tranquility and peace of Tasmania. But it will give you an insight into the unique Australian culture that you will not find in the homogenized trappings of the most popular tourist destinations.
Canberra is Australia's capital, a city of 350,000 people that holds the key to the nation's treasures. Just three hours from Sydney by car, bus or train - or a mere half hour flight - Canberra is one of the world's few planned cities. It's called the 'bush capital' because it is surrounded by native bush land, with large tracts of woodland separating its town centers and suburbs. Yet hidden beneath its leafy surrounds is a thriving modern city with stylish restaurants, hip bars, boutique shopping, fun for the kids, a busy calendar of festivals ... and easy access to nature.
If you visit in January you can enjoy Summernats, a four-day 'ultimate car show' that attracts car buffs from around the nation. There is a 10-day multicultural festival in February, and March packs in three 10-day
festivals - folk music, hot air balloons and community celebrations free to all-comers. In April-May it's car rally, wine, heritage, military remembrance, and chamber music, then science, gospel and various other sporting extravaganzas through the rest of the year. October is special, too, for the famed Floriade, Australia's largest flower festival. More than a million colorful bulbs and annuals bloom on cue, creating a vibrant display unrivalled by any other event of its kind.
Canberra's uniqueness, though, lies in the way it showcases the entire nation. From the seat of this young country's political power to world class museums and art galleries, sporting institutions, Aboriginal cultural activities, and easy access to beautiful coastlines, ancient mountains and historic sites, there is a diversity and quality of experience that too many tourists miss. National facilities showcase the treasures of the nation, often in hands-on experiential formats that offer an intriguing insight into the Australian character, leading edge research and democracy. And you, too, can experience that journey from indigenous continent to modern multicultural nation.
Just make sure you allow enough time in your schedule to explore, linger longer, and enjoy all Australia's bush capital has to offer.