Canberra: Fun for the whole family? Day 3

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Nov 042012

On our final day of the #HumanBrochure weekend we were invited to the Australian National Botanic Gardens. After a big weekend of separate activities the four different groups gathered under the shade of the many beautiful trees and enjoyed a lazy picnic brunch while listening to some inspirational speeches and music from local artists. We even found the time for a group photo before we all split up again, I think many new friendships were made.

Lazy brunch at the Australian National Botanic Gardens

From what we’ve seen most of Canberra seems relatively young and ‘planned’ so it was nice to explore the well established gardens and see the more ‘wild’ natural side of Canberra. The Australian National Botanic Gardens are home to a huge one third of all Australian flora so it really is a celebration of things that make Australia unique and special. No wonder it is a big hit with visitors from around the country and overseas! Twice a day you can join a free 1-hour tour guided by a friendly volunteer.

A sunny afternoon at Lake Burley Griffin

After the calm start to the day all the kids had some energy to burn so we hopped on the bus for an active afternoon at Lake Burley Griffin. Originally a man-made lake this lake is 11 kilometers long with plenty on offer for the whole family. Kids will enjoy exploring the water by paddle boat or canoe, or how about a ride around the lake on one of Mr. Spokes Signature Red Bikes? Alternatively just go for a relaxing stroll and admire the green and wildife.

Mount Ainslie lookout, amazing view!

Sadly the weekend had come to an end and we made our way back to the airport, not without stopping at Mount Ainslie, one of Canberra’s most beautiful lookouts, of course. I think all #HumanBrochure guests agreed that one weekend is just not enough to see all of Canberra!

Thanks Canberra and your lovely people for the hospitality, we’ll be back.

For more of our Canberra adventure read about #HumanBrochure Day 1 and Day 2 here.

Canberra: Fun for the whole family? Day 2

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Nov 032012

On Saturday Ocotber 27th we woke up to another gorgeous day in Canberra, everyone told us we were very lucky to have such beautiful weather in Spring. Being able to pop outside in a sleeveless dress definitely added to the holiday feeling! After a calm buffet breakfast at the Clifton Suites on Northbourne we were picked up by the tourbus for a fun morning at Questacon.

Now I was expecting a lengthy bustrip and being stuck in traffic but once again Canberra surprised us. We were busy admiring the city and scenery and arrived at Questacon in no time. Questacon is a fantastic place to bring children of all ages but I think it is the most fun for children of about 8 years old (give or take!). Also known as the National Science and Technology Centre this place offers room after room full of interesting things to do and discover for curious little minds.

Robo-Q, you could ask him truly anything!

Questacon is completely undercover so it is perfect entertainment for a rainy day and you will easily fill a whole morning or afternoon exploring. There are 8 big galleries covering different themes from Awesome Earth to Excite, Deep Oceans to H2O and more. One of my favourite parts was the Earthquake House, where you sit down in a ‘real’ house to experience what it is like to be in an earthquake (pretty scary!). I think my kids would most like looking at all the creepy crawlers through big microscopes or talking to the big all-knowing robot.

If I wasn’t pregnant I would have accepted one of the challenges in the Excite gallery. This gallery was a big hit with both small and big kids (parents), who doesn’t love the sound of a 6 meter Free Fall? Not just a glorified slide but an actual drop, eeek! This cool dad managed to move the swing enough to make a 360 circle, I think his kids were quite proud. For those with a weak stomach there were sickness bags available.

After a short walk (love all the close distances) we arrived at the lunch venue. I will admit that my travel partner and I were rather excited about not having to cook or clean up for a whole weekend, but we most certainly didn’t expect to be treated to lunch at The Lobby. Yes, the same Lobby were our very own Prime Minister Julia Gillard had her shoe accident. The lunch was absolutely delicious and I think we both gained a few kilos that day, we just couldn’t say no to all the yummy food being served.

In the afternoon it was time for a visit to the National Zoo & Aquarium, which unlike the name suggests is actually privately owned. After a recent (disappointing) visit to Adelaide Zoo both Kate and I were pleasantly surprised by this wonderful zoo. There was ample parking and the whole zoo was layed out beautifully with lots of spacious walk ways and so many lovely lookouts, no pushing and shoving needed at all!

Kate enjoying the Meet a Cheetah experience

We had the most amazing time, Kate grabbed the opportunity to Meet a Cheetah (sadly due to being pregnant I had to miss out) and we joined in on a Zooventure Tour. We have already said a few times to eachother that we’d love to bring our family back here and take the tour again. The kids would love feeding the tiger, lion, brown bear and so many other animals, it is such a unique experience being so close to these animals and the friendly zoo keepers made the tour even more enjoyable.

(Tip: When you book the tour the entree fee is included)

Cockington Green at night (the entrance)

We finished the day with a relaxing dinner and walk around at Cockington Green, a must-see for Canberra visitors. Looking back this visit was probably my most favourite part of the weekend. The beautiful family-owned Cockington Green Gardens showcase a magical world of minitiature buildings from around the globe, you can walk around by foot or take a ride on the little train.

It was lovely to see the gardens at night time but I have no doubt it will be great fun during the day too (and easier with kids). It is a great way to tell children about other countries, I would have loved to show my kids the Dutch windmill! The attention to detail is sublime, you won’t know where to look as it is all so interesting and there is something new to see around every corner.

After such a long day we were more than ready for a good night sleep, so we headed back to the apartment. Stay tuned for our third and final day of the #HumanBrochure campaign (read about Human Brochure Day 1 here)

Nov 022012

As you may have read I was recently invited to visit Canberra as part of the #HumanBrochure campaign. Organised by Australian Capital Tourism this world-first project uses 500 real, everyday people to create a human brochure. Stepping away from the traditional this means that no trees are being cut down for printing flyers and no unread brochures end up in land fill. Instead the Human Brochure creates a wave of online stories, photos, tweets and word-of-mouth sharing of experiences about Canberra and all it has to offer.

Over 31,400 people applied to be part of the Human Brochure and after a careful selection process 500 lucky people from all over Australia, of all ages and with different social and economic backgrounds received the big ‘Yes’ in their mailbox.

Arriving in Canberra by plane, isn’t it green?

On October 26, 2012 the first 250 people were welcomed into Canberra, some arrived by car and some were flown in by plane including my lovely neighbour Kate and I. Our first impression of Canberra was that it was very green (much more green than South Australia!) and the air was very clean. The second thing we noticed was that it was surprisingly calm and relaxed for a country capital, it was actually rather relaxing! Although we arrived at peak hour we hopped in a cab without waiting and made our way to the city in just 10-15 minutes. There was no traffic at all, we even spotted a horse crossing the road (we were told that was rare, but we did spot two horses in just one weekend. Not something you see in central Sydney or Melbourne).

All guests were divided over 4 groups depending on their interests and social activity: Foodies, Adventure, Arts & Culture and Family Fun (this last one is obviously where I feel most at home!). Each group stayed in a different hotel or apartment and had a very busy travel itinerary for the weekend. I didn’t actually bring my kids but I might as well have because the apartments at Clifton Suites on Northbourne were extremely spacious and were very well suited to families.

Roomy Clifton Suites Living Room (1-bedroom apartment)

The Clifton Suites on Northbourne offer a ‘home away from home’ to Canberra tourists and business visitors, just a 15 minute drive from the airport. The modern 1 and 2 bedroom apartments were originally built for private use so they are designed just like proper ordinary domestic apartments. The bedrooms, living room and bath room were very large and as the units are self contained (kitchen complete with dishwasher, washing machine and even dryer) you could easily stay there for a longer period of time. Ideal for families with buffet breakfast options, a pool and close to many of the tourist attractions.

I have been living in Australia for 6 years but never actually made it to the nation’s capital before and I was surprised to hear even many Australians have never even been there. Like most people I didn’t know much about Canberra except that it is where the big policital decisions are made (not an appealing tourist destination I am afraid) and that it is the home of the Australian War Memorial, which happened to be the location of our opening event on Friday night.

When you arrive at the Australian War Memorial you can’t help but be overwhelmed, by the impressive building at the end of the long Anzac Parade but even more so by the meaning of this place. As we heard in our opening speech: The War Memorial does not exist to celebrate war, as some critics say, but rather to commemorate our fallen heroes, we must never forget them. When you look at the thousands of names on the wall and think of all those lives lost for freedom you can’t help but choke up a little.

German Fighter Plane. Amazing to see all these war planes up close!

While the commemorative part of the Australian War Memorial might be a bit too difficult for young children to understand the War Memorial Museum is sure to grab everyone’s attention. There is so much to see and learn from old planes to boats and more, children will also love seeing the employees wearing the traditional uniforms of soldiers and war nurses. If you have the time make sure you join a free tour as it really brings the war stories to life, you will walk away a lot richer in knowledge.

By the time we finished our opening night it was well and truly night time, Canberra gets dark and chilly quickly! Stay tuned for day two of our #HumanBrochure experience.