The following is the introduction to the article “36 Hours in Canberra” by Emma Pearse. The article appeared in the New York Times on June 5 2014, and it offers some tempting ideas for your stay in Canberra this August.
To stand atop a Canberra hilltop is to contemplate the stark charm of the Australian bush: vast grassy fields, swaths of eucalyptus forest and Instagram-worthy sunsets. This outpost is Australia’s national capital — not, as is commonly thought, the glitzier city of Sydney, three hours’ drive north. In Canberra, there are no beaches or iconic opera houses, and European chic is best sought an hour’s flight away in Melbourne. But what the “bush capital” lacks in big-city tousle, it makes up for in big-sky beauty, breezy civic pride and a decidedly hipster underbelly. Set on an artificial lake and spread across a valley between mountain ranges, Canberra is the Brasilia of Australia, designed by the American architects Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin, who won a competition in 1911 to create the country’s political heart because Sydney and Melbourne couldn’t stop bickering about their own fabulousness. A year after the city’s centennial celebrations and with a steady influx of artists and gastronomes, Canberra is best appreciated with deep intakes of mountain air and an ear tuned to the calls of sulphur-crested cockatoos and crimson rosellas.