Learning to love Canberra

My family moved from Sydney to Canberra in early 1991, when I was eight years old. It was supposed to be a 2-3 year assignment but my parents liked living in Canberra, so much so that they sold our house in Sydney to buy one in Canberra – a house they still live in 22 years later. I was not quite as keen as they were. I distinctly remember deciding (at age 10) to give them the silent treatment after they told me they were selling the house in Sydney. I’m not sure how well I succeeded, and even if I had they probably would have enjoyed the respite from my constant chatter. I never quite got over my Sydney snobbery; despite the fact that I didn’t live in Sydney again until this year, I’ve always said I preferred it, and made jokes at Canberra’s expense.

Canberra is not a traditional city – it feels more like a collection of smallish towns connected by wide highway-like roads, or a city made up entirely of suburbs. For people who like a more rural lifestyle, it’s a good compromise – a best of both worlds sort of scenario. I, however, have always been a city girl. The country is great for a holiday, but I’d much rather live in a proper city! That said, I have learned to appreciate Canberra; it is beautiful – lots of parks and bushland, and weather I love.

View from Mount Ainslie lookout - shows both Parliament Houses, High Court, National Gallery, National Library, War Memorial, ANZAC Parade, Cariilion, Captain Cook Jet, and Mount Taylor in the background (with the Brindabellas in the distance).

View from Mount Ainslie lookout, including both Parliament Houses, High Court, National Gallery, National Library, War Memorial, ANZAC Parade, Carillion, Captain Cook Jet, Mount Taylor in the background and the Brindabellas in the distance.

My favourite thing about Canberra is its climate. Being inland and elevated, Canberra has a different climate to most of the country, with an actual four seasons – be they far less dramatic to the four seasons in a place like Beijing. The average high/low temps for summer are 12-28°C (54-81°F) and for winter 1-12°C (34-54°F), although there are certainly extremes beyond that. The highest recordest temperature was 42°C (108°F), and the record low was -10°C (14°F) back in 1971. It’s common to get down to -6 or -7 (20°F) several times each winter. That’s only overnight though – it usually warms up after the fog burns off and is quite sunny and pleasant during the day. Officially Canberra has 100+ clear days a year, but that seems low to me.

Fog and frost are a big part of Canberra in winter – and both were a shock to me when we first moved from Sydney. I think I’d seen a light frost perhaps once or twice before moving to Canberra. A few times it was cold enough on a school morning in Sydney for schoolfriends and I to make “dragon’s breath” – exhaled air appearing white. In contrast, fog and frost are almost daily occurrences during a Canberra winter. I had never experienced the cold, the ice, the frost, the thick fog. And I LOVED it!! I still love cooler weather and Canberra has the best winters – cool enough to be called winter but not so cold, grey and endless as to be depressing.

Another unique feature of Canberra is the quantity of land set aside for parks and nature reserves. About 80% of the ACT, including 10% of the land area of Canberra, is nature reserve. Most of that is Namadgi National Park, which covers about half of the ACT (southwest of Canberra). “Canberra Nature Park” is the name given to a series of 33 separate reserves scattered throughout the city itself, leading to a name sometimes given to Canberra: the Bush Capital. Most residents are within walking distance of a nature reserve. My family have always lived 100m from one of these reserves – Farrer Ridge.


The suburb of Farrer is mostly a bowl like valley; Farrer Ridge is about 2km2 of woodland curving around the top of the surrounding hills, continuing out and down to main roads on three sides. I love to go for walks on the Ridge – it’s peaceful and beautiful. When I close my eyes and think of the Ridge I think of blue skies, the textures of all the different gum trees and their leaves, the views, and the kangaroos.

There really are amazing views, especially looking south across the Brindabellas – a large mountain range that in winter is regularly dusted in snow. Farrer Ridge is also home to a LOT of kangaroos. I used to walk through the Ridge on my way to and from university, and most mornings I would see a large mob of kangaroos grazing just off the walking track. A short walk never fails to find kangaroos for visitors to enjoy. In short, Farrer Ridge is one of my very favourite things about Canberra.



One thought on “Learning to love Canberra

  1. Pingback: Canberra – building a capital city | Tanya's Stories

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