So little is known about Australia’s national capital that I decided to put together a short post on what it’s like living in Canberra.
I’ve been living in Canberra for six years now. I moved to the city on a whim and a prayer, and having done little preparation. Luckily, I found myself in a share house that was close to work, public transport and the main shopping area. Put simply, fortune favoured this fool. Looking back, I certainly wouldn’t recommend this method to anyone moving to a new city – you could miss out on things that are important to you if you don’t do adequate research beforehand. Make sure you base yourself in a place that suits the lifestyle you want to have, get to know where to meet new people and find out about events/festivals taking place soon after you arrive.
A bit of Canberra history
Canberra, located in the Australian Capital Territory, is the capital city of Australia. The region has been home to Ngunnawal people whose history in the area dates back 21,000 years.
Canberra is a planned city, meaning that it didn’t grow naturally, and was designed by Walt Burley Griffin and his wife and partner, Marion Mahony Griffin. The American duo won an international competition to design the city with a design that featured large green areas, wide boulevards, formal parks and water features. Even today, these elements are all still an important part of the city.
Marion Griffin had an important, but seemingly forgotten, role to play in Canberra’s history. It was Marion’s drawings that won the Griffins the competition. She was the world’s first licenced female architect and the one who urged Walter to submit the designs. To this day, there are landmarks across Canberra dedicated to Walter Griffin, but none to wife. This is really unfortunate but I guess typical of the times. It would be nice to see this changed soon and Marion’s contributions acknowledged more widely.
A few Canberra stats
Canberra is small in comparison to other major cities like Melbourne and Sydney. The city is spread over an area of 814 square kilometres, and with a population of 380,000, over 70 per cent of the ACT is open space! So if you love the outdoors, you will enjoy living in Canberra.
Canberrans are a relatively young bunch, with a median age of just 34. This is understandable as the primary reason for people moving into the city is to take up jobs with the public service. Most often, these jobs are through the graduate programs offered by most, if not all, government agencies.
Canberra’s climate is relatively dry with hot summers and chilly winters, heavy fog and frequent frosts. Winters in Canberra can be challenging with temperatures dropping below zero most nights over the winter months. This year, minimum temperatures hovered around the zero mark well into October. After living in Canberra for six years, the weather is the one thing that I still struggle with the most.
What’s it like living in Canberra
- You will often hear people talk about the high incomes and low unemployment rates Canberrans enjoy. But these benefits also mean that the cost of living is high. It might not be as bad as WA and the NT, but it is still annoying when you have to pay up to $7 for a slice of banana bread or close to $10 for a measly sandwich.
- Canberra is Australia’s largest inland city which means no beaches. Getting to a beach is a bit of an event that involves a two hour (at least) drive to the NSW South Coast. However, the beaches there are some of the most beautiful in Australia. Go a bit further away from the usual Bateman’s Bay area. An extra half hour drive could make a world of difference when you do not have to share your beach space with loads of tourists. On the plus side, the snow is also just a couple of hours drive from Canberra. Day trips to the snow are common with many bus companies offering all inclusive packages at reasonable prices.
- Canberrans enjoy a good work life balance. The public service and most other work places offer flexible working hours, which is especially good if you have kids. Canberrans enjoy a laid back lifestyle, in general. The OECD recently named the ACT as the best place to live in the world, so it can’t be too bad, eh!
- With all the open space, there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy in Canberra. Canberra and the surrounds have good mountain bike trails. And if scrapped knees and elbows aren’t your thing, opt for a lovely ride or walk around the lake. There are also good hiking trails at Mt. Ainslie and Mt. Taylor. For a weekend getaway, head to the snowy mountains and climb the highest mountain on the Australian continent, Mount Kosciuszko.