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Canberra newcomers: An insider’s guide

Canberra newcomers: An insider’s guide

In 2018, Canberra was ranked third in Lonely Planet’s list of top 10 cities worldwide, branded home to the highest quality of living globally in 2016, and voted the most liveable city by the OECD in 2014. With its world-class facilities and national attractions, impressive cultural institutions and entertainment precincts, a thriving food, coffee and wine scene, and stunning natural landscapes at its doorstep, it’s no wonder the humble bush capital receives so much praise worldwide. If you’re new to Canberra in 2020, you’ll soon see there’s so much on offer for all tastes and age groups. Here’s our guide for everything you need to know and discover. You certainly won’t be disappointed.

What’s on, news and sightseeing

Whether your move to Canberra is temporary or permanent, it’s important to make the most of your time in the nation’s capital and see everything this great city has to offer. Start by connecting with the best and most reliable news and local information sources in the city. Pay a visit to the Canberra and Region Visitors Centre, the city’s official and fully accredited tourism centre located at the iconic Regatta Point, overlooking Lake Burley Griffin. Here, you will find information for the capital’s many attractions, museums, galleries and tours, as well as helpful tips for accommodation, restaurants, and what’s on around town. One of the first things you can do to get your bearings around the greater city centre is by taking a ride on the Culture Loop Shuttle Bus, a free service that drives you to the city’s major attractions and places of interest. Other great sources for news, events and local knowledge include VisitCanberra, OutInCanberra, the RiotAct, HerCanberra,, the Canberra Times newspaper, plus free weekly magazines, Canberra Weekly and the Canberra CityNews. Don’t forget to tune in to your local radio stations, Hit 104.7Mix 106.3 and ABC Canberra 666.

Getting around

One of the benefits of living in Canberra is the ability to get around quickly and easily. What you’ll soon realise about the nation’s capital is the beauty of its planned design by architects Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin, whose series of concentric circles and geometric patterns connect the territory’s bushland with five town centres — Gungahlin, Belconnen, City (also referred to as ‘Civic’), Woden and Tuggeranong. Compared to many major capital cities, Canberra roads are often quiet and less congested, so driving is (mostly) a breeze — it’s also the best and easiest way to get around. The city’s main public transport method is buses, which run throughout all suburbs and major town centres. The city’s newly launched Canberra Metro Light Rail network now connects the Gungahlin town centre to the Canberra CBD, with plans to extend the tram line through to the Woden town centre by 2025. For routes, timetables, ticket information and more, visit Cycling is also very popular in the ACT and there is an extensive network of dedicated cycle lanes on most roads. Taxi services and Uber are also widely available throughout the city.

Government information and emergency services

If you’re new in town then one of the most important agencies you will need to know is Access Canberra, the one-stop shop for all things related to ACT Government services and information for those living and working in the territory. Access Canberra was created to bring together government shopfronts, call handling, online services and regulatory functions into one single service. Head to the agency’s website, visit one of the shopfronts or call 13 22 81 for access to information about health services and hospitals, building and utilities, transport registrations and licenses, education, environment, permits, bill payments, and more. For state emergency numbers and details about your local police station, the ACT Police website has some helpful links and resources.

Shopping, eating out and nightlife 

Canberra offers an impressive and extensive range of shops, food and nightlife and has forged itself as one of the country’s cultural and foodie hubs. You really will be spoilt for choice. Each of Canberra’s five town centres offers its own variety of specialty shops, cinemas, cafes, restaurants and bars. The city’s central shopping and entertainment precinct, the Canberra Centre, boasts over 260 stores and services, including a cinema. Canberra also has a great local market scene for fresh food, clothing, art, jewellery, crafts, handmade goods and everything in between. You’ll find a range of specialist boutique stores, bars and eateries in the Kingston and Manuka precincts, a great selection of bars and Asian restaurants in the inner north suburb of Dickson, plus a great variety of bars, cafes and restaurants in trendy Braddon and NewActon. A 15-minute drive from the city centre is Fyshwick, where you’ll find the likes of IKEA, the Canberra Outlet Centre and Costco, among other specialist shops and large retailers.

Connect with the community

Making friends in a new city can be intimidating but it’s important to make the effort to connect with people and immerse yourself in the community, especially outside of work or study. Whatever your interests — whether you want to make friends, take up a new hobby, enrol in a class, join a sport or social club, become a volunteer, or simply meet up with like-minded people — there’s something in Canberra for you. A few great resources to help you find local community groups and activities include Canberra Your Future, the social platform Meetup and My Community Directory. Facebook is great for finding social groups, too.

Property and real estate

If you are looking to buy or rent a property in Canberra then one of the best resources is Allhomes, the leading website for all things real estate and property in the ACT. Browse thousands of real estate listings and read up on local property news, advice and research, including sales and rental data. To discuss your property needs in more detail and for expertise on the Canberra real estate market, contact your local Peter Blackshaw Real Estate office and speak to a property specialist.

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