Living in Canberra

Canberra Lake Burley GriffinCanberra LocationCanberra is the capital of Australian Capital Territory and the capital of Australia. It has a population of around 380,000 people, making it the eighth biggest city in Australia. But it is Australia’s biggest inland city. What does that mean?

No beach!

We’ll get to that in a minute. First, a little history. Early in the 1900’s, the Commonwealth of Australia was formed and the search was on for somewhere to call Australia’s capital.

The story goes that both Sydney and Melbourne wanted the job, but because of the fierce rivalry between the two, some wise men decided to go for somewhere in between. It ended up being Canberra, not quite in the middle, and the town was built almost from scratch.

World War One slowed things up a bit but by 1927, federal government had moved in. Further development didn’t pick up speed until about 1950, thanks to the Second World War. It is pretty much all finished now, and it’s what is called a “planned city”. It didn’t grow naturally, everything was worked out before it was all started.

At the centre of the city is the artificial Lake Burley Griffin, named after the Chicago architects who designed the city. It is good for rowing, fishing and sailing but it’s really not suitable for swimming.

So, still no beach!

But if beaches are your thing, don’t despair. You will need to drive for around 150 km, which will take you a couple of hours (ouch) before you reach the Tasman Sea on Australia’s south east coast. There you will be able to choose from the beautiful Bateman’s Bay, or the nearby beaches at Durras, Maloney’s Beach or Surf Beach.

But if beaches ARE your thing, you probably wouldn’t want to live in Canberra.

Canberra’s biggest employer, easily, is the federal government. Unless you are going to be working for them, it’s difficult, as far as I can see, to make a case for moving to Canberra. Perhaps somebody who does live in Canberra, and loves it there, can get in touch with me and tell me why I am wrong.

Whilst Canberra is described as an “outdoors” place, most sources quote the top attractions as being the National Gallery and Old Parliament House. But Canberra is also home to the Australian Institute of Sport, a world class training facility that churns out our Australian sporting hero’s.

What’s the weather like?

Canberra Annual Weather ChartAs you can see from the weather chart, Canberra is distinctly colder than most other major cities in Australia. Winters really are winters.

Occasionally it snows in Canberra, but not very often. The nearest ski resort to Canberra is probably Selwyn Snowfields, about 90 kms away.

Severe weather that can affect the area include bushfires and flash flooding along with the usual gale force winds.

West Canberra consists mainly of forest.

Here’s a map of the area…..

Canberra can be divided into four main areas…..

  • Inner Canberra – including City and Inner North Canberra and Inner South Canberra
  • North Canberra – including Outer North West and Outer North
  • South Canberra – including Mid South West and Mid South
  • East Canberra – includes Wamboin, but NOT Queanbeyan, (which I originally suggested) as some in the comments have pointed out. That town is just over the border in New South Wales.

Questions about Canberra?

If you have any question about living in Canberra, please please feel free to ask them in the comments below. Or if you know this city well, why not tell us what you think of it or maybe even help out by answering some of the questions people have about the area. I’m sure anybody thinking of moving here would be very grateful for any help you can give them.

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{ 255 comments… add one }
  • Shay February 17, 2018, 2:03 am |

    Hello! I am moving to Canberra in August/September and I would like to rent a place that is close to the city centre to use transit or bike, but also have a house with a fenced in backyard. Preferably I would like at least a two bedroom place.


    • Andy February 17, 2018, 7:25 am |

      Have a look at to get an idea of what you’d expect to pay.
      Google maps knows about bus routes if you need to check what areas are well served by public transport. Generally most areas have a bus route.
      Some areas outside inner Canberra are still manageable. I live less than 10km from Civic, very near a bus route and I’m just outside inner north.

  • Jim February 11, 2018, 7:47 am |


    I am from Sydney and am looking for information on the real effect of purchasing property under a lease hold agreement as opposed to outright ownership.

    Do you know any good sources?


    • Mark February 11, 2018, 10:48 am |

      Hi Jim
      It’s arguably a simple process but can have a number of pitfalls. I am not familiar with the rules in various Australian states as I will put money on it they are all different, though all follow a similar theme (id hope) I have no idea for the perfect source save spending fortunes on a property lawyer who can sometimes be only as good as s/he has read. You have to consider many extra factors, the first one and most important being how long is the lease hold for / or left if it’s being sold on If its got less than 50 or 60 years on it and no option for renewal I personally would walk away but if its only a 1000 dollars that make a difference to its cheap Now im sit suggesting it will be as cheap as that but you get my drift It’s a trade in some respects If I was to sell a property I owned with only 50 years leasehold id look to renew to 125 or better 999 years why well its worth more. Im not sure id fare much better with 65 75 years left. You will hopefully appreciate you can own the building but not the land, Now in times gone and probably still you can pick a house up and move it. I believe many a Queenslander property has had this done. If it’s an apartment with 14 floors above its going nowhere (unless your clever at Jenga…I only jest) So look at the length and ask are you happy with it can it be extended, there may be an automatic right to extend it, read the costs associated, the rent on the land, the service charges and all manner of things and weigh up what you may be able to leave to children, grandchildren etc etc as of course trying to sell a leasehold with only 50 or 60 years on it and no option to renew at full money, may prove difficult. you may not be bothered about what you leave to children etc or any of the above but the very fact your looking for a guide indicates there is something you are concerned over. Rightly you should be!

      • Andy February 11, 2018, 5:29 pm |

        From my understanding, there are no freehold properties in the ACT, only leasehold. Leases on houses in the ACT have been issued originally as 99 year leases. That is not the duration you seem to indicate, Mark, would be common elsewhere. On the other hand a 99 year lease (or a decent chunk of that) with the government, probably has less negative connotations than a similar length of lease with a private freehold owner.
        Only a few leases have so far been renewed, given how new the ACT is, but I have read that a further 99 year lease will normally be granted for a relatively small administration fee.

        • Mark February 12, 2018, 12:35 pm |

          Well you still learn something new everyday Im aware several parts of Europe and even South Africa like leashold mainly because land is in short supply and for goverment owned. It has suprised me the ACT where there is a fair bit of land operates this. What a curious set up the ACT is, though from what I have read the territory that was to be the ACT was transferred by New South Wales to the Commonwealth in 1911. The ACT opted for leasehold because of the initial idea of the Commonwealth had to build the new capital city without spending taxpayers’ money. The Commonwealth may have planned to sell Crown leases in Canberra at a low price and receive an annual rent based on the value of the land. As the city grew, the land value would rise and with it, the rent. The rising rent amounts were to finance the development of the capital and its public buildings.
          However, this did not happen and in 1970, the land rent for residential leases was abolished. Since then the ACT has been a freehold city sort of in name but still uses the 99 year leasehold system. The idea may have been adopted from the UK or should I say England where its not uncommon to find 125 or even 999 year leaseholds. In Scotland they have been abolished, saying its a legacy from the feudal times. Id agree!

  • SHAUNAK MARULKAR December 20, 2017, 10:06 pm |

    Hello Bob,

    I have received my PR Visa for ACT and I shall be arriving (from Mumbai India) in Canberra by February 2018, along with my wife and one kid (3 year old). Initially we are going to stay in a Hotel in Curtin for a week. I believe we will have to search for an accommodation first, before we both get jobs. So choosing home at a right place (that is close to office) is crucial.

    Could you please guide me on which are the areas that have most of the offices, for me to target and good non-expensive places to get a 1BHK or 2 BHK on rent to stay ? I will obviously prefer less commute time (since I will have to rely on public transport), a good school nearby. BTW, me and my wife are HR Managers.

    Looking forward to your response ASAP. Thanks !

    • Faraz Khan December 21, 2017, 4:21 am |

      Hi Shaunak,

      Welcome to Canberra. I hope that you will find dream job soon.

      If I am not wrong, you are definitely staying in Statesman Hotel. In my view, Curtin is the best area to find accommodation. It is quite close to city centre and Woden town centre. Curtin Primary School is one of the best schools in Canberra. I also live in Curtin and my daughter is going to the same school. Commute is also quite convenient. Usually in Canberra public transport is not that good and you might have to change two buses to reach at a destination. Luckily from Curtin to City centre or Woden town centre you can travel in one bus. Since you have a kid, you should aim for 2 bed rooms unit. Usually landlord doesn’t give single bed room accommodation to a family with kids. This is my experience.

      Hope that above information I have provided will help you making a decision.

      Good luck.

      • SHAUNAK MARULKAR December 21, 2017, 2:21 pm |

        Thank you Faraz,

        Appreciate your quick response. This helps me a lot. Yes I am staying in Statesman Hotel for a week after my arrival and in this time, I intend to find a suitable accommodation. Happy to know that Curtin is good. Where are most of the offices located, by the way ? Just hoping HR jobs are available… LOL !

        • Faraz Khan December 21, 2017, 4:39 pm |

          No doubt Civic – city centre is the hub of most of the offices. Fyshwick is also an another business hub. In the first step, I think you shouldn’t focus on the office location instead look for the job anywhere in Canberra. The city itself is very small and you won’t find it difficult to commute. Trust me you would need a car to move around specially for shopping and purchasing stuff such as Indian groceries.

          • SHAUNAK MARULKAR December 21, 2017, 6:28 pm |

            Okay, thank you very much. Appreciate your advise.

            • Nirav December 23, 2017, 12:04 am |

              Hi Saunak,
              Congrats for your PR and best wishes for your future in Australia.
              I have questions for you.
              Have you direct apply for PR?
              Are you going to Australia first time?
              How much time it gets for entire PR visa process?
              Hope you will reply my questions. Thanks in advance..

              • SHAUNAK MARULKAR December 23, 2017, 9:31 pm |

                Hello Nirav,

                I applied through an agent in Mumbai. I am going to Australia for the first time. It took me 4 years to get my VISA.

                • Susheel February 6, 2018, 6:03 pm |

                  Hi Shaunak,
                  Congrat’s on getting your visa. May i know if you are on 190 state nominated visa for Canberra.
                  May i know if you landed in Canberra and settled in Curtin.
                  I too got the visa for Canberra under 190 State nomination and am planning to come along with my spouse and daughter of 8 years.
                  Hi Faraz,
                  Saw your valuable advise to Shaunak.
                  I too planning to come to Canberra along with my spouse and 8 years old daughter. I am quite confused of which location is good for indians in a city center which will have all facilities like schools, residential accomodation and indian groceries.
                  May i know the monthly rent for a 2 BHK house/flat in Canberra city center and in Curtin and what would be the monthly expenses for livelihood.

                  Hyderabad, India.

                  • SHAUNAK MARULKAR February 6, 2018, 9:01 pm |

                    Dear Susheel,
                    Yes, I got PR under 190. I am currently in Pune. I will land in Canberra on 22nd Feb 2018. For the first one week, I will be staying in the Statesman Hotel and search for a house, preferably full furnished. How about you ? When are you going ?

                    • Susheel February 7, 2018, 3:53 pm |

                      Hi Shaunak,
                      Am currently in Hyderabad and i will land in Canberra by May 1st week.
                      Am reachable on 9959832244. Give me a call when you are free.


                  • Faraz February 9, 2018, 1:37 pm |

                    Hi Susheel,

                    Welcome to Canberra. It is a good place to live but job market is quite tough. I hope you find something suitable for you soon after your arrival.

                    I would suggest you to initially find a reasonable priced accommodation that should be closed to various amenities like school, indian groceries, super stores, medical centre. City centre is very expensive place to live. Right now Belconnen is the best place where you may find large number of indian residents. Some of the suburbs of Gungahlin also have large number of indian/pakistani people such as Bonner. Gungahlin is a bit far from City Centre. Belconnen is also a little distant from Centre but Ok if you have a car. You will have to buy a car if you like to move around freely.

                    • Ajay June 7, 2018, 4:09 am |

                      Hi Susheel and Shaunak,
                      Whether you guys moved to canberra.
                      Thanks Faraz your inputs has been found to be informative.

                  • Faraz February 9, 2018, 1:45 pm |

                    Hi Susheel,

                    Regarding rent, you will have to check online as different suburb will have different rate. It also depends on the condition and facilities provided in the property. I would say a range of $350 – $450 per week for a reasonable accommodation. Please check Initially you will have to find temporary accommodation for few weeks before you secure a permanent place to live. Please check website for temporary accommodation.

                    In general, you should have at least $3000 monthly expenses including rent and utility bills.

                    Hope it helps.

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