We’re in our fifth month as Canberrans now, and the place is starting to feel like home.
We’ve been here long enough to notice a few things that seem odd, but also to appreciate things that may not stand out to other locals but which have really wowed us.
Here are our ‘six great things about Canberra’ so far…
It’s smart, it’s spacious, it’s efficient and it’s on our doorstep, which means we can be on our way to anywhere within 20 minutes of leaving the house. Sure, we have to go via other Aussie airports if we want to travel internationally, but international flights will come to Canberra eventually. Even without them, Canberra Airport ensured our first impression of this city was a positive one, and we’ll be regular users for sure.
Public transport: Yup, I know not it’s not as well used as it could be, but as a former Londoner and Copenhagener, public transport is something we’re happy to use and rely on. And the network in Canberra is actually pretty good – it’s widespread, well co-ordinated if you need to connect from one service to another, and the MyWay card system makes it fairly cheap to use. The free buses to major Canberra events are an added bonus, too. Light rail will be a great addition, a link to the airport would be useful, and a high speed rail connection to Sydney and Melbourne would ice the cake. But the network is in place, it’s being invested in, and it’s part of the fabric of Canberra that we’ve come to really appreciate.
Again, maybe it’s our experience of living in Denmark, but getting around by bike is something else that we’ve really appreciated being able to do in Canberra. The kids can cycle to school with minimal exposure to traffic, we can send them on a swift errand to the local shops knowing that they won’t encounter trucks or dangerous drivers. And we’re all fitter than we’ve ever been because, despite the fantastic cycling infrastructure in Denmark, you only try cycling in snow once, then you decide to use the car for the rest of the winter.
Community facilities: In Gungahlin, our kids go to a brand new school, regularly hang out at a brand new library, and are constantly nagging me to take them back to the brand new leisure centre, and that’s without all the nature trails, playing fields, cycle paths and skateboard ramps that you’ll find if you look a little closer. In short, all of these things add up to the kind of family life that you normally only see in adverts or movies. For those who scoff at Canberra, I say: its community facilities top anything we had in the UK or Denmark, and for the stage of life our family is at right now – with an eight and an 11 year-old – it’s perfect.
Things to do:
As a new migrant, you kind of have to watch the pennies until you get settled and find work, but Canberra throws so much at you – some of it free – that you can’t help but get drawn into all it has to offer. When we moved to Denmark, we enjoyed a first year of checking everything out but even by Year 2, we were repeating ourselves: “Aquarium again? Zoo again? Tivoli Gardens again?” Here, there are so many things we didn’t get to the first time around, that it’ll be years before we can tick the box of everything on offer. And that suits us just fine.
Food: Now, I’ll caveat this by saying that the CBRbound family are not foodies. Bring us a glazed prawn with a squirt of jus and a decoration of something green and curly and we’ll slap you around the head and send you back into the kitchen for a pie. But even we can see that Canberra is a diner’s delight. There’s everything to choose from, from cheap eats to quality restaurants and a fair few concepts in between. In short, there’s something for everyone, from the outermost suburb to the innermost politician-haunted swank-venue. If you don’t believe me, check out some of the many excellent Canberra food blogs which detail restaurants, prices and menu tips for the stranger to town. Our top find is our local Chinese restaurant – fab food, friendly staff and a menu that makes us return more often than we ought to. But that’s what family treats are all about, eh?
Looking back over this list, it’s clear to me that the things we’ve valued most highly are the things that contribute most to our quality of life; to enriching our family time. And that’s exactly why we came here. So far, Canberra, mission accomplished.