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Canberra's Lookouts - Four Views, One City

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by Sue W (subscribe)
Lover of exploring, family, food and fun! Find me on instagram: @australianrecipesbythebay
Published June 22nd 2015
Scale to great heights to get the best views of Canberra
Canberra is such an interesting city to look at from above, so the best vantage points are from the Lookouts on the hills surrounding the capital.

Canberra was designed by American architect Walter Burley Griffin and assisted by his wife Marion Mahony Griffin, also an architect in her own right. With construction of the Capital starting in 1913, it is one of only a few cities in the world that has been completely planned.

Griffin used the lake as the central focus of the city, dividing the city into two. He designed the city featuring geometric shapes – circles, hexagons and triangles with prominent government buildings lining up on a centre axis. This is clearly visible from above the city.

Walter's plan was for Canberra to be known as "The Garden City" (although Canberra was soon nicknamed "The Bush Capital"), so there are a large number of green areas around Canberra's landscape.

One of my personal favourites is Mount Pleasant Lookout. Although it may not have the elevation of the more popular ones, this Lookout with an elevation of 663 metres also offers the spectacular views of Canberra and more.

Mount Pleasant Lookout, Canberra
One of the many views from Mount Pleasant Lookout

The Lookout also has the National Memorial to the Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery on top, a moving memorial to all ranks of the regiment with two guns built in 1820 either side. Mount Pleasant is a designated saluting location, with 21 gun salutes provided by the Australia's Federation Guard on ceremonial occasions.

Memorial, Mount Pleasant Lookout
Memorial to the Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery.

The Lookout is located overlooking the Australian Defence Force Academy and the Royal Military College at Duntroon. As you drive up to the Lookout, depending which way you come, it is an interesting drive through the Academy past marching grounds and defence accommodation.

As you drive up, you will see the Grave of William Throsby Bridges (1861 – 1915), the first commandant of the college and one of only two Australian World War I soldiers killed in action or died of wounds who have been buried in Australia.

Mount Pleasant, Canberra
The Grave of William Throsby Bridges, Mount Pleasant. The Grave itself was designed by Walter Burley Griffin.

Mount Pleasant Lookout is located on General Bridges Drive, Canberra.

To get the best views of Canberra, the most popular Lookout amongst locals, tour companies and travel books is Mount Ainslie Lookout.

Mount Ainslie Lookout, Canberra
One of the views from Mount Ainslie Lookout, looking directly down the city's axis.

Located on top of the hill behind the War Memorial and sitting up on an elevation of 843 metres, you get the full impact of Canberra's planning. There is information at the Lookout regarding Canberra's landmarks and history, with plenty of walkways to wander along and enjoy the view.

From this vantage point, Walter Burley Griffin's design of the city is clearly visible showing the centre axis of the city with The Australian War Memorial at one end, and Parliament House on Capital Hill on the other.

The Lookout is also popular at night time to see the city in lights and there are a number of walking trails that you can take to get to the top.

Otherwise, there is a sealed windy road that leads you straight to the top with plenty of parking.

Mount Ainslie Lookout is located on Mt Ainslie Drive, Majura.

Red Hill Lookout is another great vantage point to view the city. Although it has a smaller elevation than Mount Ainslie of 734 metres, it makes up for this with spectacular views of the city from a different perspective, which you can also enjoy from the Café at the top (Little Brother Café).

Red Hill Lookout, Canberra
The first observation area at Red Hill Lookout

As you drive up the windy road you first come to a small observation area with information on The Garden City, and then you continue to drive along further to the end of the road with views and café/restaurant.

Little Brother Cafe, Red Hill Lookout, Canberra
View from Little Brother Cafe at Red Hill Lookout.

Red Hill Lookout is located on Red Hill Drive, Red Hill.

The most obvious of all of Canberra's Lookouts is the Telstra Tower on Black Mountain, with an elevation of 812 metres it can be seen from all around the city.
This iconic structure was built back in 1980, and although it is looking a little dated inside, it is still one of the best places to view Canberra with 360 degree views of the city and beyond.
Although you can't see much from the car park, and just glimpses of the view as you drive up, when you walk up to the tower, rising up 195 metres, the view opens up before you.

Tesltra Tower, Canberra
Photo courtesy of Telstra Tower website.

Telstra Tower viewing gallery is open from 9am - 10pm, every day of the year, including Christmas Day and Good Friday.
Admission charges are: Adults $7.50, aged pensioners $3.00, children 4-16 years $3.00, children under 4 years free. Family Pass (2 adults & 2 children) $17

Telstra Tower is located at 100 Black Mountain Drive, Acton.

These vantage points of the city provide four different views of the city from different directions. All varying in height above sea level and type of observation areas, they all provide views of Canberra which are sure to impress.

If you are a visitor to Canberra, or a local who wants to show visitors around, Canberra's Lookouts are a great place to start to get an idea of the scale of the city and where all Canberra's iconic buildings are located.

Although some people may question the "lack of spontaneity" of a planned city, you can't help but appreciate the beauty of it from above, the way it was intended.

Mount Pleasant Lookout, Canberra
Why not utilise the many Canberra Tracks up the Lookouts...if you have the energy!
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Why? Check out Walter Burley Griffins vision of The Garden City.
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