Telstra Tower is an iconic building on the Canberra landscape, rising 195 metres above the summit of Black Mountain. Locals and visitors to Canberra often use it as a landmark for getting their bearings, as you can see it when driving around most parts of the city. Located just 15 minutes west of the CBD, this tower is still being used today for telecommunications for Canberra's TV transmissions, radio and telephone reception. Although this was its primary purpose when it was built in 1980, this tower is also a tourist attraction in its own right, attracting on average of 430,000 people a year. When you catch the lift up to the viewing platforms, there is a panoramic 360 degree view of around the region from the indoor platform (with café and small souvenir shop) and two upper levels outside. Although the views from within are spectacular, it is the windy outdoor viewing platforms that literally blows visitors away with the view.
Red arrow - Outdoor viewing platforms. Hold onto your hats!
The entrance to Telstra Tower is located over a pedestrian bridge, which takes you into a small area with a model of the tower and admission area. At the time of writing it costs $7.50 for adults and $3 for aged pensioners and children between 4 - 16, to enter the tower. Family passes are available for $17 and children under 4 are free. Although the prices sound reasonable, I do have to mention that this building and interior has not been upgraded since 1980 when it was built, so it can't be compared to Sydney Tower or other modern equivalents. If you are a visitor to Canberra, I would also suggest visiting the tower at the end of your trip, when you know what each landmark looks like and you can point out all of the places that you have been. Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of signage inside the tower detailing the views, although it is certainly worth the trip up for a look.
After paying the admission fee, the lift ride up is surprisingly short and you can watch the lifts' progress on the way up to the top on a display. With a thump at the top, the doors open up to an indoor platform that will simply take your breath away.
360 degree views including mountain ranges, Lake Burley Griffin and city
For the people of Canberra, it is an interesting place to visit with guests to show them around and to also marvel at the breathtaking views of their own city. When you live here, the extent of the land and rural countryside around the region is often forgotten, when you get caught up in the day-to-day of city life. On our visit, we went in Summer, on a scorcher 35 degree day with rain forecast later in the day. For us, it was interesting to see three separate rain fronts coming towards the city from different directions. Telstra Tower is open until 10pm each night, so it would be an ideal venue to watch a storm roll in or to watch the sunset over the hills.
On this level, there is also small café with light meals and a small souvenir store. For our Summer visit, we sat in the café with an ice block to cool us down, however, in Winter, it would be a cosy place to stop for a coffee and take in the view.
Although the indoor platform was interesting for a short time, the two levels above on the outdoor platforms is where all the fun begins. On our visit, there was a "strong winds" warning sign on the way up and two wind-blown ladies also warned us about how windy it was, before they ran in for cover. With our hats firmly in our hands, my daughter and I walked out on the first level and the wind almost bowled us over. "This is awesome!" my daughter cried, which summed it up nicely. It was simply awesome.
Outdoor Viewing Platform Level 1 has high wire bars, however you can still see the view very clearly. Take a walk around this level and find all the iconic landmarks of Canberra from this great height. Look over to the National Arboretum in one direction, then in other directions spot the National Museum of Australia, Parliament House, Old Parliament House, National Library, Questacon, Australian War Memorial and more. For us, it was equally as exciting to just look down at where our car was parked, so far below!
The tiny carpark below, with Belconnen in the distance
Outdoor Viewing Platform Level 2 is even better, with lower bars so that you can see the views more clearly. The lower bars also add an element of danger to the experience as the fencing looks too low - even though it isn't. We watched another family chase a hat along this windy platform, but it managed to be caught in time before it went over. If it had flown over the side, it would have only made it to the level below and could be rescued from there, so it is very safe.
These windy outdoor viewing platforms were the highlight of our visit. The views are even more spectacular than the indoor levels below and the ferocious winds just add an element of excitement and fun - especially for kids.
Lower bars, but bigger views on Outdoor Viewing Platform Level 2
After your visit, if you have time, why not catch the lift back down and then walk down the stairs to the bottom level to the theatrette, to watch a video about how the tower was built, as well look at a small exhibition of phones from the 1930's to today.
Telstra Tower can be accessed by a windy road, adjacent to the entrance to the Australian National Botanical Gardens. If you are feeling energetic, there is also a steep, 5km return Flower to Tower walking trail from the gardens to the tower. There is also a Forest Trail which begins half way up, as well as a Summit Walk that begins from Frith Street in Acton behind the CSIRO - see here for a map of both.
However you arrive or leave, you are sure to be impressed by the windy outside viewing platforms of Telstra Tower in the warmer months - although brace yourself for an arctic blast if you visit in Winter!
The iconic Telstra Tower, as seen from all over the city