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Suburb Spotlight: Top 5 Things To Do in Acton

Home > Canberra > Architecture | Art | Cafes | Free | Museums | Lists
by Sue W (subscribe)
Lover of exploring, family, food and fun!
Published February 20th 2018
Architecture & art, just minutes from the CBD
Acton is just one of the many suburbs that makes up Canberra's city centre - however when you look at the map, it is surprising how large it really is. It covers the NewActon Precinct and the Australian National University within the city, as well as the National Museum of Australia and Black Mountain Peninsula on Lake Burley Griffin. The rest of the area is made up of historical landmarks such as the National Film and Sound Archives and the Shine Dome, as well as cafes, restaurants, car parks, parklands and office buildings. It is a fascinating area to explore by foot, so why not park your car and create your own walking tour of Acton? Here are 5 places to explore along the way - if you have time to fit it all in!

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Explore inside the Nishi Building, NewActon Precinct


1/ The NewActon Precinct
sits on the border of Acton and is a modern, arty and environmentally sustainable area to explore. You could easily spend half a day in this precinct alone - exploring the Nishi Gallery, watching a movie at the Palace Electric Cinema and then having lunch at one of the many cafes. A highlight of the precinct is the award-winning Nishi Building, which is a fascinating building to walk into and discover hidden quirks and creative ideas. When you walk in the door there is the striking Grand Stair to walk up, which makes you marvel at its arrangement. At the top of the stairs you may notice the low lighting in the building, which is designed to save energy and also creates a moody atmosphere. Spread out on this floor is Monster Kitchen and Bar, which has various seating areas to choose from and eclectic furniture to sit on. Stay and have a coffee or you are visiting in winter, warm up by the fires. You won't want to leave!

Also don't miss the Art, Not Apart festival every March!

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The award-winning, environmentally sustainable Nishi building, NewActon Precinct


2/ The National Museum of Australia is located further along Lake Burley Griffin, from the NewActon Precinct. If you are feeling energetic and would like to walk there, there is a pedestrian crossing over the highway from the end of Marcus Clarke Street (near Mocan and Green Grout cafe). The National Museum of Australia houses the entire Australian story - from thousands of years of indigenous history to today. Walk around the Gallery of the First Australians, learn about our past, see Captain Cooks magnifier, be surprised by Phar Laps heart and inspect other objects from modern history. If you have kids, they will enjoy K Space, which is open between 12pm and 1:30pm weekdays, as well as all day on weekends and ACT school holidays. Rest your weary feet and have lunch at the Museum Cafe, before wandering the Museum Shop. See here for details.

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Walk through the National Museum and trace back the Australian Story


3/ Henry Rolland Park is currently being built at West Basin, on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. Construction teams have been working on the first stage of the project for over a year, with the final result starting to take shape. There will be a 132 metre promenade along the edge of Lake Burley Griffin, which will incorporate an 8.1 metre wide concrete boardwalk, jetty, open green spaces and outdoor exercise equipment. The exciting part of this development is that this area of the lake used to be fairly unremarkable - there was nothing on this side of Commonwealth Avenue Bridge to attract people around to this other side. When this first stage is opened however, in early 2018, it will create a scenic link between the centre of the lake, all the way around to the National Museum of Australia. For more details on this project, see here.

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Artists impression of Henry Rolland Park. Image: ACT Government Your Say website


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Artists impression of Henry Rolland Park. Image: ACT Government Your Say website


4/ Black Mountain Peninsula is located further around the lake from the National Museum of Australia. It is a popular spot for families to meet up for BBQ's by the lake, with a playground and plenty of grassy areas for the kids to run around. There is a small, netted swimming area for the kids to have a splash in and a small Lookout, for clear views across the lake to the city. See here for a full article on Black Mountain Peninsula.

5/ The National Film and Sound Archives is located a short walk from the NewActon Precinct, towards the university. It houses the entire history of Australia's communication - with 2.8 million items of audio, film and advertising material from Australia's history. They hold exhibitions throughout the year and also have movies showing in their Arc Cinema. See here for details.

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Watch Australian movie classics at the National Film and Sound Archives


If you enjoy exploring Canberra by foot, to really get to know the city, you will find a wide range of precincts in various parts of the city centre. Some areas are full of government office buildings, so during office hours there is no-one on the streets and then at lunch-time there is an outpouring of people on the pavement at once! Other areas, like the NewActon Precinct, Braddon and Kingston Foreshore, are the places to be on weekends, with a strong café culture and a relaxed weekend vibe.

Although Canberra has many areas to explore, Acton is one of the more exciting areas to walk around, with sculpture, art and new discoveries to be found along the way. Why don't you go for a walk and discover them for yourself this weekend?

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Who knows what else you will find?


* For more Suburbs in the Spotlight, see the articles for Kingston, Braddon and Pialligo.
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Why? Explore this large suburb, just a few minutes walk from the CBD
When: See individual websites for details
Where: NewActon Precinct, Marcus Clarke St, Canberra ACT 2601
Cost: Free to explore!
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