Canberra Day is celebrated on the second Monday of March in honor of its official naming on March 12, 1913. It is a public holiday enjoyed by people from the stretches of the Australian Capital Territory all the way to Jervis Bay Territory. The city is engaged in a two-week-long celebration, preceding the founding day. Many events related to the day, including an award ceremony, a hot air balloon carnival, and fundraisers are held throughout the month.
History of Canberra Day
Canberra is the largest inland city of Australia and the seat of the government. Many distant features like planned townships, an open skyline, mountain cover, and year-round pleasant weather make it stand apart from the rest of the country.
The plains and valleys of Canberra have been home to Indigenous people for over 21,000 years. Canberra’s etymology traces to the word ‘Kamberri’, used by the inhabitants before the Europeans discovered the mainland.
In the initial decades of colonization, little emphasis was laid on the landlocked area of the territory. The Europeans continued to establish their strongholds throughout the 19th century, driving the majority of indigenous people out of the city. The city garnered national prominence after the efforts of notable settlers such as the Murray and Gibbes families.
Canberra’s designation as the capital of Australia was finalized after much contention, as the cities of Sydney and Melbourne appeared to be more developed and poised to host the seat of the government. But, it was the constitutional commandment of section 125, stating that the capital must be in the state of New South Wales that settled the issue. Eagerly, parliament passed the Seat of Government Act in 1908, changing the course of Canberra’s history.
On March 12, 1913, Lady Gertrude Mary Denman, wife of then Governor-General Lord Denman, announced the official name of the city with the proclamation, “I name the capital of Australia, Canberra.” Ever since then, the third Monday of March is observed in the celebration of the great city of Canberra. The day was moved from the third Monday of March to the second in 2007 to have it fall closer to its original date, March 12.
Canberra Day timeline
European Explorers Charles Throsby Smith, Joseph Wild, and James Vaughan discover the central territory of Australia.
Lieutenant Joshua John Moore builds a hut on the discovered area, which is later named Canberry Cottage.
Scottish rector Pierce Galliard Smith describes the land across the Molonglo River Canberra for the first time.
Lady Denman, the wife of the Governor-General of Australia, officially names the Australian Capital Territory as Canberra on March 12.
Canberra Day FAQs
What is Canberra most famous for?
Canberra is the capital city of Australia and the seat of the government. It is best known for its planned urban structure, natural reserves, and extensive war memorabilia.
What is the best time to visit Canberra, Australia?
The most suitable time to explore the beauty of Canberra is between September and November. The cold waves of winter begin to settle down, and the ground prepares for spring, making the weather most favorable for tourists.
Is Canberra Day a bank holiday?
Canberra Day is a public holiday in the Australian Capital Territory and the Jervis Bay Territory of Australia.
Canberra Day Activities
Explore the city of Canberra
Start your day with the National Gallery of Australia, spend your afternoon rowing in the waters of Lake Burley Griffin, move to the somber clutch of Australia’s War Memorial, and finish your day in some of the finest dining spots of the country.
Plan a brunch
Is there anything greater than brunch in March? Yes — a brunch on Canberra Day, a designated public holiday. Take your friends and family out for brunch, as the menu calls for bottomless mimosas, smoked salmon, the perfect egg salad, and an extra-large slice of carrot cake.
Enjoy the Canberra Balloon Spectacular
The Canberra Balloon Spectacular is an annual hot air balloon festival held in March. More than 50 hot air balloons are launched in the sky over two weeks. The celebration perfectly coincides with Canberra Day, as it lifts the city with joy, and attracts thousands of spectators from all over the country.
5 Important Facts About Canberra
Diversity’s the charm
Of Canberra’s residing population, 32% are born overseas, making it one of the most diverse cities in Australia.
The distillery capital
Canberra is home to some of the best distilleries, breweries, and wineries in Australia.
Bikes over cars
The number of bikes outnumbers cars in the streets of Canberra, clearing pathways, and sparing filthy carbon emissions.
The political imprint
Most of Canberra’s suburbs are named after ex-Prime Ministers — paying the ultimate homage to the city’s political leanings.
Fight the reputation
Despite being considered a “boring city filled with lobbyists and politicians,” Canberra is one of the top-rated tourist attractions in Australia.
Why We Love Canberra Day
It celebrates its unique history
Canberra’s history goes back 21,000 years. From the Aboriginal inhabitation to the European discovery in the year 1820, the rocky plains have bore witness to tremendous cultural, geographical, and ecological transformation. On Canberra Day, we celebrate the historical landscape that serves as Australia’s capital.
It cherishes diversity
Canberra is considered the talent pool of Australia, attracting sharp minds and creative souls from all around the country and the world to participate in the trade, politics, arts, and culture of the capital city. Thousands of people from all backgrounds, ethnicities, and social upbringings buy a one-way ticket to Canberra each year.
It honors the worthy
Canberra Citizen of the Year is an annual award honoring an individual for their work in the field of Indigenous affairs, refugee settlement, charity, community organization, and advocacy. The award is bestowed by the Chief Minister during the celebration of Canberra Day.
Canberra Day dates