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Living In Canberra – How To Find Your Ideal Home

Australia is a number one choice with expatriating foreigners looking for the perfect blend of sun, sea, lifestyle and opportunity.  

However, when it comes to choosing a potential destination for those relocating to Australia, very often expats don’t consider living in Canberra and prefer other cities and locations.

If you’ve never even thought about living in Canberra in Australia, it does have a lot of plus points in its favour over even the most popular expat destinations.

In this report, we’re going to be exploring where you could make a new home from home in this particularly sunny part of the country.

Living in Canberra – the pros and cons

Canberra is perhaps a lesser considered destination ‘Down Under,’ despite the many pros it has going for it as a potential relocation destination because it is not right on the coastline. 

Kings Avenue leading towards the Australian-American Memorial, Canberra, Australia
Kings Avenue leading towards the Australian-American Memorial, Canberra, Australia

The main plus points for living in Canberra include its peaceful bush setting, the good schools it has in abundance, and government infrastructure which supports the still solid jobs market locally: note: unemployment in the nation’s capital is consistently lower than in most other state capitals.

If you want to consider both sides of the coin then the main cons of living in Canberra are the transport infrastructure which is just about OK in morning rush hour but sporadically trying in the evenings. 

Additionally, some people don’t like the fact that if you live in Canberra it has the feel of living in a big country town rather than a ‘proper’ city – and as mentioned you’re not right on the coast which is a turn off for some people.

Some people also criticise Canberra for being too sterile, too safe and too well planned, but other people will recommend it for the very same reasons – i.e., it’s very much a personal choice.

Canberra definitely has a slower vibe than Sydney for example, but it has a lot of plus points such as the fact there’s money for the arts in Canberra – making it culturally a pleasant destination. 

Also, many of the homes in Canberra sit on generous plots of land as real estate is a better value than in the likes of Perth or Brisbane for example.

If you have children then Canberra is a relatively safe place for them to grow up with a good standard of schooling typical across the city, and plenty of opportunities for young people in terms of further education for example. 

However, if you’re a young person living in Canberra and you’re not in education, you might find the city’s nightlife a little ‘dry’ compared to what you could access in Sydney perhaps.

Canberra is built around a man-made lake called Lake Burley Griffin.  On one side of the lake is Parliament House, which is built into a hill, and directly opposite it is the Australian War Memorial which is in front of Mount Ainslie. 

If you don’t work in the parliament building, and a lot of Canberrans do, then it’s likely you’re going to work in the districts of Civic, Belconnen or Woden – Civic being the centre of town on the opposite side of the lake to Parliament House.

Where to live in central Canberra

Suburbs closest to central Canberra and Civic, i.e., two of the strongest employment centres of the city, tend to be made up of more apartment blocks than is typical in other suburbs.

So-called ‘cafe suburbs’ Manuka and Kingston are known for their good lifestyle and cafe culture, and they offer some of the most pleasant local shops, restaurants and services of any Canberran suburb. 

Dickson is the place to live if you like a bit of colour, and Turner and Braddon if you want to be close to the city and don’t mind things a bit cheaper and a bit ‘rougher’ – though Canberra doesn’t ever get too rough.

Ainslie has some of the nicer, older homes and backs onto a nature reserve, and Acton backs onto the Botanical Gardens and Black Mountain and the Australian National University. 

The other suburbs in this area on Civic’s apron also tend to have older homes and quite a lot of student houses.  Red Hill, on the other side of the lake, is one of Canberra’s more affluent areas, and backs onto yet another nature reserve called…Red Hill.

Which areas of Woden in Canberra are good to live in?

Woden is one of the older parts of Canberra in that it has houses built before the 1970s.  Woden has its own town centre with lots of shops and a hospital, and a splash of nightlife too. 

The area around Weston is probably one of the nicest parts of Woden.  Chapman also has a good reputation and is popular with families.

The best places to live in Belconnen

Belconnen is another older area, set on a less flat section of Canberra so the views are even nicer than average – and there are lots of places in Canberra with nice views.  Belconnen has a town centre as well, and a mall right next to its own man-made lake.

The Canberra Balloon Spectacular, an annual hot air balloon festival that takes place on the lawns of the old Parliament House in Canberra, Australia.
The Canberra Balloon Spectacular, an annual hot air balloon festival that takes place on the lawns of the old Parliament House in Canberra, Australia.

Canberra University is in Belconnen, as is Calvary Hospital, Canberra Stadium and the Australian Institute of Sport.  Belconnen even boasts its own farmers’ market. 

The houses here, like in Woden, are more established and each one is typically different to the houses on either side of it. 

Some of Canberra’s other, more affluent suburbs are in Belconnen, but it’s also got some of the least affluent, and flat and apartment-style accommodation, which is less common in Canberra than in other Australian cities.

Hawker, Aranda and Flynn are all nice, benefiting from even better-than-average views and easy access to more nature reserves.  Hawker, Weetangerra and Aranda also have good primary schools, and Hawker has a college.

What about living in Tuggeranong

Tuggeranong, also referred to as ‘Nappy Valley,’ has a lot of the cheaper new build houses, younger trees and younger families!  It’s quite a long way south of the city, so it’s a long commute on the roads by Canberra standards – but not by the standards of commuting in a normal-sized city in the UK or Australia.

Many people who live in Tuggeranong send their kids north for high school – Alfred Deakin is a popular choice for example.  Because it’s a newer area, Tuggeranong is often quite a bit cheaper.  As is the trend in Canberra, most of the flats in this area are near the town centre.


Gungahlin is the new Tuggeranong – ten years ago, there were still farms here.  It’s to the north of the city, north of Belconnen as well, but the commute on the roads is only about 20 minutes. 

Gungahlin Pond Park in autumn. Canberra, Australia
Gungahlin Pond Park in autumn. Canberra, Australia

You can still buy house and land packages here, but there are some finished homes and townhouses on the market now as well – some that have yet to be lived in.

Newer builds tend to have smaller block sizes and, as yet, less greenery, so the landscapes aren’t as picturesque. The pros are that real estate in this part of Canberra is much cheaper than in the more established neighbourhoods.

Final thoughts on living in Canberra

In conclusion, there are a lot of different places and price ranges to explore when looking for somewhere to live in Canberra, though there are quite clear groupings of accommodation by suburb. 

Flats tend to centre around the neighbourhood/town centres, the newer suburbs tend to attract the younger families, and the older suburbs generally attract the more affluent home buyer to the generally larger houses with better-established grounds and the best views.

If you’re a family thinking of emigrating to Australia and you’re considering living in Canberra, a good rule of thumb to follow is don’t send your children to a school in a suburb you wouldn’t want to live in – it will make life difficult for you in terms of transportation and even getting them into the school of your choice potentially.

For younger people considering living in Canberra, make sure you live near a bus interchange, or within walking distance of your college, university, place of work or favourite watering hole. Otherwise, you’re going to be frustrated by the lack of transport options.

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