The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) was created as a compromise: both Sydney and Melbourne thought that they should be Australia's capital city and the authorities decided that the only answer was to create a new city, within its own territory, between the two rivals. ACT is landlocked in the mountainous state of southeastern New South Wales; Sydney is 190 miles (306km) to the northwest. The territory is tiny by Australian standards: it is 50 miles (80km) from north to south and about 20 miles (30km) wide.

The capital city, Canberra, and its surrounding suburbs are in the northeast of the territory and surrounded by the artificial Lake Burley Griffin. The parliament and other government buildings are located to the south of the lake and to the north is Civic, the name for the city's central business district, where visitors will also find the university and the main shopping and nightlife streets. Civic is a lively district and fun to explore for travellers, but Canberra seldom features prominently on the itineraries of foreign tourists, despite being the capital. Two or three days in Canberra will be sufficient for most travellers, but luckily many wonders await just beyond.

The Namadgi National Park occupies the whole southwestern area of the Territory, providing a great opportunity to explore some of Australia's natural abundance for visitors to Canberra. Many travellers visit ACT as a daytrip from Sydney, and Canberra is a popular weekend getaway for Australians.