Readers of others of my reviews will be aware that, with one exception – Cape Town – I feel that, for me, hop-on-hop-off bus services are too restrictive and not worth what they charge. I prefer to do my own thing and find local transport services to be as convenient, generally much more frequent and certainly a lot cheaper.
While these services are almost invariably not for me I accept that they will be of use to others – those lacking time and seeking a quick overview of a city, those seeking a commentary, those lacking the agility to cope with other forms of public transport, and so on. Accordingly, while I make some observations and present other options I leave it for the reader to decide if this particular service is for them or not.
The Canberra hop-on-hop-off Red Bus Explorer service is not for me.
That said, if for whatever reason you decide to take it (and you have one day) and want to skim the main sights, as opposed to visit them in any depth, I suggest you get the first bus (9.30am) to the Australian War Memorial which arrives at 9.50am (the Memorial opens at 10am). From here take the next bus at 11.20am to either the National Library/Questacon or the National Gallery of Australia, then the 2.45pm from New Parliament House to the National Museum of Australia from which you will need to catch the 4.25pm back to the city. This does not give time for a stop at the Royal Australian Mint and it permits less than three hours to cover what will have to be a small selection of the sites in the Parliamentary Triangle and have lunch, on the run. I suggest just the National Gallery and (New) Parliament House (walking between the two via Old Parliament House).
Note that I generally recommend a minimum of 4 hours at the Australian War Memorial, if you have more than a passing interest in it. As such, and assuming you have a second day in the city, you might want to forget about getting off at the War Memorial and fit in an extra attraction in the Parliamentary Triangle or consider a stop at the Mint though 1.5hrs is excessive time there (vv other options within a one day visit) unless you have a particular interest – though there is decent upmarket café nearby (short walk) at the Beaver Art Gallery where you could have lunch. The ‘café’ at the Mint is an entirely missable experience if you want more than a coffee or cold drink.
Getting to the Australian War Memorial at another time is relatively easy. From the City centre it is about a 20 minute walk or a short taxi ride. Alternatively take Bus No 10 (910 at weekends and holidays) from stand 9 at the City bus interchange.
Some may consider it a little churlish of me to mention this, but in 2013 the local government introduced what was an excellent free tourist bus service – Route 100 – (no commentary) which basically followed the same route as the Red Explorer Bus does. Persistent opposition from the latter saw the free service scrapped. In July 2016 a new free service was introduced – Route 101. This service (surprise, surprise) does not pass any of the main tourist attractions and is consequentially of limited use to the visitor.
Red Explorer Bus ticket price (all prices Oct 2017).
24 hour ticket
All day (9:30am to 4:45pm)
Adult: $30 per person
Senior: $25 per person
Child: $15 per person (under 16)
Family: $70 (2 adults & 2 children)
These price details are a ‘cut paste’ from the website below (Oct 2017). While it says 24hr ticket it then says All day (9.30am -4.45pm). The latter would seem to suggest that if you started with an afternoon bus you may not be able to use the ticket the following morning – check before you buy. The service is owner operated so there is likely to be flexibility.
A two day option is available at $55 per adult (with concessions available). If you just want to stay on the bus, a single 1.5 hrs sightseeing loop costs $15 per adult (with concessions available).
The bus departs from outside the Melbourne Building on Northbourne Avenue, a few minutes walk from the city centre though you can get on at any stop.
Public bus alternative to the Red Explorer Bus
In addition to Bus 10 (910) for the Australian War Memorial, Buses 1,2 or 3 (934, 932 at weekends and holidays) pass through the Parliamentary Triangle – with No 2 (932) continuing to the Mint – while bus 7 (934) services the National Museum of Australia. Single cash fare $4.70 adult or a daily pass $9.00 – both available on the bus.
For more information on ACTION (Canberra) buses see my separate review and/or https://www.transport.act.gov.au/