The planning and development of the national capital Canberra was the subject of wide discussion and reflection during its centenary year 2013. However much of the attention was on the original design competition (1911) and the city itself. This article explores a different and important dimension – the national capital in its regional context, the Australian Capital Region. A number of factors are considered including the early influence of geography and climate, the subsequent expansion of the metropolis and growing connections beyond the border on critical issues such as water, transport and urban settlement. Discussion is found on the challenges of implementing regional planning and the role of regional collaboration in responding to ‘wicked’ problems such as climate change. Conclusions are made on the opportunities to develop Canberra and the region into an international model for a sustainable region responding to the challenges of the twenty-first century.