Lifestyle

The ultimate travel guide to the city of Canberra

Don't believe the naysayers, there's plenty to do in the Nation's Capital.
Things to do in Canberra

Canberra may be small, but it’s packed with world-class attractions which make it perfect for a short-break holiday or weekend away.

Surrounded by beautiful mountains and bushland, and home to internationally regarded restaurants and museums, it offers the best of city and country.

Although us Aussies may have slightly butchered the pronunciation (it’s Can-berra, not Cam-berra), we have a deep affection for the Nation’s capital – even though we still can’t get to grips with why there are so many roundabouts.

Things to do in Canberra for free

National Gallery of Australia

Free entry

Parkes Place, Parkes, nga.gov.au

The National Gallery of Australia (NGA) is known for its international exhibitions along with its stunning permanent collection of Australian art. The NGA is also home to the magnificent TT Tsui-donated Chinese ceramics and the modern international collection, which make this gallery a must-see. Check the website to see what exhibitions are on when you’re visiting.

National Museum of Australia

Free entry

Lawson Crescent, Acton Peninsula, nma.gov.au

Set in a whimsically designed building on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, the collections have divided opinion but no-one can deny the importance of the museum that represents Australian culture. Don’t miss the core National Historical Collection, which shows Australia’s history from indigenous people, through to colonisation and the nation today.

National Portrait Gallery

Free entry

King Edward Terrace, Parkes, portrait.gov.au

See the faces of the people who helped build the nation – from early settlement to today, and understand our identity, history, creativity and culture through some 400 portraits in the permanent collection.

Australian War Memorial

Free entry

Treloar Crescent, Campbell, awm.gov.au

A fascinating, moving and humble look at Australia’s involvement in war with depictions of battlefields, poignant letters and personal items, and even tanks and planes on display. You can research family members too.

Things to do in Canberra with kids and toddlers

The National arboretum playground is a great place for the whole family.

National Arboretum Playground

Free entry

Forest Drive, off Tuggeranong Parkway, Weston Creek, nationalarboretum.act.gov.au

Got an early riser on your hands? This spectacular playground is the answer to all your sleep-deprived dreams! Open from 6am in summer and 7am in winter (365 days a year!), the playground is suitable for all ages and is exciting enough to keep everyone from toddlers to 12 year olds engaged. There is easy parking and an onsite cafe open 9am-4pm.

Open: 6am-8:30pm (daylight savings time) and 7am-5:30pm (non-daylight savings time)

Questacon

Adult $23, child (4-16) $17.50, child (0-4) free

King Edward Terrace, Canberra, questacon.edu.au

The famous National Science and Technology Centre isn’t just a mecca for primary school-aged children – it’s also heaven for under-6s. Mini-Q, located on the ground floor, is Questacon’s dedicated toddler and pre-schooler zone, where their imaginations (and little legs) can run wild. The water play zone is a huge hit, especially with under-twos, while bigger children will love the space gallery. There is even an area for non-mobile babies, keeping them safe and entertained while their older siblings go nuts. Be sure to book your session at the ticket desk during busy times or you may end up disappointed.

Open: 9am-5pm (closed Christmas Day)

Cycling on Lake Burley Griffin

Adult $20 per hour, kids on request

2 Barrine Drive, Acton, Damn Fine Bike Hire

Get out in the fresh air and cycle off some of those freakshakes while taking in some of Canberra’s most beautiful scenery on a relaxing bike ride around Lake Burley Griffin. Damn Fine Bike Hire offers every combination of family bike packages imaginable, from pedal cars to bike trailers that securely carry up to two babies or children. If it’s winter, make sure you dress the little ones warmly because while you’ll be working up a sweat, they’ll be quite literally chilling in the back.

Open: 9am-4pm, Wednesday-Sunday.

The Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House.

Old Parliament House

Adults $2, kids $1, families $5

18 King George Terrace, Parkes, moadoph.gov.au

The Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House sounds incredibly boring, but hidden within is one of the best kid’s play areas anywhere in the country. There are amazing historical dress-ups, interactive exhibits and a huge area packed full of toys, books, cosy places to curl up and open areas to run and play. And all for a seriously bargain price.

Open: 9am-5pm daily

Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

Day pass, $11.50 per vehicle

Paddy’s River Road, Paddys River, tidbinbilla.act.gov.au

Another great outdoor option for active and wildlife-loving little ones, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve boasts more than 20 marked walking trails, from 15-minutes strolls to all-day treks. The site is also home to a large population of possums, wombats, echidnas, emus, platypuses and a wide range of birds and reptiles.

Open: 9am-5pm, all year

Best places to stay in Canberra

Hotel Hotel

Rooms from $230 per night

NewActon Nishi, 25 Edinburgh Ave, Canberra hotel-hotel.com.au

One of Canberra’s newest hotels, this design-inspired space keeps its stylish guests at front of mind. The hotel is home to a hair salon, cinema, yoga studio, bike hire station and art gallery. You’ll never want to leave.

East Hotel

Rooms from $230 per night

69 Canberra Avenue Kingston, easthotel.com.au

With its stylish design, upmarket feel and incredible kid-friendly accommodation options it’s a paradise for parents and children alike. Cots, trundle beds and kid-friendly crockery and cutlery are provided free of charge and children will love the extra special touches, such as the selection of toys and books placed in each room before arrival.

Novotel Hotel

Rooms from $284 per night

65 Northbourne Avenue, accorhotels.com/ACT

This 4.5-star centrally located property is the perfect platform to explore the city’s museums and gallery. Recently having undergone refurbishment, it offers a fantastic heated swimming pool, gym and views of the city and mountains.

Where to dine out in Canberra

https://www.instagram.com/p/BVLW0ojgJEB/?taken-at=6601961&hl=en

Pulp Kitchen

Wakefield Garden, Ainslie, pulp-kitchen.com.au

This modern European bistro has enough Aussie influence that you’ll never look at a French onion soup the same way again. The new owners (Gus Armstrong, from eightysix) has brought a new lease of life to the suburban establishment, without taking away the Euro-chic flavour.

Open: Dinner daily from 6pm; lunch from noon Fri-Sun.

Eightysix

Lonsadale Street, Braddon, eightysix.com.au

This restaurant is for the adventurous eater, who isn’t afraid of munching on a national animal. They offer modern Australian cuisine, and a special all-you-can-eat package for $86 per person.

Open: dinner, every night, 6pm-late

Akiba

Bunda St, City, akiba.com.au

Tasked with bringing ‘New Asian’ cuisine to Canberra, Akiba have successfully combined casual, shared dining with authentic dishes and techniques to bring diners a unique experience.

Open: 7 days, 7:30am-late

Morks

Kingston Foreshore, morks.com.au

This is Thai food, but not as you know it. Often called ‘the best Thai in Canberra’, this iconic family-run restaurant has been serving Canberrans for nearly 10 years. Get the standard Banquet ($48 per person) to try nearly one of everything, but don’t be surprised if you come back for the rest.

Open: Lunch Fri and Sun, from 12pm, Dinner Tue-Sun, from 6pm

Dickson Dumpling House

Cape St, Dickson, (02) 6248 8350

No Aussie city would be complete without a quality dumpling house, and Canberra is no exception. Dickson Dumpling House focuses on bold flavours and fresh ingredients, but with prices that won’t break the bank.

Open: Tuesday – Sunday 11:30am–3pm, 5–10pm, closed Monday.

How to get around to see Canberra

Rent a bike

Hire a bike and head around Lake Burley Griffin on purpose-built, super-safe cycleways that showcase the lake’s natural charms. Take a backpack because there’s precious little in the way of refreshments, but what it lacks in tucker it makes up for in beauty. Keep to the left to avoid prangs.

Try: Mr Spokes Bike Hire, Barrine Drive, Acton, mrspokes.com.au

Take to the skies in a hot air balloon

Float over the city and see its man-made landscape, beautiful lake and surrounding mountains in the hot air balloon with Balloon Aloft. Dawn flights, which will see you meet in the elegant lobby of the Hyatt Hotel, take off as the sun rises. Expect to be airborne for between 40-60 minutes or whenever the pilot finds a suitable place to land and then enjoy breakfast back at the hotel.

Try: Contact Balloon Aloft, canberraballoons.com.au

Unwind and relax with your favourite magazine!

Huge savings plus FREE home delivery

Related stories