13 best things to do in Canberra: city guide
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Canberra, the capital of Australia, is a fantastic city. It’s full of history and has plenty to do for families or couples looking for some fun or people visiting on business. The city is an excellent destination in Australia no matter your interests.
So, if you’re looking for things to do in Canberra, look no further! This article includes some of the awesome places in the city that you can’t miss during your visit, extra info, useful tips, and inspiring photos.
When I was working on a farm near the state line between New South Wales and Victoria, I took a few days off to visit Canberra and although it’s one of Australia’s less popular destinations, I was blown away by the city’s stunning scenery.
READ ALSO: The best 5-day itinerary for Melbourne
How to get to Canberra
Canberra is located in the Australian Capital Territory or simply the ACT, bordering New South Wales and about a four-hour drive from Sydney and a six-hour drive from Melbourne.
The city is easily accessible by car or public transport. It has an international airport serviced by major airlines, including Qantas, Virgin Australia, and Jetstar with ticket prices often starting from AU$ 50 for a one-way ticket.
You can also catch a train from Sydney or Melbourne to Canberra’s central station. Bus services are available from Sydney. In addition, several coach companies operate between Canberra and other Australian cities.
BEST TIME TO VISIT CANBERRA
The climate is similar to that of the rest of Australia. Summers are hot and towards the end even many rain showers, while winters are cool and often dry. The best time to visit Canberra is between May and September when temperatures are milder, however, it can be very cold in from June to August.
I visited the city in late April and it was about 20 degrees and cloudy during the daytime, while the temperatures dropped to 5-7 degrees at night.
Where to stay in Canberra
From budget hostels and campgrounds to apartments and five-star hotels, Canberra has something for everyone. Prices vary greatly, with a campsite costing about AU$ 35 per night and a mid-range hotel easily costing about AU$ 80–90 per night.
During my trip, I spent one night at a de cotter bush campsite that was located near the Gibraltar Falls and one night at the Alivio Tourist Park.
If you’re looking for a comfortable place to stay in the heart of the city, the Avenue Hotel is a great option. This hotel offers spacious rooms with free Wi-Fi and an on-site restaurant and bar.
It’s located just minutes from the National Gallery of Australia, Parliament House, and other popular attractions.
If you’re travelling with a caravan or RV, Alivio Tourist Park is a great place to stay. This Park offers full facilities, including electric and water hook-ups and a playground and barbecue area.
It’s located just minutes from the city centre and is perfect for budget-minded travellers.
13 Things To Do In Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
One of the reasons I went to Canberra was to see the breathtaking Gibraltar Falls. This amazing place is only forty minutes away from the city, and it has some of the most spectacular views in the state.
I spent the first night in the Cotter Nature Reserve Camping by the waterfall so I could wake up to the sound of rushing water and the sight of a glorious sunrise while making breakfast at the parking lot.
From the parking area follow the walking path until you reach the stairs, which will take you to a platform where you can view the waterfall from a lower vantage point.
You can also climb on the rocks to get a better view of the waterfall from the top, but you should exercise caution because the rocks can be slippery.
Visit the National Arboretum Canberra
The National Arboretum is a stunning 250-hectare (620 acres) park located in the city. The arboretum is home to more than 100,000 trees and shrubs worldwide, making it a great spot for nature lovers.
Visitors can wander through the gardens, take a walk or cycle along the many trails, or enjoy a picnic lunch in one of the many lovely spots in the Park. There’s also a restaurant on-site for those looking for a bite to eat or an early morning coffee before exploring the park.
The National Arboretum is a must-see for anyone visiting the ACT in Australia
The Telstra Tower is the tallest structure in the city and has some of the best panoramic views. Located near the Molonglo River and actually, in the Black Mountain Reserve, The Telstra Tower is easy to get to with its own parking area right in front.
Visitors can enjoy 360-degree views by walking around the viewing platform at the top of the tower, or they can stop off at the cafe on their way up for a coffee, meal, or snack.
TIP: Check the website for more details about opening hours and the latest news
Lookouts Over The City
There are a number of lookout points around the city that offer excellent views. Some of the most popular spots are the Mount Ainslie lookout, Black Mountain lookout, and Red Hill Lookout.
Drive or walk to these lookouts or take a bus tour for an easy way to see all the best sights. The views are fantastic during any time of year, but they’re especially beautiful in autumn when the leaves change color.
National Botanic Gardens
The National Botanic Gardens are also a very interesting place when you come to the city as the gardens cover over 36 hectares and are home to more than 3000 species of plants worldwide.
Wander through the gardens, take a guided tour, or participate in one of the many activities offered at the gardens. During my visit, I follow the Aboriginal Plant Trail, where you will walk through Rainforest Gully, and explore the Rock Garden and The Native Bee Garden.
The National Library of Australia is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. The library offers many great exhibits and features, including the Hall of Memory with its striking stained-glass windows, statues, and eternal flame dedicated to Australians who died in wars.
Explore the magnificent King’s Garden before visiting Parliament House for a spot of lunch or coffee. The National Library is a must-see when you visit the city.
National Gallery of Australia
The National Gallery of Australia features some of the best Australian art around. There’s something for everyone at the National Gallery with paintings, sculptures, photographs, and other exhibits on display.
Stroll through the gallery at your own pace or choose to take a guided tour instead. Some of my favorite exhibitions were definitely Yayoi Kusama: The spirits of the pumpkins descended into the heavens and the fantastic artwork by James Turrell Skyspace
INFO: Find more information about new exhibitions on the website of the National Gallery of Australia
Parliament House in Canberra
A trip to Canberra would not be complete without seeing the southern hemisphere’s largest structure. The exterior of this magnificent structure is quite stunning, but when you go inside and explore the various rooms, you are going to be truly amazed.
When you take a guided tour, you can learn more about the building’s history and its various rooms, including the Senate and the Chamber of Representatives.
BOOK: You can visit the Parliament House with a guided tour around the city.
The Old Bus Depot Markets
In Kingston’s historic Old Bus Depot building, this market features Canberra’s best local arts and crafts. Visitors will find a huge variety of different stalls selling everything from fresh produce to handmade jewelry and artwork.
This is a great place to go if you’re looking for an original souvenir or if you just want to explore the city like a local.
The markets are open every Sunday from 10 am – 4 pm.
Located within Lake Burley Griffin, the National Carillon is a beautiful tower dedicated to peace and stands across the National Gallery of Australia. The Carillon was given to Australia by the British Government and featured bells from Westminster Abbey and Big Ben in London.
Next to the Corallin, you’ll find rock Park, which is a great place to have a picnic and take in the breathtaking scenery along the Molonglo River. When you continue walking in the direction of Commonwealth park a little bit further, you will have a nice view of the National War Memorial as well as Mount Aisle.
Australian War Memorial
The Australian War Memorial pays tribute to all Australians who have died in war since 1914. This impressive museum features displays on World War I, World War II, and more recent conflicts, as well as a shrine to the Anzacs.
There are also memorials to different Australian units and individuals and a section on Australian military history. Although it is for sure worth visiting this important historical place, it was closed to the public due to a political event.
Enjoy the views from the Mount Ainslie Lookout
If you’re looking for a great spot to take in some of Canberra’s stunning scenery, Mount Ainslie is the place to go.
From the Australian War Memorial, it is possible to reach the summit of Mount Ainslie in one hour via a nice walk. Once there, you will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the city as well as the Anzac Parade.
However, I decided to drive up via Mount Ainslie Drive so that I could take more photos and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
You won’t have any trouble finding a parking spot, and if the temperature is particularly low, you should consider driving up rather than walking.
The months of May through September, which are winter months in the Southern Hemisphere, are the best months for stargazing and when the Mount Stromlo Observatory visitor center is open, you can enjoy scenic walks or even book guided stargazing tours.
Unfortunately, it was closed during my visit due to Covid-19, so I decided to stop in a rural area with not much light pollution on the return trip to Melbourne to take in the stunning Milky Way.
There are plenty of things to do in Canberra, regardless of your interests. Be sure to visit some of the city’s top attractions, like Telstra Tower and Parliament House, and enjoy a meal at one of the many restaurants or cafes on offer.
You’re sure to have a great time while exploring everything that this awesome city has to offer! I hope this article has inspired you to visit the capital city of Australia.
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PICTURES AND EDITING
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The camera gear I used for this trip
I never go out without my camera and many people ask me which gear I use. So to make it quite easy, I listed all the gear I used for this trip below.
Most of the time, I travel with the Sony A7III and the Sony 24-105mm/f4 as my primary lens but depending on the location, I change to another setup. However, I love the Tamron 17-28 to shoot in the big cities.