There are so many attractions to explore in Canberra. Start planning with this list of top 10 things to do.
Not only is Canberra Australia's youngest capital city, it's also the most surprising. The federal capital houses many of the country's cultural institutions but also supports a thriving arts community and a lively food and bar scene. With its diverse mix of man-made and natural attractions, Canberra is a place of discovery, learning and fun.
A visit to The Australian War Memorial is vital for anyone who wants to understand Australian history. The memorial chronicles the involvement of our nation’s troops in war, from the colonial period to the present day. There are range of new exhibits, including ANZAC voices, and the redeveloped First War galleries.
Tour Parliament House, a modern complex opened in 1988. Visitors can witness the democratic process at Question Time, in the House of Representatives or Senate. These sessions start at 2pm when Parliament is sitting. The magnificent building also houses a number of exhibitions and public galleries. Free guided tours take place at 10am, 1pm and 3pm.
Pull yourself away from its government buildings and discover Canberra’s funky side. Experience this at the weekly Old Bus Depot Markets, held each Sunday from 10am to 4pm. It’s packed with interesting things to buy, eat and sample – from hipster clothes to homewares and delicious organic produce. A great place to pick up an authentic souvenir.
Art-lovers will find Canberra an endless delight. Small art galleries are dotted across the city but some of the country’s most important public collections are located here. The National Gallery of Australia is the nation’s pre-eminent public gallery housing collections of Australian, Indigenous and Asian art. For something offbeat, visit the nearby National Portrait Gallery.
Get up close to the elite athletes, gymnasts, swimmers and cyclists that train at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. The institute welcomes visitors and offers regular tours where visitors can watch Australia’s finest going through their paces. Many of the facilities, including a 50-metre swimming pool, tennis courts and fully equipped gym, are open to the public.
Attend the annual Floriade festival, one of Canberra’s most colourful events, which attracts plant lovers from around the world. For something more pastoral, venture out to the National Arboretum. The ambitious project, launched in 2005, features 48,000 trees, plus a visitor’s centre, restaurant and gift shop. Entry is free.
Discover Lake Burley Griffin — one of Canberra’s most prominent landmarks. The expanse of water is used for leisure activities including yachting, kayaking and windsurfing. The best way to experience this man-made wonder is by cycling around its 35-kilometre (21.7 miles) perimeter. Cycle Canberra can deliver bikes to your hotel or to the lake.
Taking to the outdoors is easy in the nation’s capital. Jogging, cycling and hiking are popular pastimes. The city has developed a number of heritage trails that showcase its urban design. Best known is Mount Ainslie Lookout, which offers spectacular views of landmarks such as the Australian War Memorial, Anzac Parade and Parliament House. Entry is free.
The Poachers Pantry, a short drive from Canberra, offers food and wine in country surrounds. Sample cool climate wines at the cellar door and eat at the Smokehouse Café. Stop by Grazing for delicious meals made from local ingredients, and pick up a cheeky bottle or two from Lerida Estate, a winery overlooking Lake George.
Spend a couple of hours at National Museum of Australia and you’ll quickly see that despite Canberra’s serious image, humour is an essential national trait. The museum has a mind-blowing collection of objects – from the sacred to the bizarre. And those with an interest in science and technology should visit Questacon where you can release your inner geek.