Are you looking for things to do in Canberra? If you’re not sure what are the best places to visit in Canberra, fear not! We visited recently and we were actually so surprised that there’s some brilliant Canberra attractions to see.
If you’re looking for a cheap weekend away from Sydney, you’ll be pleased to know there is a lot of free things to do in Canberra as well as free parking on weekends too. You could spend a weekend in Canberra and get away with having an action packed time without spending much money at all.
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Let’s get things straight
Every time I’ve spoken to people about Canberra, I get the response; ‘You’re not missing out on much’. After a bit of research we found some absolutely fantastic things to do in Canberra that I wouldn’t hesitate to visit again. If you’re looking for a Sydney getaway, put Canberra on your list to visit.In this post, we’re letting you know what to do in Canberra so you won’t be stuck for ideas.
Do A Day Trip To Canberra From Sydney
If the idea of having to sort out your own Canberra sightseeing trip sounds like too much of a mission, we recommend jumping on a private Canberra tour which has had great reviews on Get Your Guide. As it’s a private tour from Sydney, you’ll be able to customise your trip, and you’ll be picked up from your accommodation or home, making it really easy to organise.
Expect to visit the following places:
Hear about the secrets of Parliament House on a guided tour
Explore the National Museum of Australia at your own pace
Learn about the ANZACs at the Australian War Memorial
Drive through the NSW Southern Highlands
See views over the city from Mount Ainslie
You’ll need 6 people to to go on this tour, making it an affordable $188 each for this Sydney day trip. Not only will you learn loads about Australia’s capital city, you’ll be supporting local tourism which is desperately needed right now.
Whether you decide to stay at Ovolo Nishi, you should 100% go and check it out because the entrance itself is incredible. We stayed here and we absolutely loved it. The service, the food and the unique hotel itself was more than a reason to stay here. Honestly, I don’t think you’ll find a better hotel in Canberra or in Australia to be honest!
Based in New Acton, there’s some great reasons to visit this area including Mocan & Green Grout and the Nishi Gallery – but we talk more about these awesome places later in this post.
Check availability for Ovolo Nishi here on Booking.com.
Watch Our Ovolo Nishi video below!
2. Canberra Hot Air Balloon At Sunrise
If you really want to make your weekend a memorable one, we recommend going on a Canberra hot air balloon experience at sunrise. Rated as one of the best things to do in Canberra, it’s the best way to see how beautiful the city truely is.
The 3h30m balloon ride takes you over the many lakes and parks of Canberra including Parliament House with a glass of sparkling wine to enjoy!
One of our favourite free things to do in Canberra is the National Gallery of Australia. Honestly the National Gallery of Australia is mind blowing. We couldn’t believe how few people were walking around (however, it was during Floriade at the time). Most of all there’s some absolutely brilliant artists housed in this gallery, we couldn’t quite believe it.
We absolutely loved seeing the famous Yayoi Kusama Infinity Room and couldn’t believe that we didn’t even need to line up for it. When we went to see one of her pieces in LA, we had to line up for about an hour. And we saw some of her pumpkins at Naoshima Island in Japan which is a massive bucket list place to visit (read all about our visit to Naoshima here).
We also loved James Turrell’s Skyspace. He’s got a few dotted around the world and we managed to see one in Yorkshire last year. I must admit, this one in Canberra is better.
We also couldn’t believe the amount of other artists in this gallery – from the Chapman Brothers, to Warhol to the infamous Pollack which was bought back in the 1970s.
Honestly, I’d make the effort to visit Canberra if it meant all we could see is the National Gallery of Australia. It’s brilliant!
We were gobsmacked to casually see a version of Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North. I mean, I haven’t even seen it in England and here we are in Canberra of all places and a version of it is right here at National Gallery of Australia.
Floriade is the flower festival which brings in the crowds to Canberra. We were lucky to visit during the season and it’s especially good for the October long weekend as they have loads of bands and comedians lined up to perform. There’s also Night Fest which you need to know about.
Who knew there’s a pink lake in Canberra? Yep, the pink pond in Canberra is located at Eardley Street in Bruce, which is about a 10 minute drive from the city centre. It equally makes a good Instagram photo too!
Address: Eardley Street, Bruce, Canberra
6. Enjoy A Fun Winery, Distillery & Tasting Tour
Did you know Canberra has a thriving winery scene? Let the locals show you around on a fun Canberra day trip with Dave’s Travel Group. You’ll visit 3 wineries, a distillery, a chocolatier and you’ll have lunch thrown in too! This is a fun day out to meet other like minded people, and support local tourism which is needed right now.
The Australian War Memorial is one of the best Canberra attractions and it’s free. I saw the building on Instagram recently and no lie, I thought it was in somewhere like Dubai. I couldn’t believe this building is in Canberra!
Make sure you go upstairs at the memorial to pay your respects to the soldiers who are no longer with us. The memorial is very beautiful and somewhere you just need to visit on your trip to Canberra.
Address: Canberra War Memorial, Treloar Cres, Campbell ACT 2612
8. Visit Cockington Green Gardens
Don’t you just love a miniature garden? We saw one back in the Cotswolds years ago and what do you know? Canberra’s got its very own miniature English gardens at Cockington Green Gardens. Located just 15 minutes north of Canberra, it’s a must visit for the whole family. I’m sure kids will love the steam train too!
You can buy a ticket bundle called the Canberra 3 In Fun Ticket which will save you 25% on visiting Cockington Green Gardens, Australian Institute of Sport, and Questacon–The National Science and Technology Centre. It’s no wonder it’s really popular with families.
Parliament House is the first place you should probably visit on your Canberra trip. The iconic building is something to see for yourself! It’s quite fascinating to see the chambers, something we’ve all seen on TV. Look out for the random dude outside with his alpaca (or is it a lama?), you can have a very candid photo with!
The good news is, it’s free to go into Parliament of Australia and parking is free outside as well. Again Parliament House is somewhere you really should visit on your first trip to Canberra.
Address: Parliament of Australia, Parliament Dr, Canberra ACT 2600
10. The National Museum of Australia
The National Museum of Australia is one of the best things to do in Canberra with kids. We loved the modern architecture and there was a Pixar exhibition on at the time of visiting. The rooms are full of information, maybe a little too much for us to take everything in but it’s a great place for school trips or or something for kids to do in Canberra.
Address: National Museum of Australia, Lawson Cres, Acton ACT 2601
11. Questacon Science Museum
Although we didn’t have time to visit Questacon in Canberra, it would be at the top of our list to visit next time. The science museum is located right near to a lot of the other museums in Canberra and would be a great visit for the whole family.
You can visit this Canberra activity as part of the Canberra 3 In Fun ticket we mentioned above.
Move over Melbourne, because the Canberra street art is hidden away in some awesome spots around the city. We loved the Canberra street art on Tocumwal Lane a lot.
13. Visit The Nishi Gallery In Canberra
Although we were staying right opposite Nishi Gallery at Ovolo Nishi – we ran out of time to visit. Stupidly we should have looked at their opening hours. FYI – they are only open from Wednesdays – Saturdays from 11am – 6:30pm. We loved this sculpture outside of the gallery and I have seen from research, there’s more in their sculpture garden.
Located in Braddon, I’ve heard Lost Vintage Shop is one of the best vintage shops in Canberra! We didn’t get the chance to visit, which is a shame because I LOVE a good vintage shop. If vintage shops are also your thing, pop over and let me know what you think!
It’s only open from Thursday to Sunday from 10am-4pm.
Weston Park is located just a 10 minute drive out of Canberra and has lots of playgrounds, dog parks and cycling tracks. When we visited it was very dry but if you pick the right time of the year, you’ll be able to see the trees filled with so much colour.
Address: Weston Park, Weston Park Rd, Yarralumla ACT 2600
17. Mount Ainslie
If you’re looking to get the perfect Canberra photo, prepare yourself to climb up to Mount Ainslie. The 4km walk takes about 1.5hours return. Fear not, you can always drive up to it as well 😉
18. Visit The Bonsai At National Arboretum
Just 12 minutes west of Canberra is the National Arboretum. We loved the Bonsai Collection which holds some of the best Bonsai trees we’ve ever seen anywhere in the world. There’s loads of walking tracks in the arboretum and a big canteen to grab some food at. Also, there’s a big playground there to entertain the kids and we noticed they seem to love rolling down the hill in the amphitheatre too.
If you’re looking for Canberra food option, we found Braddon to be the suburb with the most variety of restaurants, especially on Lonsdale Street.
We went to Lazy Su for dinner which is excellent. The cocktails are amazing (make sure you order the Sumo Bowls) and we had the Miso Banquet – a five course tasting menu for $49 each. Honestly it was awesome. Make sure you have enough room for the Nutella Gaytime Bao – it will blow your mind!
Other options for food include Mocan and Green Grout which is a great option if you want to have dinner nearby Ovolo Nishi Hotel. Eighty Six is the go to place for brunch and Molly is a super cool underground jazz bar.
We went to Bar Rochford for a glass of vino before dinner and it’s a great little place. Expect to pay around $20 for a glass of wine though – but it’s good wine.
Outskirts Of Canberra
There are so many places to visit just outside of Canberra so here’s out extended list so you can make a great plan for the weekend.
20. Tulip Tops Gardens
Whilst we were in Canberra one of our follower on Instagram told us about Tulip Tops Gardens and so we visited on our way back to Sydney (just 20 minute drive out of Canberra). Although Tulip Tops Gardens is located just off the highway, it’s absolutely beautiful. Although it’s only during Spring, make sure you make the effort to visit because it’s stunning. Entrance fee is $18 per adult.
A 20 minute drive South West out of Canberra will bring you to Mount Stromlo Observatory. They also hold FREE public night tours which you should check out.
Address: Mount Stromlo Observatory, Cotter Rd, Weston Creek ACT 2611
21. Swim At Gibraltar Falls
A 45 minute drive South of Canberra will lead you to Gibraltar Falls. It’s a lovely hike you can get to in 2km. It’s suggested it takes around 1hour return but as always, if you’re going to swim here, just be very, very careful.
Address: Gibraltar Falls, Corin Rd, Paddys River ACT 2620
22. Hike to Booroomba Rocks
Just a little further down from Gibraltar Falls is another popular hiking spot at Booroomba Rocks located at Namadgi National Park. The 1.5 hour walk will take you through the tall trees and finishing up with a cracking view over to Canberra.
An hour north of Canberra will bring you to the Binnalong Canola Fields. If you’re visiting Canberra during Spring, make sure you make the effort to go and visit them because they look absolutely beautiful!
24. Kayaking Day Trip To Batemans Bay
If you fancy getting out of Canberra for the day, we have just the options for you.
Region X host a day trip to Bateman’s Bay which is a 2 hour drive from Canberra. On this day trip, you’ll travel to farms, the historical town of Braidwood, drive down the beautiful Clyde Mountain and kayak in the pristine waters of Cullendulla. Here’s more of what to expect from this affordable day trip.
See the farmland and historical town of Braidwood
Meet your kayak guides, for an amazing tour of the bay and Oyster Industry
Spot lyre birds and tree ferns as you drive down the mountain to the beach
Be shown the best cafes and restaurants for lunch
Meet the wildlife and the famous Kangaroos
Drive through a coastal rainforest to Pebbly beach
Enjoy a relaxed and comfortable transfer from and to your hotel
We have wanted to climb Australia’s highest mountain for years now and when we visited Canberra recently, we couldn’t do it because it was still snowing there. It supposedly takes 6-8 hours to hike 18.6km and is usually completed in one day.
If walking for 6-8 hours doesn’t sound like fun, catch the chair lift up most of the way to the top. It takes just 15 minutes and to be honest, with that in mind, it makes me wonder if I would be happy to walk 6-8 hours. But, it doesn’t go directly to the top – you’ll still need to walk around 4 hours return from the chair lift to the summit. And it costs around $30 in Summer.
26. Go Skiing At Thredbo or Perisher
If you weren’t aware, you can in fact go skiing near to Canberra at some of the biggest ski resorts in Australia called Thredbo and Perisher!
27. Yarrangobilly Thermal Pools
I have wanted to visit the Yarrangobilly Thermal Pools for such a long time now! Located nearly a three hour drive from Canberra, it surely is worth it if you’re heading down to Kosciuszko National Park or to Thredbo to go skiing. Imagine taking a swim in the 27C all year round pool? Pure bliss.
Address: Yarrangobilly Thermal Pools, Thermal Pool Walk, Yarrangobilly NSW 2720
Where To Stay In Canberra
Hopefully we’ve convinced you there’s so much more to Canberra than you may have thought. Spend a weekend from Sydney here exploring all of the amazing things to do in Canberra! If you’re looking for the best Canberra accommodation, here are our top picks!
Ovolo Nishi Hotel in Canberra
Our number one pick on Canberra accommodation is Ovolo Nishi which we mentioned earlier in this post. It’s an amazing hotel and is really good value for money. Plus! The fantastic reviews on Booking.com above speak for itself.
If you’re looking for an affordable 1 bedroom Airbnb, we recommend this one which you’ll have all to yourself. With a shared rooftop, you’ll be able to take in the water views as well. It’s had over 300 exceptional reviews on Airbnb, and it’s somewhere we would personally book ourselves.
If you’re looking for cheap Canberra accommodation, head over to the Canberra City YHA. It’s located right in the middle of the city and they are always good value for money as long as you’re happy with the basics.
Read More Canberra Posts
Check out more Canberra posts to help you plan your trip!