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 a lot of activities are actually free in Canberra and so is the 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 brilliant 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. And did we mention there’s loads of free things to do in Canberra as well?
Want to do a tour 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 this Canberra day trip which has had great reviews.
Want to stay over night? No problem, this tour will depart from Sydney and will take you to all of the main sites in Canberra, free time so you can explore and accommodation. Click here to find out more about this tour.
Or check out these Canberra tours below!
1. Go stay at Ovolo Nishi
Whether you decide to stay at Ovolo Nishi, you should 100% go and check it out because the entrance itself is incredible.
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. Definitely visit Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Room.
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). Outside of James Turrell’s Skyspace.
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 were gobsmacked to see so many famous pieces of art at National Gallery of Australia, including many of Andy Warhol’s.
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.
3. Visit Floriade Festival
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 pond 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 😉
5. Hot air balloon ride at sunrise
There’s no better way than to wake up with a sunrise balloon ride over Canberra.
The four hour balloon ride takes you over the many lakes and parks of Canberra including Parliament House.
Definitely book this one for Floriade, you’ll get a great perspective of the flowers!
The war memorial in Canberra is definitely worth a visit 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.
8. 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 it’s 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!
Parliament House is the first place you should probably visit on your 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.
If you want to go behind the scenes and see more of Parliament House which is usually closed off to the public, click here to check out this tour which also includes high tea. Look out for the random dude outside with his alpaca (or is it a lama?) you can have a very candid photo with. Oh the lols.
The good news is, it’s free to go into Parliament House and parking is free outside as well. Again Parliament House is somewhere you really should visit on your first trip to Canberra.
10. Australian Museum
The Australian Museum 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 which we didn’t go to see.
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.
There’s a lot of information throughout the museum. The design of the Australian Museum is really impressive and worth a visit.
11. Questacon Science Museum
Although we didn’t have time to visit Questacon, it would be at the top of our list to visit next time in Canberra. 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.
Move over Melbourne because Canberra’s got some cool street art 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.
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.
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.
19. Where to eat in Canberra
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 loved Lazy Su in Braddon, Canberra.
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. Bar Rochford is a great wine bar in Canberra you need to visit.
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.
A 20 minute drive South West out of Canberra will bring you to Mount Stromlo Observatory. They also hold public FREE night tours which you should check out here.
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.
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.
24. Get lost in the Sugar Pines Walk
An Instagram hit which will get you hundreds, if not thousands of likes is a photo at the Sugar Pines Walk. These tall trees are so magical, they are definitely on our list to visit next time.
It takes around 2h30m drive to get to the Sugar Pines Walk from Canberra but we think it’s totally worth it. Make sure you stop off at Batlow Caves on the way there.
25. Climb Mount Kosciuszko
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.
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.
Looking for a skiing tour from Sydney? This awesome tour has had loads of reviews so you don’t need to worry about organising a thing.
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.
Where to stay in Canberra
Hopefully we’ve convinced you there’s so much more to Canberra than I know we ever thought too!
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. You can get really good deals here, but if you want all of their freebies, book through their site here.
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 as two people who love staying in YHA’s, they are always good value for money as long as you’re happy with the basics.