Read our travel guide to Australia’s capital city, Canberra.
Australia’s capital hasn’t always been on the list as a must-visit destination, a purpose built city (when Melbourne and Sydney couldn’t agree on which should be the country’s capital), Canberra has a reputation as being by a little austere and quiet. We recently spent 48 hours in Canberra and discovered a clean, safe, cultural, peaceful and fun city that we would happily spend more time in.
Where is Canberra?
Canberra is in the Australian Capital Territory in the middle of NSW on the east coast of Australia. The city is situated around a man-made lake, Lake Burley Griffin, with two sides of the central city on either side of the lake. The city was founded in 1913 and is the home of Australia politics.
How to get there
Canberra is about 6 hours from Melbourne, and 3 hours from Sydney by car, flights are available from all major airports in Australia.
How to get around Canberra
Canberra is a very well planned city so navigating your way around is fairly simple, note that it really is quite spread out so while you can do a lot of walking you won’t be able to get everywhere you need to go on foot. We love the shared Beam and Neuron shared e-Scooters which are readily available all over the city. If you have a car it is simple to drive around Canberra to all of the sites.
What to do in Canberra
Art galleries, politics and history are all at the forefront of the Canberra experience. Don’t miss the National Gallery of Australia, the National Portrait Gallery, the very moving Australian War Memorial and Questacon (particularly if you have kids).
Of course you can’t go past visiting Australian Parliament House, the home of Aussie politics and where the country’s leaders spend their days governing the country. This should be a must-visit on your itinerary.
Make sure you spend some time walking around the expansive lake, where you will see a lot of Canberrans running, walking and cycling the lakeside path. Head to the Kingston foreshore for restaurants and bars. Take a trip up to Mount Ainslie, about a 10 minute drive from the city centre, for excellent views of the area.
Where to Stay
Being a city there are a number of accommodation options, we love the Hotel Realm, for their large suites and peaceful location plus the excellent service. The Ovolo Nishi is well located closer to the main city area in the New Acton precinct and will suit those looking for a cool city experience.
If you want a truly unique experience about 7km from the main CBD you can find Jamala Wildlife Lodge, an 18-room resort where you can feed giraffes from the balcony outside your room, sleep with tigers parked on the other side of the lounge room window, and falling asleep to the sounds of the lions roaring metres from your bed.
Where to eat
The hip Monster Kitchen and Bar at the Ovolo Nishi is a great all day dining option that showcases local regional produce. If you are looking for fine dining try the chef-hatted Aubergine in Griffith by Chef Ben Willis or The Boat House located right on the banks of Lake Burley Griffin. In Barton we love Lilotang, an upmarket Japanese Izakaya which also has a cute neon bar.
ele Secret Tip- for a delicious and cheap Avocado Toast try the Queen’s Terrace Café at the Australian Parliament House, at $12 it is an excellent start to your day in the capital.
Who will enjoy Canberra?
Anyone who has an interest in Australian politics, who enjoys art, culture and history or who is looking for a city escape that is low stress, and hassle free. Families will love the city for its ease of getting, safety and plenty of kid friendly museums and galleries to explore.
When to visit
Due to its location Canberra gets very cold in winter so if you prefer the warmer weather visit in late spring or summer. Autumn is a lovely time of year for crisp nights, sunny days and changing autumn leaves. It is worthwhile finding out when parliament is sitting so you can avoid those times, hotels can be heavily booked. In winter you may see snow on the surrounding mountains and it is perfectly located to head to the NSW snowfields.y
How long should I spend in Canberra?
You can do most of the major sites in Canberra in 2 days, however why not relax a bit and spend 3 to 4 days and spend some more time getting to know the city and check out some of the cool climate wineries in the region.
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