City guide

Things To Do In Canberra

Canberra is Australia’s capital city in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) – the only state in Australia without a beach!

Australia’s newest city was planned for purpose, making Canberra an open and appealing place to visit, surrounded by lots of native gardens and vegetation, with a large man-made lake at its centre.

Canberra is most famous as the home of politics, specifically, Parliament House. Many other monuments and galleries pay homage to Australia’s history, so it’s the perfect place to really dive into Australia’s past, whilst inside the house, Australia’s politicians are deciding its future.

However it’s not all about government and structure – the city has a cool food and bar scene, and a vibrant arts community.

Learn what things you can do whilst on your visit to Canberra!

1. Learn about Australian politics

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Parliament House is an architecturally striking and modern building, and is the home of Australian politics. Visitors are welcome to witness Question Time in the House of Representatives or Senate. This is when politicians discuss parliamentary matters of the day. You can also join a free guided tour which takes place three times a day.

In addition, there are exhibitions and galleries to enjoy inside the building, including the display of the Magna Carta, and the Women in Federal Parliament exhibition.

The Parliament House Art Collection includes Australian heritage pieces, the Great Hall tapestry and outdoor sculptures. There is also a shop offering a range of gifts, including local region wines and samples of timber marquetry.

2. Delve into Australian history at the Australian War Memorial

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The Australian War Memorial in Canberra is a must see. The exhibits depict the human side of war through the quality story telling of the displays. You could easily spend the entire day here, and there is also a free 90 minute tour. Many of the displays are interactive, making learning about the history of Australia’s involvement in the war interesting and captivating.

The exhibits include a WW1 tank, various aircraft including a Mosquito, Mustang and Japanese Oscar, and the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier. Try to stay to the end so you don’t miss the poignant Last Post ceremony which takes place at the Pool of Reflection every day at 4.55pm.

3. Enjoy a family day out at Questacon

The kids will love a day out at Questacon. There are 200 interactive exhibits to engage young minds in science and technology. There’s even fun and games built especially for babies under 6 years old. The children will not realise they’re learning and even the adults will learn a thing or two about the amazing world of science!

4. Explore gallery artworks from around the world

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The National Gallery of Australia includes permanent works across four main areas of art – Australian, Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander, Asian,  European, and American.

Free tours take place daily, and allow visitors to learn more about the collections, including the history behind some of the special exhibitions. There are also kid friendly activities with dedicated play areas and activities for all ages.

Step outside and you will see the magnificent outdoor sculptures and gardens that complement the building.

Experience the smaller National Portrait Gallery, which brings together 116 portraits in various artistic forms, spanning the political, artistic, business, science and sport worlds.

5. Connect with native Australian flora

Enjoy the peaceful Australian National Botanic Gardens, located north of the city centre and which can be reached by bus if you don’t have your own transport.

As you wonder through, you will view the vast collection that houses nearly a third of all known native plant species of Australia. The gardens also act as a way to preserve and cultivate those that are threatened in the wild.

Apart from admiring all of the plants and flora, look up, and you may spot some of the wild birds that spend time in the trees, like the Australian kookaburra, which makes a distinctive sound that resembles laughing.

If you’re visiting Canberra in Spring, Commonwealth Park is home to the Floriade event. One million flowers are displayed in a dazzling array of colours to celebrate Spring. Yes, one million! At nighttime, the park lights up with night markets, music acts and entertainers. Join the 400,000 visitors that flock to this colourful event every year.

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6. Get some coin at the Royal Australian Mint

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Educate yourself on the history of the Australian coin currency, including a view over the factory where the coins are made.

Old coins are on display, and you can mint your own coin to take home with you as a memento. You only need an hour or two here, so you could team this visit with your visit to Questacon which is nearby.

7. Feel on top of the world at Mount Ainslie Lookout

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For a whole view over Canberra city, take yourself up to Mount Ainslie Lookout. It’s free and easy to get to, and there are also hiking tracks if you want to walk into the surrounding bush, where kangaroos are known to hop by.

The view on a clear night is also stunning and leaves you with a perspective of the size of Canberra, and information plaques provide you with some of the history behind the design of the city.

8. Enjoy the activities on Lake Burley Griffin

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Lake Burley Griffin is the centerpiece of Canberra and there are many activities to be enjoyed on and off the water.

Hire a boat, or take a lake cruise to view Canberra from the water. Or sit back and watch the local rowing, sailing, canoeing and model boat racing activities enjoyed by many locals.

You could also hire a bike and cycle around to the many parks where you could have a picnic, or choose a café to eat and take in the scenery.

9. Witness Australia’s next top athletes in training

Take a tour and hear about the history of Australia’s award winning athletes who trained at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS).

There are several interactive sporting challenges for the kids and you may spot a future star in training.

Getting around

Canberra is not a large scale city and therefore the only mode of public transport is by bus. Action bus services operate throughout the city and suburbs.

Alternatively, you could hire your own car, take taxis, cycle or walk.

Anyway, whatever your mode of transport, make sure you explore Canberra and its surrounds to experience what is has to offer!