Many people overlook a trip to Canberra when planning their trip to Australia. The city is known for being the place politics happen and, well, not much else.
If you give this the Australian capital a chance, you’ll find that the city brims with art, culture, and incredible food. Best of all, with everything within easy reach or a short drive, it’s easy to enjoy a weekend in Canberra.
After overcoming my own doubts, I have found a soft spot for Canberra and encourage travellers to make time for at least one weekend in Canberra.
Whether you are visiting Canberra from another Australian capital city or flying into Canberra International Airport onboard one of the several International flights now operating there; it’s an easy choice to stopover.
How many days do you need in Canberra? I recommend at least a weekend though if you want to take advantage of the wine regions surrounding three to five-days is perfect.
Keep reading on to discover the best of what you can see and do with a 2-day itinerary for Canberra.
Things you must do to do in Canberra:
Eat your way around Canberra
Aside from visiting friends, the top item on my list of things to do in Canberra has to be eating. It’s a foodies dream here!
From markets to wineries, gourmet eats or sugary treats; these are just some of my favourite places to eat in Canberra:
- For those seeking a gourmet night out, you cannot go past the modern Australian fare served up I the open kitchen of eightysix.
- Have a sweet tooth? Head to Patissez, the home of the FreakShake!
- Get up early to skip the queues for brunch at a Canberra institution, The Cupping Room. Be sure to try the ‘Black Betty’ coffee.
- Craving fine dining Italian-style? Mezzalira Ristorante‘s pumpkin ravioli is my favourite dish in Canberra!
- Are these the best burgers in Australia? Fill up with flame-grilled burgers and beers at Brodburger.
- Relax and enjoy breakfast where the locals do. Farmers Daughter dishes up a great coffee and weekend brunch!
Every Canberra travel guide will tell you that a visit to Telstra Tower is a must-do when in the nation’s capital.
Situated atop Black Mountain, you can really see how Canberra is nestled in nature when you take in picturesque 360-degree views of the city and surrounds when can ascend the 195-metre tower.
With great signage pointing out the many things to see and do around Canberra, an open viewing platform (for the brave!), and the Panorama kiosk – the perfect place to pick up a coffee and enjoy the view.
There’s also a small on-site museum that walks people through how communication has changed over the years. The tower was named after one of Australia’s largest telecommunication companies after all!
For those who don’t want to pay the few dollars entry to ascend, there is a pretty nice view from the car park and deck at the base of the tower.
Read all about it: The View from Telstra Tower, a Canberra Icon
Nestled among nature, Canberra is fondly called ‘the bush capital’. Within minutes of leaving the city centre you can be out in the scrub or spotting wild kangaroos (look out for them while you are driving up to the peak of Black Mountain where Telstra Tower is!)
The city is surrounded by outdoor trails suitable for every cyclist’s experience level. Whether you use it as a convenient way to explore the city or want to hit the mountain bike trails; avid cyclists will find Canberra more fun on two-wheels.
If you are staying in a hotel in Canberra, be sure to ask the concierge if they have complimentary bikes or pay a small fee to rent one.
Canberra is a planned city, and one of its most striking features is Lake Burley Griffin. Experience the beauty of the lake by enjoying a peaceful walk on one of the trails, or hire a boat and learn to sail. There’s also kayaks and canoes for hire shoreside.
Nestled in the valley of the Brindabella Ranges, and Mount Ainslie is the peak overlooking the city. Its easy terrain makes it a popular spot to walk or jog, and at the end, you will be greeted with magnificent panoramic views across Canberra.
You can follow the well-marked path from the War Memorial all the way up to the top. This trail is called the Mount Ainslie Kokoda Summit Trail, and it has many informative signs along the way. Walking up here is interesting and beautiful, and the top certainly gives you one of the best perspectives of this stunning city!
If you are looking for things to do in Canberra city centre or just a fan of beautiful views, Mount Ainslie is a must do!
As the epicentre for Australian history, culture – and of course politics, Canberra is a great spot to learn more about this incredible country and pay respects to those who have fallen for our freedom; but there’s so much more to this territories museums.
Here are three museums in Canberra I’d recommend:
- Australian War Memorial – walking among the bronze panels that name more than 102,000 names of fallen members of the armed forces, the stark reality of war will really hit you.
Be sure to head inside the Australian War Memorial Museum to learn more about each of the wars, take part in tours, or go your own pace with a self-paced tour.
For aviation enthusiasts, make sure you spend some time exploring the Aircraft Hall where you can see a great collection of aircraft, including Mosquito, Kittyhawk, Mustang, Zero, Wirraway, Sea Fury, MiG-15, Avro Anson, and a Japanese Oscar.
- National Museum of Australia – while it has a somewhat polarising design (personally, I love it!), the museum is not to be missed! Exploring the stories of the people, issues, and events that have shaped this beautiful country.
For those wanting to learn more about Aboriginal culture, be sure to explore the extensive First Australians gallery. And kids won’t be bored with plenty of hands-on activities to keep bright young minds entertained, including some pretty cool dinosaurs!
- Questacon – while we are talking about the best museums in Canberra for kids, no visit would be complete without stopping at Questacon – the national science and technology centre.
This museum has to go down as one of the most fun things to do in Canberra as you engage your curiosity while exploring space, the earth, humans and machines, and so much more!
Old Bus Depot Market
For those who are seeking the perfect souvenir, handcrafted wares, a new piece of jewellery, or some locally made produce, there’s no better way to spend a Sunday in Canberra than by spending some time at the Old Bus Depot Markets.
Take a wander through the fabulous old warehouse set back from the Kingston Foreshore and enjoy Canberra at its best.
Feeling peckish? As the home of many of the world’s embassies, you’ll find a diverse array of food on offer in the city and at the market. I’m a big fan of Fekerte’s Ethiopian Cuisine and Song Laos Cuisine. There’s also an American food stallholder who makes the best pulled pork sliders and mac and cheese (Sorry, I’ve forgotten the name! They’re opposite the Ethiopian food stall!)
If you have time, browse and discover Canberra Glassworks, nestled behind the market. For those who want to try their hand at glass blowing or glass art making, check to see if there are any workshops available for adults and children alike. There’s also a gallery on-site you can explore.
Have some extra time?
If you have the time or you are choosing to stay a few days in the capital, rent a car and enjoy one of these day trips from Canberra:
- The Poacher’s Way – Canberra’s modern buildings quickly give way to bushland and picturesque country landscapes, all less than 20-minutes from the CBD. This gourmet food and wine trail link the NSW towns of Yaas and Gunning with Canberra in a rough triangle.
Along the journey, enjoy Shaw Vineyard Estate, Robyn Rowe Chocolates, Poacher’s Pantry, and more. There’s plenty of small boutiques to browse between stops as well and country homestays to rest your head if you want to make it a two- or three-day journey.
- Namadgi National Park – for those seeking to reconnect with nature, consider visiting the Namadgi National Park. This beautiful park is located around 40km outside of Canberra, which makes it an ideal day trip for nature lovers.
You’ll find plenty of local birds and other creatures, granite mountains, and gorgeous landscapes. This Australian National Heritage Listed park is a great place to have a picnic or take a hike, and see another side to the Canberra region.
Where to stay during a Canberra Getaway:
Check in to one of these great Canberra hotels:
- QT Canberra – this is my favourite hotel in Canberra for three reasons: quirkiness, location, and value for money. Large rooms in a prime destination. There are also bikes you can rent, a great restaurant, and a cool on-site bar.
- East Hotel – contemporary and cool, this hotel offers up apartment-style accommodation for those who want flexibility with their stay. Enjoy large rooms in the inner suburbs of Canberra, within walking distance of great restaurants. If you are looking for hotels near Manuka Oval, give East Hotel a try!
- Vibe Hotel Canberra Airport – if you have an early morning flight this is the hotel I’d recommend you stay at. Located on airport grounds, about a 5-minute walk from check-in, you’ll find comfortable rooms, complimentary breakfast, and free WiFi.
Planning a trip to Canberra? Read these next: