Canberra – the capital of Australia – is sometimes referred to as the bush capital because pockets of bushland reserve extend almost to the city centre and over half of the Australian Capital Territory, within which Canberra lays, is classified as national park or nature reserve.
With a population of more than 313,000 people, Canberra is the city that Federation created. Australia’s national government sits here, as does the highest court of Australia. Many of the most important monuments in the country are located in Australia and they’re visited by millions of people each year. Some of these attractions include the Australian War Memorial, Parliament House, the National Gallery of Australia and Canberra’s newest attraction, the National Museum of Australia.
Canberra is a young capital – a planned city like many other capitals in the world. American architect Walter Burley Griffin designed the city after winning an international architectural competition in 1912. The spirit of his original design, which celebrates Canberra’s natural environment, is still evident as the city grows.
Canberra – the Nation’s Capital
Canberra is the capital of Australia, a vibrant city where visitors can explore what it means to be an Australian and learn about Australia’s people, history, culture, lifestyle and politics. All Australians are reflected in Canberra through an exciting array of exhibitions and national attractions, which tell the Australian story in many different ways.
Home to 320,000 people, Canberra is one of the best planned cities in the world. Designed to complement the natural environment, Canberra has been called a city in a park as 53 percent of the Australian Capital Territory is nature park or reserve. In contrast with the natural setting, the city is full of stylish and award-winning restaurants, great nightlife, tempting shopping, fun for families and a calendar of events and festivals packed with entertainment.
The four seasons are each very distinct in Canberra. Red, yellow and orange leaves decorate the trees in autumn and beautiful blossoms abound in spring, particularly during Floriade – Australia’s premier flower festival. Hot, sunny days and warm evenings attract people outdoors in summer, and in winter the nearby Snowy Mountains offer great skiing and snowboarding.
Conveniently located between Sydney (281km from Canberra) and Melbourne (660km from Canberra), Canberra is only two hours’ drive from beautiful beaches and the spectacular Snowy Mountains. Closer to the city, the surrounding region is dotted with over 30 wineries, picturesque townships and natural bushland just waiting to be explored.
No Australian holiday experience is complete without a visit to the nation’s capital so make sure you allow enough time to discover the secrets Canberra has to offer – you won’t be disappointed!
Visit Parliament House (pictured below), a spectacular, modern building and marvel at the 81 metre flagpole. The flag is larger than a London double-decker bus.
Cycle around the foreshores of Lake Burley Griffin, taking in the sights. Canberra has approximately 1,500 kilometres of cycleways in and around the city.
Tour the Australian Institute of Sport with an elite athlete to see the institute from the inside, and test your athletic skills in the Sportex exhibition.
Discover fascinating stories of Australia’s past and present in the National Museum of Australia, and wander the Garden of Australian Dreams outside.
Discover the magic of the gardens at Floriade, Australia’s largest floral festival, in Commonwealth Park (mid September- mid October every year).
Rise above the national capital in a hot-air balloon to see Canberra’s beautifully planned layout from the air.
Hand feed a tiger or let a bear lick honey from your hand at the National Zoo and Aquarium.
Let the kids mint their own $1 coin on the public coining presses at the Royal Australian Mint, which has the capacity to produce two million coins a day.
Take time out to reflect at the multi tourism award winning Australian War Memorial, which commemorates the sacrifice of Australian men and women who have served in war.
Take a ranger-guided walk in Namadgi National Park or enjoy a picnic with the emus at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve.
Experience Australia through the eyes of our artists at the National Gallery of Australia (pictured above), where you can see world-class blockbuster exhibitions and stroll through the sculpture garden with its drifting fog sculpture.
Take a tour to some of the 33 cool climate wineries around Canberra. Many are within thirty minutes’ drive of the city, and you might just get to meet the winemaker at the cellar door.
Canberra, the nation’s capital, celebrates a diverse calendar of events each year which draw visitors from all over Australia and overseas. In addition to a range of wonderful travelling exhibitions held at Canberra’s national attractions, there are many special events held each year that are unique to Canberra.
The year begins with Summernats (pictured above) in January, a car show of burning rubber and street machines. Australia Day also falls in January, when the national celebrations centre on Canberra over two days of action packed activities, including the Prime Minister’s XI cricket match and a live music concert in the grounds of Parliament House.
February continues the excitement with the National Multicultural Festival, when performers from all over the world converge on Canberra for over a week of entertainment, food and dance.
In March, Canberra’s autumn skies fill with hot air balloons of all shapes and sizes for the Canberra Balloon Fiesta (pictured below) and the local region wineries celebrate the Canberra District Wine Harvest Festival. Every Easter the National Folk Festival celebrates music, song, dance and spoken word with hundreds of performers, while in April the dust begins to fly with the Subaru Rally of Canberra, part of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship.
From mid-September to mid-October every year, millions of bulbs and annuals transform Canberra’s Commonwealth Park into Floriade – Australia’s Celebration of Spring. Each year, Floriade presents new floral displays, as well as great entertainment, displays, demonstrations and special events in what is now Australia’s largest floral festival.
The busy year ends with lively celebrations in the city, complete with fireworks, entertainment and great music to bring in the new year.
Food, Wine and Nightlife
Canberra is the perfect destination for lovers of gourmet food, boutique wines and nightlife. Take the chance to watch the passing parade from a stylish cafe, enjoy fresh regional produce, sample some award winning wines or get dressed up for a great night out.
With a large diplomatic community, the nation’s capital has developed highly cosmopolitan tastes. Cuisine of all nationalities can be found in this city of 320,000 people, from modern Australian and Asian fusion, to French, Turkish, Italian, Vietnamese, and Ethiopian. The choices are astounding and the various dining districts are all centrally located, with Kingston, Manuka, Dickson and the city centre having the highest concentration of restaurants, cafes and nightspots.
Great dining can also be found in some spectacular locations at a number of Canberra’s national attractions, including the National Museum of Australia and the National Gallery of Australia. From the Museum you can enjoy water views as you dine and at the National Gallery, a drifting fog installation floats towards the restaurant across a beautiful pond.
Canberra’s markets are buzzing with people and fresh produce and the treats available are truly delicious. Large sweet strawberries, locally smoked meats, luscious stone fruit, fresh eggs, cheeses, home made cakes and pastries, and the smell of freshly brewed coffee all combine to create a gourmet’s heaven.
Wine lovers should pick up a wineries guide from the Canberra and Region Visitors Centre and take a drive into the surrounding countryside to visit the local wineries and restaurants. You might be lucky enough to meet winemakers in person while you sample some of the Canberra region’s award winning cool climate wines.
With over 30 wineries in the region, you will need more than a day to see them all. Break up your trip with an overnight stay at a stylish B & B and don’t miss some of the excellent restaurants and cafes in the region. Gundaroo, Murrumbateman and Bungendore all offer fabulous dining and the wineries guide will direct you to some of the more hidden gems outside of the village centres.
Fun for families
There are so many things for families to do in Canberra , from enjoying the outdoors and letting the kids burn off some energy, to fun and interactive educational experiences that will engage the whole family.
Get active and hire some bikes to ride around Lake Burley Griffin, where most of the national attractions are located. If you’ve still got energy when you return, cool off on the water in a paddleboat, canoe or windsurfer.
A must-see for any family visiting Canberra is Questacon (pictured below) – the National Science and Technology Centre where you can experience an earthquake, free fall six metres down a vertical slide and take your chances in the simulated guillotine.
A visit to the visually striking National Museum of Australia will keep the whole family enthralled. Begin your visit in a revolving theatre and continue on to enjoy the countless hands-on exhibitions that tell the story of a nation. The kids will love creating their own future house or vehicle in the K Space exhibition and watching their creation come to life in the 3D theatre.
Take advantage of Canberra’s sunny weather with a visit to the National Zoo and Aquarium, where you can take the kids on a specially designed kids’ tour to see tigons, cheetahs, bears, monkeys, “Hummer” the giraffe and the shark tank.
Not far away is the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) where the whole family can put their sporting abilities to the test in the interactive Sportex exhibition. Challenge each other to a simulated rowing competition, see how fast you can throw a ball, test your reflexes and compare your height, hands and feet to those of some of our famous athletes. Top it all off with a tour through the complex with an athlete as your guide.
Not far from the AIS is Cockington Green Gardens (pictured above), where the miniature buildings and figurines will make even the smallest child feel like a giant. Within walking distance is the National Dinosaur Museum, the Reptile Centre, a walk through bird house and some great boutique shopping.
Sport is a vital part of the Australian way of life and Canberra is home to some of the country’s best sport heroes and first class sporting facilities. There is plenty to do for those who want to get active and for those who prefer to sit back and enjoy the action.
Take a tour of the Australian Institute of Sport with an elite athlete as your guide and discover the reasons behind Australia’s international sporting success. Test your skills at virtual rowing, wheelchair basketball and passing a football at the interactive Sportex exhibition.
For motorsport enthusiasts, Canberra hots up in January with the annual Summernats car festival of awesome street cars. In April, the dust starts to fly with the Subaru Rally of Canberra. For football fans, get yourself tickets to cheer on Canberra’s best Rugby League and Union teams, the Canberra Raiders and the Brumbies at Canberra Stadium. Cricket and Australian Rules are also popular sports and can both be seen at the historic Manuka Oval.
If participation is more your style, enjoy Canberra’s sunny climate with a game of golf on one of our outstanding courses, where you will often find kangaroos lazing in the grass while you play. The bushland around Canberra is perfect for paragliding, sky diving, bushwalking, abseiling, caving, canyoning and mountain biking. Namadgi National Park is just 45 minutes’ drive from the city centre and is a great location for bushwalking and experiencing native wildlife. You can also see Aboriginal rock art or go camping, fishing or horseriding in the park.
Cool off on Lake Burley Griffin in a paddleboat, canoe or windsurfer or for those who prefer dry land, take a relaxing walk or bike ride around the shoreline. Alternatively, hop on a horse and take a trail ride through Canberra’s 22 kilometres of equestrian trails.
For adventure of the softer kind, you’ll never forget a hot air balloon ride over Canberra at dawn. Float gently on the breeze for a unique perspective of this beautiful planned city. You might even see some kangaroos from the air or fly over Parliament House.
Canberra is home to numerous national museums, galleries and institutions that hold and share the treasures of Australia. The essence of Australia’s culture, history and way of life is reflected in Australia’s national attractions, offering insight into the Australian character and Australia’s journey from an indigenous continent to a modern country.
A visit to Canberra is not complete without visiting at least some of these important and engaging attractions. Reflect on Australia’s fascinating and moving military history at the Australian War Memorial and discover the reasons behind Australia’s international sporting success at the Australian Institute of Sport. Contrast Australia’s political past with our modern democratic government at Old Parliament House and Parliament House, and see Australia through the eyes of our artists at the National Gallery of Australia.
For families, the National Museum of Australia and Questacon – The National Science and Technology Centre should not be missed for modern, fun and interactive exhibits that will have you and the kids coming back for more. Animal lovers can experience the thrill of hand feeding bears, lions, tigers and more on the unique ZooVenture tour at the National Zoo and Aquarium.
For history buffs, Canberra holds an incredibly diverse range of Australian records, documents, photographs and stories. The National Library of Australia has an enormous collection of books, photographs, maps, letters, music and other historical documents. Regular exhibitions at the Library make it easy for visitors to get a glimpse of this incredible collection.
At the National Archives of Australia visitors can see a treasure trove of fascinating records, including Australia’s “birth certificate” – Queen Victoria’s Royal Commission of Assent, and Australia’s first constitution. For another unique look at Australian history, you can wander through the exhibition at ScreenSound Australia, watch a classic film and see early Australian television commercials.
As the nation’s capital, Canberra offers the unique opportunity for visitors to gain a true understanding of what it means to be Australian. Make Canberra the starting point on your journey of discovery through this amazing country.
Canberra is an excellent self-drive destination, with so many places of interest within only two hours’ drive from the city. Visit pristine beaches, go skiing in the Snowy Mountains, sample wines from over 30 regional wineries and explore historic villages.
The Canberra and Region Visitors Centre is an excellent place to begin a trip into Canberra’s surrounding regions, with lots of information to help you plan your drive.
It is easy to find your way to the picturesque village of Bungendore, about thirty minutes drive from the city. The highlight of this quaint village is the multi award-winning wood works gallery displaying beautiful hand crafted furniture and artwork. Further towards the South Coast is the historic town of Braidwood, offering galleries and craft and antique stores to capture your fancy.
Two hours’ drive east from Canberra, the South Coast is a beautiful, unspoilt coastal wonderland. Enjoy a swim at the beach, go dolphin and whale watching, hire a sea kayak, canoe pristine river systems and visit the pioneer village of Mogo. Mogo also boasts a zoo with a snow leopard, African lion, Bengal tiger, alligators, pythons and more.
North of Canberra you will find the town of Yass, with a main street lined with cafes, galleries and boutique shops. Further afield, you will travel through scenic undulating countryside to reach Young, best known for its national cherry festival in November. East of Young, Goulburn is Australia’s first inland city, home to the Big Merino and numerous festivals throughout the year. Close to Goulburn, the Southern Highlands are great for lovers of the outdoors. Golf, fly fishing, four wheel driving and bushwalking are just some of the activities you can enjoy in this lovely region.
A scenic two-hour drive south from Canberra takes you to the Snowy Mountains where you can find beautiful alpine flowers, top ski resorts, wild horses, fishing, hiking, horseriding and so much more. The Snowy Mountains has plenty to offer all year round, including viewing native platypus, enjoying the wafting scents of lavender farms, picking fresh fruit in summer and autumn and visiting amazing limestone caves.
During your travels, head off the main roads to find local wineries, artist studios and road-side fruit and vegetable stalls.
Canberra is located 300 kilometres from Sydney and 655 kilometres from Melbourne and is accessible by road, train and air transport.Nearest Airport: Canberra International Airport
- Off Road Driving
- Mountain Biking
- Trail bike riding
- Bird Watching
- Bush Walking
- City Sightseeing
- Rock Climbing
- Dinner Cruising
- Go Karting
- Horse Riding
- Lunch Cruising
- Scenic Flight
- Skiing - Water
- Wind Surfing
- Wine Tasting
- National Park
- Science and Technology
Accommodation In Canberra
Discover some of the accommodation in and around Canberra