Explore canberra, australia

What to see in Canberra, Australia

  • Australian War Memorial, Treloar Crescent (top of ANZAC Parade, at the other end from Parliament House). Daily 10AM-5PM. Not just a memorial, this is one of Australia‘s premier museums, covering Australian military history from Federation to the present day and including fascinating exhibits of equipment, memorabilia and battle dioramas. You could easily spend a full day here (it has a café, or bring a picnic lunch if the weather is nice and sit on the lawns at the front). Anzac Parade, leading up to the War Memorial has a number of memorials to different wars and those involved in wars. Free entry, allow 4-7 hours.
  • Canberra Museum and Gallery, Cnr London Circuit & Civic Square, Civic. Tue-Fri 10AM-5PM; Sat-Sun 12PM-5PM. A museum and art gallery featuring works and exhibits of the local region. Also features the Sydney Nolan Collection – the works of Sir Sydney Nolan, a famous Australian artist. Free.
  • National Capital Exhibition, Barrine Dr (in Commonwealth Park (off Commonwealth Avenue)) open 9-5 Mon-Fri, 10-4 Sat-Sun. See an exhibition about the original Burley Griffin Plan for Canberra and how the city was planned and built. Good views over Lake Burley Griffin out to the museums on the Lake’s south shore. Free.
  • National Film & Sound Archive, McCoy Circuit, Acton. A unique collection of Australian sound and film recordings of which a small selection showing iconic moments in Australia’s cultural history is explored in this museum.
  • National Museum of Australia, Lawson Crescent. This controversial museum has lots of interactive exhibits and groups items by concept rather than era. Free admission except for special exhibits. Allow 2-7 hours.
  • Australian National Botanic Gardens. Located at the base of Black Mountain in Acton, the ANBG has the largest collection of Australian native flora in the country. It also has some interesting water dragons that live in the water features around the gardens. A delightful place for a picnic, try to grab some food from the city centre first to take with you for lunch. If you are there during summer, call and ask about the jazz evenings. These are held on the weekend and many families attend with evening picnic and champagne in tow, to chill out to the sounds of jazz in the balmy evening temperatures. Entry is free, however parking is not with proceeds going towards the gardens.
  • High Court of Australia, Parkes Place, Parkes, 9:45-4:30 Mon-Fri (not open weekends or public holidays). This vast building is the home of Australia’s highest court and contained a vast lobby and three main courtrooms that are open to the public. Tours are available, though restricted when the court is sitting. There is a cafeteria in the building as well.
  • National Gallery of Australia, Parkes Place, Parkes. 10AM–5PM. Located by Lake Burley Griffin, this modern structure is one of the country’s largest art galleries. It has a vast collection of paintings and sculptures collected from Australia and the rest of the world and have excellent Aboriginal artwork. A nice gift store and a large bookstore on the ground level. Free except for special exhibits. The Gallery offers free public one-hour tours: Australian and International art at 11AM and 2PM daily, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art at 11AM on Thursdays and Sundays. Allow at least half a day and possibly more.
  • National Library of Australia, King. The library is primarily a research centre, but normally has one exhibition showing parts of the collection. Also notable for its neo-classical architecture.
  • National Portrait Gallery, King Edward Terrace, Parkes (adjacent to High Court and National Gallery of Australia). 10AM-5PM, except Christmas Day. The Gallery opened to the public on the 4 December 2008, and displays some 400 portraits of people who have shaped and who continue to shape the nation. There are gallery spaces for the collection and temporary exhibitions, public areas including a café, shop, function room, theatrette, education and school group areas, and basement car parking. Portraits are in various media, depending on the era. Galleries are themed by era. The web site gives a good idea of the content. Free except for major exhibitions.
  • Old Parliament House (featuring the Museum of Australian Democracy), King George Terrace, Parkes. The headquarters of Australian government from the 1920s to 1988, this building is a must for political and/or historical junkies. The building gives a real feel of what it was like when it was in use and has in the past regularly featured rotating exhibitions on the controversies and scandals that rocked Australian politics. It is now a permanent museum. Most of the main rooms – the Prime Minister’s office, the Cabinet Room, the various party rooms, the two houses – are open to visitors, as are many smaller rooms like the whips’ offices and the broadcasting area. There are also historical photos of Canberra as it used to be, including the times prior to the creation of the artificial lake that show Canberra under snow during winter (the lake warmed up the city and snow falls rarely on the city now). The gift store has decent souvenirs. Parking is free, admission is not. Allow 2-3 hours.
  • Parliament House of Australia, Capitol Hill (access from Commonwealth Avenue). The seat of Australia’s federal government and legislature and a remarkable piece of modern architecture. Tours are available (you must pass through a security check) or when Parliament is sitting you are allowed to view proceedings in the public gallery (another security check is required for this, and expect queues and long waits around 2PM on sitting days for “Question Time” in the House of Representatives. The Senate is likely to be less busy but less exciting.) Allow 2-3 hours.
  • Questacon – The National Science and Technology Centre, King Edward Terrace, Parkes. 9AM-5PM. Questacon is an interactive museum of science with exhibits illustrating scientific ideas from the principles of physics to the motion of an earthquake. Great for kids and excellent science books can be picked up here. Allow at least half a day.
  • Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), Leverrier Crescent, Bruce. The AIS runs tours a couple of times a day. The tours are usually run by in-residence athletes. See the training areas and find out about the development and strategy of the facility. At the end of the tour there are interactive exhibits to try various sports. The pool here is open for public access during certain hours.
  • National Dinosaur Museum, Cnr Gold Creek Road and Barton Highway, Gold Creek Village, Nicholls (Located about 13km north of the City via the Barton Hwy). Mon-Thur, Sat-Sun 10AM-5PM. The largest collection of dinosaur and prehistoric fossil material in Australia.
  • Cockington Green, 11 Gold Creek Road, Gold Creek Village, Nicholls (Located about 13km north of the City via the Barton Hwy). Daily 9:30AM-5PM. One of Canberra’s most well-known attractions, a miniature display village featuring a traditional English village and international display. Train rides and tea room also available.
  • Canberra Reptile Zoo, O’Hanlon Place, Gold Creek Village, Nicholls (Located about 13km north of City via the Barton Hwy). Daily 10AM-5PM.
  • As the national capital, Canberra hosts the embassies of most countries. Most of the embassies are built in an architectural style typical of that particular country. In Yarralumla (the closest embassy district to the city), the Embassy of China, Embassy of Papua New Guinea and , The Royal Thai Embassy are particularly worth a look. The Embassy of the United States of America is also worth a drive past, being the oldest embassy in Canberra. It is best to have a car or bicycle for touring so you can stop and have a look around.
  • Government House (Yarralumla), viewing platform off Lady Denman Drive, Yarralumla. The main official residence of the Governor-General of Australia, representative of Queen Elizabeth II in Australia. Closed to the public except for open days, which take place approximately twice a year. There is a viewing platform off the Lady Denman Drive, or glimpses can be seen from the main gate at Dunrossil Drive, Yarralumla, or Weston Park, Yarralumla. Often kangaroos are to be spotted munching grass on the lawns, so be careful driving along the ride that gets to the viewpoint, especially at dusk.
  • Royal Australian Mint. 9AM-4PM Mon-Fri, 10AM-4PM Sat, Sun, Public Holidays. Take a tour of the mint and see how coins are made. You will even get the chance to mint your own souvenir coin. Look for the pudding coins as a souvenir (not always available). Allow 1-2 hours. Free.
  • The Lodge, Adelaide Avenue, Deakin. The Prime Minister’s official residence. Generally closed to the public and one can only see part of the garden from behind the wall. There are open days about once a year and if you are lucky to be in Canberra then, it shouldn’t be missed.
  • Black Mountain Tower (Telstra Tower), Black Mountain Drive, Acton (5 km from the city centre). Open daily 9AM-10PM. This functional communications tower rises 195 m above the summit of Black Mountain, providing 360 degree views of Canberra and the countryside around it from a viewing platform 60m up the tower. Well worth a visit, day or night, for the fantastic views – look for the cork tree plantation and Parliament House. It has a revolving restaurant and telecommunications history display. Above the restaurant there is a two level viewing platform: the bottom level is indoors and has a souvenir shop and refreshments; the upper level is an open air area. It’s a nice view, but the mountain is already 260m above the lake, and the viewing platform is only another 60m above the mountain. You can decide if that is worth the price of admission.
  • National Arboretum Canberra, Forest Drive, off Tuggeranong Parkway (6 km from the city centre, take Parkes Way, Tuggeranong Parkway and Arboretum exit). Open daily 6AM to 8:30PM. Grounds, exhibits 9AM to 4PM. Canberra’s new arboretum, built for its centenary in 2013, and contains trees and shrubs from all over the world. It’s still growing and being added to but is well worth a visit, even if for the views from the lookouts (lookout car parks are free of charge). free but some parking areas cost.
  • Australian National Botanic Gardens, Clunies Ross Street, Acton (5km from the city centre, take Parkes Way and take the Clunies Ross Street exit with directions to Black Mountain). Open daily 8:30AM to 5PM (until 8PM in January). Australia’s national botanic garden contains a collection of living native plants from all around Australia. Contains gardens, lawns to picnic on and walks among the native plants and trees. Free but parking costs.
  • Mount Ainslie (off Fairbairn Avenue, Campbell/Forrest) – vehicular access available. This is the most classic Canberra view looking in a straight line over the War Memorial, the lake and Old and New Parliament House in the background.
  • Red Hill (off Melbourne Avenue, Deakin/Forrest) – vehicular access available
  • Mount Majura (access via Antill St in Watson, also service road off Majura Road) – no vehicular access, walking tracks only.
  • Mount Taylor (access via Waldock St, Chifley) – partial vehicular access; to reach the top you will need to walk.
  • Mount Pleasant (via General Bridges Drive, Duntroon) – vehicular access available between 7AM and 7PM.
  • Kangaroos in the wild, Campbell Park Offices, Northcott Drive (north), Campbell (off Fairbairn Avenue. Mornings until around 8-9AM; afternoons after 4.30PM in winter, or else from a hour before sunset. Kangaroos form family social groups come to the semi-irrigated grassland next to the Campbell Park Offices (reputedly the longest building in the Southern Hemisphere) from the adjacent nature park and graze the grass from evening until mid-morning. free.
  • Blundell’s Cottage. A historic cottage of some of the earliest settlers of the area. Guided tours and school tours available.
  • Calthorpe’s House, 24 Mugga Way, Red Hill. Sat and Sun 1PM-4PM. Historic house picturing life in Canberra in the early days of the territory. Note a three site pass covers here, Lanyon (in Tharwa, see below) and Mugga Mugga in Symanston .
  • Floriade festival of flowers, a yearly event held in spring (September-October), not to be missed. Tulips are the main feature but many other colorful flowers and floral displays are featured. There are also sculptures, garden stalls, makeshift restaurants, activities, live music by local performers and sometimes there is even a gnome or scarecrow festival where children (and some adults) paint gnomes or make scarecrows and enter a competition to choose the best. Great for a photo opportunity!
  • Summernats is a festival of modified cars, car cruising, burnouts, etc., which takes place first thing in the New Year. If you are not into this culture, this is a good time not to be in Canberra, as even the most civilized hotels are overtaken by drunken ‘nats’.
  • The Multicultural Festival. It is a melting pot of Canberra’s diverse international community. Each year sees events such as concerts, performances and an International Food Fare with over 200 stalls selling original food of different countries. Happens every year in February.
  • Thai Food & Cultural Festival Annual festival held in September (Sun 22 September 2013) at The Royal Thai Embassy in Yarralumla. The Festival is a bonus for floriade visitors and Canberrans alike and it’s the Embassy’s biggest free event of the year. Exotic event hall and beautiful court yard with 2 outdoor stages for live performances plus Thai food & beer, “made-in-Thailand” products, and fun & games for children. Do not miss this! The Philippines, Sri Lanka and some other embassies do similar events sometimes.
  • Diplomatic Charity Bazaar – held occasionally. Great place to buy original things specific to various countries, sold by staff of the embassies.
  • The National Folk Festival – held every Easter over 5 days, featuring local, national and international folk musicians, dancers and craftspeople.
  • The Canberra Show is held each year in February and features shows, amusement park rides and agricultural competitions. It has most of the features of the Sydney Royal Easter Show, but on a smaller scale with fewer crowds.
  • Bimberi wilderness, Namadgi National Park, southern ACT
  • Tharwa Village, (via Tharwa Drive, accessible from the Monaro Highway south of Canberra or at the end of the Tuggeranong Parkway). A small village, one of the original settlements in the ACT area. See the old bridge over the Murumbidgee River, visit Lanyon Homestead (see below) and Cuppacumbalong Pottery. Tharwa is also the gateway to Namadgi National Park and Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve.
  • Lanyon Homested, Lanyon Drive. Tuesday – Sunday 10AM-4PM. Historic homestead of early Canberra settlers, guided tours, walks and a maintained garden. Cafe for lunch, coffee and cake.
  • Namadgi National Park. The National Park makes up most of the ACT and the most northerly of the Australian Alps national parks. Lots of walking tracks, including scenic views over the Brindabella Ranges, mountain bike trails and scenic drives (on unsealed roads), rock climbing at Booroomba Rocks. Inside the park are Honeysuckle Creek and Orroral Valley, the former sites of tracking sites for the Apollo Moon Landings. Enquire at the visitors centre on Naas Road or see the website for further details. In winter roads in the park may be closed because of snowfall. Free.
  • Explore Lake Burley Griffin – on or off the water. You can hire a paddle boat, canoe or kayak and mess around on Lake Burley Griffin.
  • See the stars and planets at Mount Stromlo Observatory, Cotter road, Weston Creek. Mount Stromlo is Australia’s premier astronomical observatory. Badly damaged in 2003 bushfires, the partially rebuilt observatory reopened in October 2004. They run a Saturday night star gazing event for the public. The site’s damaged buildings and equipment remain and may be fascinating for tourists.
  • Go wine tasting in the Wineries around Canberra (most are outside of the ACT but all very close to Canberra). They are described as cool climate wines and some are very well known and regarded. Try Jeir Creek, Gallagher, Clonakilla and Lark Hill, just to name a few. There are ’33 wineries within 35 minutes of Canberra’.
  • Head south to Tharwa, and then take the road to Adaminaby. The road requires a 4WD. Take the road out of Tharwa, and remain on the road for about 10km. Take the signed road to Honey Suckle Creek. Very important historical site, this is where the signals from the Apollo 11 space landing were received, and then beamed around the world. Also a nice drive, and a very good camp ground.
  • On the same road, not far off the Adaminaby Road is a walking (Fire ranger) trail to the top of Mount Tennant. About a 5 hour round hike, but worth every step. Go back onto the Adaminaby road, and head south. Another site of a space centre on the right down the road, worth a look, but not as interesting
  • Remaining on the road for another ten kilometers, entering the Namadgi National park, and two hundred meters after a single lane bridge is a signed turn off to Yankee’s Hat. This is a four km drive, any car can take it, and look for Kangaroos. Hundreds either side of the road. The walk to Yankee’s hat will take you to see aboriginal art.
  • Road to Adaminaby. If you have a robust vehicle, take the road south. The country is magnificent. It takes about an hour from Yankee’s hat.
  • Visit the National Zoo and Aquarium, 999 Lady Denman Drive, Weston Creek ACT 2611. (Take Parkes way and follow directions). This privately owned zoo and aquarium offers the standard service plus special tours that allow interaction with the animals. The range of tours offers opportunities to interact with animals (feed or touch) including tigers, lions, cheetahs, giraffes, bears, dingoes, elands and snakes. The tours are quite special and certainly worth it if you love animals. Make sure that you turn up at the ‘Check in time’ instead of the start time as the two are different.
  • Snowy Mountains – the New South Wales and Victorian ski fields are only a 2.5 – 3 hour drive from Canberra, via car or bus. Keep an eye out for Kangaroos and Wombats if you are driving.
  • Batemans Bay – the closest ocean beaches to Canberra – 115 minutes away.
  • Bungendore – a small historic town 20 minutes’ drive from central Canberra, via Queanbeyan. It has an award winning wood gallery and associated cafe and many interesting places to eat, shop or stay.