A collection of the best things to do during a weekend in Canberra, ACT.
There’s a lot to love about Canberra. As the capital of Australia, it has a lot going for it in terms of art, culture, food and wine. Canberra is trendy. I’m not sure when this happened exactly, because childhood memories recall mandatory trips to museums and feigning interest in the history of Australia’s government.
But with a nod in the Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Cities worth travelling to in 2018 (earning a bronze in third place, no less), there’s no denying the city has more of a drawcard than museums and politicians.
For Sydneysiders, it’s only a 3-hour drive – making it the perfect escape for those wanting to taste another capital city for the weekend. And it also just happens to be where some of my favourite people on this earth have chosen to inhabit.
There’s a lot to love about a sneaky weekend trip to Canberra. Here’s my take on how to spend the perfect 48 hours in Australia’s capital.
Sure, I roll my eyes every time I hear a Canberrian pipe up that “Canberra was planned”, but the Sydneysider in me definitely feels a pang of jealousy gazing upon that straight line from Mount Ainslie, like a drawn arrow down to the Australian War Memorial, Old Parliament House and ending in the Aussie flag at Parliament House. Mount Ainslie is worth a visit, even just to marvel at a city that has actual space to expand. Crazy.
For sweeping, scenic views you can’t go past Telstra Tower. I’m a bit obsessed with city towers (like the Sydney Tower or Sky Tower in Auckland) – I love how these architectural giants come to define a city’s skyline. And with Canberra’s regulations around building heights, Telstra Tower essentially is the Canberra skyline. I love looking upand glimpsing that lone tower on the mountain. It’s only $7.50 to visit the top and it’s the best place for panoramic views of the ACT.
Due to the time of day we visited, the tower’s shadow literally pointed us in the direction of Black Mountain Peninsula – so that’s where we went next. There’s something so peaceful about a waterside stroll, and this is the perfect place to enjoy some nature alongside views of Lake Burley Griffin. During our trip, the reserve was bursting with Autumn beauty – and we even saw a sleepy koala nestled in one of the trees!
The other place to find your fill of nature is the Australian National Botanic Gardens. This place has such a diverse mix of environments – I loved the cool microclimate of Rainforest Gully, the buzz of bees around native Australian daisies and flowers in the Rock Garden, and the desert flora hiding in striking red earth at the Red Centre Garden. If you usually think botanic gardens are boring, this one isn’t, trust me.
It’s weird how the further I get into adulthood, the more excited I get by learning (I wish I had this kind of enthusiasm during my first year at uni, when I whiled away my lectures playing froggy jump). Canberra has some wonderful museums and galleries if you want to expand your mind (or if you want to feel superior about being the sort of cultured adult who willingly does that sort of thing). There are so many options – Australian Parliament House, the Australian War Memorial, Questacon (not just for kids!) – but my favourites are the National Museum of Australia and the National Gallery of Australia. Both offer free general admission and double as great places to stroll along the lake with a coffee once you’ve had your fill of culture.
I think this is really how Canberra leapt to the top third spot on the Lonely Planet’s list: it’s a veritable paradise of hipster food. As a visitor, I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface of what the city has to offer – but I will say that I fell in love with the enviable spread of brunch options on Lonsdale Street. My special mention goes to Elk and Pea, with their eclectic mix of deer and peacock art, and a menu that satisfies carnivores and vegans alike.
The Cupping Room is also a must, even if to see just how seriously people can take their coffee.
And as a lover of the cheap and cheerful, my other favourite was the CBD Dumpling House – because I will always be drawn to the wafting smell of fried potstickers on a cold night.
As a gin lover, it was hard not to be impressed by the Tipsy Bull. Their five pages of G&T options was almost too much for me. I ordered the Mulberry Gin from Kangaroo Island and instantly started to daydream about moving to an island and making gin full-time.
My other must-mention is Brindabella Winery. Half an hour from the city centre by car, you get to see some stunning ACT countryside on the drive there and then enjoy a picturesque view of the iconic Murrumbidgee River on their deck when you arrive. Two birds. The staff were so friendly and accommodating as they led us to the comfy chairs on the deck to enjoy our wine and cheese platter – bliss.
So, there you have it: a Sydneysider’s guide to the perfect weekend in Canberra. With the city firmly holding onto some of my favourite people, I’m bound to be heading there again soon – so if you have any other must-do recommendations, I’d love to hear them!