Canberra has come a long way from its roots back in the early 1900s as the newly built capital city of the Commonwealth of Australia. No longer just a seat of government, the city’s young population – around 30% are in their 20s and 30s – is shaking things up in the cultural, culinary and retail scenes, making it a popular choice for a getaway whatever day of the year. With snow sports in winter close by and the Floriade flower festival in spring, anytime is the best time to visit Canberra. Here’s how to enjoy Australia’s exciting capital city.
1. Observe the wildlife
Located at the foot of the country’s highest mountain range, natural beauty is right on your doorstep in Canberra. Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve offers outstanding natural wildlife experience, where you can see Australian native wildlife, such as kangaroos, wallabies and emus, in a natural setting. At Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary, keep your eyes peeled for another strange – but hands-down cute – endangered Australian marsupial, the Bettong.
2. Explore the lake
Named after the American architect who planned the city, Lake Burley Griffin is Canberra’s glistening centrepiece, with many top tourist attractions found along its shores. One of them is the National Gallery of Australia, where you can visit James Turrell’s “Within Without” installation and lie down inside a viewing chamber as you watch the sky through a hole in the roof. Along this artificial lake, you can also walk, cycle or ride a Segway, or take to the water for a cruise, floating picnic or paddle boat adventure.
3. Sleep under the stars
Less than a 15-minute drive from the city, Mount Majura Vineyard in the city’s wine region is home to Cubby and Co, which offers overnight glamping packages that let you comfortably relax in the outdoors. There are two bell tents positioned on opposite sides of the vineyard: one overlooks the vineyard and cellar door, while the other is nestled among the vines and a fruit orchard. There is also a tiny house on wheels near the pine forest and has vines right at its doorstep.
4. Get a bird’s eye view of the capital
See why Canberra is truly a bush capital by viewing the city from the top. If you’re feeling active, head to the top of Mount Ainslie or walk to the summit of Red Hill. But for a truly unforgettable experience, hop on a one-hour hot air balloon flight or book a Helicopter Corp flight over the city and the surrounding Australian Alps and Molonglo River. It’s the perfect way to see this modern city and can be experienced any time of the year.
5. Sample the region’s cool climate wines
Home to 140 vineyards, there are 40 wineries within 35 minutes’ drive of Canberra’s city centre. From white wine varieties such as Sangiovese, Riesling and Chardonnay to red wines like Pinot Noir, Merlot, Shiraz and Tempranillo, there are several ways to appreciate Canberra’s cool climate wines. For something even more special, try the Gruner Veltliner, a rare white wine variety. Find your new favourite drop as you visit cellar doors, meet the makers, and even stay overnight amongst the vines.
6. Eat your heart out
From street food to award-winning restaurants, Canberra takes its food seriously. Take your pick from a wide range of cuisines as there is something to suit every taste. For a more casual dining experience check out the dining “eat street” precincts of Braddon, NewActon, Kingston Foreshore and Dickson, or grab some fresh local produce at the Capital Region Farmers Market every Saturday morning.
7. Go beyond Canberra
Discover the regions beyond Canberra. In just a few hours’ drive, you can be in Australia’s high country exploring the Snowy Mountains, or the beautiful unspoilt coastline of the South Coast. Quaint towns and villages close to the capital offer different experiences: the Hilltops Region include Young, known as the cherry capital of Australia; Jindabyne, southeast of New South Wales, is the perfect place to go skiing or snowboarding in winter; and the heritage town of Braidwood in the Queanbeyan region charms with its rural landscape, colonial buildings and antique stores.
Discover all that Canberra has to offer at the Visit Canberra website. Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours as well as booking requirements before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.
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