Luxury Escapes Guide to Canberra
Carving a name for itself as a burgeoning hub of culture, history, food, art and more, Canberra has all bases covered.
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Things to see and do
Spot Aussie wildlife at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve
See a koala munching on a gum leaf, a kangaroo bounding across the open plains or an echidna snuffling for ants in the scrub. Calling all wildlife lovers: a visit to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is a must-do experience in Canberra. What’s more, the reserve is a leader in conversation research – learn about the efforts taken to save endangered species like the striped Northern Corroboree Frog from extinction. So, get out your native wildlife bingo card and call ’em as you see ’em: platypus, emus, lyrebirds, wallabies and many more.
Take an Instagram-worthy snap at Mount Ainslie
If you’re searching for postcard-perfect views of Canberra, you can’t pass up the panoramas from Mount Ainslie Lookout. The Mount Ainslie Summit Trail starts at Remembrance Park at the Australian War Memorial, and alternates between a structured pathway and a winding, bushland trail. At the summit you’ll find sweeping views of the city and mountains beyond, as well as a smattering of picnic tables (great for a packed lunch). If you’re not up to legging it up to the summit – never fear. You can also cycle or drive to the lookout.
Please note: The walk is four kilometres and takes approximately 1.5 hours return.
Be wowed by Aboriginal & Torres Strait Island art at the National Gallery of Australia
The National Gallery of Australia features the world’s largest collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art with over 7,500 pieces. Admire a diverse collection of traditional paintings, sculptures, photography and textiles. Be sure to catch The Aboriginal Memorial, an installation of 200 hollow log coffins from Central Arnhem Land, and one of the most significant works in the gallery. Following your artful afternoon, you can enjoy a lovely lakeside stroll along Lake Burley Griffin, located right outside.
Please note: General entry is free. It’s recommended you book your tickets in advance.
Pay your respects at the Australian War Memorial
Spend a solemn afternoon at the Australian War Memorial. The memorial consists of a shrine, museum and extensive archive, as well as a collection of commemorative spaces that are equally moving and thought provoking. Between learning about Australia’s military history in the gallery and paying your respects to over 102,000 names embossed on the bronzed Australian Roll of Honour, spend time at the pool of reflection and eternal flame, and admire the intricate mosaics and beautiful stained-glass windows in the Hall of Memory.
Marvel at miniatures at Cockington Green Gardens
Grab the kids and head to a miniature wonderland at Cockington Green Gardens, where carefully crafted miniature buildings and a tiny working steam train are sure to make even the littlest of visitors feel like giants. The gardens are located in Canberra’s Gold Creek Village and feature detailed models of buildings and monuments from over 30 different countries, including Machu Picchu and Braemer Castle. See the whole world in just one afternoon, then enjoy a leisurely wander through the immaculate gardens.
Catch a blockbuster art exhibition
Art aficionados should listen out for the announcement of Canberra’s summer blockbuster exhibitions. The National Portrait Gallery, National Gallery of Australia, National Film & Sounds Archive and National Archives of Australia (just to name a few) offer up mind-boggling, exclusive collections for a limited time only. Escape the real world for a couple of hours in the company of heavyweights from Van Gogh to Yayoi Kasuma . The best part? Most of the exhibitions are free!
Go stargazing at Mount Stromlo Observatory
Budding astronomer? Prepare to be enchanted. Bundle up and head out after dark to a free stargazing session at Mount Stromlo Observatory, where lectures are held at the observatory by local scientists. The wonders of the universe are revealed, while constellations make themselves known among a star-studded night sky.
Please note: Make sure you check out the sky conditions at Mount Stromlo so you know what to expect when you arrive.
Sip your way through the Canberra District Wine Region
One of Canberra’s best-kept secrets is its abundance of flourishing vineyards and wineries located an easy 30 minutes out of the city. The Canberra District Wine Region is home to over 140 vineyards and 40 wineries producing high quality, cool-climate wines. Set off on a full-day winery tour to meet the winemakers, taste the local drops – ranging from everything from riesling to tempranillo – and feast on gourmet treats like woodfire pizza and charcuterie boards.
Glide across Lake Burley Griffin on a paddleboat
Slow things down and spend a serene afternoon peddling across Lake Burley Griffin on a paddleboat. The colourful fleet evokes a sense of nostalgia in locals and visitors alike – it’s delightfully old-fashioned sightseeing on a watercraft that’s powered by nothing but your own legs, and a quiet way to enjoy Canberra’s outdoors away from the crowds. Plus, the lake offers excellent views of the rest of the city thanks to its central location.
Please note: Paddle boats are available for booking on weekends 11am-3.30pm. Closed in winter.
Take a dip at Gibraltar Falls
If you’re visiting Canberra during the summer months, you can’t miss the chance to trek to Gibraltar Falls for a dip at its heavenly swimming hole. Hire a car and drive 45 minutes south of the city to Namadgi National Park, where you can hike a gentle two kilometres to the falls along a clearly marked pathway, starting at Woods Reserve carpark. At the top of the falls, discover a natural infinity pool of crystal-clear water looking out over the stunning expanse of Gibraltar Creek Pine Forest.
Top places to eat and drink
If you’re a fan of Peruvian and Japanese flavours, then you’re in for a treat. Elegantly combining the best of both worlds, this culinary mecca serves a tantalising series of share plates showcasing a host of delicious flavours sure to delight your inner gourmand. Architecture aficionados and design enthusiasts will appreciate the colourful and eclectic interior, including an open-plan mezzanine area and sushi bar, all cohesively and carefully tied together with Peruvian design elements.
This gastronomic playground is a foodie’s dream, and there’s something here for every appetite, with three vendors under one roof. Choose to indulge at all three or pick and choose a selection of plates until you simply can’t eat anymore. Enoki Project offers a series of Southeast Asian dishes that showcase the very best of Australian ingredients, Pizza Artigiana serves mouth-watering pizzas on artisanal dough and Ramen Daddy has the beloved noodle dish covered. In case reading about all this food has made you thirsty, there’s a 20th-century-inspired bar where you can choose the right tipple for you.
A speakeasy atmosphere set inside a former bank vault – have we captured your attention? If so, Molly Bar is the place to be. The only catch? The address is listed as a set of geographic coordinates, which lead to an unmarked door. Once you’ve cracked the code or navigated your way to the spot, you’ll find an array of wonders including a grand piano, which gets a workout on live jazz nights, 1920s-inspired décor, dazzling crystal chandeliers, a stellar bar with more than 500 kinds of whisky are on offer, and booths lining the walls for an intimate and delightful experience.
Bentspoke Brewing Co.
Is there a better combination than beer and bicycles? Some would argue not, among them the team at Bentspoke Brewing Co. Slinging a selection of 18 beers crafted onsite you’ll find anything from nutty or coffee-infused IPA, a salty and sour cheery gose, hazy pale ales or a crisp, golden lager. When hunger strikes, the menu is perfectly crafted to accompany a pint or a flight of liquid gold.
White Rabbit Cocktail Bar
Every Sunday, transport yourself to another world and get lost down the rabbit hole at White Rabbit Cocktail Bar with their Tipsy Tea – a high tea with a twist. Sink your teeth into a whimsical selection of savoury bites and marvellous sweet treats and raise a glass to your Canberra escape with a selection of signature cocktails or fine French sparkling wine.
Known for its exceptional offering of contemporary vegetarian fare that changes with the seasons, Monster Kitchen and Bar is perfect for romantic date nights, a lively meal with friends or for celebrating a special occasion. With four magnificent rooms available to dine in, from the historic Salon to the artistic Mosaic room, within moments of arrival it’s clear that this foodie spot has far more to it than what's on your plate.
The Cupping Room
For years, this irresistible coffee stop and concept café from the team at Ona Coffee has been championed among locals as the place to get that much-needed coffee fix – and with world champion barista Sasa Sestic behind the machine, you can imagine why it’s a must-visit. Known for the all-day breakfasts featuring a rotating menu of seasonal produce with an extensive range of vegan or gluten-free offerings, there is something here for all visitors.
Brindabella Hills Winery
Take a moment to step away from the city and make tracks to Brindabella Hills Winery – located just 25 kilometres north of the CBD. Soak up the serenity, gaze at the rolling hills that stretch out around you and sample a selection of cool-climate drops including chardonnay and shiraz, riesling, cabernets and sauvignon blanc-semillon, then grab a moreish bite at the Vineyard Restaurant, with each plate perfectly matching the wines on offer.
How would you describe XO in just a few words? Fun and funky, modern and innovative are just a few that come to mind to describe this playful restaurant’s approach to traditional Southeast Asian cuisine. Take a seat in the lively dining room lined with white bricks, with, tunes flowing through the room that make you want to groove. With one glance at the menu, you’ll easily be tempted to order one of everything – and a selection of creative cocktails to wash it all down.
When the venue name translates to 'friends', you know you’re in for a good time, and all are welcomed into this delightful deli, wine and cocktail bar. Hand-stretched pizzas, antipasti and gourmet meats and cheeses are a mainstay of the menu. Drink pairings are just as tempting, with boutique wines from all corners of the world and carefully crafted cocktails, along with a growing number of no- and low-alcohol offerings. Be sure to grab a spot under the umbrellas on the street to take in the lively atmosphere or take a seat under the hanging vines in the wine garden instead.
Picnic on the lake
Feeling peckish? Get out onto Lake Burley Griffin to enjoy a floating picnic with GoBoat. The lake is in the heart of the city, surrounded by galleries, cafés and leafy parks – it’s a great starting point to orient yourself when you first arrive in Canberra. You’re the captain of this voyage across the great lake, and your GoBoat has a built-in wooden picnic table perfect for packing your own picnic – or you can opt to add a picnic pack when you book. Feast on fresh bread, a variety of cheeses, crackers and cold cuts while toasting the journey with a glass of bubbly.
Please note: Be sure to book your boat in advance.
Visit the Floriade Festival in spring
Celebrate the return of spring among a spectacular display of over one million flowers and plants at the annual Floriade Festival, held at Commonwealth Park over September. Beyond the flourishing blossoms on display in the park, the rest of the city also blooms with colour as shops put on a show with storefront floral displays. See a sea of coloured tulips, learn about growing bush food, listen to renowned horticulturalists share their knowledge about gardening and so much more.
Float over Canberra on a hot-air balloon
Before the rest of the city wakes up, experience the profound quiet of dawn on a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the capital. With nothing but the gentle morning breeze, the warm whoosh of the fire burner spurring you on and the sky gradually brightening around you, this truly is a surreal experience. Glide over Canberra’s unique city layout, gaining a new perspective on the Parliament House, Lake Burley Griffin and beyond to the Brindabella Ranges. When you touch down, celebrate this unforgettable experience with a champagne toast.