By Lauren Jade Hill
Canberra is often overlooked by travelers in favor of sister cities Sydney and Melbourne, but as the capital of Australia the city is indisputably a cultural hub as well as a gateway to vineyards, forest and nature reserves with the shores of Lake Burley Griffin to savor too. With so much to discover here, we take a look at some of the best things to do in Canberra for an insight into what makes this city special.
With a number of the country’s most significant cultural and historic sites situated here, visitors have plenty to uncover in each corner of the city. From taking a guided tour of Parliament House on Capital Hill to spending an afternoon in the sprawling National Museum of Australia, Canberra’s cultural sites provide more than just an appreciation of the city.
Canberra also has a thriving art scene, and this can be uncovered through its world-class galleries. Beginning at major art venues, such as the National Gallery of Australia and National Portrait Gallery, move on to Canberra Contemporary Art Space for cutting-edge works and the Aboriginal Dreamings Gallery to see an extensive collection of this distinctive style of art sourced from remote regions.
The Great Outdoors
In its position at the heart of the city, Lake Griffin Burley is the setting for sailing, rowing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding and fishing, as well as cycling, walking and picnicking in the parks and gardens that lie on the lake’s shores. More green space can be found at the Australian National Botanic Gardens, which showcase flourishing native plants in a bushland setting. While bountiful outdoor space lies at the heart of the capital, Canberra also lies amid woodland and mountains where popular spots such as Mount Ainslie Lookout can be found.
As an established wine producing region, Canberra has a number of wineries just outside the city too, providing cellar door tastings with the winemakers themselves, along with vineyard tours and gastronomic wine pairing experiences. One winery that places much of its focus on food is Poachers Pantry Smokehouse Restaurant & Wily Trout Vineyard, while Mount Majura Vineyard offers cellar door tastings and vineyard tours. The Canberra District Wine Association provides information on each winery in the region. To taste the whisky of Australia’s only dedicated bourbon distillery, pay a trip to Baldwin Distilling Company in the city where one-hour tours can be taken with the head distiller.
WHERE TO STAY
Built on the principles of sustainability, community, diversity and lifestyle, this luxurious design hotel encompasses dining venues and bars, as well as pop-up stores, an independent bookstore and a cinema, featuring one-off commissioned furnishings and art throughout. Three-bedroom apartments at the top of the hotel afford views over the lake and surrounding mountains.
Avenue Hotel Canberra
Located in the Canberra CBD, Avenue Hotel Canberra is just a short walk from the city’s major cultural sites including Parliament House and the National Museum of Australia, as well as being situated amid the city’s cafes, restaurants and boutiques. The interiors here are contemporary in style with a warm ambiance, with the steakhouse Marble & Grain also to be found.
Home to a health club and spa, and a collection of restaurants, Hotel Realm has an impressive portfolio of facilities to offer its guests. The contemporary luxe penthouses here are open plan and fitted with state-of-the-art amenities, with balconies affording views of Parliament House.
Hyatt Hotel Canberra
The city’s stalwart five-star hotel, Hyatt Hotel Canberra, lies near to both Parliament House and Lake Burley Griffin. Aside from its well-established reputation, the hotel stands out for its sprawling lawns and gardens, elegant modern interiors and inviting drinking and dining venues, including The Tea Lounge, which is renowned for its afternoon tea buffet.
To discover the stand-out dining spots in the city, take a look at our pick of the best restaurants in Canberra.