The best things to do in Canberra
There’s more than meets the eye for culture and nature seekers in the nation’s capital. Here’s a guide to everything must see in Canberra, strategically placed between Melbourne and Sydney.
Canberra makes regular appearances on hotly contested “most liveable” and “best city” lists. The nation’s capital has even appeared on quirkier ones, being highly ranked for safety, hygiene and most recently for providing a good night’s sleep, given its air quality and relative lack of pollution.
However, Canberra isn’t just a great place to live, it’s also a great place to visit. Nicknamed ‘The Bush Capital’, this predominantly low-rise city enjoys a sense of space in the urban areas, which is enhanced by all the surrounding bushland and mountains.
In fact, being so far inland means snow-capped mountains are visible during winter so you’re also not far from popular alpine regions like the Snowy Mountains.
The city itself has something for everyone, with travellers having no shortage of national treasures, history, architecture, art, culture and dining to enjoy.
Best places to visit in Canberra
Lake Burley Griffin
Despite what it might appear, Canberra wasn’t built around a lake. Instead, American architects Marion Mahony Griffin and Walter Burley Griffin placed an artificial one in the centre of their city masterplan.
Surrounded by parklands and several important institutions, it’s a magnet for multiple users. Bridges create a 5-kilometre loop for jogging politicians or strolling tourists, but with a perimeter of 28 kilometres, it also makes for a great cycle track.
Hire a bike from the Canberra Visitors Centre, or the Share A Bike scheme. There’s also a similar app-based e-scooter option, too, or Segways to get around. If you’d rather get on the water, there’s stand-up paddle boarding, or you can have a floating picnic on a GoBoat.
Imagine if you could actually walk through an Instagram feed, rather than scroll through it? Well, that’s pretty much what a visit to the National Portrait Gallery is like.
On every wall, famous and not-so-famous faces look back at you, rendered in every medium imaginable – photography, drawing, painting, mixed media, textiles. It’s a who’s who of both the people and artists who have shaped our national identity and is a must-see when in Canberra.
Art lovers are spoiled for choice with the city centre and suburbs home to more than 30 galleries, exhibiting works from local, national, Indigenous and international artists.
The National Gallery of Australia, holders of the world’s largest collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, is a great place start. One of their most famous pieces, Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles, is said to now be worth $350 million and is a massive two metres by five metres.
Too big? Then head to Watson where you’ll find the tiniest exhibition space in town, the Gallery of Small Things.