Prepare to experience one good thing after another when you visit Australia’s capital, Canberra. Because whether it’s world-class wining and dining, iconic national treasures or breathtaking outdoor adventures, everything you’re after is just moments away. To help you get the most out of Canberra. Here’s Part 1 of our bucket list of 100 Amazing Things To Do & Experience In Canberra, Australia recommended by VisitCanberra’s list in no particular order. You may want to check out 100 Amazing Things To Do & Experience In Canberra, Australia Part 2 too!
1. Drift over the capital in a hot air balloon
There’s no better way to fully appreciate Canberra’s charm than from the air with Balloon Aloft, Canberra’s original balloon rides operator. Equal parts exhilarating and relaxing, a balloon ride is one of the best ways to see this remarkable planned city and its changing carpet of seasonal colours. Take off with the sunrise and drift gently with the wind. Enjoy a bird’s eye view of the city’s architectural wonders and design, and finish with a champagne celebration at the Hyatt Hotel Canberra. What better way to start the day?
2. A night at the theatre
Whether you’re into comedy or circus, drama or dance, there’s a performance to suit your fancy at the Canberra Theatre Centre. With a jam-packed schedule of shows for all ages, the Canberra Theatre, The Playhouse and The Courtyard Studio are perfect venues for your performance arts fix. See Bell Shakespeare, Sydney Theatre Company, The Australian Ballet and other respected national and international theatre, dance and music ensembles. Nothing beats a live show, so check out what’s coming up at the Canberra Theatre Centre. You can also catch some great shows at The Street Theatre.
3. Find your way to a hidden bar
When it comes to Molly, a charming little speakeasy in the heart of Canberra, it’s all about who you know. Hidden behind an unassuming door lies a cosy nightspot that will take you back in time with expertly mixed drinks, live jazz and a cool, nostalgic vibe. She’s a tricky lady to find, but guided by GPS coordinates 35° 16′ 46.45″ S – 149° 7′ 35.23″ E, you’ll soon find yourself wandering down the perfect back alley.
4. Get good vibes at the new airport hotel
You’re as connected to the city as you are to the sky at Vibe Hotel Canberra Airport, conveniently located less than 10 minutes from the Canberra city centre and 50 metres from the airport terminal. The soaring atrium and large reception area provide a picture-perfect welcome. Make yourself at home in one of their stylish and spacious guest rooms, then enjoy a drink and bite to eat at Helix Bar and Dining, a modern European style bistro. You’ll leave relaxed, refreshed and ready to continue your journey.
5. Sleep alongside a bear at Jamala
Experience the ultimate overnight safari right here in Canberra at Jamala Wildlife Lodge, luxury accommodation with a difference at the National Zoo & Aquarium. Australia’s first all-inclusive wildlife lodge experience of its kind, you’ll get up close and personal with some of the Zoo’s remarkable residents. Bathe beside a bear, eat with a lion or feed a giraffe from your own balcony. Choose from Jungle Bungalows, Giraffe Treehouses or your own room or suite within the uShaka Lodge, and get set for a world of adventure, luxury and excitement. Rates include afternoon tea, an exclusive afternoon tour, a three-course dinner party, drinks, then a light breakfast and another exclusive tour the following morning.
6. Sip a cocktail at Lucky’s Speakeasy
A private hideaway ideal for taking the edge off a long day in the trenches, Lucky’s Speakeasy is an intimate bar nestled within the glamorous aesthetic of QT Canberra. With a fully stocked bar and a fully loaded snack menu, it also just happens to be the perfect setting for you to get sauced in secret. Carefully curated lists of DJ sets and classic cocktails means this is the Goldilocks of bars – not too hot and not too cold. Just right.
7. Muse Canberra at East Hotel
Good food, great wine and the magic of the written word come together at Muse, an exciting venture in Canberra’s hospitality and cultural scene. Nestled between Kingston and Manuka in the East Hotel, Muse is an inspired venue for conversation, ideas and indulgence. Browse their new and second-hand books, savour a glass from the all-Australian wine list and settle in for a relaxed, yet sophisticated meal. With a busy calendar of events featuring some of Australia’s top writers, thinkers and creatives, you’re in for a literary and epicurean treat.
8. I scream for ice cream – Frugii style
You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy ice-cream, and the ice-cream at barbeque Dessert Laboratory in the Canberra suburb of Braddon has to be tasted to be believed. Ice-cream alchemist John Marshal has made quite a name for himself with his ice-creams, sorbets and gelatos. With flavours such as Tim Tam, salted butter caramel, and even peanut butter and bacon, the difficulty will be in the choosing, not in the eating. There are also organic fruit and nut flavours and they are even experimenting with Paleo and herb varieties.
9. Fusion dining at Australia’s People’s Choice winner AKIBA
Voted Australia’s favourite restaurant in 2016, AKIBA brings the informal and exciting atmosphere of East-Asia’s great food halls and dining rooms to Canberra. The buzzing ambience of this restaurant and bar perfectly matches the food, which features a dazzling array of fresh flavours and an exotic cocktail and drinks list. Devour the many styles of Asian barbecue, raw bar and modern day Dim Sum, and see why AKIBA was awarded the Australian Financial Review Top Restaurants’ People’s Choice Award for 2016.
10. Mmmm – coffee at 38 Espresso
Waterfront views, great coffee and delicious eats are on the menu at 38 Espresso, a character-filled cafe perfectly located along Canberra’s Kingston Foreshore. This charming coffee bar is the perfect spot to start (or make) your day. Catch up with friends, enjoy a pastry or two, or simply indulge in some people-watching as they wander the picturesque foreshore.
11. It’s wine time in the Parlour
Wine-lovers and gourmet grazers alike will feel right at home at the Parlour Wine Room, a dining and drinking experience like no other in Canberra. Set amongst the historic NewActon precinct, Parlour Wine Room serves Spanish share plates and up-scaled boutique wine from the Canberra District and around the world (that includes you, NZ!) in an elegant art deco dining hall. Open until late, Parlour is the perfect setting for a nightcap and one of their classic-yet-obscure cocktails. Pull up a seat and savour the sublime surroundings at Parlour.
12. A monster night of dining
You’ll find the perfect blend of simple, quality and artisan luxe at the hatted Monster Kitchen and Bar, a welcome intruder of the ground floor of Canberra’s Hotel Hotel. Monster’s menu charts the seasons and uses ingredients from nearby producers – oysters from Batemans Bay, truffles from Sutton, and honey from the hotel’s beehives. This is food that’s great to share, and with the restaurant earning the Regional Wine List of the Year in the 2016 Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide. It’s easy to have a drink with too.
13. Aubergine – a suburban gem with a big reputation
A gastronomic gem in suburban Canberra, Aubergine has earned a reputation for its creative food, elegant decor and award-winning wine list. Rated two hats in the 2016 Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Guide, the restaurant’s intimate and simple interior provides the perfect backdrop for indulging in Chef Ben Willis’ inspired use of seasonal produce. The food reflects Canberra’s distinct seasons, with a regularly changing and contemporary menu, and delivers a premium dining experience that is as memorable as it is pleasing.
14. Find shiraz heaven at Clonakilla Wines
Celebrated as one of the best wineries in Australia, Clonakilla is a small, family business dedicated to producing distinctive, handcrafted Canberra region wines in limited quantities. Their wines have earned critical acclaim, with Tim Kirk named Gourmet Traveller Wines’ Winemaker of the Year in 2013. Established by the Kirk family at Murrumbateman in 1971, Clonakilla is a 30-minute drive from the Canberra city centre. Visit their Cellar Door for tastings and perhaps a sneaky bottle or two to take home.
15. Wander the NGA’s Sculpture Garden
A magical garden with surprises around every corner awaits you in the Sculpture Garden, the National Gallery of Australia’s outdoor gallery on the shores of Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin. Displayed in outside rooms are 26 sculptures made by International and Australian artists. The garden, with its network of ponds, paths and native plantings, is the perfect backdrop for the diverse collection of sculptures. Time your visit to coincide with Fujiko Nakaya’s fog sculpture (operating 12:30pm – 2pm daily) and enjoy a wander through the mist.
16. Marvel at Australia’s art collection
Delight in the art and world-class exhibitions on show at the National Gallery of Australia, on the shores of Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin. Art lovers will enjoy meandering through the galleries and admiring the collection, which includes the famous ‘Blue Poles’ by Jackson Pollock and the Ned Kelly series by Sidney Nolan. The new Australian and International art galleries provide plenty of things to see, following a large-scale rehang of almost every piece. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art collection comprises over 7500 works and is the largest in the world. Tours and activities are a great way to get more out of your visit.
17. Delight in a caramel popcorn sundae at EightySix
If a caramel popcorn sundae with peanut brittle, rich popcorn ice cream and a broken waffle cone sounds right up your alley, then you’ll love EightySix – a vibrant, modern restaurant located in the Canberra inner-city suburb of Braddon. The eatery was named after the act of crossing off or ’86-ing’ a dish from the menu when they’ve sold out. It’s buzzing atmosphere and sensational food has earned it a reputation as a must-do on the Canberra restaurant circuit.
18. Sample Riesling in an old schoolhouse at Helm Wines
Raise your glass to a palate-pleasing experience at Helm Wines, one of the leading wineries in the Canberra district. Established by Ken and Judith Helm in 1973, Helm Wines is known for producing award-winning Rieslings and Cabernet Sauvignons. Located approximately 30km north of Canberra, the rural setting is the perfect backdrop for tasting quality wines and learning about the art of wine making. The winery, which has been given a 5-star rating by James Halliday, is a must-visit for all budding and experienced wine connoisseurs.
19. To market, to market you go
Lovers of fine hand-crafted wares, clothing collectors, food fanatics and jewellery junkies are just a few of the people who head to Canberra’s award winning Old Bus Depot Markets every Sunday. In a fabulous old industrial building, you’ll experience the endless colour, tastes, sounds and atmosphere that is “Canberra’s Sunday Best”. Not your average market, each week you’ll find over 200 stalls of exceptional quality, featuring items all hand-crafted by local and regional creatives. There’s simply no better way to spend your Sunday in Canberra.
20. Dine on seasonal produce at Pialligo Estate Farmhouse
Relax, sit back and take in the picturesque Pialligo Estate Farmhouse, a sensational food and wine destination on the banks of Canberra’s Molonglo River. The Estate incorporates an olive grove, vineyard, orchard, market garden and the award-winning Pialligo Smokehouse (producer of Australia’s Best Artisan Bacon). The newly-refurbished Farmhouse restaurant is truly a feast for the senses; an award-winning restaurant with a paddock-to-plate ethos, serving delicious fare amongst the rustic warmth and charm of vaulted ceilings, natural stones and recycled timbers, and overlooking a vista of over 12,000 plants. Rated One Hat in the 2016 Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide.
21. Make your own glass creation at the Canberra Glassworks
See the beauty and versatility of glass in a new light at the Canberra Glassworks, housed in the historic Kingston Power House. Take a self-guided tour and discover some of Canberra’s heritage at this contemporary glass centre, the only one of its kind in Australia. See professional glass artists at work, make your own glass paperweight or take introductory glass courses from experts and see their striking exhibitions. Bookings required for paperweights and other glass courses.
22. See a snapshot of Australia’s plant species at the Australian National Botanic Gardens
Escape to nature in this beautiful collection of Australian plants at the Australian National Botanic Gardens, located minutes from the city centre. Offering a breathtaking array of native plants in a spectacular bushland setting, this is the only place in the world you’ll see this diversity of Australian native plants in one location. With year-round events, school holiday programs, exhibitions, guided walks and talks, a cafe, botanical gift shop and even a day spa, this is the perfect way to connect to nature.
23. Say hello to tiny trees at the National Arboretum Canberra
Size up tiny trees and pint-sized forests at the National Bonsai and Penjing Collection at the National Arboretum Canberra. With some of the finest miniature trees and forests in the world, created by some of Australia’s leading bonsai and penjing artists, the living artworks of this national collection are fascinating for all ages. Wander the purpose-built pavilion and enjoy these miniature marvels. About 80 bonsai and penjing trees and forests, both native and exotic, are on display in a variety of traditional and modern styles.
24. See Australia’s portrait collection
Look into the eyes of over 400 people who’ve shaped the nation at the National Portrait Gallery, on the shores of Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin. Gain a greater understanding of the Australian people – their identity, history, creativity and culture – through portraiture. From Howard Arkley’s portrait of Nick Cave to Ned Kelly’s death mask, the portraits include a fascinating array of artists, musicians, entertainers, politicians, sports people and royalty. The Portrait Gallery Store and Portrait Cafe are both popular destinations in their own right and a perfect accompaniment to any visit.
25. Place a poppy on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial
Commemorate members of the Australian armed forces who have died in war at the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Here, inscribed in bronze, visitors will find the names of virtually every Australian who has died in war since 1885 – more than 102,000 people. A visit to the Roll gives an impression of the magnitude of this loss, with many visitors placing a paper poppy in the niches between the panels, next to a name that has significance for them. A moving and illuminating experience. You’ll also find many New Zealand stories in this museum.
We hope you enjoyed Part 1 of 100 Amazing Things To Do & Experience In Canberra, Australia.You may want to check out 100 Amazing Things To Do & Experience In Canberra, Australia Part 2 too! If you have done some of the above, do share with us your experience in the comments section below.