Canberra is Australia’s capital city, and it’s the seat of federal parliament as well as housing some of the nations most valued artworks, artefacts and institutions. Highly underrated as a tourist destination, this city is one big playground, offering family-friendly activities and adventures that may just be educational too. Here are our top picks for things to do in Canberra.
From festivals and parks to museums and historic buildings, Canberra has something for everyone. These top attractions are guaranteed to offer something for every member of the family to enjoy.
Boundless - Canberra's best playground (some would argue it's the best in Australia) is designed to be as inclusive and fun as possible. It's fully-fenced and features equipment for children of all abilities. As well as swings, slides etc there's a sensory garden, artwork, sculpture and a kiosk. It's also equipped with bathrooms and changing facilities. http://www.boundlesscanberra.org.au/
Floriade - This annual flower festival is celebrating its 30th year in 2018. Taking over 8000 square metres of Commonwealth Park in the heart of the city, the event attracts half a million visitors each year. For a month every southern spring (September/October), the festival celebrates flowers and so much more, with cultural events, art displays, workshops, food and wine and loads of kid-friendly installations and activities. http://www.floriadeaustralia.com/
The Australian War Memorial - A place to learn, reflect and remember, the War Memorial is a must-see on any trip to Canberra. Featuring exhibitions, events, archives and the memorial itself, the historic building is an Australian treasure. https://www.awm.gov.au
Australian Institute of Sport - If your kids are into sport at all then a visit to AIS is a must! They offer guided tours which include a visit to Sportex, an interactive exhibit where you can try different sports while learning about the history of Australian sport and the country's sporting heroes. https://www.experienceais.com
Questacon - Making science, technology and innovation cool and accessible with over 200 hands-on interactive exhibits across eight galleries, there's something for kids of every age. Mom and Dad will love it too. Check out their workshops and shows, as well as the outdoor science garden, and The Shed, where designing and making things is part of the experience. https://www.questacon.edu.au
Cockington Green Gardens - Little kids will love the miniature villages set amongst beautiful gardens. Here you'll find a fascinating collection of handcrafted buildings from around the world, a garden cafe, playground and picnic area, as well as miniature steam train rides. https://www.cockingtongreen.com.au/
National Zoo and Aquarium - The zoo has an incredible collection of exotic and native animals to see, as well as opportunities to get up close and personal with them as a keeper for a day, or as part of a 'zooventure'. There's a wildlife lodge where you can spend the night on safari, and loads of kid-focused activities during school holidays. The aquarium features the largest saltwater tank in Australia. http://nationalzoo.com.au/
Parliament House - As the seat of the nation's parliament this iconic building offers more than just a chance to see democracy in action. There are tours and exhibitions of Australian art and artefacts and a large outdoor space to explore. You can even roll down Capital Hill if you feel like it! https://www.aph.gov.au/Visit_Parliament Down the hill, Old Parliament House now house the Museum of Australian Democracy, https://www.moadoph.gov.au.
Also worth a visit are these tried and tested kid-friendly attractions:
The National Dinosaur Museum, http://nationaldinosaurmuseum.com.au/
Australian National Botanic Gardens, https://www.anbg.gov.au/gardens/
Big Splash Water Park, http://bigsplashwaterpark.com.au/
Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, https://www.tidbinbilla.act.gov.au/
National Gallery of Australia, https://nga.gov.au/
National Museum of Australia, http://www.nma.gov.au/
Royal Australian Mint, http://www.ramint.gov.au/
Old Bus Depot Markets, https://obdm.com.au/
Canberra hosts many foreign dignitaries, politicians and pop stars, which means there's a great range of high-quality accommodation to be found in the city. Whether you prefer 5-star hotels, apartments or simple budget-friendly motels, you will find it here. Here are our top picks:
EAST Hotel - A boutique apartment style hotel located in Canberra's popular inner south, this place appeals to families thanks to the Kids Cubby. A studio room with bunk beds, bean bags, play area, toys and games, adjoining one of the apartments. Apartments come with full kitchen and laundry facilities too. 69 Canberra Avenue, Kingston, Australian Capital Territory 2604, +61 2 6295 6925, https://easthotel.com.au
Hotel Kurrajong – located just 10 minutes from Canberra Airport, and close to a number of attractions, Hotel Kurrajong is a heritage-listed hotel with a lot of history. Newly refurbished, the Heritage Family Rooms sleep up to 4 people. 8 National Circuit, Barton, ACT 2600, Australia, +61 2 6234 4444, https://www.hotelkurrajong.com.au
Medina Serviced Apartments – in the leafy suburb of Kingston you’ll be close to the Old Bus Depot Markets, Parliament House and the NGA, as well as the boutiques and cafes of trendy Manuka. Medina offers fully self-contained one and two bedroom apartments with kitchen and laundry facilities, a pool and free wifi. 11 Giles St, Canberra, ACT 2604, Australia, +61 2 6239 8100, https://www.tfehotels.com/en/hotels/medina-serviced-apartments/canberra-kingston/
Burbury Hotel – Sleeping up to 5 guests in a two-bedroom apartment in this luxury hotel just minutes from everything. Offering views over Lake Burley Griffin, the hotel is located in a precinct that also houses a day spa, fitness centre, indoor pool and a number of dining options for some relaxation after a day spend exploring. 1 Burbury Close, Barton, Canberra ACT 2600, Australia
Phone: +61 2 6173 2700, https://burburyhotel.com.au/
Knightsbridge Canberra – Kids will love the free movies on demand and the infinity pool, while parents will appreciate this hotel’s fantastic location and facilities, which include full kitchens and laundries, block-out blinds, complimentary refreshments, and free parking. 3 Leichhardt Street, Canberra ACT 2604, Australia, +61 2 6185 0000, https://www.knightsbridgecanberra.com.au
Avenue Hotel – Right in the heart of Canberra’s CBD, Avenue Hotel is a new luxury accommodation. Book a two-bedroom apartment with all the mod-cons and settle in for a few days of fun and adventure. Cafés restaurants, entertainment and shopping are right on the doorstep and there’s a free shuttle to the city centre and airport. 80 Northbourne Avenue, Braddon, ACT 2602, Australia, +61 2 6246 9599, https://avenuehotel.com.au
Pacific Suites Canberra – One and two bedroom apartments, with large living areas and fully equipped kitchens make this a great base for a family of four. There’s a pool and gym, and all that the Canberra CBD has to offer is within walking distance. 100 Northbourne Avenue, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia, +61 2 6262 6266, http://www.pacificsuitescanberra.com.au/
Canberra has gained a reputation in recent years as a foodie haven, and with good reason. While there are plenty of fine dining options for grown-ups to enjoy, little diners will be just as pleased with the offerings tailor-made for families.
For breakfast or lunch, Tulips Café at Pialligo offers homestyle meals using the freshest of ingredients. Set inside a garden centre, there’s plenty of outdoor seating and a fantastic playground. It’s also minutes from the airport, making a great place to stop if you arrive hungry! Local Press is a café serving all-day brunch, with a focus on healthy and wholesome. If you’re looking for really good coffee and space to park a pram try Little Bird in Barton, The Knox in Watson, or the famous Gus’ Place in the CBD.
When you’re in need of a dinner that packs a punch look for one of Brodburger’s 3 locations. Burgers come in baby size so the kids don’t miss out on the fun. CAPHS is a local icon serving modern Australian food, with kid-friendly menu options, highchairs and colouring pages. Debacle is casual and relaxed – think pizzas, burgers and beer - and kids will love the outdoor seating area. And if in doubt, there’s always Jamie’s Italian! Time for dessert? Via Dolce serves pizza, ice-cream and cake. Frugii Dessert Laboratory is pure indulgence, and Silo Bakery + Café offers breakfast, lunch and pastries worth travelling to Canberra for. If you’re looking for options in the ‘burbs, check out these neighbourhood eateries around town - http://eatcanberra.com.au/2017/07/02/child-friendly-cafes-canberra/
You can fly direct to Canberra from Doha and Singapore, with more international routes expected soon. You can also access the city with flights from Australia’s other main hubs, or it’s a 3-hour drive from Sydney.
Once you’re there, hire a car, grab a taxi or take advantage of the city’s great network of public transport. It’s a relatively small place and very easy to navigate. Here are some useful contacts:
Taxis - http://www.actcabs.com.au/
Car hire - https://www.vroomvroomvroom.com.au/locations/canberra/
Public Transport - https://www.transport.act.gov.au/