Canberra, the capital city of Australia is often overlooked. In fact, even most Australians that I tell I have been to Canberra will look at me funny. “But there’s nothing there...” I often hear. I get it – the city doesn’t have the allure of Sydney or Melbourne, or even the beachside benefits of a smaller hub like Adelaide. However, I had a great time in Canberra and I’d love to share my experience to help anyone who may find themselves there too!
Museums, museums, museums.
Being the capital of Australia, Canberra is chock-full of museums and national buildings! If you are an art-lover or a history buff, there is something for you to enjoy.
Australia’s National Science and Technology Centre is a beautiful museum dedicated to all things science. This was my first stop (after brekky) on my first morning in Canberra and although it was a bit pricey (Adult admission is $23) it felt worth it for me as it completely occupied my morning. Some stuff is more geared for those with children, but as a solo traveler I still had a great time! The featured exhibit when I was there was all about spiders, which I am not a huuuuuge fan of, but it was a great exhibit and felt very “Australia”. I also went to a talk/show in one of their theaters about outer space and visited RoboQ!
The National Library of Australia holds many bodies of work, especially those relating to Australia and the Australian people. On display in the Treasures Gallery are Australian artifacts and historical documents, making the library the perfect stop for those wanting to know more about the country’s history. I also had an amazing lunch here, though it is a bit on the spendier side. The stained glass windows of the restaurant were beautiful.
Whether you are an art aficionado or just a first-timer like myself, there is a ton to see at Australia’s National Gallery. I remember thinking just after I’d arrived that I would need the entire afternoon. There is art from all over Australia as well as Asia and the Pacific Islands, a wide variety of types of work and of course new exhibits or features on often. Here are just a few of the many works of art I noticed and enjoyed.
National Portrait Gallery
This gallery is smaller and doesn’t take as long to get through, but is really lovely if you like portrait artwork. It is probably most appreciated by Australians who recognize many of the featured portraits, but I found it enjoyable regardless. The portraits range from wall-filling oil paintings to smaller digital photographs.
Coffee, Wine, Chocolate – oh my!
One of the best parts about my trip to Canberra was that my host family had spent the past 10 years living there and gave me a laundry list of cafes, restaurants and bars to visit.
I was treated to coffee at Harvest immediately after arriving in Canberra. It had a massive line and I had read about it online before coming, so I knew it had to be good! Afterwards I grabbed brekky and another amazing coffee at The Cupping Room just down the road.
Or a longer breakfast at Double Shot Deakin. Just looking back on all these photos is making me miss this trip so much! I haven’t found nearly as many great cafes here in Brisbane.
Vincent may be in a quiet area neighborhood wise, but their mains are incredible. I had an amazing gnocchi pasta with goat cheese, pear and feta as my main. My friend and I also split chips and had a glass of prosecco each. Vincent specializes in share-plates, and pairing the perfect wine with your dish which made me feel very, very grown up. Can you tell I had a bit of a budget when I went to Canberra? I was on a mission to eat good food and I wasn’t disappointed!
Mocan and Green Grout also came highly recommended, and made a great place to dine solo as the restaurant is small and features an open kitchen, where you can watch them make your meal while you enjoy a glass of wine.
Lucky’s Speakeasy had a great atmosphere and even better mulled cider, a great fit for Canberra’s cooler climate. I also stopped off for an espresso martini at Eightysix.
On my first night I visited Koko Black, which can be found in other major cities in Australia (just not Brisbane) but the on in Canberra is located perfectly at the Canberra centre. I picked out six chocolates/truffles as my dessert here and they were all delicious. Second only to my other favorite Australian chocolate shop, Haighs.
Eightysix also has a dessert menu where I had this amazing creation. I remember that the ice cream flavor was passionfruit and the little meringue like chips surrounding it were incredible. It was a perfect end to the night!
When to Go
I highly recommend visiting Canberra during Floriade in September. You can easily fill a couple of days with the museums, but you’ll want Spring weather for exploring outdoor sights like Lake Burkey Griffin and The Old Bus Depot Markets. Floriade is only on for a few weeks, but it really rounds out a trip to Canberra. There are markets, beautiful floral displays, music, and festival rides for kids. Plus there is a free shuttle to and from Floriade and the Canberra Centre in the middle of the city.
Canberra can be a bit hard to get around on foot, so consider renting a car if you are able. I took Uber almost everywhere I couldn’t walk on foot. All of the museums (except Questacon) have free entry, as does Floriade. So while you may spend a little extra to indulge on food, most of your other activities can fit into any budget. I hope this post helped you see some of what Canberra has to offer if you ever find yourself in the ACT!