A Guide To Canberra, ACT, Australia

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.

Questacon

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!

National Library 

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 On display in the Treasures Gallery are Australian artifacts and historical documents, making the library the perfect stop for those wanting to know more about the country’s history.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.

The National Gallery of Australia 

  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.

Coffee:

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.

I also recommend takeaway from the popular Lonsdale Street Coffee Roasters or Ona on the Lawns. 

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.

Dinner: 

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.

Drinks:

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.

Dessert:

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. 

 Last Words

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!

xo,Laura Kate

14 thoughts on “A Guide To Canberra, ACT, Australia

  1. I didn’t get a chance to try Ona, but my friends rave about it!

    I went to The Cupping Room twice and can say their coffee and breakfasts are on point 😉

  2. Great article! I’m not a big fan of Canberra to be honest (I only went there once for one day). But I’m not very interested in museums and I don’t like coffee… so it doesn’t help! I think it’s still a place to put on the list for those who spend many months down under (but not a priority). Thanks for making that guide, it looks like you’ve found gems there!

    1. Thanks! Haha I don’t blame you, I was guided by my host family’s suggestions so I think that really helped my experience, which is why I wanted to share some of what I found with others!

  3. I have heard so many great things about Canberra but I must admit that until recently I didn’t know much about it! It looks like somewhere not to miss with all its museums… who am I kidding, I’m all about the food, wine and chocolate!! Seems like myself and Canberra might be a match made in heaven! You’ve opened my eyes to a new travel destination – so thanks!

    1. Haha aw so glad to do so! The cafe/restaurant seen there is honestly something I haven’t found anywhere else in Australia. I had such a great experience!

  4. Canberra isn’t on top of our Australia list of destinations, but we might want to give it a second thought! Great post!

  5. It´s really strange for me to imagine that the capital is not touristy at all – my own capital is one of the few tourist spots in all of my country! Great tip to visit during the Floriade – the spring time must be stunning! Also surprised to hear all those museums are for free. I´d love to have a look in the portrait one!

  6. The National Library looks amazing! I’ve been to Canberra twice (for events) so didn’t get to explore it as much as you did – will definitely save some of these coffee and food recs for next time!

  7. I’m a big fan of cafes too, so if a city lacks good cafes I’m not a huge fan. Good to know Canberra has them! That dessert looked SO GOOD!

  8. It just shows that those places we often hear as ‘plain’ or not so touristy, can be in fact, interesting 🙂 I’m glad you found these interesting places to enjoy in Canberra. Would be a great guide to those looking for something new 🙂

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