Our Canberra Travel Guide will help you explore the smallest territory on the Australian mainland. Home to the nation’s capital, Canberra, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), packs a lot of world-class museum and green spaces into its borders.
If you love museums and hiking as much as we do you just might be surprised how much you enjoy the city often labelled the most boring in Australia!
Canberra is a purpose-built city; its site was chosen due to its location halfway between Sydney and Melbourne.
Why visit Canberra
History, heritage and the great outdoors, there are so many things to see here, and while the nightlife may not be as exciting as say Melbourne, there is a decent food scene.
When to visit
The old saying there is no bad time to visit a place, only the wrong clothes applies firmly to the ACT. Winter is cold, summer is hot, and eight months of the year you need a jacket for the evenings.
Canberra draws big visitor numbers in early Autumn (March/April) and early Spring (October/November), both seasons bring stunning foliage and flower displays and an array of festivals. The weather at this time of year can be a bit changeable so pack a warm jacket and an umbrella but, you are often greeted with blue skies.
Summer can be hot, temperatures in the high 30s celsius are not uncommon, and in some seasons bushfires are a real threat. Winter will make you glad the city is full of museums as being indoors is often preferred.
How to get to Canberra
Drive – Canberra is 287km south-west of Sydney, a comfortable 3.5-hour drive. The drive from Melbourne takes about 7.5 hours. From elsewhere flying is your best option.
Bus – Buses from Sydney take 3 hrs and 45 minutes. The bus from Melbourne takes about 9 hours. Tickets can be as low as $25 from Sydney when booked in advance. Check Murrays and Greyhound website for the best prices.
Train – The train service from Sydney will about 4 hours and 10 minutes. There are two or three direct services per day, depending on demand. The cheapest place to book your ticket is directly on their website. There is no direct service from Melbourne, there is a bus/train combo, but it takes a long time. The train terminates in Kingston where you can join a bus to the city (20 mins travel time).
Fly – There are regular flights from most states thanks to business travellers, but prices are not usually all that attractive. Bus service from the airport (Bus 11) will get you to the city for about $5.
American architect Walter Burley Griffin’s winning design for Canberra was one of 137 entries.
How to get around Canberra
Canberra operates bus and light rail services that link the suburbs to Civic (the city centre). You can read about the ticketing system, MyWay. Single tickets cost $3.22 and are valid for 90 minutes. A daily cap of $9.60 applies.
Most useful for visitors is the free Cultural Loop Service. The service operates from 9am-5pm on an hourly schedule. There is info that this service may have ceased, but I will update this when I can confirm.
- Parliament House
- Museum of Australian Democracy
- National Library
- National Museum
- National Capital Exhibition
- Visitors Centre
- National Film and Sound Archive
- Canberra Museum and Gallery
- Canberra Centre.
There is also a good cycling network and a bike-share program.
Canberra is one city where having a car will certainly make your life easier but don’t let the lack of a car stop you from visiting because it can be done. It just requires that you either love walking or are a little more organised.
Rideshare – Services are legal and regulated in Canberra, you can use either Uber or Ola.
What to pack
Warm clothes! I have been caught short a couple of times when it was much colder than predicted. Also, you will likely be walking a lot, so comfortable walking shoes are a must.
What to eat – ask a local food blogger
The Canberra food scene is buzzing and the best way to know what to eat when you visit it to follow one of the local food bloggers. These are the ones on our radar right now.
- Eat Canberra
- The official Visit Canberra food feed
- Inexplicable Wanderlust – a travel blog by a Canberra local with some great food content.
- The Ultimate Guide to Dining in Canberra
Foodie hotspots include: Lonsdale Street in Braddon, Kingston foreshore and New Acton
Key events in Canberra
The biggest event of the year might be Floriade, but there are several other times when the city really comes alive.
- January – Street Machine Summernats
- February – The National Multicultural Festival
- March – The Enlighten Festival is Canberra’s version of Vivid. Light installations and the annual hot air balloon festival are highlights.
- Anzac Day – if you have a chance to experience the ceremony at the War Memorial do it!
- The National Folk Festival is held over Easter
- October – Floriade
Canberra Public Holidays – 2020-2021
Long weekends see prices rise and availability drop so book in advance for the best deals. Most attractions only close on Christmas day and perhaps Anzac Day or Good Friday, please check individual places before you visit.
ACT Public School terms – 2020-2021
If you don’t have children avoiding these dates will save you money, and you will find the museums a lot less crowded.
Are you heading to Victoria? Check out our Guide to the Best Day Trips from Melbourne