Despite its nickname, Australia’s Bush Capital has become the hip stomping ground of some of the country’s brightest professionals. If you find yourself joining them, here’s what you should put on your to-do list.
Canberra has a lot more breathing space than its East Coast rivals, and is also cultural center boasting a bustling culinary scene. Here are some suggestions for things to do with your free time the next time business takes you down under.
Mountain views of the pristine capital
The summit of Mount Ainslie is a great place to appreciate the symmetry of the city from above. Starting from the Australian War Memorial, a 4 km (round trip) walk takes hikers through accessible bushland dotted with kangaroos and native birds. The summit offers what is perhaps Canberra’s most well-known vista overlooking ANZAC parade, Lake Burley Griffin, and Parliament House. The trail will take about 1.5 hours to complete. If you’d rather cut straight to the view, it’s also possible to reach the lookout by road.
Enjoy some local brew, coffee or beer
Australians love coffee, and Canberra is no exception. ONA is a great brand to try if you’re wanting to experience coffee prepared the Australian way. You can buy ONA coffee throughout Canberra, but the roaster also has four cafes of its own. Each cafe has its own unique menu and atmosphere, so you could visit all four and have a different experience each time. They are also great places to go to get some work done, or just for a bit of people watching.
If you’re looking to wind down after a busy day, check out one of the city’s trendy breweries. Craft beer and small-scale brewing has taken off around the country in recent years and you’ll find many a hard-working professional relaxing with a few cold ones at these establishments on Friday evenings. Canberra has a number of local breweries on offer, including Bentspoke, which often hosts free tastings around the city as well as having a permanent establishment.
Canberra has an extensive collection of art museums and galleries. The National Gallery of Australia holds around 166,000 works spanning from indigenous art to western classics and offers free guided tours every hour, from 10:30 to 2:30 daily. The gallery’s sculpture garden is a great space to catch some sunlight and a waterfront view on clear days. Entry is free but some special exhibitions are ticketed.
Head to the National Portrait Gallery if you’re interested in getting to know some of Australia’s most well-known faces. The gallery’s collection contains 3500 beautiful depictions of influential people in Australian history. You can find information about the portraits and their subjects on the gallery’s website.
This is a suggestion for the politically inclined. If you’re interested in learning more about Australia’s government, or just seeing how traditional architecture motifs can be re-imagined in modern ways, no first visit to Canberra would be complete without a visit to Parliament House. The building is open to visitors every day except for Christmas day, though the most interesting time to go is during sitting weeks. Check out the House’s 2018 sitting calendar to see if you will be able to catch Australia’s legislators in action.
Australia’s old parliament house is also worth a visit as it’s a pivotal site in the history of Australia, and is now the Museum of Australian Democracy. Visitors can explore this four-level building and see the artifacts that were central to Australia’s democracy until parliament moved in 1988.
Enjoy Canberra’s lakefront
The man-made Lake Burley Griffin is a great spot to exercise, take a leisurely stroll, or relax with a book. Named after the city’s designer, this lake has 40 km of shoreline for visitors to enjoy. Watersports, fresh air, and beautiful views are all on offer. Plus, you can hire a bike, paddle board, or kayak. For a slower pace, head to one of the lake’s many picnic or barbeque areas. The National Gallery of Art’s sculpture garden borders the lake, as does the National Carillon (an impressive bell tower) are among the most popular spots. Head to Weston Park for a more natural, untamed vibe and a good chance of spotting a kangaroo.
Get to know Australia’s wild nature
Australia’s native plants can be as strange and beautiful as its animals. If you’re into botany, or just want a beautiful place to clear your mind, head to the impressive and expansive Australian National Botanical Gardens. The 40-hectare garden contains 6200 species and 74,000 individual plants. It holds approximately a third of all Australia’s native plants species, and you can explore them all via self-guided trails and tours. The main path loop is an easy 40-minute walk, and the Aboriginal Plant Use trail takes around an hour.
Now that your itinerary is ready, all that’s left is to get there in style with a Blacklane ride.