Six things not to miss in Canberra

There’s nothing like having a few interstate visitors in town to get you out and about sightseeing in your own backyard. It’s prompted me to put together a little suggested itinerary of some of Canberra’s treasures and things you shouldn’t miss if you’re heading this way. Here’s what we did.

National Botanic Gardens

Nestled at the foot of Black Mountain is a world of botanical discovery, with a strong focus on natives, and a great place to get your daily dose of fresh air. Don’t miss the cool and misty rainforest gully walk and look out for the new, expansive Banksia garden, established last year to celebrate the garden’s 50th anniversary and boasting over 70 banksia species. Who knew there were that many? It’s also a wonder for little kids with discovery trails, a tree-house to climb, and ducks and lizards galore who are rather cooperative when posing for photos. The lizards at least, the ducks not so much.

Parliament House

I took my sister here last week, thinking we were booking a guided tour. Turns out they’re not running at the moment so I ended up being the tour guide myself with the able assistance of some of the very informative and helpful staff around the building. Despite housing a number of idiot politicians (and the occasional able one), the building itself is amazing and features some beautiful Australian craftsmanship and timbers, and also a truly spectacular tapestry in the grand hall. The term Eucaplyptus green is very apt here. For kids, a roll down the grass hills at the sides is a must. I have done it myself, not too long ago when I definitely wasn’t a kid. Currently there’s an exhibition about Barton, our first PM.

Old Parliament House

This grand old former seat of government has been transformed into a marvellous museum that seamlessly combines history with the present. The Museum of Australian Democracy is one of my favourite places to visit in Canberra, either to keep the kids entertained at PlayUP, attend a special event or exhibition, or even wander through the rose gardens. The current Behind the Lines political cartoon exhibition is definitely worth a look. I’m also looking forward to doing the ghost tour I was booked on last year which was another COVID casualty.

National Museum of Australia

Underneath that soaring orange arch at the edge of Lake Burley Griffin lurks our very own national museum dedicated to telling stories through objects and words. Even the building itself, a triumph of modern architecture, is a marvel and has many hidden stories to tell. I divulged some of them here. They are currently showing the Endeavour Voyage exhibition, which provides some alternatives views of the voyages of Captain Cook (you can view it online too), and also an exhibition introducing the nominations for this year’s Australian of the Year award. See if you can pick the winner.

The National Zoo and Aquarium

I love this zoo! Sprawling over 25 hectares, it’s one of the largest privately owned zoos in Australia, which is great news for its residents who get to live in enclosures often two to three times the norm. The zoo is really dedicated to caring for the animals and also conserving them in the wild, and that’s the reason their rather fancy onsite accommodation Jamala Wildlife Lodge was started – to support animal education and conservation projects. Although it’s usually pretty solidly booked, they have some vacancies at the moment because many Sydney visitors have had to cancel because of COVID restrictions. If you’ve been hankering after an overnight stay here, this might be your chance as you currently pick up bookings with a 20% discount. It’s still not cheap but it’s a great experience. (Soon I will tell you my tales of staying there!).
hectares, it’s one of the largest privately owned zoos in Australia, which is great news for its residents who get to live in enclosures often two to three times the norm. The zoo is really dedicated to caring for the animals and also conserving them in the wild, and that’s the reason their rather fancy onsite accommodation Jamala Wildlife Lodge was started – to support animal education and conservation projects. Although it’s usually pretty solidly booked, they have some vacancies at the moment because many Sydney visitors have had to cancel because of COVID restrictions. If you’ve been hankering after an overnight stay here, this might be your chance as you currently pick up bookings with a 20% discount. It’s still not cheap but it’s a great experience. (Soon I will tell you my tales of staying there!).

National Arboretum

You really shouldn’t come to Canberra without visiting the National Arboretum. Really. It’s a spectacular collection of 94 forests of rare and symbolic trees from around the world and its moods change with the weather and the seasons. Growing on the site which saw horrific fire damage during the 2003 Canberra fires, many of the trees are still babies but two of the forests are actually over 100 years old. And just quietly, it has some of the very best views of Canberra and some amazing photo opps, especially at sunrise and sunset. There are also walking and cycling trails, a bonsai and penjing collection, various exhibitions and an amazing playground for the kids. The grassy hills are also the perfect place to fly a kit. Bring something warm – the wind up there on the hill can be brisk. Check out what’s happening here.

It’s been nice to show off some of Canberra’s array of sites and entertainments. It’s also been wonderful to spend January outside in the sun. Amazing to think back to this time a year ago when we were all cowering inside with locked windows hiding from the horrid bushfire smoke from the disastrous fires and that all of these places were closed.

How many of these have you been to? What’s your favourite?

Published by BoomingOn

Hi. I'm Christine. Writer, traveller, mother, grandmother, wife, friend, foodie and lover of life - embarking on life after working, taking notes and photos along the way. Booming marvellous. I live in fabulous Canberra and am a proud grandma (we prefer ' Marsie') to a growing tribe. I've written for years in different ways and now, as a recent retiree with more time to travel and embrace living, I'm keen to share those adventures. This is a pretty amazing planet we live on, and my aim is to see and do as much as I can, be involved and open to new adventures and experiences, and inspire others to do the same. BoomingOn is my way to share this and connect with others who are doing the same. I write about travelling, my home town, arts and entertainment, kids and family, and getting older and retirement. The fun things and sometimes the serious things. I keep it real, and try to make it fun. Life's too short not to have a giggle. I'd love to share adventures with you and hope you'll join the ride.

13 thoughts on “Six things not to miss in Canberra

  1. Such a great city. I’d love to stay at Jamala & can’t believe I’ve never been to the Arboretum. Whenever we were down it was usually to see Grant’s mum or to catch up with friends etc from when we lived there. Strangely, it was that last time, when we were down when she passed away (almost a year ago now) we had time to fill and revisited some of the touristy stuff we hadn’t done in years.

    Liked by 1 person

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