Prepare to experience one good thing after another in Canberra. Because whether it’s world-class wining and dining, iconic national treasures or breathtaking natural beauty, everything is just moments away.
If the last time you visited Canberra was for school camp, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. While Questacon and the War Memorial will always be there for all Year Six students past and present, they are definitely not the only places you can go to have a good time.
While no one was watching, Australia’s planned city became fun. With its bushland surroundings and iconic buildings, there’s so much to see and do – and pretty much all you’ll need to bring with you are some comfy walking shoes and an emergency jumper (or two).
If you’ve got a hankering for adventure, here are six experiences to enjoy in our country’s capital.
Hot air ballooning
One of the best ways to take in Canberra is from the air. Every autumn, the skies become the home of hot air balloons of all shapes and sizes as part of the annual Canberra Balloon Spectacular. A number of operators also offer daily balloon rides for the public year-round – depending on weather and flying conditions.
There aren’t many places in the world where drifting gently over the top of parliamentary buildings and embassies won’t put you on the country’s security watch list. In Canberra, it’s a surprisingly peaceful pastime. It’s an early morning start – we’re talking pre-dawn – but soaring into the sky to watch the sun fill the valley is a truly breathtaking way to start the day. Everything the light touches is your kingdom, Simba.
Visit the zoo
You’ll find an awesome variety of native and exotic creatures at the National Zoo and Aquarium. The best time to catch the animals is in the morning just after the zoo opens, as this seems to be when they’re at their most active. You haven’t lived until you’ve watched a pride of lions stampede out of their sleeping quarters in a rush to eat breakfast! The zoo also has an on-site hotel called the Jamala Wildlife Lodge that adjoins various animal enclosures with (strong) glass walls between. This means you can take a bath beside a bear or lounge next to a lion. Oh my!
Escaping to nature is all too easy when nature is literally on your doorstep. No matter where you are in Canberra, the peace and quiet of the bush is only ever a short drive away. Whether your idea of a bushwalk is a gentle stroll through the trees or a challenging hike, there are trails to suit every kind of explorer.
Power up Black Mountain and enjoy the views from Telstra Tower or take a 45-minute drive to Namadgi National Park. The ACT’s only national park boasts a number of stunning waterfalls including the popular Gibraltar Falls, which cascades from a 50 metre drop, and the less accessible Stockyard Creek Falls and Ginini Falls (these two are recommended for seasoned bushwalkers only).
At the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, not only will you spot kangaroos, wallabies and koalas, you might even see a platypus or two. Those adorable little weirdos can often be found chilling in the reserve’s ponds. (If you don’t catch sight of them when you first look, keep an eye out for ripples on the surface of the water.) For local history buffs, Tidbinbilla is also rich in Aboriginal history – there are artefacts and rock shelters there that are more than 20,000 years old.
If you’re into historical landforms that are extra ancient, Molongolo Gorge is a great place to walk, swim and fish. As you clamber up and over the rocks along the walking trail, it’s mind-blowing to realise that the gorge is 15-million-years-old – and to this day, remains relatively unspoiled.
Speaking of rocks, Canberra’s got some good ones, or so say the mountaineers and rock climbing enthusiasts that venture here to cave, climb and abseil to their hearts’ content. Guides like K7 Adventures will provide all the equipment and supervision you need and take you to sites including White Rocks – a limestone cliff perfect for beginners – and Booroomba Rocks, a cliff overlooking Blue Gum Creek back in Namadgi National Park.
Cycling is a serious business in the capital. It’s not just a way to get from A to B, it’s a lifestyle. For hardcore cyclists, you can’t go past the Centenary Trail, a 145-kilometre loop that will take you take you through mountains, nature reserves, grasslands and beyond. Then, there’s Stromlo Forest Park. This world-class bike park has more than 40 kilometres of mountain bike trails, a short road cycling circuit and even a cross country running track for those who prefer to get by on two feet instead of two wheels. Stromlo is also home to a number equestrian trails, but you’ll have to BYO noble steed.
Segwaying around the lake
Segwaying is a really fun way to see Lake Burley Griffin. Segways are easy to master and the scenery around the lake is absolutely gorgeous. Seg Glide Ride tours leave throughout the day and run for up to an hour. You’ll get to enjoy the lake’s foreshore, parts of the parliamentary zone and – of course – the delicious satisfaction of gliding past dozens of joggers and power-walkers.[related_articles]33471[/related_articles]
Amanda is a pop culture nerd with a fondness for red pandas and acquiring more books than she will ever read. A former book publicist and film journalist, she now works in communications in Canberra. Amanda is the co creator of The Regal Fox.