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Canberra, your way

Plan your ideal weekend in the capital, no matter what kind of person you are

Goboat Canberra
Photograph: Lean Timms
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Seeking a romantic weekend away? Or more of a family holiday? Do you crave outdoor adventures, or are you more of a culture vulture? No matter what kind of person you are, we have the perfect two days in Canberra for you... 

Art on sale at the Old Bus Depot Markets
Photograph: Steve Keough

Canberra for couples

Saturday

Morning: Enjoy brunch at Morning Glory, where the menu spans a dizzying range of cultural influences. Then take a wander around NewActon where you’ll find galleries, cafés and Palace Electric Cinema.

Stop by the National Gallery of Australia’s Sculpture Garden between 12.30pm and 2pm to experience the mist of Fujiko Nakaya's fog sculpture ‘Foggy Wake in a Desert: An Ecosphere’.

Afternoon: The National Museum of Australia is showcasing priceless artefacts from ancient Rome in the Rome: City and Empire exhibition, with treasures direct from the British Museum.

As the sun gets low it’s time to tackle the refreshing walk around Lake Burley Griffin – relax, nobody said you had to do the full five kilometres.

Watch the sun set with a glass of wine at Bar Rochford, the hidden wine bar that everyone in Canberra seems to be talking about.

Evening: For a beautiful Japanese dinner you’ll want to head to Raku, where executive chef Hao Chen wields the sushi blade with elegance and precision.

For an accommodation experience you won’t forget, why not go glamping at Naked Cubby Co? Your cosy bell tent overlooks the Mount Majura Vineyard.  

Sunday

Morning: Browse the Old Bus Depot Markets in Kingston to find artisan wares, jewellery, clothing and foodstuffs. You can get your morning coffee here too and a French, Ethiopian, Laotian or Jordanian breakfast.

Afternoon: Then it’s time to hit the road and explore the ACT’s wineries. There are over 30 wineries within 35 minutes’ drive of the city centre, so you’re in for a treat. Stop by Four Winds Vineyard for a relaxed wood fired pizza lunch and a glass of their famous rosé in a picturesque vineyard setting. Or for a for a brand new wine experience, take a trip out to the state of the art cellar door at Shaw.

Evening: For dinner, EightySix in Braddon is a cosy modern Mediterranean diner with some shining stars on the menu, such as steak tartare and that popcorn sundae.  

Speaking of stars, what could be more romantic than an evening of stargazing at Mount Stromlo Observatory? Check the observatory’s online calendar for availability.   

National Gallery of Australia  interior installation view James Turrell Within Without 2010 skyspace image courtesy NGA Canberra photographer credit John Gollings
Photograph: John Gollings

Canberra for cultural explorers

Saturday

Morning: Breakfast at The Front, a combined café and gallery with plenty of vegan and veggo options and ever-changing art exhibited on its walls.

Beeline to Parkes to visit the National Gallery of Australia, with its outstanding permanent collection and new Yayoi Kusama ‘Infinity Room’ installation. Then pop over to the National Portrait Gallery to look at the bold and colourful portraits in the Electric! Portraits that Pop exhibition.

Afternoon: Zoom over to Taco Taco for an authentic Mexican lunch (they make their own tortillas!) – then venture to the Australian War Memorial and explore exhibitions that cover Australian involvement in every major conflict.

You’ll have time to pop into the National Film and Sound Archive in Acton where two cinemas play programs of enchanting archival footage that’s fascinating to dip into.

Evening: Mocan and Green Grout have a stylish yet affordable dinner menu and you can dine alfresco in the summer evening if you like.

Sunday

Morning: Have a virtuous acai bowl for brekkie at Doubleshot over in Deakin. Then make your way across to Parliament House to see for yourself the place where legislation is nutted out – there are several guided tours departing every day.  

Afternoon: Lunch at Local Press Café in Kingston sets you up for an afternoon watching the glassblowers in action at the Canberra Glassworks Workshop.   

Squeeze in a visit to the National Library of Australia to see their James Cook exhibition before prepping for dinner.

Evening: For your evening meal you should try pan-Asian diner Akiba, specialising in barbecue, sashimi and dim sum – the Just Feed Me! option for $49 will get you eight of their best dishes to try.

If whisky’s your tipple then head to basement bar Molly for a nightcap – the sheer range of whiskies is staggering.    

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Pod Playground, National Arboretum Canberra
Photograph: Anton Scott-Cameron

Canberra for families

Saturday

Morning: Grab your breakfast at Silo Bakery & Café – the littlies will go mad for the French toast with new season apples.

Head over to Old Parliament House for the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House for PlayUP – the Right to Have an Opinion and Be Heard. Kids can explore the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child through games, toys and interactive displays.

Afternoon: Your kids will go wild exploring the magical Pod Playground at the National Arboretum Canberra, with its enticing acorn cubbies joined by rope tunnels and slides. The Arboretum has 94 forests planted across 250 hectares of rolling hills, so there’s plenty of space for running and roaming.

Enjoy a picnic lunch by the lake, or go for burgers at Brodburger in Kingston. You’ll need to gird yourself for a big afternoon at the National Zoo & Aquarium. Help feed animals, look a big cat in the eye or hand feed a giraffe or bear at Australia’s only combined zoo and aquarium.

Evening: Make the most of your balmy summer evening and roll out the picnic rug to enjoy fish and chips from Snapper by the Lake, right on the foreshore.   

Sunday

Morning: Engage the kids in science at  Questacon – The National Science and Technology Centre. Here, hands-on displays cover everything from astronomy to zoology.

You don’t want to miss Braddon’s café precinct – cafés to try include Sonoma, Lonsdale Street Roasters and Barrio Collective Coffee.

Afternoon: Let the nippers burn off any excess energy with a walk around the tiny towns of Cockington Green Gardens, followed by peek into prehistory at the adjacent National Dinosaur Museum.

The Capital Brewing Co has a great outdoor play area to keep the kids out of the way while you enjoy a local Trail Pale Ale and a Brodburger.

Evening: Pizza and gelato at Agostinis ought to satisfy the  fussiest of little eaters (if they’ve been good enough to deserve it).

Gibraltar Peak, Tidbinbilla, ACT
Photograph: Chris Holly

Canberra for adventure seekers

Saturday

Morning: Get fully fuelled and caffeinated at Highroad in Dickson – the breakfast fritters have three kinds of cheese – and don’t forget to fill your water bottles and pack a lunch. You’re bound for Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, and you’re going to meet birds, kangaroos, wallabies and koalas while hiking your choice of 21 trails, from the easy to the challenging, such as the 8km Gibraltar Peak track.

Afternoon: When you get back, cool down and boast of your exploits over  a cleansing ale at Bentspoke Brewing Co in Braddon.    

Evening: Your day’s hike has earned you the brownie points to indulge in the Korean fast food of hilarious restaurant Baby Su – perhaps a Korean fried chicken burger, a teriyaki cheeseburger or a bulgogi cheesesteak.

You’re going to want to get to bed early because…

Sunday

Morning: ...you’re getting up early for a balloon flight over the city. It’s unlikely you’ll forget the bird’s eye views of the city and the Brindabella mountain range in a hurry.

Afterwards, get coffee and breakfast at The Cupping Room, where halloumi fingers are crisp on the outside and fluffy inside and pork sausages are given a nice acidic tang thanks to white anchovies.

Then you’re in for a morning of harness-free rock climbing at Blockhaus Bouldering, with 600m2 of colourful climbing surfaces to test yourself on.

Afternoon: There’s no more fun way to do Lake Burley Griffin than by segway – Seg Glide Ride will train you up then set you loose.

Afterwards you can try a self-driven experience on the lake in eco-friendly electric boats with GoBoat; or hike, cycle or drive to the lookout at Mount Ainslie for another great view of Canberra.

Evening: For dinner, try Grease Monkey, where you can grease up your system with burgers, fried chicken and a milkshake. Or try the Argentinian grill at gastropub Hopscotch, where you can kick on for a few bevvies well into the evening.  

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