Canberra is the capital city of Australia, purposely planned and built as the base for the Federal Government. Certainly a beautiful city, with tree lined avenues and outstanding architecture, Canberra has a quiet sophistication and charm, yet is a busy city with many things to do, places to visit and attractions to see.
Here we showcase some of the major attractions of Canberra, arranged tours that may be booked online and hotel, motel accommodation.
The construction of Canberra started in 1913 following a competition won by the American Walter Burley Griffin.
With circular roads and suburbs that are separated by forest areas, Canberra has grown to be the largest inland town in Australia with just over 330,000 permanent residents.
There are many things to do and unique places to see while in Canberra and a trip to Parliament House is almost mandatory for all visitors.
Entry is free, being owned by the people of Australia, and the House is open from 9.00am to 5.00pm daily.
Old Parliament House is another attraction that is great to see and has guided tours available. The original parliament house served the Australian Government between 1927 to 1988.
Today Old Parliament House is a reminder of our past and houses valuable memories, artifacts and is a museum of Australia’s social and political history.
The National Carillon was a gift from the British Government to the people of Australia celebrating the 50th anniversary of the National Capital. The Carillon is located on Aspen Island in Lake Burley Griffin.
It is a beautiful structure in a magnificent setting. Very picturesque and well worth a visit.
Whilst Canberra may be full of hot air from all the political rhetoric, there are many places of interest and great things to see.
Cockington Green Gardens is special, the zoo and Questacon also very interesting.
Things to do in Canberra
Canberra National Zoo & Aquarium
Canberra Zoo and Aquarium holds some of the most beautiful animals and aquatic creature from all over the world, with monkeys, giraffes, tigers and bears, plus a selection of rare and dangerous fish on display in the aquarium.
Australian animals include kangaroos, koalas, wombats, emus, little penguins and many more.
You can spend a few hours or the whole day at the National Zoo & Aquarium and enjoy the pleasant surroundings that only the Canberra Zoo gives to all visitors. As keen photographers, we are delighted that most of the animal enclosures are large and constructed to assimilate the animals natural home surroundings. You are also given clear sight to the animals and while the enclosures are large, the animals are easy to see.
No visit to Canberra would be complete without a visit to the National Zoo and Aquarium, located on Lady Denman Drive, just 5 minutes from the city centre.
Situated on 25 acres of natural bush land, Canberra Zoo & Aquarium is host to a wide variety of aquatic creatures including sharks and huge gropers, with a good collection of exotic overseas and Australian animals including Lions, Tigers, Penguins, Bears, Leopards, Kangaroos and Koalas.
All displays are handily situated, so that a minimum of walking is required to allow visitors to see all the different animals in the one day.
The Zoo is wheelchair friendly with excellent facilities including a cafe and souvenir shop.
Suggested must see animals are the Sun Bears, which will delight all with their playful antics and cute facial expressions.
Try to visit their enclosure around feeding time and you will see such a show from these loveable, but wild, creatures.
Perhaps you are the adventurous type and would like to experience the thrill of hand feeding some of Canberra Zoo’s wild animals.
There are special interactive tours available at the zoo with a close up introduction to the Cheetahs being the most popular.
A special attraction is the white lions. I haven’t seen any other Australian Zoo with these particular animals. The viewing area is ideally placed so you can see these magnificent creatures fairly close. Feeding time is really interesting.
Don’t miss the Canberra Zoo. The real beauty is that you get a two for one type deal in that it’s a zoo and an aquarium, so plan to spend a full day to see the lot.
Canberra Zoo and Aquarium is open everyday except Christmas Day
Hours: 10.00am – 5.00pm.
Australian War Memorial Canberra
A visit to the Australian War Memorial is more than just going to look at displays from the Great World Wars.
It is about remembering the sacrifice, the mateship and the hardships endured from all sides involved in the bloody battles in far away places.
The Australian War Memorial is the Nations gift to the families of the fallen, giving thanks to those who served in their countries service and the opportunity to ensure those who perished will never be forgotten.
Perched on the crest of a hill, overlooking Lake Burley Griffin and directly facing the Australian Parliament House, the Australian War Memorial stands as a sober reminder that the price of democracy is sometimes harsh and cruel.
Many thousands of young men and women have served in our defence forces and due to their bravery and dedication, have ensured that Australians have enjoyed freedom and prosperity.
Unfortunately, at times Australians have been called into conflicts that have claimed many of those brave men and women’s lives. The National War Memorial is a shrine to their courage and commitment and a place for all Australians, and visitors to Australia, to pay their respects to those who never returned.
The War Memorial is a sobering look at the miseries that men and women go through in pursuit of something that they believe in.
In particular, the great Hall of Memory, which holds the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, is an awe inspiring, yet sombre reminder that war is harsh and cruel. It is here that many people quietly observe the beauty of the hall and remember the legacy that those who fought and died gave to us all. They will never be forgotten.
In the Commemorative Courtyard, the Pool of Reflection holds the Eternal Flame. At each side of the courtyard, in the mezzanine level, is the Roll of Honour which records the names of over 102,000 Australian servicemen and women who have died in wars since the late nineteenth century.
Inside, the War Memorial galleries are the place to witness what living was like for those who bravely fought, in sometimes atrocious conditions. The galleries are a museum of memorabilia, actual photographs and equipment used in both World Wars.
There are replica displays of the great battles which are now entwined in our nations history, plus aircraft, boats and even an enemy submarine that was sunk in Sydney Harbour, for all to wonder at and ponder on, the vagaries of war.
War is not pretty, yet there is a quiet swelling of pride while viewing the many galleries that behold the bravery of those who fought for Australia’s freedom. The Australian War Memorial is an attraction that nobody should miss when visiting Canberra.
Location and Admission
Australian War Memorial is located at the top of Anzac Avenue, a broad road that directly faces the old and new Parliament Houses. Admission is free.
Visiting hours for the galleries are between 10 am–5 pm daily. Closed on Christmas Day.
Free parking is available behind the Memorial and there are cafe’s at the premises. Buses run from the Canberra City Centre to the Australian War Memorial regularly.
Plan to spend at least 2 hours at the War Memorial. To fully see and appreciate all galleries would take longer than one full day.
Canberra’s National Science and Technology Centre, called Questacon, is a fabulous place to visit for both young and old. The main prerequisite to enjoying your time at Questacon is an open, inquisitive mind.
Children of all ages love the many interactive science displays of Questacon, enjoying participating in the actual physical action of making the displays operate. Questacom is really a place to visit as there are many surprises in every room waiting for you to discover. Don’t miss visiting Questacom. It’s Awesome!
Located on King Edward Terrace, opposite the National Library, Questacon is a must see attraction of Canberra, especially if you have children. Geared primarily toward the inquisitive minds that the young possess, Questacon is a place where science becomes fun.
Open every day between 9 am and 5 pm, (except Christmas Day) Questacon has ample parking and is within easy reach of the city centre. Just cross the bridge on Commonwealth Avenue, which leads straight toward Parliament House and turn left at the first off ramp over the bridge.
You can’t miss the National Library and Questacon and the carparks near the banks of Lake Burley Griffin.
One of the most popular exhibits is the Lightning Simulator in the Awesome Earth Gallery at Questacon. (pic above.)
Apart from experiencing an earthquake, feeling the effects of a tropical cyclone and learning the concepts of convection, wave motion and energy transfer, the Lightning Simulator gives a birds eye view of the awesome power unleashed by mother nature during a thunderstorm. This exhibition is both visually and audibly stunning.
Another popular exhibit is the Eaten Alive area, choc full of interesting facts and interactive displays that make you glad, being human, that you are on top of the food chain.
Witness a simulated lunge by a man eating crocodile and watch a film simulation of what it would be like beneath the sea in a shark cage. These are just a sample of what is on offer.
Questacon is ideal for school excursions, as a reference guide for assignments or just to have fun trying out all the different science exhibits. You can even face your fears on the gravity wall or put your head into a guillotine.
Admission prices are around $18 per adult and $11.50 per child, with special rates for groups. Prices can change at anytime so best if you visit the Questacon Website for accurate pricing details.
A visit to Questacon Canberra is something that will never be forgotten, so place this venue high on your list of must do activities when planning things to do and places to see in Canberra.
Parliament House Canberra Tours
Parliament House Canberra is the seat of the Australian Government. Free entry to the public makes a visit to Parliament House a definite must do on all visitors lists.
Bring your camera, as both inside and outside of the Australian Parliament House have many opportunities for grand memories and interesting photos of articles and fantastic views.
Anybody that comes to the Nations Capital, Canberra, and goes away without a visit to Parliament House has missed a grand opportunity to see the inside of something that is very special.
Opened on 9 May 1988 by Queen Elizabeth II, building began in 1981 and the total cost to the Australian taxpayer was over 1.1 billion Australian dollars.
Situated on Capital Hill, with commanding views of Canberra City, the house is opened to the public between the hours of 9.00 AM to 5.00 PM daily. Free guided tours are conducted every 30 minutes during non-sitting days with a shorter tour available when Parliament is sitting.
You are free to walk through public areas of Parliament House at your leisure. There is ample free undercover parking beneath Parliament House.
The roof of the building was designed to blend in with the hill that the building was erected upon. With this in mind, a grass lawn has been retained on the roof which gives a fabulous touch to the overall architecture. Make sure you go to the roof, not just to see this grass, the views over Canberra are fabulous.
Photography is allowed in and around Parliament House, but please be aware of copyright information when viewing exhibitions and paintings. Parliament House has many eye pleasing features, such as the Great Hall, Senate Chamber and House Of Representative sitting area and a marvelous collection of paintings of all Australian Prime Ministers.
You can literally spend hours exploring the corridors of Parliament House and come away with a greater appreciation of the workings of the Australian Government and the beauty of Parliament House itself.
How To Get To Parliament House Directions
Parliament House is visible from most areas of Canberra. Situated on Capital Hill, the unique flag pole stands out as a beckoning feature above the skyline. Take the main street through Canberra, Northbourne Avenue, across the bridge and follow the signs to Parliament House Canberra.
Canberra National Museum
Australian National Museum Canberra boasts many remarkable relics of yesteryear.
Showcasing the history of Australia, with wonderful exhibitions of Aboriginal life and culture, the early pioneers and many not so distant memories, visitors to the National Museum are guaranteed a wonderful journey and an insight into people who have made this country so great.
Opened in March 2001 and situated on the shores of Lake Burly Griffin, the unique structure in the forecourt of the National Museum beckons visitors from all parts of Canberra.
Truly unique in design, the abstract structure is a visible feature of the Canberra skyline from many areas of the city.
Once inside the Museum centre, the modern architecture houses many relics of bygone years and allows visitors to appreciated the country as it was, when Europeans first settled the land.
The National Museum of Australia is open to visitors daily from 9.00 AM to 5.00 PM with general admission free of charge.
The museum is located on Lawson Crescent, Acton Peninsula, Canberra. It is just a 5 minute drive from the City Centre and easily identified by the huge orange abstract structure in the forecourt.
Visitors can spend hours and hours at the museum, which has all modern amenities, plus cafe and restaurant that serves delicious meals and quick snacks. It’s great to have a coffee mid visit to recharge the batteries so you have the energy to see the entire exhibition.
Must see exhibitions are the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander exhibit, which shows the wide diversity of languages and cultures within these groups.
There are hundreds of artifacts, stone tools and other objects that give an insight to the rich culture of the indigenous people.
There is also the carcass of the last wild Thylacine or Tasmanian Tiger, the great Phar Laps heart and an original FJ Holden. Just a small selection of the many interesting and varied objects from Australian history.
There is plenty of free parking and entry is also free. Take your time and really enjoy our National Museum. It is a great display of the Australian way of life.
Cockington Green Miniature Village Canberra
This is one of my absolutely favorite places in Australia. I still get a rush of delight when looking back over the images we took on a visit some years ago.
The whole display at Cockington Green Gardens, from the houses to the little people, are amazing. We spent an entire day here and wanted more daylight. A really amazing place.
Cockington Green Gardens is much more than just a small collection of miniature buildings. It is a colorful and informative display, with village dwellings made to scale depicting actual buildings from around the world.
A visit to Cockington Green Gardens is a must for all visitors to Canberra, and if you are a local, then you are fortunate, as we are sure you must visit this peaceful and wonderful attraction often.
People of all ages love the miniature buildings of Cockington Green. There really is something here that everybody can enjoy. For the girls, once inside the grounds themselves, look for the Secret Fairy Garden with many elves, fairies, goblins and dwarfs.
This is a shady spot with a model train running through the Secret Fairy Garden that you can operate by pushing a button. What a grand start to a wonderful day of discovery.
For the boys, that isn’t the only model train at Cockington Green Gardens. There is the grand scale model of the InterCity 125 high speed train that operates throughout Britain by British Rail.
Also in the International Exhibition there is a fabulous model steam train, with dual tracks and 2 trains. This runs through most of that particular display. Both can be operated by pushing a button, but be quick as those older boys, like your fathers, try to keep it for themselves.
Young or old, the miniature buildings, manicured gardens, gorgeous flower beds, small miniature people and animals, make such a display that many, many hours can be enjoyed just wandering and marvelling at all the various models and miniatures.
You can take a larger train ride around the gardens if your feeling tired or just enjoy the view from a different perspective as you ride the rails. There is a wonderful cafe with coffee and refreshments that will tempt the taste buds of all and don’t forget to take a memento home as you leave through the Souvenir Shop.
Look at the miniature displays carefully, as there are many humorous models that you could easily miss. One such display is at the miniature soccer field. Here there are hundreds watching the game from the grandstand and lo and behold, a streaker interrupts play.
Based on an actual incident at Twickenham Stadium, England, in 1979, Michael O’Brien became the first person to streak in England and was escorted off the field shielded only by a policeman’s hat. O’Brien was fined 10 Pounds and the Bobby’s Hat was sold at auction in the year 2000 for 2,400 British Pounds.
Who won the football match? Nobody remembers.
National Dinosaur Museum Canberra
Canberra Dinosaur Museum is located 15 kilometres north of Canberra City Centre in Gold Creek Village, near Cockington Green Gardens and The Australian Reptile Centre. The National Dinosaur Museum is a wonderful adventure delving into the world of prehistoric dinosaurs and fossils.
Open from 10am to 5pm daily, the National Dinosaur Museum Canberra has been one of the major tourist attractions of the Nations Capital City since 1994.
Allow at least 2 hours to browse the various displays and learn about dinosaurs and prehistoric fossils.
The National Dinosaur Museum has on display some 25 different dinosaurs and over 300 various fossils dating back from the Triassic Period some 245 million years ago.
Visitors are free to wander the galleries and marvel at the various skeletal remains of these prehistoric creatures, wonder at the size of these massive beasts and perhaps ponder why they became extinct.
Everybody likes the Tyrannosaurus Rex, who was regarded as the most ferocious carnivore at the time. Luckily for man, the ferocious dinosaurs were extinct before we came along, otherwise man could have been made extinct by the Tyrannosaurus Rex, who would have regarded humans as an excellent food source.
Australia doesn’t have much of a history of finding many dinosaur fossils, yet the museum is blessed to have 2 of the most important finds in Australia as part of their display. The Muttaburrasaurus and Minmi, both of which were found in Queensland.
There is a wealth of educational material and excellent information about the various timeline for dinosaurs, yet it is the stunning visual presentation of bones, skulls and skeletons that attract visitors from all corners of the world to the National Dinosaur Museum.
How Do You Get To The National Dinosaur Museum?
Travelling from the Canberra City Centre, take Northbourne Avenue toward Sydney. Turn left onto the Barton Highway, toward Yass. Continue on Barton Highway for approx. 5 minutes and turn right into Gold Creek Road.
If you look for the signs to Cockington Green Gardens or Gold Creek Village, you can’t miss the National Dinosaur Museum.
National Dinosaur Museum
Gold Creek Village
Gold Creek Road & Barton Highway
Nicholls ACT 2913
Blundell’s Cottage Canberra
Located on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, Blundells Cottage was built in 1860 on the banks of the then Molonglo River. The cottage was built for share farmers as part of the Duntroon Estate by Robert Campbell.
Blundell’s Cottage is one of the last remaining buildings from it’s time in Canberra and was saved from being demolished when Lake Burley Griffin was being constructed. Blundell’s Cottage is now a hands on museum operated by the National Capital Authority.
Blundells Cottage Museum is open Thursday and Saturday, 10am to 11.30am and 12.00pm – 4.00pm.
One of the most fascination attractions on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra is the small, historically significant stone house, known as Blundell’s Cottage.
This is a remarkable structure as it not only dates back to 1860, it is perhaps the last remaining building of that time along the banks of what was once the mighty Molonglo River.
Part of the 32,000 acre Duntroon Estate, a successful and thriving agriculture business owned by Robert Campbell, the cottage gained it’s name from share farmer George Blundell and his wife Flora, who lived in the cottage from 1874 until his death in 1933.
Blundell’s Cottage holds pride of place in the Limestone Plains history and today is a popular hands on museum that is open to the public Thursday and Saturday, 10am to 11.30am and 12.00pm – 4.00pm. Entry is now free.
How Do I Get To Blundells Cottage?
From Canberra city centre, Take Parkes Way toward the War Memorial and turn left into Anzac Avenue. Turn Right into Constitution Avenue then turn right again at Wendoree Drive, which leads to Blundell’s Cottage and the Canberra Carillion.
Free parking is available at the rear of the cottage, which also gives great views of the lake and surrounding parklands.
Now I have to mention the ghosts, simply because no story is complete without a good mystery. It has been said that a young girls ghost roams the rooms and garden of Blundell’s cottage at night. Is it true? Is it really the ghost of young Florrie Blundell, the daughter of George and Flora who accidentally died in 1892 at the age of just 16?
Now if somebody could stay the night, perhaps they could talk to this young ghost and find out her story. But sorry, the cottage is only open for a couple of days a week during daylight. But if you do hang around at night, who knows? Florrie might come into the garden for a chat.
Then again it may be just another story and if your seen lurking around the cottage late at night, the security guards or police will probably scare you off, much more so than any old ghost.
One thing I do know about Blundell’s Cottage. It’s well worth a visit, as it is a glimpse into Canberra’s past history.