A family trip to Canberra might not be the first destination you think of visiting in Australia. But while many often overlook it in favour of its more prominent counterparts like Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, the nation’s capital nonetheless has plenty to offer for families seeking an enriching and entertaining experience.
Not convinced? Keep reading until the end because this article will showcase what makes this city so appealing for a family to visit.
From fascinating museums and outstanding natural beauty to outdoor adventures and cultural explorations, Canberra has something to delight every family member, ensuring that your visit there will be full of laughter, enjoyment, and long-lasting memories.
Best Time to Visit Canberra
While the nation’s capital is a destination you can visit all year round, the best time to visit Canberra with kids is typically during the spring and autumn months, which in Australia runs from September to November and March to May, respectively.
During these seasons, Canberra experiences mild and pleasant weather, making it ideal for outdoor activities and exploration. Spring brings blooming gardens and vibrant landscapes, with the iconic Floriade festival adding an extra touch of charm.
In autumn, the city is adorned with stunning foliage, creating a picturesque setting for family adventures.
These seasons also offer a break from the extreme temperatures of summer and the cold of winter, ensuring that your family can comfortably enjoy the city’s diverse attractions and cultural experiences.
Getting Around in Canberra
Hiring a car is always a good option when travelling with children, especially in Australia. It provides you with the flexibility to go where you want when you want in comfort and also gives you convenient and mobile storage space for items like prams, baby bags and even scooters and rollerskates.
If you want to hire a vehicle during your family trip to Canberra, you will be pleased to discover that many of the major car rental companies, including Hertz, Budget, Avis and Enterprise, have desks at Canberra airport and locations around the city.
That said, given that the city has excellent road links and public transportation options, you do not have to hire a car in Canberra to get around.
Canberra’s public bus system, operated by ACTION, provides reliable transportation throughout the city. Buses are generally clean and safe and can be an economical way to get around. If you plan to stay in and around the city centre, buses can be a convenient option for accessing many attractions, including shops, restaurants, galleries and museums.
In addition to the buses, Canberra has a modern light rail system connecting Gungahlin north to the city centre and the southern suburbs. The light rail is a great way to get around the central parts of Canberra and offers a smooth and comfortable ride.
To use public transport, you can purchase a MyWay card, which offers discounted fares compared to cash payments. These cards can be convenient for families as they can be easily topped up, and you can use them on both buses and light rail.
Overall, riding on public transport can be cost-effective and environmentally friendly. Subsequently, it’s a good option if you primarily plan to explore the central parts of the city. It can also relieve you of the hassle of finding parking.
If you prefer a quicker, more convenient option, Taxis and ridesharing services like Uber are plentiful in the city.
Where to Stay in Canberra With Kids
As you would expect from the nation’s capital, plenty of accommodation options are available for those intending to visit Canberra with kids.
Whether you want to treat yourself to a luxury five-star hotel or prefer a more cost-effective Airbnb option, you can pick from many establishments and properties – located in several agreeable suburbs.
For this reason, which suburb you stay in is just as important as the accommodation provider you book with.
Here are the best suburbs to base yourself in during your Canberra family holiday, as well as a popular and well-respected place to stay:
During your family holiday, staying in Canberra’s city centre offers convenience and accessibility to many of the city’s top attractions – including Questacon, the Australian National Museum and Lake Burley Griffin.
The Novotel Canberra is a terrific accommodation choice if you want to base yourself here. This family-friendly hotel provides spacious rooms, an indoor heated pool, and a Kids’ Corner with games and entertainment. So it is well set up for you to enjoy a comfortable stay.
Staying in Dickson during a Canberra family holiday is an excellent choice for its central location and family-friendly vibe. You’re close to various excellent dining options, making it easy to explore diverse cuisine and not far from the city’s major attractions.
One of the top picks for a place to stay here is the ‘Abode Dickson’. It offers spacious and well-equipped apartment-style accommodations with full kitchens, making it perfect for families who want to self-cater.
The hotel also features complimentary Wi-Fi, a Smart TV and laundry facilities, which is particularly handy if you have young children.
Kingston and Manuka
These inner south suburbs offer a mix of dining, shopping and outdoor spaces. Additionally, Manuka is home to Manuka Pool, a popular summer spot for families and the Manuka Oval, where cricket matches – in particular those featuring the Australian women’s team.
A good place to stay here is the Burbury Hotel. It is located in the Realm precinct and offers stylish rooms and easy access to cafes and restaurants.
Belconnen is one of the best suburbs you can stay in for kids’ activities in Canberra. This family-friendly area is home to several parks, playgrounds and the shimmering waters of Lake Ginninderra – ideal for water activities like swimming and kayaking.
The popular Premier Hotel & Apartments is an excellent option for those wanting to stay somewhere with kitchen facilities and good-sized rooms.
For those wanting to base themselves near Canberra’s more beautiful natural attractions, it’s worth staying in Tuggeranong. This suburb is located in the southern part of the city and offers attractions like Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and Lake Tuggeranong.
One of the best places for families to stay here is the Abode Tuggeranong. It provides well-appointed apartment-style accommodations with comfortable bedrooms, a decent bathroom and kitchenette facilities.
If you intend to bring your caravan and campervan to Canberra, you can stay at several caravan parks and campgrounds in the city’s outer suburbs.
Some of the most popular of them include:
Canberra South Motor Park
This motor park is a short drive from the city centre and close to Tuggeranong and surrounding attractions. It features powered and unpowered sites, an amenities block, a camp kitchen and BBQ facilities.
Alivio Tourist Park Canberra
You’ll find this tourist park in a bushland setting, so it is an excellent option for those wanting to be in a relaxed nature spot.
The tourist park features powered sites. It also has toilet amenities, a heated swimming pool and a playground, which the kids are sure to love.
Best Things To Do in Canberra For Families
If you are looking for family things to do in Canberra, you are in luck. The nation’s capital offers plenty of sites, attractions and activities to appeal to everyone.
Here is a list of 15 options you might want to consider on your family itinerary.
1. Questacon – The National Science and Technology Center
One of the best things for families to do in Canberra is to visit Questacon – The National Science and Technology Centre.
Located in the heart of the city, Questacon is a dynamic and interactive science museum that caters to visitors of all ages. It features over 200 engaging exhibits that will fascinate your children. Kids can participate in hands-on experiments, engage with interactive displays, and experience thrilling demonstrations. The ‘Free Fall’ slide is a particular highlight for older children, offering an exciting lesson in physics.
Questacon’s educational and entertaining approach to science ensures that learning becomes an adventure. Visitors can explore various themes, from Earth sciences to space exploration, all while promoting critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
2. Australian National Botanic Gardens
Canberra is known for its lush gardens and green spaces, with the Australian National Botanic Gardens being one of the best places to experience their beauty.
This expansive 90-acre garden is dedicated to preserving and showcasing native Australian plants – providing a unique opportunity to explore the country’s diverse flora. Visitors can stroll through themed gardens that exhibit various Australian plants, such as rainforest species, arid zone flora, and alpine plants.
They can also learn about the rich biodiversity of Australia’s ecosystems and the significance of conservation. Overall, it’s an excellent spot for families to spend quality time together while learning about Australia’s natural heritage.
3. National Zoo & Aquarium
One of the best kids activities in Canberra to pencil into your itinerary is a visit to the National Zoo & Aquarium.
This attraction allows your family to get up close and personal with various species of animals, including lions, tigers, bears and giraffes.
In addition to standard zoo exhibits, the zoo offers behind-the-scenes experiences, such as animal encounters and zookeeper talks.
You can even spend the night in a luxury animal lodge to truly immerse yourself in the wildlife experience.
4. National Dinosaur Museum
If your kids are fascinated by dinosaurs, you should make a point of visiting the National Dinosaur Museum in Nicholls.
Whilst there, they can marvel at life-sized dinosaur replicas, fossils and interactive displays that provide an educational and entertaining experience for young palaeontologists.
5. Cockington Green Gardens
One of the quirkiest attractions in Canberra is Cockington Green Gardens.
This is a whimsical miniature village where you can explore meticulously crafted miniature buildings and landscapes. The gardens also feature a Gnome Hunt adventure that will enchant kids.
6. National Museum of Australia
Discover Australia’s rich history and cultural heritage at the National Museum of Australia.
Whilst there you can enjoy interactive exhibits – including fascinating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artefacts – and the captivating ‘Circa’ theatre show.
7. Australian War Memorial
The Australian War Memorial is both a museum and a place of remembrance, offering one of the most poignant family things to do in Canberra.
You can explore the military history of Australia through exhibitions, take in various ceremonies and partake in a moment of reflection during a moving rendition of the Last Post.
8. Lake Burley Griffin
One of the best things for families to do in Canberra is to visit Lake Burley Griffin.
This stunning artificial lake dominates the heart of the city, offering a serene backdrop for various outdoor activities like kayaking, paddleboarding and sailing.
You can take leisurely walks or bike rides along its scenic shores, providing panoramic views of Canberra’s iconic landmarks. The lake’s shores are also dotted with parks and picnic areas, perfect for family gatherings and relaxation.
9. Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve
Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is a haven for wildlife and offers numerous hiking trails through rugged landscapes.
During a visit there, kids can spot kangaroos, wallabies and emus. They can also enjoy the ‘Nature Discovery Playground’ – which, as the name implies, provides a place to play and explore in a stunning natural setting.
10. National Arboretum Canberra
The National Arboretum Canberra is home to an extensive collection of rare and endangered trees, which you may find of interest.
What families will love though is the Pod Playground – a unique and adventurous play area with lots of equipment to get hands-on with. If that doesn’t entertain them, the huge sloping hills perfectly landscaped for rolly-pollies will keep them entertained for hours!
11. Australian Institute of Sport (AIS)
If your kids love sports, one of the best things for families to do in Canberra is to visit the iconic Australian Institute of Sport (AIS).
Located in Bruce, this world-class sports training facility allows visitors to get a behind-the-scenes look at elite athlete development in Australia. Guided tours provide insights into cutting-edge sports science, athlete training, and performance analysis.
Interactive exhibits engage visitors of all ages, making it an educational and fun experience. You can test your skills in various sports, such as soccer and cycling, in the Sportex area. Additionally, the AIS often hosts sports-themed events, and its gift shop offers a range of sports-related memorabilia.
Whether you’re a sports fan or simply curious about athletic excellence, the AIS is a fascinating destination in the nation’s capital.
12. National Gallery of Australia
The National Gallery of Australia in Canberra is a world-renowned cultural institution showcasing an extensive collection of art, including Australian, Aboriginal, European, Asian and contemporary works.
Visitors can explore a wide range of exhibitions – from classical masterpieces to modern art installations – through brilliantly put-together displays that offer engaging and educational experiences for both children and adults.
13. Black Mountain and Telstra Tower
A trip to Black Mountain and Telstra Tower is an experience that offers breathtaking panoramic views and educational insights.
Black Mountain, situated near the CBD, is home to several hiking trails suitable for families, leading to its summit. The main highlight is Telstra Tower, which stands atop Black Mountain and offers stunning 360-degree vistas of Canberra and its surroundings.
The tower features informative displays about the city’s history and landmarks, making it a great place to start your Canberra exploration. The viewing platforms are also ideal for capturing memorable photos, especially during sunrise or sunset.
Overall, for the first-time visitor, it’s an opportunity to appreciate the city’s layout and the significance of its urban design, all set against a picturesque natural backdrop.
14. Old Bus Depot Markets
If you happen to be in Canberra on a Sunday, be sure to explore the Old Bus Depot Markets. There you can shop for local crafts, gourmet food and an eclectic mix of other unique finds.
Overall, it’s a great place to stroll, savour delicious treats and mingle with locals.
15. National Capital Exhibition
The National Capital Exhibition offers an informative and engaging introduction to the nation’s capital.
Located at Regatta Point, it presents a multimedia display, interactive exhibits and historical insights about the city’s planning and design.
Overall, it’s an excellent starting point for discovering the history and character of Canberra. Families can explore the evolution of Australia’s capital city, its iconic landmarks and the significance of its layout.
More Tips For Visiting Canberra With Kids
- During the week you will have to pay for parking within the city and main touristy areas. However, many spots are free on weekends. So if you intend to drive around the city whilst sightseeing, the weekend is a good time to do it.
- The Australian Capital Territory can get very cold and icy in winter; take care on the roads, and if you’ll be heading into nearby areas such as Corin Forest or Kosciuszko National Park, be mindful of the need for snow chains seasonally.
- If you have a bit more time available, consider detouring to Sydney. The city is a 3-hour drive from Canberra, so it would be worth allocating at least one night for an overnight stay if you decide to take a road trip there.
- Alternatively, you could combine a trip to Canberra with a scenic tour of the southern NSW Coast, making it a round trip from Sydney.
- Canberra is also a relatively easy drive from Melbourne. Follow this Melbourne to Canberra road trip itinerary for more ideas on interesting stopping points heading south and through country Victoria.
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