Australian Capital Territory (ACT) became one of the first state/territories to have no active coronavirus cases. Restrictions have now started to ease, allowing gatherings of ten people, sports training, and outdoor recreational activities such as hiking and fishing. Camping and overnight stays will soon be added to that list!
The smallest territory in Australia, ACT is situated in between Melbourne and Sydney and is home to the national capital of Canberra. Commonly known as Australia’s “Bush Capital”, ACT is a landscape made of hills, rugged plains, plenty of trees and a planned capital city. On many occasions Lonely Planet picked Canberra as the 3rd best city in to travel in the world. Most people would find it surprising that this city would beat its rivals in Sydney and Melbourne. Our top 10 places in ACT to visit include a bit of something for everyone from museum hopping to nature and wildlife activities.
1. Lake Burley Griffin
Lake Burley Griffin is a large artificial lake in the heart of the city centre of Canberra. The lake was named after an American architect who won a competition to design Canberra in the 1920s. It took several years for the lake to be completed with both wars and drought affecting the process. Lake Burley Griffin is surrounded by museums, federal buildings, restaurants and walking trails. The best walking trail is the ‘Bridge to Bridge Trail’ which is a 5km walk that can be accessed from either Kings Avenue Bridge or Commonwealth Bridge. If you are not interested in walking around the lake hire a Segway and go on a tour or start your day drifting in a hot air balloon.
Sit along the banks and stare at the mesmerizing Lake Burley Griffin. Photo via @visitcanberra
2. Australian War Memorial
The Australian War Memorial is lined up perfectly within the parliamentary triangle of Canberra and it is a place that all Australians should visit. AWM is a place to help us remember the soldiers who sacrificed their lives fighting in all the wars Australia has faced. The memorial is divided into three sections: Commemorative Area (Shrine) including the Hall of Memory with the tomb of the unknown soldier, The Memorials Galleries, the Research Centre (holds important records) and also features an outdoor sculpture garden where everyone is welcome to have a picnic. The entry to AWM has always been free with volunteers running guided tours running hourly. Depending on your interests you may want to visit over two days so that you can see and read everything. We also recommend listening to the Last Post Ceremony which is held five minutes before the memorial closes every day.
Stroll through the hall of memory. Photo via @visitcanberra
3. Namadgi National Park
A forty-five-minute drive South of Canberra is the breathtaking Namadgi National Park, which makes it a great first port of call when heading out of the city. Namadgi covers a large portion of ACT’s land mass with 40% of the territory consisting of water and nature reserves. The Brindabella Ranges in the national park is located along the Australia Alps, where you may even get the opportunity to see snow. One tour that is a must-see is Dharwa Aboriginal Culture Tour which is a 4WD tour that runs for six hours. On the tour you will see aboriginal culture sites and learn about the significance of the Yankee Hat rock art site, bush foods and the native wildlife. Unfortunately, after the recent summer bushfires, 80,000 hectares of land in the Oral Valley were affected. Since then, sections of the park have remained closed so that ACT Parks & Conservation can remove any hazardous trees. These sections should hopefully be reopened within the next few months and there are still plenty of untouched places to see. Once the restrictions have been lifted let’s go out and support this national park and local tourism.
Check out the spectacular views that Namadgi has to offer. Photo via @stefandemontis
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I love isolation out in the bush. It makes me feel present, humbled and stimulated. Pursuit of that isolation means getting away from busy trails full of people, putting compass to map and exploring off track. Walking off track and subsequently the route finding that is needed to do it can be equally frustrating and rewarding. One moment you are cruising across a grassy treeless plain and the next you are battling with scrub so dense the sun is barely breaking through it. Your feet get wet, legs muddy and arms scratched. You often can’t find level ground for your tent and end up in freezing cold frost hollows. It’s all worth it when you get to a spot that makes you feel like you are the first visitor in years. Watching the sunset over remote and rugged peaks, knowing you are the only one on the mountain. I’m using this time away from the mountains to plan some pretty interesting and challenging multi day routes through the ACT and NSW alps. I’m looking forward to sharing them when this is all over. #ultralight #NationalPark #Mountains #Camping #Mountain #sonya7iii #sony24105g #Ski #Adventure #Explore #Nature #hmgtribe #alpenglow #Alps #Bushwalking #NSW #visitnsw #mtkosciuszko #mainrange #iphonex #kosciuszkonationalpark #aawt #minimalism #abstract #landscape #kosciuszko #granite #namadginationalpark #namadgi
4. Quastacon: The national science and technology centre
Questacon is the national science and technology centre of Australia which can be found in the Parliamentary Triangle of Canberra. The centre is owned by the Australian government and is responsible for promoting an interactive way of learning about science and technology. This museum is suitable for all ages with two-hundred exhibits spanning across eight gallery spaces you will explore science through music, art, gravity and electricity. A few permanent exhibits not to miss are the 20 feet free-fall slide and the earthquake simulator which feels very real! Quastacon is only a short walk away with affordable entry prices that include a free live science show, makes it an ideal plan in any ACT itinerary.
Get your Science fix at Queaston. Photo via @questacon.
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🌏🌎It’s Earth Day today! 🌍🌏 Earth Day is an internationally recognised day to raise support for environmental protection. 🌳We have some suggestions for how you can celebrate Earth Day this year: 🦎 Check out some of the printable Questacon at Home activities on our website. Discover different types of environments, learn how to classify living things or go on a science adventure in your own backyard (link in bio!). 💚 Take part in the #EarthChallenge2020. This massive, global citizen science project has launched to collect data on big environmental issues. By downloading the app, you can help collect data on issues like plastic pollution and air quality. Find more information on the Earth Day Challenge website. 🌳 Visit the Earth Day website to find out how you can help the environment, explore a range of DIY environmental activities and be a part of this wonderful, international movement: https://www.earthday.org/ 🐝 ...stay tuned for an exciting Earth Day related announcement from us at Questacon later today! • We’d love to hear about the ways you'll be caring for our planet and contributing to the health of the environment this Earth Day – let us know in the comments below. 🌏
5. Mount Ainslie Lookout
Where bushland meets the city, get the best of both worlds at the Mount Ainslie Lookout. It is simply the best location to get panoramic shots of Canberra with plenty of ways to get there from walking, cycling or driving. There are a couple of different walking trails with both pedestrian and cycle paths, to get to the highest peak it generally takes thirty to forty-five minutes. One of the best walking trails is “Mount Ainslie Kokoda Summit” which starts behind the war memorial, this trail has plenty of signposts along the way with interesting facts about the city. These views are a breath of fresh air with no skyscrapers like Melbourne and Sydney!
See the famous Parliamentary Triangle from above and the nature that surrounds Canberra at sunset. Photo via @visitcanberra
6. National Gallery of Australia
The National Gallery of Australia also referred to as NGA is public art gallery that represents both local and international artworks. NGA is in the heart of Canberra’s city centre and is directly across from the Portrait Gallery. The National Gallery is public funded which means entry is free for the sculpture garden and their permanent collection except for speciality exhibitions. NGA offers free educational tours that include an overview of the space, art collection and promotes inclusiveness with tours catered for those with dementia or special needs. Artworks included in their impressive permanent collection range from Australia art, aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, European and American artworks from the 19th century Modern Art Movement. Currently the galleries and museums are still closed across Australia, however you can still see many of these work in a free virtual tour. Since overseas travel plans are put on hold, galleries can still be the best way to enjoy culture and history. If you don’t have enough time to explore around the gallery, we suggest to explore the impressive landscape architecture in the outdoor sculpture garden!
Get inspired at the National Gallery of Australia. Photo via @nationalgalleryaus
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We are open today. Access the Gallery via the bridge, enter through the Level 1 foyer revolving doors. Our Visitor Experience team are here to help. Please keep an eye on our website and social channels for the latest visitor information, as opening hours may change at short notice. Take care. . [#HenriMatisse 'Le torse de plâtre, bouquet de fleurs' 1919, Purchased 1958, Museu de arte de São Paulo Assis, Chateaubriand, ©️ Succession H Matisse / Copyright Agency]
7. Jerrabomberra Wetlands Nature Reserve
Jerrabomberra Wetlands Nature Reserve is along the Monogloo River valley in Canberra. It should not be overlooked on your trip as the paths from Lake Burley Griffin make it accessible. The wetlands naturally formed in 1964 when the lake flooded over the swampy creek area and is an important place for migrating Japanese birds along with other wildlife. A few activities that you could do in this area include bird watching, walking trails or even spot a World War 1 trench. Due to the biodiversity and indigenous cultural significance of this land, it is on the Australian heritage list and is conserved by ACT Parks. Jerrabomberra is a beautiful place for nature lovers it should be added to your trip itinerary.
Be one with nature and explore ACT wetlands. Photo via @jerrabomberrawetlands
- Old and New Parliament House
Canberra may have a reputation for being Australia's "dull" political capital, but its rich history and numerous interesting museums mean that it's far from it (in our opinion!). Australia had the tough decision of picking a national capital between Sydney and Melbourne both wanted the prestigious title. It was settled by building a whole new city that would feature key federal buildings set up like Washington DC. Both old and new Parliament Houses provide an insight into the unique Australian pollical system and have free guided tours, iconic architecture and Australian Art surrounding the buildings. It is achievable to see both in one day as the new Parliament House is situated directly behind the old Parliament House. Since the old Parliament House is not in federal operation, you can access areas such as the prime minister’s office. At the new Parliament House, you can tour around major debating rooms including the house of representatives and take a lift to see the rooftop views. A visit to ACT certainly would not be complete without visiting these iconic buildings.
Check out the illuminated Parliament House during festival seasons. Photo via @visit_australian_parliament
9. Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve
Tidbinbilla is another Australian heritage-listed nature reserve which lies just 40km south-west of Canberra. Adjoining to Namadgi National Park, this bushland landscape consists of the Tidbinbilla mountain ranges, sheltered streams and eye-catching granite tors. Getting into the nature reserve is quite affordable with both annual and day passes available with the entry funds going straight to preserving the reserve. This nature reserve is home to a wonderful array of Australian wildlife which is the reason why it is one of the leading eco-tourism attractions in ACT. Notable places not to miss along the twenty-two walking trails are the discovery centre, natural discovery playground for kids which has a zipline ride and significant aboriginal sites such as Birrigai Rock Shelters. For adventurous hikers we suggest not to miss the magnificent views at the top of the peak on Gilbrata Peak Trail. Explore the reserve by car, on foot or by mountain bike with plenty of places to set up camp.
The natural beauty of Tidbinbilla from above. Photo via @darncusack.
10. Mount Majura Vineyard
Sitting on top of the Majura Valley is a boutique winery just outside the doorsteps of Canberra. Mount Majura Vineyard specializes in cool-climate wines such as Shiraz, Riesling, and Spanish varieties such as Tempranillo. The ancient limestone surface makes the soil less acidy and is the only vineyard in Australia able to grow this wine. There is no restaurant at the vineyard, however the cellar door experience is not to be miss with wine tasting and artisan cheese platters in an alfresco style seating. To get a more in-depth experience free guided tours are available with no booking required. If you are looking for an adventurous way to see the valley go sky diving or stay the night glamping.
Spend the perfect day trip admiring the outdoors with some great wine. Photo via @thecanberraedit
We hope that our list gives you some food for thought! The easing of restrictions could present the perfect opportunity to pack up the car, camper or RV and hit road, ticking off as many spots as you like on the way. With social distancing and heightened hygiene being the new normal, having your accommodation and wheels all in one definitely has its appeal, and to make that journey a little easier, why not pack a Scrubba wash bag for self-sufficient laundry on-the-go! Browse the Scrubba wash bag range to pick up the ultimate gear for your next ACT adventure.