There’s plenty for you and your loved ones to do and take in this delightful city.

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April 6, 2015

Often, we find what we’re looking for at the most unexpected places.

And in this instance, Canberra is one of those places. Located just half an hour away from Sydney by plane, or a short 3-hour drive, Australia’s capital city is a true hidden gem that serves as both a beautiful respite and an adventure for both locals and visitors.

After all, there’s a reason why the New York Times described Canberra as a city with “big-sky beauty, breezy civic pride and a decidedly hipster underbelly”. And true enough, you have to be there to believe its breathtaking beauty.

Home to stunning urban and rural environments, the national hub for arts and culture also has the perfect landscape for adventure-filled activities. There’s plenty for you and your loved ones to do and take in this delightful city. Here are seven reasons why you need to start planning a trip to Canberra now.


1. Canberra has rainbow-coloured skies

Well, not literally.

In Canberra, a ride in a hot air balloon adrift the city is one of its main attractions and a fun way to start the day. You’ll get to appreciate all of the city’s beauty from the top and if you’re on ground, you’ll be treated to a flurry of rainbow dots.

Canberra Balloon Spectacular

Every year, the city holds the Canberra Balloon Spectacular – one of the longest running hot air ballooning events in the world with 2015 being its 29th year. Held over nine days, pilots lay out and inflate their hot air balloons on the lawns of Old Parliament House before ascending into the sky to float close to houses of government and buildings of national significance.

Canberra Balloon Spectacular

This is one picture perfect moment you’d have to experience and share with your loved ones.


2. Almost all museums have free admission

There is nothing quite like free attractions when you’re on a holiday. Let’s face it, how many times have we skipped a trip to a museum or a gallery just because the entrance fee was absurdly expensive?

At Canberra, you can explore its arts and culture for free! There are only a few exceptions like the National Dinosaur Museum or on occasions when a famous exhibit is being showcased, in which case a special fee is levied.

Roll of Honour at the Anzac Day Dawn Service at the Australian War Memorial

Other than that, there are several awe-inspiring museums and galleries that warrant a trip.

Take for instance the National Portrait Gallery which has portraits of over 400 people who shaped Australia. The Australian War Memorial Museum serves as a commemoration of the service and sacrifice of all Australian men and women in wartime while the Canberra Museum and Gallery celebrates the region’s social history and visual arts with dynamic exhibitions and galleries.

Ramingining Artists, The Aboriginal Memorial 1987-88
(National Gallery of Australia, Canberra)

Interested in the arts? The National Gallery of Australia holds the largest collection of Indigenous Australia art in the world and is home to the country’s national art collection. History buffs should visit the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, a heritage attraction that houses decades of social and political history through exhibitions and The National Museum of Australia, which preserves and interprets Australia’s social history through galleries.

A visit to Parliament House in Canberra offers you the chance to be a part of democracy in action.

Both kids and parents alike will have fun exploring the Questacon – The National Science and Technology Centre that lights up magnificently at night, offering more than 200 interactive exhibits relating to science and technology for people of all ages.


3. The Nation’s Capital is wild

No, this is in no reference to the nightlife scene – it’s much better!

Just imagine taking a bath or sleeping just metres from a lion or a bear. You can have this once in a lifetime experience in Canberra!

Bathe while a bear grazes on the other side of the window, Jamala Wildlife Lodge at the National Zoo & Aquarium.

Jamala Wildlife Lodge at the National Zoo & Aquarium offers this unique accommodation experience where a stay in one of their luxury bungalows means a stay with wild animals too. But fret not, a glass panel separates you from the lion’s or a bear’s den. Other unique accommodations include feeding giraffes from your balcony, having dinner next to a family of lions, and waking up with views over a monkey enclosure or even a shark tank.

Lions, Jamala Wildlife Lodge at the National Zoo & Aquarium.

If you’d like to get up close with native Australian animals such as kangaroos, emus, platypus and more, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is the place to be. Explore the hiking trails as well as picnic areas here so you and your loved ones can take in breathtaking views.


4. Canberra is a great place for some sporty action

The city’s landscape is perfect for mountain biking, bushwalking, rock climbing and marathons so if you’re into the great outdoors, Canberra is one city you ought to visit.

If you’re an adrenaline junkie, head over to Stromlo Forest Park that has become popular with mountain bikers, road cyclists and BMX riders from all over Australia. There are also competitive and non-competitive marathons such as the Weston Creek Half Marathon, Operation Blackhawk in Canberra and CBR 100 Challenge. Run for a good cause in The Canberra Times Fun Run, which is part of the Australian Running Festival that aims to raise $200,000 for more than 250 charities this year.

Big Foot Adventures specialises in cycling and walking tours, plus trips to the snow, for visitors to Canberra and surrounds, all personally guided by Michael.

During the Canberra Centenary Trail, walkers, cyclists and nature lovers can experience the best of Canberra’s urban and natural environments on the 145-kilometre self-guided, family-friendly trail, which traverses mountains, grasslands, the stunning Red Rocks Gorge and Aboriginal lands.

Take part in the Canberra Walking Festival, where you’ll get to walk along Canberra’s recreation path network passing national buildings, the picturesque Lake Burley Griffin and also a number of Canberra’s Nature Parks over three days.


5. Fun ways to discover Canberra’s iconic lake

At Lake Burley Griffin, an iconic part of the National Capital’s landscape, you can hire a bike, paddleboat or Segway and journey through the beautiful area that has Instagram-worthy views.

Couple walking around Lake Burley Griffin, Canberra

It is hard to imagine the city without the lake, which has physical, mental and social effects on its people. Dragons Abreast, for example, is a group of cancer survivors who paddle on the lake as a form of physical and social therapy. The tranquillity and rejuvenation that this activity brings, has become a leisurely activity for others too.

If you’re gliding on the self-balancing Segway, or a cruising via a bike, you’ll be able discover the lake’s Parliamentary foreshore, famous landmarks and nearby iconic buildings.

A fun way to get around the lake is on a guided segway tour with Seg Glide Ride located near the International Flag Display on the southside of the lake.


6. This garden city blooms beautifully

If flowers are not your thing, Canberra’s flower festival might just change that.

Every year from mid-September to mid-October, the beautiful spring festival Floriade, takes place in Canberra. Be it Floriade Australia or Floriade NightFest, both flower festivals offer a stunning spectacle that has become a significant event for the city.

Floriade, Australia’s celebration of spring, transforms Commonwealth Park into a tapestry of colour.

In its 28th year this 2015, the festival will showcase one million flowers in bloom throughout Canberra’s Commonwealth Park where admission is free.

Stay for the Floriade Nightfest that runs for five nights and enjoy the illuminated flower spectacle accompanied by an exclusive line-up featuring live music acts, renowned comedians, night market and electrifying entertainment.

View of Floriade NightFest

Consider making a trip to the Australian National Botanic Gardens too, which has been designed to give you a glimpse of Australia’s varied and vast fauna. From rainforests to desert, explore the garden’s entire 6,300 plant species.


7. It lives up to the Nation’s status as a food and wine capital

Canberra has a thriving wine scene with award-winning winemakers producing quality wines such as the acclaimed Clonkakilla Shiraz Viognier – a red wine that was served to China’s President Xi on his visit to Australia last year.

Wine Harvest Festival – Making Wine

To fully experience Canberra’s wines, take part in the Canberra District Wine Harvest Festival where you can take a tour through over 20 acclaimed wineries. Here, you’ll get to discover the sights and smells of the vines, be a part of the exciting food and wine matching adventures and do some wine-tasting in the vintage cellar doors.

The Canberra Region showcases it’s ‘Liquid Geography’ in Autumn with cool climate wines, feasting temptations and live entertainment set in picturesque vineyards.

Indulge in gourmet food and desserts, and bring fresh produce home from the bustling food markets and events that thousands flock to Canberra for. Drop by Canberra Food & Wine expo or partake in food events that are iconic to Canberra like The Truffle Festival where you can go hunting for truffles, take a cooking class, or indulge in truffle dishes at local restaurants, cafes and wineries.

French Black Truffles of Canberra at Fyshwick Markets