Canberra… not exactly at the top of everyone’s Aussie holiday bucket list (it certainly wasn’t on mine!) However, it’s worth spending one day to see the highlights before visiting nearby areas (for me, this was skiing at Thredbo which will be in another blog post).
Tips for getting around Canberra
- Everything is close together so if you’re in Canberra for a short time you can walk everywhere or take Uber’s (cheaper than hiring a car for the day)
- Uber one way from the airport to the Mecure on the corner of Ainslie & Limestone Ave, Braddon cost $19 (Taxi $21)
- Uber one way from Parliament house to the Mecure cost $14 (only took 10 minutes)
- Due to Covid, you’ll need to download the check in CBR app to your phone
- I visited Canberra mid-late June (winter). It was cold and windy – I wore thermal shirt, puffer vest, fleece jumper, Kathmandu jacket, jeans, boots and scarf
I took a flight departing Brisbane at 9am arriving in Canberra at 10:40am. I did this entire itinerary on foot (except for Mount Ainslie which I did the next day after collecting the hire car and on my way out of Canberra).
Sit on the right side of the plane for the best views departing Brisbane and arriving in Canberra
10am Australian War Memorial
- Opening Hours: 10am to 5pm (7 days)
- You’ll need to pre-book your visit time online
- Entry is free
- There are toilets inside (also free)
As I arrived in Canberra mid-morning unfortunately I didn’t have to go inside the Australian War Memorial.
However it’s still worth stopping by the War Memorial. There are some items on display outside the museum entrance and if you take a photo from the front of the War Memorial you’ll get a good view of Anzac Avenue and Parliament House.
And a better view if you walk to the end of Anzac Avenue.
Depending on what time of year you visit, you might time the autumn leaves along nearby Limestone Avenue and Anzac Parade. I visited mid-June and there were still some autumn colors on the trees.
After travelling all around Europe for nearly 7 weeks during autumn a few years ago specifically tying to time the itinerary to see autumn leaves, I still never seemed to time them in full color. This was my first time seeing really orange autumn leaves.. and in Australia of all places!
Autumn leaves along Constitution Avenue
12pm Mount Ainslie
After the Australian War Memorial, drive less than 10 minutes up to Mount Ainslie for views over Canberra and beyond. If you’re pressed for time you could do this first before the War Memorial but the sunlight will be better for photos later in the morning.
You can walk up to the top of Mount Ainslie from the back of the War Memorial but it’s all scrub and trees so you’re not going to have a good view until you get to the top anyway.
1pm Lunch in the city
The CBD was deserted on a Saturday. Since I was pressed for time I just grabbed a $5 lunch from Bakers Delight in the Canberra Centre food court.
2pm Lake Burley Griffin
There was plenty of parking if you want to park the car and walk part of the waterfront. I didn’t have the hire car yet so I just walked from the CBD, across the bridge and all the way up to Parliament house. It only took me about 45 minutes.
I didn’t have to wait for people to move to take this photo with no one in it, all of Canberra was like this (not sure if it’s this quiet on a weekday).
3:30pm parliament House
- Opening Hours: 9am to 5pm (7 days)
- Entry is free
- You’ll need to pre-book your timeslot online
- If you want to avoid crowds, visit in the afternoon on a weekend. I was early for my timeslot and they let me in early (I’d booked a 3:30pm ticket)
- There are toilets inside (also free)
- If you want to do a guided tour, visit on a weekday
I think you can go up on the grass above the building but there were railings up when I went (maybe because it was a weekend).
I visited on a Saturday so parliament wasn’t sitting and you were free to roam around. I only spent half an hour inside.
if you like architecture the building is worth taking a quick walk around (not posting any photos as I’m not sure if you’re allowed to post photos online for security reasons).
My favorite part was the Lego replica!
To get out of Parliament house via Uber you have to go to the underground carpark (take the steps going down that are to the left of the Parliament House entrance) and wait at the taxi rank (there is no separate rank for Uber). There were no taxi’s there on a Saturday but the cost of a taxi from the airport to the hotel was about the same as an Uber, so if there were taxi’s, I probably would’ve just got a taxi instead of waiting for an Uber.
If you have more time
For me, the 1 day that I had was enough. I saw everything I wanted to see. Museums and Canberra’s other attractions didn’t interest me. If you have more time, here are some other places you could visit:
- Telstra tower for more views over Canberra
- National Portrait Gallery
- National Arboretum
My post on skiing and snowshoeing at Thredbo which is only a 2.5 hour drive south from Canberra, is coming soon.
View of the Telstra Tower from the Australian War Memorial
Where to stay
I stayed at the Mecure on the corner of Ainslie & Limestone Ave, Braddon. The Mercure and Ibis hotel chain is usually a safe bet with a decent hotel for a decent price but this one was below their usual standard. The building was old and cold which is fine, however the blankets were so thin and small (barely covered a single bed), they should’ve been donated to charity. There were no electric blankets or flannelette sheets and the air conditioner took a long time to heat up. The room I was given was a disabled access and required you to shut the bathroom door (there was even a sign on the door) so that the shower water didn’t flood the entire hotel room.
I chose that hotel as it was within walking distance to the Australian War Memorial (the farthest point outside the CBD that I wanted to visit on my itinerary), was closer to the airport (cheaper Uber fees) and was cheaper than the CBD hotels. This hotel wasn’t cheap at $270 for one night and while the room was spacious, if I ever went back to Canberra, I wouldn’t stay there again.
How I plan my travel itineraries
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