With its world-exclusive exhibitions, immersive coffee experiences and cheetah encounters, Canberra is a great place to visit if you’re seeking something a little bit different. If you’re a fan of food, fashion and art (like me!), you’ll love this selection of unique things to do in Australia’s capital city.
10 Best Things To Do In Canberra
See Canberra From Above In A Hot Air Balloon
I can’t think of a more serene way to get your bearings in Canberra than with a sunrise balloon flight. I’ll never forget watching the ‘roos and residents wake up and enjoying suburb aerial views of Parliament House, Lake Burley Griffin, the National Museum and more as the first rays of light flooded the city. Each balloon flight varies according to weather conditions, but watching from above as the team with the trailers try to guess where you’ll land is all part of the fun!
Meet A Cheetah At The National Zoo
Canberra’s National Zoo and Aquarium offers several unique ways you can get up close and very personal with the animal inhabitants. Feline fans will love the opportunity to Meet A Cheetah, a once in a lifetime experience where you can pet the fastest land animal in the world and learn more about big cats from the experienced zookeepers. You’ll be briefed on where to stand and how to stroke the cheetah and there’s a great photo opportunity at the end where you can pose next to the beautiful creature. (Try not to look as fearful as I did!)
Bathe With A Bear (Sort Of!) At Jamala Wildlife Lodge
For an animal encounter that’s straight out of Africa, but in the middle of Canberra, check into one of the luxurious rooms at Jamala Wildlife Lodge. A stay at Jamala comes with private wildlife encounters and all-inclusive fine dining. There are a couple of accommodation options, including uShaka Lodge, the Giraffe Treehouses and the Jungle Bungalows that are dotted around the zoo enclosures.
These Jungle Bungalows are most in demand at Jamala as they offer the once in a lifetime opportunity to sleep in close proximity to large primates including lions, tigers, cheetahs and Darkle the brown bear. All rooms are stylishly decked out in authentic African artefacts and are thoughtfully set up to allow guests the opportunity watch the animals feed, sleep and play directly from your bed or bathtub.
Try The Original Freakshake
You can’t come to Canberra without trying the Freakshake that sparked a thousand over the top imitations. Patissez were the first to come up with the uber milkshake – tempting Canberrans with creative concoctions involving cake, cream and lashings of chocolate. I tucked into a Mint Condition – an indulgent, overflowing cup of mint milkshake topped with an ice cream cookie sandwich and drenched in mint mousse and chocolate fudge sauce that spilled artfully over the sides. Whilst I admit I struggled to finish it, all elements, which are made in house, were absolutely delicious. I can’t wait to Freakshake again!
Immersive Coffee Experience At The Cupping Room
Serious coffee connoisseurs will appreciate the passion and knowledge that is poured into every brew at The Cupping Room. Created by the team from Ona Coffee, The Cupping Room is a concept café that was set up with the aim to educate customers on all aspects of the coffee making and tasting process. (Fun fact: The Cupping Room’s award-winning barista, Sasa Sestic, is so passionate about coffee he bought himself a bean farm in Honduras!) Aside from fantastic brews (the berry sweet Gold Label gets my vote) The Cupping Room also serve a seasonal menu of heavenly brunch dishes including French Toast with stone fruits, honeycomb, crème anglaise and lemon balm.
Get A Taste Of Paris via The National Gallery’s Versailles Exhibition
The Palace Of Versailles have exclusively loaned, for the first time ever, over 130 treasures to The National Gallery Australia. Whether or not you’ve been to Versailles, this immersive exhibition offers the unique opportunity to examine first hand the sumptuous furniture, tapestries and paintings of that opulent and tumultuous era. I highly recommend joining one of the free guided tours for further insight into the life, reign and parties of the 3 Kings named Louis, their wives, including Marie Antoinette, and various cousins, courtiers and mistresses. The exhibition is on show until 19 April.
Discover The Largest Collection Of Indigenous Australian Artwork
The National Gallery is also home to Australia’s largest collection of Indigenous Australian artwork. From fiery desert landscapes to contemporary sculptures, the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander galleries offer creative insight into life in Australia for Indigenous people, past and present.
Learn The History Of The World In 100 Objects
Another fantastic exhibition currently showing at The National Museum Of Australia is A History Of The World In 100 Objects, a hit during its time at the British Museum. You can walk your way through 2 million years of human history, from a time when man worked with stone to the creation of the internet. On Thursdays and Sundays staff host pop up talks about their favourite objects – it’s intriguing to find out which one they’re most enamoured with. Catch the exhibition before it closes on 29 January.
Create Your Own Glassware
The Canberra Glassworks offers an opportunity to get hands on with art and take something home to remember your trip by. Located in what was originally the Kingston Power House, the Canberra Glassworks is Australia’s only cultural centre dedicated wholly to contemporary glasswork. In the steamy workshop they hold 1-on-1 workshops with glass artists who take you through the intricate procedure of making a decorative tumbler or paperweight. I joined a class with animated artist Sui Jackson and, despite my lack of artistry, was able to produce the perfect Pimms tumbler with his friendly guidance.
Shop The Old Bus Depot Markets
Also in Kingston are Canberra’s award-winning Old Bus Depot Markets. In two cavernous old sheds, local artisans, bakers and craftspeople gather to sell works of art, freshly baked pastries and handmade jewellery. With several live music stations and a scattering of coffee stalls, you can always be sure of a buzzing atmosphere. There’s lots to tempt foodies at the market, including vegan donuts, paleo jerky and freshly made juices, plus just a short walk away is the trendy Kingston Foreshore, which has an array of waterfront cafes, bars and eateries. In short, Kingston is pretty much the perfect place to while away a few hours on a Sunday.
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This post was written as part of a project with Wotif and Visit Canberra. All opinions are my own. For more information on these activities plus further trip ideas, have a play on this handy trip builder.