Many visitors to Australia think that Sydney is the capital of Australia, but they are incorrect – in reality it is Canberra! As a result Canberra is often overlooked as a tourist destination.
Canberra is Australia’s 9th largest city with a population of around 380,000 people, with a large proportion of the population working for the Australian Government. Canberra is unique in Australia as the city was architecturally designed.
As a result of being Australia’s capital Canberra has a great range of attractions for families. Here are seven family friendly options to help you get started, although there are many more options once you start researching.
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1. Australian War Memorial
The Australian War Memorial is a combination of a museum and a memorial, which provides both a comprehensive history of Australia’s military history, and a place to remember and honour the fallen. The museum provides both fixed and rotating exhibitions across a range of Australia’s military activities, both past and present. The Australian War Memorial is a great option for children to learn more about Australia’s history, and also to have the opportunity to see up close a lot of cool military equipment like airplanes and tanks.
The Hall of Memory which includes the Roll of Honour and the Eternal Flame provides a poignant reminder of those who have fallen. The Last Post ceremony which is conducted at 5pm daily also provides an opportunity to reflect and honour the fallen.
The Australian War Memorial is open daily from 10.00am to 5.00pm except Christmas Day and has free entry.
2. Floriade Spring Festival
The annual Floriade Spring Festival is the main highlight of a springtime visit to Canberra. The amazing floral displays are breathtaking, and there are also a great range of family friendly events and activities to enjoy. I have already received requests from my children to paint a gnome on our upcoming trip detailed in Why My Family is Heading to Floriade This Spring (And You Should Too).
In 2014 Floriade is on from 13th September to 12th October. Entry is free and the site is open daily from 9.00am to 5.00pm on Monday to Friday, and from 9.00am to 5.30pm on weekends and public holidays.
In addition the Floriade NightFest Light Festival provides a diverse range of lighting displays, food options and music concerts on the Floriade site. NightFest is a ticketed event which will run for only five days from 6.30pm to 10.30pm over 24th – 28th September 2014.
Questcon is Australia’s National Science and Technology Centre which aims to promote a greater understanding of science and technology in a fun and interactive way. What this means is that Questacon is a great place to take your family as there is something for everyone.
Questacon has a range of galleries which include the ‘Mini-Q’ play area for 0-6 year olds, and for the older children (and grown ups!) gallery exhibits range from experiencing an earthquake and lightening to playing with light. A current exhibition is ‘Perception Deception’ which looks at how our brains play tricks on us.
Questacon is open daily from 9.00am to 5.00pm except Christmas Day and requires ticketed entry.
4. National Gallery of Australia
The National Gallery of Australia provides a large collection of Indigenous, Australian and regional artwork. There are both permanent collections on display and an ever changing range of exhibitions to enjoy.
The Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander Collection is the largest in the world. And the Sculpture Garden is a great option for children to explore the many artworks.
The National Gallery of Australia is open daily from 10.00am to 5.00pm except Christmas Day and has free entry.
5. National Arboretum
The National Arboretum is a relatively new feature on the Canberra tourism landscape which resulted from severe forest fires which occurred close to and in the city in 2001 and 2003. Following the fires a decision was made to convert the site into the National Arboretum, which literally means a collection of living trees. The National Arboretum will eventually contain 104 single species forests of rare, endangered and symbolic trees on the 250 hectare (618 acre) site. 94 forests have already been planted to complement the existing residual forests, so the site plantings are close to completion, even through some areas will require many years to grow to their full potential.
The National Arboretum site includes a fabulous playground and other amenities, and also provides the opportunity to walk, ride bicycles or ride horses through the site using various trails.
The National Arboretum grounds are open daily from 6.00am to 8.30pm during Daylight Savings periods and from 7.00am to 5.30pm during non-Daylight Savings periods. The onsite amenities are open from 9.00am to 4.00pm daily except for Christmas Day. Access is free.
6. Mt Ainslie
As Canberra is an architecturally designed city the best place to appreciate that design is from a high place. The best option to view the city for free is from the Mt Ainslie lookout, which is located up up up the hill behind the Australian War Memorial.
From the Mt Ainslie lookout you look down over the Australian War Memorial, along Anzac Parade and across Lake Burley Griffin to the spectacular Parliament House. The view is spectacular both day and night, although check the weather first!
7. Lake Burley Griffin
The centrepiece of Canberra is Lake Burley Griffin. A great family option is to either BYO or hire some bicycles to ride around the lake. There are three loops of varying distance, but the great news is that Canberra is mostly flat so therefore it is a great place for families to cycle. And in Springtime the weather has warmed up enough for cycling to be very enjoyable.
The Lake Burley Griffin Cycling map provides information about the three main routes, which includes the Western Loop (16km, 1.5 hrs), Central Loop (4.9km, 40 minutes) and Eastern Loop(9km, 1 hr).
As you can see there are some great family friendly options to visit Canberra – and this is only the tip of the surface. There are many more great activities in and around Canberra to explore!
This article was written in collaboration with Visit Canberra.