Canberra: Long weekend edition
April 8, 2016 3:55 PM   Subscribe

I have only ever been to Canberra for fly-in meetings and decided it was time to see the capital properly. I will visit for the ANZAC Day long weekend, arriving on the Friday night and flying out late afternoon Monday. What are your favourites at the museums and galleries? Pleasant walks or other recommended outdoor activities? Eating options that suit the solo traveller? Best places to see autumn leaves? Things that will overturn the generally-held views of Canberra by Australians who live elsewhere?

I like food, gardens, architecture, bookshops, politics, international affairs, cosy pubs, wine and beer, walking, markets with a community feel.

I currently have a hotel reservation for a place close-ish to the DFAT building which can be cancelled if you insist on elsewhere, but I got a good price and it is well reviewed. I normally stick to walking and public transport when I travel, but I was thinking that it might be good to rent a car?

Anything on that weekend aside from the ANZAC events? I am considering going to the dawn service and already booked a bus ticket for a shuttle bus - unless you have a better recommendation of getting there?
posted by AnnaRat to Travel & Transportation around Canberra, Australia (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If you do rent a car I'd like to suggest a visit to the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, about a 45 minute drive south of the Canberra city centre. "Make a day of it by also visiting the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, just a few kilometres down the road."
posted by Rob Rockets at 4:22 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

DSCC is ok, and really should be combined with Tid nature reserve (they are different places but near each other) - but I think your priority is in town (you can see kangaroos any time anywhere, but the Tid nature reserve is a lovely place to visit).

National Portrait Gallery is a good half day visit, War Memorial is good for a day, National Gallery best part of a day. Get a a car, and drive around any of the inner suburbs - Forrest, Deakin, Red Hill, Ainslie for the autumn colours. Have coffee down by the lake and take a walk between the ANG and the National Library. Have dinner at the restaurant at the National Museum. Bus depot markets worth a visit, and don't forget to check out the Shine Dome aka Academy of Science. Lots of great architecture to admire/criticise! Manuka and Braddon are the main café society areas, but check out New Acton - especially Hotel Hotel, you may want to change your booking.

That's enough from me!
posted by GeeEmm at 6:21 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

We usually stay (at what was the old Rydges, now "QT Canberra") on the other side nearer the city itself, but spend most of our time walking around - the National Museum is a short & pleasant stroll around on that side of the lake, and the National Gallery / Questacon / National Portrait Gallery / National Gallery / Old Parliament House are just across the lake nearer to where you're staying. I'm not a great lover of art, but I do enjoy all of those.

But my absolute personal favourite individual thing is the Shellal Mosaic in the War Memorial. Partly because it is a thing of beauty of a type we don't see in Australia, partly because it's such a contrast to the rest of the museum (I recommend seeing it on the way out, after you've experienced a little of the horror of war that the rest is dedicated to), and partly because it's hidden away in a little alcove and seemingly no other bugger knows it's there…

Tip: apart from the National Museum, avoid the cafés/restaurants at each of those places - they're uniformly terrible…
posted by Pinback at 6:35 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

+1 for the Hotel Hotel recommendation above. I live here but I was so excited about it I stayed a night there anyway. The New Acton area has really interesting architecture and cafés, plus it is close to ANU and the lake, where you can go for a walk across the bridge to the "parliamentary triangle" area where there are some great autumn trees. There's also the outdoor sculpture garden behind the National Gallery which is a great place for picnics, lake views and art.

The National Botanic Gardens (near ANU) are very peaceful and from there you could walk up to the top of Black Mountain and visit the lookout tower. Slightly further out, I think the Arboretum has the best views in all of Canberra.

There are big farmers markets at EPIC Saturday mornings, north of the city. For local handmade souvenirs try Shop Handmade - they are only open til 2 on the Saturday you are here, but worth it. Braddon also has a bit of a market feel in some areas as there are a couple of food and artisan collectives.

The Visit Canberra site has a calendar of events and other useful info.

A car could be useful just because the public transport here is greatly reduced on Sundays & public holidays (the last bus in/out of the city is 7.30pm).
posted by hgws at 7:33 PM on April 8, 2016

I work for Tourism Australia, but I'm here answering as a private person and not in my job capacity.

I adored Canberra when I visited and was completely blown away by the National Museum. And I say this as someone who used to work across the street from the Smithsonian; it takes a lot to impress me museum-wise. A+++ would visit again. I also quite enjoyed wandering the shores of Lake Burley Griffin.
posted by rednikki at 2:25 PM on April 9, 2016

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