What are the best things for kids to do in Canberra? In this guide, we share insider’s tips and advice on how to enjoy Canberra with kids.
This week, I am delighted to welcome on the blog Karen Buffier, author of the family travel blog ‘Big Adventures for Little Feet . Karen is from Australia, has two beautiful daughters and her hope for them is to ‘live lives full of love, laughter and adventures’. Karen’s website aims to dispel all the myths that having kids means travelling less and wants to inspire you to find beautiful travels for your family.
Today she is kindly sharing with her insiders tips on all the best activities for kids in Australia’s capital: Canberra.
Canberra with kids, overview
Canberra is the political heart and capital of Australia and families looking for their next travel destination are often surprised to find a city jam packed full of fun and adventure for kids.
Canberra has a thriving community and an ever-evolving culture and sophistication that is transforming opinions and turning the place into a tourist hot spot particularly during school holidays.
As a local, what I love the most about raising my family in Canberra are the combination of opportunities to keep kids active and engaged. From hiking and nature based activities, to the national monuments and tourist attractions, there is an amazing diversity to visiting Canberra as a family. There is also an extensive range of accommodation options and fantastic restaurants and cafes to add to the appeal.
So here is my breakdown on the best things to do when visiting Canberra.
Canberra with kids: Cultural and educational experiences
When you mention Canberra attractions for kids, the first thing to spring to mind are the plethora of high profile monuments. You would need two solid weeks just to cover all that is on offer here.
Australian War Memorial
Best for families with older children, the war memorial is such an interesting place to visit with kids. Older kids will be enthralled with the interactive and educational exhibits however younger kids will also love the planes, tanks and other displays on show.
When you are done taking a look around, Poppies is a great family friendly café for lunch or afternoon tea with sweeping views over Lake Burley Griffin.
Australian Institute of Sport
I am pretty biased here as my ‘day job’ is working at the AIS but kids absolutely love visiting the home of elite sport in Australia. A guided tour with a residential athlete will take the family to all the major training centres on site and if you are lucky you will get to watch some live action if athletes are in Canberra for training or competition. Sportex, the interactive exhibit in the visitors’ centre rounds the tour off with some action-packed fun as the kids test their skills against the World’s best.
Canberra zoo is really quite lovely and an intimate way to see some beautiful animals. Easily walked through in a half to full day, the zoo has many big drawcard animals in a beautiful and relaxing environment. If you want to amp up the experience you can stay in one of the zoo lodges with full height windows looking out over your animal of choice!
Often top of the list, Questacon is a great experience for kids and to top it off is highly educational with a myriad of science based and hands on exhibits.
If you have young kids I highly recommended Mini- Q which is a section for under-fives with some really fun science-based play areas. Perfect for stimulating young minds you need to arrive early in the day for a spot in mini-Q as the entry numbers are limited.
The Canberra reptile park is only small but packs a punch in terms of engaging with your kids. With a good array of reptiles and plenty of staff on hand to ensure the kids can touch and see everything up close this place is a cheap and cheerful place to spend a couple of hours. Once done, the Gold Creek village is a good spot for some lunch and boutique shopping.
Blending into Nature
Canberra is dubbed the bush capital and the entire city is literally intermingled with its natural environment which means it is easy to find some great open spaces to explore.
Namadgi National Park
Namadgi National Park offers some rewarding hiking, camping and picnic areas and is located just a short thirty-minute drive south of Canberra. Tidbinbilla is very close to Namadgi and also has some fantastic walks and wildlife encounters such as the koala sanctuary and the wetlands boardwalk.
The nature discovery playground is also fantastic and is the perfect spot to find native Australian animals such as kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas and even emus.
National Botanic Gardens
Another notable place to visit is the National Botanic Gardens located at the base of Black Mountain in the centre of the city. The gardens are very cleverly designed with loads of interesting things for kids to see and do. The eucalypt lawns are a perfect spot for a picnic lunch and the raised rainforest boardwalk is a refreshing spot to visit in the heat of summer.
If you love being active whilst on holidays then Canberra is one of the best destinations to visit.
Lake Burley Griffin is the central feature in Canberra and divides the CBD from the parliamentary zone. There are some very scenic walks or runs following the lakes edge which will see you passing many of the iconic buildings in Canberra such as the War Memorial, Parliament House, the National Library, the Governor Generals residence and the National Museum.
If you are into bike riding you will find Canberra to be the best equipped place in the whole of Australia with bike trails linking the entire city. Many rides will take you through the bushland or around the combination of lakes making for a lovely scenic pedal.
When the weather is warm the best way to enjoy Canberra is getting out on the water by hiring paddle boats or kayaks from Lake Burley Griffin boat rental. You can tour the parliamentary zone from the water or head out to one of the uninhabited islands in the middle of the lake.
If you want to experience the vantage points from Canberra’s highest points then there are plenty of fantastic hikes to be found in the city.
My favourites include the short but steep Mount Ainslie which rises from behind the War Memorial and gives excellent panoramic views, the Pinnacles Nature Park in suburban Hawker is great if you want to feel a little more entrenched in the Australian bush, or the climb up Black Mountain can be combined with a trip up to Telstra Towers café and viewing platform.
Picnics and playgrounds
Canberra lays claim to some seriously good kids’ playgrounds… just in case you are feeling weary of all the tourist attractions and need to let the kids blow off some steam while you relax in the sunshine.
The best of the parks include:
- Boundless – a wheelchair friendly park right on Lake Burley Griffin
- Tidbinbilla Nature Discovery park
- National Arboretum – Pod Playground
- Rodneys Nursery – perfect solution if parents want to relax under the shade of a tree with a good coffee and cake while the kids play
- Yerrabi Pond Playground for fantastic flying foxes
- Black Mountain Peninsula – great playground but also a favourite barbecue spot on the water
Proximity to sea, snow and city
Although there is plenty to see and do right here in Canberra, the added bonus of travelling here is that you will find yourself well positioned to experience some of the other fabulous highlights in New South Wales.
Canberra is only a couple of hours drive from the New South Wales snowfields offering exceptional snowsports in winter or the option to climb Australia’s highest peak, Mount Kosziusko.
A couple of hours the other direction and you reach the South Coast and the beauty of places like Jervis Bay, a pristine National Park with gorgeous beaches and native animals in abundance.
And of course, Canberra is just three hours from all the highlights and entertainment of Sydney!
I hope this has inspired you to consider visiting Canberra. It is fast establishing itself as the new hot spot for family travel in Australia and with such a diverse range of things to keep the kids happy you really can’t go wrong.
I hope you enjoyed learning about all there is to do in Canberra with kids! If you are heading to Australia, don’t forget to check Karen’s site and social media channels for more tips and ideas: https://au.pinterest.com/bigadvlitfeet/pins/ https://www.facebook.com/bigadventuresforlittlefeet/