Pod playground, National Arboretum Canberra, Australian Capital Territory © VisitCanberra
Canberra with kids: a 5-day itinerary
With world-class museums and ample outdoor adventures, the ever-surprising Canberra region is an ideal short break destination for families.
By Megan Arkinstall
The Aussie capital has long been a favoured destination with families. Anchored by its world-class museums and galleries, which are designed not only to educate but also to excite, it’s a fascinating playground for travellers of all ages.
The city itself has changed dramatically over the years, with a sophisticated food and wine scene and a host of new premium hotels adding to its already excellent cultural offering. Indeed, the Canberra region is an all-encompassing destination sure to please the entire family. Here's how to explore it in five days.
Day 1: Arrive in Canberra
Start your family adventure with a visit to Questacon, where learning about science and technology is a blast. Kids can play with easy-to-understand experiments, take a freefall down a six-metre (20-foot) slide, watch how lightning is formed, walk over the surface of the moon, and much more.
The museum is located a stone’s throw from the city’s famous Lake Burley Griffin, so head there when you are finished inside to take a stroll along the lake and wander through the National Gallery of Australia’s Sculpture Garden, located on the shore. If time permits, board an hour-long afternoon scenic cruise with Lake Burley Griffin Cruises. For a casual dinner, Brodburger is a cheap and cheerful burger joint located a short drive from the cruise departure.
Day 2: Day trip to Murrumbateman
- Drive time: under 1 hour
A quick 40-minute drive north from Canberra will bring you to Murrumbateman, just over the New South Wales border. This former gold mining town is now the main hub of Canberra’s cool-climate wine region. There are more than 20 boutique wineries to visit around the area, some of which are kid-friendly, such as renowned vineyard Clonakilla, which offers outdoor games and kids’ food boxes, and Tallagandra Hill, which has a pizza truck on Sundays as well as a kids’ playground.
Fortunately for the kids, it’s not all about wine. If you have a sweet tooth, head to Robyn Rowe Chocolates, which not only makes delicious handcrafted treats but has ample grassy areas for the kids to run and play on too.
Families with small children should pre-book a visit to Babylon Farm, which includes a farm tour and the opportunity to feed goats, chickens and alpacas. Or, if you want a little adventure, Burnelee Excursions on Horseback offers two-hour weekend horse rides on its 1,400-hectare (3,450-acre) property.
Day 3: Canberra
If you are in the city on a Sunday, be sure to head to the Old Bus Depot Markets which feature an array of stallholders touting local artistic wares as well as delicious food and produce.
Back in Canberra, it’s time for another day of exploring. First, head to the National Zoo & Aquarium, one of the country’s best zoos, just a 10-minute drive from the city centre. To have a truly memorable experience, pre-book one of the Close Encounter tours, such as hand-feeding a tiger, meeting the meerkats or even becoming a zookeeper for the day.
If you have a young palaeontologist in your family, the National Dinosaur Museum – a 15-minute drive north of the city – is a must for its massive collection of interactive dinosaurs, skeletons and fossils. Pair your visit with a stop by the nearby Cockington Green Gardens to wander around incredible landscaped gardens that are filled with miniature buildings and scenes from around the world, including a miniature steam train.
Day 4: Day trip to Braidwood
- Drive time: about 1 hour
Head out of the city today towards Braidwood, a historic town in the New South Wales Southern Tablelands. On your way, stop by the Farm Shop Café at Pialligo Estate for a coffee break, about 15 minutes’ drive from Canberra’s city centre. This beautiful property boasts a vineyard, smokehouse and farm, and has a sensory playground for kids right by the café.
Another hour east and you’ll arrive at Braidwood, a National Trust Gold Rush town resplendent in colonial architecture. Pay a visit to the Braidwood Museum to learn about the local history of gold fever and bushrangers, and then browse shops such as The Boiled Lolly, an old-fashioned confectionery store, and DOJO Bread for authentic German-style bread.
Day 5: Fyshwick and the Arboretum
Head into the outer-suburb of Fyshwick this morning for breakfast at artisanal bakery Wildflour, which has a kids’ menu and a playground. While in town, beer lovers should check out Capital Brewing Co., a kid-friendly small-batch brewery with a cubby house and games to entertain while you sample the brews.
Before hitting the road, be sure to pay a visit to the National Arboretum, a 15-minute drive from the city centre. Home to 94 forests of unique trees from around the world, pack a picnic lunch to enjoy in the ground or grab a bite at Sprout Café and enjoy watching the kids climb, slide and explore the cubbies and pods of the unique Pod Playground. It’s a great way to release energy before the trip home.