10 free things to do in Canberra, all year-round.

Posted 14 Jan 2017

Story by CBR Canberra

As the old saying goes, the best things in life are free! Canberra offers an exciting range of memorable experiences that don’t cost a cent.

From museums and galleries to gardens and walks, the nation’s capital has something for everyone.

Home of the country’s most prized national treasures, as well as a surprising proximity to nature and a bustling markets scene, these 10 CBR-favourite free activities are available all year-round.

  • Lakeside walk around Commonwealth Park

One of Canberra’s greatest attractions is Lake Burley Griffin, with plenty of scenic walking routes that cover different areas of the city.

Perhaps the most popular walking route involves the 4.8km bridge-to-bridge walk around the middle basin of Lake Burley Griffin.

If you fancy a slightly longer route and don’t mind a small detour make sure you incorporate the Australian Botanic Gardens into your walk. It will be roughly an 8km walk, plus any extra time you spend in the gardens.

Offering a breathtaking array of native plants in a spectacular bushland setting, the Botanic Gardens are the only place in the world you’ll see this diversity of Australian native plants in one location – a must-do for any nature lovers.

  • Visit the National Institutions

Another essential Canberra experience is to visit the numerous national institutions within the capital. Canberra is home to some of Australia’s greatest cultural icons – many of which are in walking distance of each other and free to enter.

Whether it be the National Gallery of Australia, the National Library of Australia, the National Film and Sound Archives, the Portrait Gallery or the National Archives – there is plenty to get around to fill your cultural quota!

It is worth noting, however, that for some special exhibitions a charge may be applied.

Bringing together a world-class museum, a shrine and an extensive archive, the Australian War Memorial in Canberra is a moving and insightful experience for both young and old. Discover the diverse Australian experiences of war and connect with the stories of people and events that shaped Australia.

With the purpose of commemorating the sacrifice of Australians who have died in war, the Memorial is a place to pay your respects and discover what it means to be Australian.

Australia’s stories come alive at the National Museum of Australia, on the shores of Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin. The Museum’s stunning architecture provides an extraordinary place to explore the rich and diverse stories of Australia and its people.

At Kspace, the Museum’s new interactive kids’ adventure game played in teams of 4, kids design a time-travelling robot and enter a Time Pod blasting them back to a mystery location in Australia’s past.

If you are happy to take a small trip out of Canberra to get a unique and free experience, the best option is the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex.

Here you’ll discover NASA’s Deep Space Network, an international network of antennas that support interplanetary spacecraft missions. The impressively sized antenna dishes at the complex send and receive data from spacecraft exploring the solar system and beyond. For a great view of the dishes, as well as an insightful exhibit about Australia’s role in space exploration, head to the Canberra Space Centre on the complex grounds.

Lovers of fine hand-crafted wares, clothing collectors, food fanatics and jewellery junkies are just a few of the people who head to Canberra’s award winning Old Bus Depot Markets every Sunday. In a fabulous old industrial building you’ll experience the endless colour, tastes, sounds and atmosphere that is “Canberra’s Sunday Best”.

Not your average market, each week you’ll find over 200 stalls of exceptional quality, featuring items all hand-crafted by local and regional creatives. There’s simply no better way to spend your Sunday in Canberra.

Another great experience for those looking for a trip out of the city is the Namadgi National Park. Namadgi National Park is located at the northern end of the Australian Alps, 45 minutes’ drive from Canberra city.

Venture into Namadgi to discover its Aboriginal heritage. Experience wonderful birdlife, picnic and fishing spots and fantastic bushwalks with scenic views. Hire a Personal Locator Beacon from the Namadgi Visitor Centre if you’re going to be hiking in remote areas.

Enjoy ranger guided walks or escape into the rugged Bimberi wilderness. Horse riding and mountain biking is permitted only on designated fire trails. Campgrounds are located in pleasant bushland settings.

The Royal Australian Mint is one of Canberra’s real gems.

See where every coin in the pockets of millions of Aussies was originally made. Check out the coin production factory and the Mint’s family of robots as they help out with the heavy lifting.

Discover the National Coin Collection, two ‘holey-dollars’ are just a couple of the rare, valuable and historically significant coins on display.

Mint your own collectable one-dollar coin, and browse the Mint Coin Shop for great gifts, collectables and mementos made right here at the Mint.

See the forest for the trees at the National Arboretum Canberra, with its 94 forests of rare, endangered and symbolic trees from Australia and around the world. Walk, drive, cycle or even horse-ride around the 250-hectare site. You’ll be struck by the range of botanical beauty, including the living artworks in the National Bonsai and Penjing Collection.

Let the kids expend some energy at the magical Pod Playground at National Arboretum Canberra. The kids will have a blast hiding in the acorn cubbies, clambering across the climbing nets, making music in the banksia cubbies and slipping down the tube slides.

Canberra Glassworks is Australia’s only cultural centre that is wholly dedicated to contemporary glass art. Visitors can view artists working creatively with glass, and even make their own glass artwork.

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