In Canberra, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to visiting places that don’t involve packing up the car for a weekend trip.
From taking the back roads to dine in some of the region’s best restaurants to hiking up rocky terrain to take in the vista, or stepping back in time at one of the Capital’s historic museums, our natural surroundings and outdoor lifestyle have something to offer all Canberrans and visitors.
Here’s our favourite places to visit that are less, that’s right, less than an hour’s drive from the heart of our city:
Take a trip on the wild side and visit Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. Walk through wetlands, forest, grasslands and sub alpine habitats and say hello to some of Australia’s native animals while you’re there. Vast enclosures are also home to some of Australia’s most endangered species. Only a 45-minute drive from the city, Tidbinbilla Nature Reservice is not to be missed.
See Canberra from above from Mount Ainslie Lookout. With magnificent views of Lake Burley Griffin, Mount Ainslie Lookout is a photographer’s dream. Whether you visit at sunrise or sunset it’s always a treat. Mount Ainslie Lookout is conveniently located, less than a 10-minute drive from the city.
Just like the real thing, only miniature. Cockington Green Gardens is famous for its meticulously crafted miniature buildings that replicate monuments from more than 30 different countries. Top it off with a miniature steam train ride! Cockington Green Gardens is a 20-minute drive from the City and a great place to take the whole family for the morning.
Visit the most diverse of Canberra’s nature parks – Black Mountain. Here you can see over 100 different species of birds and 500 species of plants. Peek through the trees for some fantastic views of Canberra as you walk on the trails. Black Mountain is just a 10-minute drive from the city.
The perfect picnic spot, the Cotter is a local favourite. Enjoy a swim, a spot of fishing, some bushwalking or even take the kids on the playground, it’s a place that caters to all ages. While you’re there, take the short walking track and see the Cotter Dam from the 16-metre wide viewing platform—it’s pretty amazing. The Cotter Avenue Recreation Area isn’t far, it’s only a 35-minute drive from the city.
Corin Forest is for the adventurous souls wanting an experience of a different kind.. In summer, you can either ride down the 1.2km Alpine Slide, or enjoy a bushwalk or a mountain bike ride down one of the many winding tracks. When the cooler months take over, Corin Forest transforms into Canberra’s only snow experience, so be sure to grab your taboggan and hit the slopes. Located south of the Canberra, Corin Forest is a 45-minute drive from the city.
Rediscover the charm of steam trains at the Canberra Railway Museum. You can get up close and personal with the 6029, the Southern Hemisphere’s largest operating steam locomotive and on the third Sunday of every month take a trip to one of the region’s boutique towns, Bungendore. The Canberra Railway Museum is only a 15-minute drive from the city.
Visit the secluded Gibraltar Falls and take a short walk to the lookout over the picturesque falls. Take a picnic along or enjoy an afternoon of bushwalking. Gibraltar Falls is a 45-minute drive from the city.
Take a dip in the river, go fishing, have a picnic or enjoy an afternoon walk at Kambah Pool. If you’re lucky, you can spot some of the local wildlife nestled in the flora. Kambah Pool is a 20-minute drive from the city.
A popular spot for birthdays and BBQs, Pine Island has free electric BBQ’s and picnic tables as well as a playground for the kids. Enjoy relaxing on the grass or go swimming, canoeing or fishing in the river. Pine Island is just a 25-minute drive from the city.
A rural food and wine destination close to the city, Pialligo Estate is set on 86 acres of rich farmland. Visit the Farmhouse Restaurant for a fine dining experience or enjoy a more relaxed meal at the Garden Pavilions. Make sure you try some of the award-winning bacon while you’re there, it’s a definite crowd pleaser. Pialligo Estate isn’t far at all, just a 15-minute drive from the city.
Take the back roads and enjoy a leisurely drive to Poachers Pantry, where you can try the range of gourmet smoked meats on site at the Smokehouse Café. You can also visit the farm shop and cellar door and buy some things to take home. Poachers Pantry is a 30-minute drive from the city.
Visit the Australian National Botanic Gardens and see a breathtaking array of native plants all in the one spot. Featuring year-round events, school holiday programs, exhibitions, guided tours, a café and gift shop and a spa to enjoy, the Australian National Botanic Gardens is a 5-minute drive from the city.
Rising from the ashes of the 2003 Canberra bushfires, the National Arboretum has 94 forests of rare, endangered and symbolic trees from around Australia and the world. You can walk, drive, cycle or horse ride around the 250-hectare site. Enjoy the café and shop while the kids play on Canberra’s favourite pod playground. The National Arboretum is a 10-minute drive from the city.
If you liked the Australian movie ‘The Dish’, then you’ll love Canberra’s Deep Space Communication Complex in Tidbinbilla. Discover NASA’s Deep Space Network, marvel at a piece of the Moon that’s over 3.8 billion years old and admire the latest images of the solar system. You can also enjoy a coffee at the suitably titled Moon Rock Café. The Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex is a 45-minute drive from the city.