Australia’s capital city may not fall under the tourist radar as frequently as glamorous Sydney, or fashion-conscious Melbourne, but Canberra has stacks of exciting family-friendly attractions to keep both adults and kids entertained.
From exploring the nation’s treasures to visiting miniature villages, coming face-to-face with full-sized dinosaurs, and encountering exciting wildlife, Canberra is full of surprises.
Another big plus for Canberra is the fact it’s so affordable: many of the major attractions are free, or have low admission fees, and accommodation and meals can be found at very reasonable prices. At the same time, the highly-planned city manages to escape much of the congestion found in many other urban areas, and has few parking problems, making for a hassle-free visit.
Here’s our round-up of some of Canberra’s top family-friendly attractions to help you plan your trip to the capital, but don’t forget, as with any Australian destination make sure you take your sunnies & sunscreen.
National Dinosaur Museum
The display of prehistoric fossil material and dinosaur is largest and permanent in Australia. Visitors can marvel at 23 complete, full-sized dinosaur skeletons – a jaw-dropping sight – and browse more than 300 displays of ancient fossils.
Big Splash Waterpark
In the Summer (November to March), this waterpark in the city’s suburbs offers a place where you and the kids can cool down, let off steam, and have fun. The park features nine waterslides, five heated pools, and a waterpark cinema where you can float on rubber tubes and watch a film. Make sure you go well-prepared with plenty of sunscreen for every member of the family, including wide-brimmed hats to help prevent sunburn and heat stroke and sunglasses for the children, who’s eyes are especially susceptible to UV damage at such a young age.
National Museum Australia
This social history museum explores and land, nation and people of Australia, and is a fantastic place for children to learn about the country. The collection of items from Australian history include the Holden Prototype Car No. 1 and the Warakurna history paintings. With a 3D virtual reality theatre, activity sheets and online games, there’s heaps to do all year round, then during the school holidays there’s an additional programme of events. Free entry means you could make several shorter visits on different days rather than tiring out the kids with one lengthy tour.
Australian National Botanic Gardens
Holding an impressive collection of weird and wonderful plantlife, these gardens are free to enter and are also home to some unusual wildlife including lizards and birds. Children and their parents can follow the half-hour Children’s Discovery Walk, ‘Who Lives Here?’, visiting nine activity stations, each showing the importance of plants for animal biodiversity – or the 45-minute Aboriginal Trail, which explains how Aborigines used plants.
Australian Reptile Centre Canberra
The perfect destination for wildlife-lovers, you can encounter some of Australia’s biggest and deadliest reptiles at this centre, enjoy a hands-on experience with a friendly python, and view the reptiles of the past in the Prehistory Gallery.
Lake Burley Griffin
Many of Canberra’s recreational attractions are found in the leafy lake area of the city, and the water itself offers plenty of fun activities for families such as canoeing, sailing, paddleboating and windsurfing. You can also hire bikes to explore the area, or visit the nature parks, reserves and playgrounds.
Cockington Green Gardens
This sweet miniature English village, complete with interactive features, is great fun for the family, giving you the chance to make a windmill’s sails turn or run a model train through the village. It also features some of the world’s most iconic buildings, and is surrounded by well-kept gardens.
Australian Institute of Sport
Sporty families will enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour of the Institute of Sport, showing off the top class facilities used by Australia’s athletic elite, and the chance to see some in training. Don’t miss the interactive sports exhibition, Sportex, where you can kick a virtual football, race each other on a ski downhill course, and browse a range of sporting memorabilia.