New to Canberra, I love exploring this city and the secrets that it holds with my family.
Published August 9th 2016
Hot spots to take your visitors when they come to stay
I read an interesting tourism report recently, that said that the majority of tourists that come to Canberra are visiting loved ones that live here. This means that many Canberra locals are showing family and friends around the city, looking for things to do that will entertain all ages. Floriade is the most popular time when visitors to come to stay - which is the perfect excuse for locals to enjoy the spring spectacular each year too. Often visitors are in the over 70's age group, both men and women, who may also be coming to visit their grandchildren and looking to have fun together around the region.
Most of the over 70's that I know are active and happy to explore the city with no restrictions (except for the occasional rest stop for a cuppa - for me too!) - however others may have acquired a few aches, pains or injuries over the years and perhaps now can't walk as far as they would prefer. Of course we can't generalise about any age group, as we all have different interests and things we want to see, however following are some ideas to get you started when visitors come to stay - whatever their age. With so many choices - where do we start?
Exploring the Great Outdoors
A Self Guided Winery Tour around the Murrumbateman region is a scenic way to enjoy the area - with the added bonus of stopping off at wineries to taste their award winning wines along the way. When you visit your first winery you will be given a map to help you on your way to the next venue. See here for details of wineries to visit, all within a short distance from each other.
If not everyone in your group enjoys wine tasting, why not stop in at Robyn Rowe Chocolates for delicious Belgium chocolates made on site or Poachers Pantry, renowned for its smoked meats and their tasty Smokehouse Café. Another popular weekend spot for wine tasting and wood fired pizza's is Four Winds Vineyard, as well as the original Murrumbateman Winery for cheese platters and ploughman's plates.
Lookouts around Canberra also give visitors an overall impression of the city and for them to see clearly from above how the city is planned. Mount Ainslie Lookout is the most popular, as well as Red Hill Lookout - which also has a scenic café at the top called Little Brother. Mount Pleasant Lookout shows a different perspective of the city above Duntroon Military College. Telstra Tower has 360 degree views of the whole region, with a small café at the top. See here for a list of Canberra`s Lookouts, as well as Dairy Farmers Hill Lookout at the National Arboretum. Lake Cruises are a popular way to enjoy the beauty of Canberra from the water and to also get an idea of where all the iconic buildings are located around the city. There are two companies to choose from - Southern Cross Cruises has a larger boat, commentary, tea and coffee and some cruises include lunch. Lake Burley Griffin Cruises is a smaller historical boat with a running commentary by Skipper Jim, who has a wealth of knowledge and witty stories about Canberra to share. This is an enjoyable activity for all ages, especially if you have grandkids with you on board.
View from Mount Ainslie Lookout
Enjoy the sights on a Lake Cruise - photo taken aboard Lake Burley Griffin Cruises
Australian National Botanical Gardens is a peaceful place to walk around and discover native flowers and plants from all areas of Australia. There are free guided walks, however if you want a tour of the gardens in style, book a seat on the Flora Explorer for a one hour guided tour aboard the 12-seater electric bus. See here for prices, details and how to book. Open Gardens Canberra organise open gardens in the local community and it is an ideal way to spend the morning - for green thumbs of all ages. Each season private gardens are open to the public, so the community can appreciate the beauty of their gardens and take time to explore their peaceful, natural oasis. See here for a timetable for this season. If your visitors have an interest in Floral and Gardens Events in Canberra, see here for more ideas.
Queen Elizabeth Terrace is a scenic, flat walk along the southern rim of Lake Burley Griffin, where you can enjoy a relaxed walk whilst appreciating the beauty of the lake. If you park your car at The National Library, take a short walk along the lake past the International Flag Display, admire the lakeside trees in their spring time bloom or autumn colour, then perhaps take a browse through the National Gallery Sculpture Garden at the end of your walk. Keep walking along the lake or return back the way you came and stop at the popular Doms Coffee Bar and Gelato for a scenic spot to relax, literally metres from the lake. See here for an article on what else there is to do on Queen Elizabeth Terrace.
Stop for a gelato at the popular Doms (with Canberra Southern Cross Cruises seen behind on the lake)
Events around Canberra are the perfect opportunity to experience this city and get involved in the local community. Perhaps take a browse around the local markets and stop for morning tea and watch the action go by. Old Bus Depot Markets are popular markets in Kingston each Sunday and have a range of interesting wares, live music and delicious coffee. Floriade (September - October) is the highlight of Spring each year, as well as Tulip Tops Gardens which is run at the same time. Both require a lot of walking, however they are loved by all ages. On Weekendnotes each week there are events listed such as Open Days, festivals, markets, food events and exhibitions to attend - most of them having free entry.
Museums, Galleries and Government Buildings around Canberra are a wonderful way to spend the day, particularly if the weather is cold, hot or raining. If there is anyone in your group that can't walk far around the larger museums, all of them offer free wheelchairs and/or motorised scooters to borrow. Strollers can also be borrowed for young children in your group. See the websites for The National Gallery of Australia, National Museum of Australia, Australian War Memorial, Old Parliament House and Parliament House - which are the largest to explore. Most venues prefer you to call in advance to ensure one is put aside for you. Each venue also has a pleasant café to enjoy inside - popular ones include the Queens Terrace Café at Parliament House, The Museum Café at the National Museum, Bookplate Café at the National Library and NGA Café at the National Gallery. See here for a list of the other museum cafes in Canberra. Cockington Green Gardensis an enjoyable way to spend a morning, especially if you have grandkids along with you for the day. Miniature model villages are popular attractions to visit in England, however you don't find many of them in Australia, so this is an ideal place to go to if your visitor(s) grew up in England or enjoy these small scale villages. There are humorous scenes set up in the villages, little trains running along the tracks and a miniature steam train you can ride around the property (fee applies). See here for details.
The cosy and colourful interior of the NGA Cafe (National Gallery of Australia)
Stepping Back in Time
Canberra Railway Museum is an fascinating place for train enthusiasts to walk around and discover memorabilia from years gone by. Each weekend they also offer train rides on their historic locomotives to various parts of the region, regularly visiting the NSW town of Bungendore on their Market Train. This is a fun adventure for all the family. See here for more details and check the latest details on the timetable here.
The National Archives is an ideal place to go to if your visitors are tracing their family history or if they want to view their own papers if they immigrated to Australia. On a personal note, it has been an invaluable resource for visitors in our family who have traced their own arrival papers as £10 immigrants from England, decades ago. Do your visitors have anything to look up while they are here? If so, check The National Archives website as far ahead as you can before they arrive, as you may need to order the paperwork in - which can sometimes take weeks for them to track down. See here for details.
ACT Historic Homeshave three fascinating historical homes from Canberra's early settler period that you can explore. I personally enjoyed all three of these historic homes, where you can join a guided tour and learn more about the family's that lived in each. On my visit to Calthorpe's House in Red Hill - a home frozen in time from the 1930's - I walked around with a group of older women who marvelled at the items in each room, and remembered them from their childhood years or from visiting their own grandparents. This house in particular brings back fond memories for some. The other two historical homes are Lanyon Homestead, which is a beautiful place to visit with fine furnishings and an enjoyable Lanyon Café , and Mugga Mugga, a fascinating rustic cottage which was used by shepherds and their families - however it is quite uneven underfoot to walk through. See here for more details.
If your visitors have a particular interest in the early settler period - see here for an article on other places to explore around the region.
Fun for all ages. Source: Canberra Railway Museum Facebook
High Teas are a lovely way to spend time with friends and family whilst enjoying tiny petites and a range of teas around the city. In years gone by it was only something enjoyed by the Upper Class, however the modern take on the High Tea can now be enjoyed by all. See here for a list of High Tea locations around the region, with the Hyatt Hotel and Adore Tea two popular options.
Having visitors come to stay is a celebratory time to catch up with loved ones and introduce them to parts of Canberra that perhaps they haven't seen before. As the city swells during Floriade, most visitors are happy to enjoy the floral beauty around the region, especially if they are from warmer climates where the seasons aren't so distinct. With many cafes and benches sitting overlooking rose gardens and blossoming trees around the city, there is plenty of opportunity to sit back and smell the roses.
Pork Barrel Cafe overlooking the rose gardens, opposite Old Parliament House