Canberra is perfectly positioned for natural highs, whether you’re longing for the bush, the beach or the mountains. All you need are wheels (and maybe a GPS, depending on your map-reading abilities).
To the bush…
You can easily swap city thrills for rural adventures when you visit Canberra – and Australia’s countryside has loads of character. Meet some brilliant locals, explore historic towns and villages and take in that beautiful, sweeping scenery. Expect to encounter plenty of kangaroos and koalas along the way, too…
It’s just an hour’s drive from Canberra to the Yass Valley. You’ll be rewarded with award-winning restaurants and friendly cellar doors; nibble just-baked pizzas or handmade chocolates in pretty, peaceful Gundaroo, or savour cool-climate wines in mellow Murrumbateman. Peek into a poet’s hangout at Browning, or see what a famous explorer’s house looks like by visiting Cooma Cottage, where Hamilton Hume used to rest his head. You can also try watersports on Lake Burrinjuck; a nature and water wonderland right on the headwaters of the Murrumbidgee River.
Another rustic wonder that’s just one hour’s drive from Canberra is the Hilltops region, whose local produce is so delicious, it has a whole festival dedicated to its succulent cherries. Visit in the first weekend of December to catch the festival and snack on fat cherries, picked fresh from the tree. Incredible wines and camera-worthy countryside are additional feathers in the area’s cap.
Lazy Sundays don’t get much better than those spent happily in the Queanbeyan-Palerang region, particularly if you’re relaxing in the peaceful towns of Braidwood or Bungendore, where you can browse galleries and antiques stores, nibble your way around laidback farmers’ markets and have a Sunday feast at the Royal Hotel Bungendore.
Local tip… ‘Out in the bush in the Hilltops region northwest of Canberra, stop in at the township of Jugiong to eat at The Sir George, or check out Curators Collective for some on-trend boutique shopping, courtesy of stylist Carlie Oates.’
To the beach…
Wannabe mermaids and mermen visiting Canberra are in for a treat: the beautiful beaches, tranquil hidden coves, charming seaside towns and rugged national parks of the South Coast are all within easy reach. Hop in your car and set a course for the Eurobodalla, Shoalhaven and Sapphire Coasts.
For Eurobodalla, take the Princes Highway from Queanbeyan, pausing to explore the historic towns of Bungendore and Braidwood. Continue on to Bateman’s Bay, the gateway to the Eurobodalla Coast. In addition to picture-perfect beaches, Eurobodalla is home to the Montague Island Nature Reserve, a scenic wildlife sanctuary off the coast of Narooma. Dairy-fans will be in creamy, calorific heaven at the Bodalla Dairy Shed, a café and restaurant that produces artisan cheeses and other delicious treats. Aspiring historians will enjoy a trip to Mogo, whose charms include the Colony: a recreated 1950’s gold rush town and theme park.
Want to see the whitest sand in the world? Head to the Shoalhaven Coast, where eye-poppingly photogenic Jervis Bay awaits. This annexe of the Australian Capital Territory is famous for Hayam Beach and its bleached-white sand, plus the towering ocean cliffs of Point Perpendicular. Try ocean-kayaking, go whale-watching (in season), look out for dolphins and soak up this marine reserve’s staggering, unspoiled beauty. All that ocean air will have you hungry; luckily, the region is a foodie hot spot. Eat your way around the cute towns of Milton and Mollymook, or head to Greenwell Point to buy your oyster leases and get farming.
No prizes for guessing how the Sapphire Coast earned its name; this sparkling aqua coastline spans Cobargo and Bermagui in the north and Eden and Wonboyn in the south. Expect wild, unspoiled landscapes: roughly 70 per cent of the Sapphire Coast is national park and forest. Get up close with finned and gilled locals on a snorkeling session with Australia’s Coastal Wilderness Adventures, or soak up the area’s fascinating whaling history at the Eden Killer Whale Museum.
Local tip… ‘If you’re self-driving to the South Coast from Canberra, stop into the little laneway on the main street of Braidwood at Dojo Break bakery (91 Wallace Street) and pick up one of the best meat pies you will ever eat. On the South Coast at Pambula, if you want oysters, Captain Sponge’s Magical Oyster Tours is the way to go. Learn about the Sydney Rock Oyster from a seasoned oyster farmer, Brett, then shuck them straight from the water. You can’t get any fresher than that. This tour has changed at least one VisitCanberra staff member’s mind about oysters – she now eats them by the bucketful.’
To the mountains…
If you like the idea of whooshing down mountains on skis or a mountain bike, fishing for plump, fresh river trout in crystalline waters, inhaling the perfume of wildflowers on a bushwalk, or admiring your reflection in a glittering glacial lake, you’ll be a big fan of Australia’s Alpine region. This year-round destination is great for fishing, horse-riding and hiking in spring, summer and fall and snowy adventures and off-piste thrills in winter (the snow season runs from June until October).
Snow-bunnies should throw on their Moncler jackets and go skiing or snowboarding at one of the region’s popular winter resorts: Thredbo is perhaps the most famous, home to a picturesque alpine village with a range of on-mountain restaurants and après-ski scenes; Perisher is the largest ski resort in the southern hemisphere; Selwyn Snow Resort is a popular pick for families, located closest to Canberra; Charlotte Pass is great for thrill-seekers, thanks to its vertiginous position (it’s Australia’s highest ski resort, dontcha know).
Prefer something a little less white-knuckle and a little more languid? Fish for your supper at Lake Eucumbene, Tumut River, Lake Jindabyne and Bombala’s streams. Get some angling tips from the experts with a fishing lesson in Jindabyne and Thredbo, or set off on a boating, fishing, paddling or sailing expedition on the spectacular lakes of the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme.
Walkers can ramble to their heart’s (and legs’) content across the Mount Range and Mount Kosciuszko (Australia’s highest peak), where wildflowers bloom in pretty abundance. Set off from Charlotte Pass or Thredbo and prepare to feel your jaw drop at regular intervals, thanks to the dramatic landscapes. Stay alert and you might just spot a brumby (wild horse); sightings of kangaroos, wallabies, wombats and birds are pretty much guaranteed.
Local tip… ‘Need picnic provisions for your trip to the mountains? Stock up in Canberra by visiting the Capital Region Farmers Market (held on Saturday mornings) at Exhibition Park, to sample fresh produce and foodie treats – all grown, sourced, or made within a 93 mile radius from Canberra.’
Hit the road for characterful, historic mining towns such as Bredbo, Berridale and Numeralla, which you can access from the Monaro Highway. Look out for shy, elusive platypus in the rivers around Bombala, home to some of the highest platypus populations in New South Wales. If you take the Snowy Mountains Highway from Cooma to Tumut, you’ll traverse the scenic Blowering and Talbingo Reservoirs, and encounter alpine grasslands and glittering streams (#nofilterneeded). Pause at the Yarrangobilly Caves, where you can go underground to witness spectacular frozen waterfalls, mysterious limestone caves and tranquil pools.
Read more about the landscapes that await, just two hours’ drive from Canberra…
On your journey to Canberra, you can expect to enjoy Singapore Airlines’ award-winning service and famously comfy cabins during the flight. With an average aircraft age of just over seven years, Singapore Airlines operates one of the youngest fleets of any airline. Just sit back and enjoy the ride…