The ultimate guide to Canberra day trip from Sydney

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

More often than not for foreigners, if they had to guess the capital of the land down under, they’d choose either Sydney or Melbourne. However, it is Canberra the Federal capital of Australia that would win you the prize. Home to about 350,000 residents, this lush capital has been rightly dubbed the “bush capital” owing to its incorporation of natural vegetation and gardens.

You won’t find much redundancy or disarray here, as the entire city was preplanned, the final design winning through an intentional contest. Architects Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin envisioned a city that was modern, cultured, and diverse. They wanted all the accompanying conveniences and facilities while excluding the shortcomings.

So, take some time off for a Canberra day trip from Sydney to recollect and experience the history of the nation.

Why do you need to visit Canberra?

As we talked about earlier, Canberra is the heart of Australia and is a mix of culture and reflects its rich history which is inspired by the entirety of Australia. All this is reflected through the city’s museums, commonwealth buildings, memorials, and other sites.

A lot of the government buildings like the parliament and the Royal Australian Mint are open to the public. If art and history are more your speed, the Canberra Museum and gallery will be sure to comply. In fact, it doesn’t stop there with, the National Science and Technological Center, the Australian National Botanic Gardens, and even the National Zoo and Aquarium will be sure to state your thirst for knowledge. Canberra also has small-scale vineyards and a popular Sydney wine tour too.

The city also hosts many concerts and productions through its theatres, like the Canberra Theater and Play House, Llewellyn Hall as well as the Street Theater where many students and amateur theatre groups perform.

The ACT Brumbies, one of the most popular rugby teams in the nation play their home games at Canberra Stadium, the largest in the city. The stadium itself has hosted matches for both the 2003 Rugby World cup and for football matches in the 2000 summer Olympics. Also, there are lots of other golf courses, tennis courts, and swimming pools that you could use.

How long does it take to drive from Sydney to Canberra?

The city is located about 290 km southwest of Sydney alongside the Molonglo River. It’s also a little way, off the southwest coast of New South Wales. It’s also one of the largest inland cities in the nation.

If you drive directly on your Canberra Day trip from Sydney would take you about 3 ½ hours. You’d have to take the Hume Highway 31, following the M5 tollway. After Goulburn takes a left, or turn south, onto the Federal Highway and the next stop would be Canberra.

You could also opt for more scenic routes on this day trip from Sydney such as the one following the Princess Highway, to Batemans Bay. Visit Braidwood and Bungendore which are some historic towns, while taking the King’s Highway. Another route flaunts the views of Sutton Forrest, Moss Vale, Mittagong, and Bowral. Follow the Old Hume Highway after taking the Mittagong exit from the F5 Freeway.

There is also a bus that leaves twice daily from Sydney to Canberra and takes about the same time. There’s also a train that departs every 4 hours, although it takes almost an hour longer to get there (approximately 4 ½ hours). Each has its own pros and cons. By bus, you would get off at a more convenient location, and there’s a good chance of free Wi-Fi. The train however does offer room to get up and walk during the journey, a spacious and functioning bathroom, as well as the ability to purchase snacks and possibly even alcohol depending on the time.

Depending on whether you’re in for day trips from Sydney or longer you can choose what suits your needs the best out of the three. You also have the option of flying which will take you less than an hour.

Canberra weather

Overall, the climate is warm and temperate with a significant amount of rainfall throughout the year, even during the dry season. The city does go through four seasons and is the only city that sees snow. So, each season brings out a new face of the city.

The height of summer is around January with temperatures averaging around 20 C. It gets quite chilly in July with 5.2 C the average. The hottest you could get is 27 C from December to February. June, July and August will have you dressing in layers with the lowest temperatures reaching almost 1 C.

It gets significantly colder from March to May and temperatures increase in the same manner from August to October.

Best time to visit Canberra

With that said, Canberra is a year-round destination, while spring could be the best time for a Canberra Day trip from Sydney. Sunny days and cool nights will accompany you on your visit. You can also attend the Floriade Festival with an explosion of colours from the blooming flora of springtime.

Summer means dry and hot days and this makes the ideal time for some aquatic adventures. Lake Burley Griffin offers quite a few fun activities for the occasion. Some Sydney tours may offer certain things relating to this so keep an eye out for them. The gold and crimson of the autumn months will be sure to mesmerize you as will the Canberra day celebrations. Bonfires and BBQs await you during winter, but it may not be the best idea due to the temperatures, and staying indoors is ideal.

Must-see attractions on a Canberra Day trip from Sydney

Parliament House

Opened on 9th May 1988 by queen Elizabeth II, the building has the general structure of two boomerangs and was designed by Mitchell/Giurgola & Thorp Architects. A lot of the parliament is open to the public which contains 4,700 rooms. The Senate and Representatives chambers have red and green colour schemes respectively. Between them lies the Members Hall, which is not accessible to the public.

Parliament House Canberra
Picture by Canberra News

Dinosaur Museum Canberra

The National Dinosaur Museum is the perfect spot for children both big and small. Plus, lots of full skeletons, robotic dinosaurs, and life-like models are housed in the museum premises. The displays include lots of other prehistoric animals as well, like birds, amphibians, fish, and reptiles. The exhibits are accompanied by interpretive displays, information panels, and murals to give a real feel of what it would have been like in prehistoric times. Other attractions are the dinosaur garden and a huge model dinosaur dubbed “stan”.

The museum offers a variety of tours including a nighttime one to check out the fossils in a different light so to speak. But you should check up on their website first due to COVID restrictions being in place.

Telstra Tower Canberra

Canberra is such a neat and organized city so a bird’s eye view of it is truly rewarding. And there’s no better place than the landmark Telstra Tower which offers 360 degrees of obstructed views of the surrounding countryside and the city itself. A must-visit on a Canberra Day trip from Sydney, you can choose between two outdoor viewing platforms or an indoor observation deck.

Must-see attractions on a Canberra Day trip from Sydney
Telstra Tower Canberra; image – HorizonOne web

The top floor also has a café offering great views of the city. While the lower levels include a Telstra Heritage Exhibition which follows Australian telecommunication history. You can also investigate the tower’s award-winning design and the way it was constructed from a video showcased in a theatre in the tower.

If you’re into refined taste the National Art Gallery will be sure to satisfy your taste for art and culture. They’re open every day of the year from 10 am to 5 pm, except for Christmas.  You could take photos of the displays, but for personal use only, and there may be notices that say the contrary so be sure to be aware of those.

There are different exhibits and three gardens that have their own unique features. The gardens are namely; The Sculpture Garden, Fern Garden, and the James Turrell Skyspace. Children are also welcome but it’s best to let them know how best to appreciate the art beforehand.

Australian War Memorial

As we move to the future, the sacrifices made to get to the present must not be left in the past. Visit the Australian war memorial to relive the various military operations and to remember the fallen.

Entrance is free from 10 am to 5 pm daily. However, a ticket is needed, available at the entry, and you would have to follow regulations due to COVID.

Where to stay on a Canberra Day trip from Sydney

Jamala Wildlife Lodge

If by any chance your Canberra Day trip from Sydney turns out to not quite long enough for you, book a stay at the luxurious Jamala Wildlife Lodge with their bespoke African furniture and artefacts, climate control lavish king bed, and other 5-star amenities. There’s a good chance that they’re listed in certain Sydney Top Tours, so if you do spot them give them a go.

The Lodge aims to raise awareness about endangered species and to assist the National Zoo from where it operates. You can choose between three types of accommodations each having its own specialties. The accommodations in question being; uShaka Lodge, Jungle Bungalows, and Giraffe treehouses.

Where to stay on a Canberra Day trip from Sydney
Jamala Wildlife Lodge

Due to COVID, certain restrictions have been placed, especially so on guests from high-risk areas. Do check their website for more information.

Where to eat in Canberra

You’ll at least need lunch on your Canberra Day trip from Sydney and as such, now it’s time to pick what enthralling location you could choose to splurge.

Rose Cottage Canberra 

The Cottage has a long history stretching for more than 150 years. They have 3 function rooms as well as decks and garden spaces. They also have a pub that’s open from 3 pm till late on Wednesdays and 10 am till late from Thursday to Sunday. The menus offer pizzas on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays.

They have specials on Wednesdays, a weekend menu, and a tradies menu for Thursday and Friday lunch.

Night Noodle Markets

Now here’s to a great time at the Asian street food festival that will be the most delicious place for 11 nights and will happen at Reconciliation Place from 28th February to 9th March. It truly is the best way, to sum up, a Canberra Day trip from Sydney.  They open from 5 pm to 10:30 pm on Mondays through to Fridays and a bit longer on Saturday from 4 pm to 10:30 pm.

You’ll have a range of Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Indian, Chinese, and other Asian delights from 25 stalls. Flying noodles, demochi doughnuts, fried and popcorn chicken are just some of the mouthwatering items you can encounter.

Safe travel tips

Crime is not a big concern in Canberra with its very low crime rate. Just remember to keep valuables and other important belongings intact and attended. Civic has some beggars, but if you tell them you don’t have any cash, they might leave you alone. Since it can get dark do have a means of lighting up your path as adequate lighting may be lacking even in some popular areas.

Canberra Day Trip from Sydney
Image courtesy to Visit Canberra

The wildlife such as wild kangaroos you may encounter, even in the city, maybe dangerous so be sure to keep your distance. It can get really cold and windy quite fast to remember to have appropriate clothing. Also, if you plan on travelling on trails mobile reception would be unreliable. Thus, it’s best to have another certain form of communication just in case. It is also best not to swim in the lake due to poor water quality.

Hope you have enjoyed reading our article on ‘Canberra Day Trip from Sydney’ and if you’re looking for a reliable Sydney tour operator to manage your Canberra day tour from Sydney, let Sydney Top Tours know or email us at [email protected]

If you have limited time to spend in Sydney, 3 days in Sydney itinerary may be a great article to read.

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