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By Jasmine Crittenden
August 27, 2019

How and Why You Should Plan a Solo Trip to Canberra and its Surrounds

Take a little me time and explore Australia's capital.
By Jasmine Crittenden
August 27, 2019


in partnership with

Take a little me time and explore Australia's capital.

Whether you're committed to solo travelling or considering it for the first time, when it comes to fun for one, Canberra is a top-notch destination. On one hand, there are stacks of iconic cultural spots, like the National Gallery of Australia and the National Library of Australia, where you can immerse yourself in art, books and ideas without interruptions. On the other, if you'd like some company, you can climb aboard a tour — be it by bicycle or bus — and make some friends while getting local knowledge. Here's your guide to planning a solo trip to Canberra and surrounds.

Regional holidays to the ACT are now permitted for some states — check the rules for your own state or territory here. Also, some of the places mentioned below may still be closed or operating differently due to COVID-19 restrictions. Please check websites before making any plans.

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    There are so many great art galleries, museums and cultural centres in Canberra, it’s hard to know where to start. Need help? Jump aboard the Culture Loop Bus. This free shuttle travels between Canberra’s most popular sites, seven days a week, from 9am until 5pm. So, you can forget about driving and focus on your adventures.

    If you’re a political animal, stop by Parliament House and the Museum of Australian Democracy. If you’ve got the history bug, swing by the National Capital Exhibition, where you’ll learn all about how our national capital came to be. The building is also home to the Canberra and Region Visitors Centre, which is a good spot to discover nearby tourist attractions (and pick up some local goodies to take back home, too).

    For a national perspective, make it the National Museum of Australia, a cornucopia of photography, video, objects and immersive experiences. Then there’s Questacon for science and technology; the National Library for lots and lots of books; the National Film and Sound Archive; and Canberra Centre for shops, restaurants, bars and cafes galore.

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    One of the finest delights of solo travel is hiding yourself away in a cosy cafe with a coffee and book — and letting time run away. Not all cafes lend themselves to this practice, but Penny University, in the inner eastern neighbourhood of Kingston, is one that does. It takes its inspiration from London’s 17th-century penny universities: cafes where people from all walks of life would meet to chat and share ideas while drinking coffee (instead of booze). You can count on a welcoming atmosphere.

    Sink into a banquette, order your brew of choice, whip out your read and relax for as long as you like. Hungry? There’s an extensive menu, driven by local produce. On a cold morning, find comfort in the banoffee croissant French toast, layered with banana, crushed peanuts, vanilla whipped mascarpone, popcorn, salted caramel and shaved chocolate.

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    Canberra — with its wide roads and clear skies — is ideal for cycling. If you’re travelling solo, but wouldn’t mind some company, join a Mulga Bicycle Tour. The company provides absolutely everything for you, including food, comfy stays and a support vehicle that carries your luggage, so you can relax and enjoy the scenery. What’s more, you’ll get to see the best sites in Canberra and surrounds from two wheels, without having to worry about planning, decision-making and navigating maps.

    There’s a variety of tours on offer, from three-day jaunts between Canberra and Goulburn, to six-day adventures in and around Canberra, to eleven-day odysseys that travel all the way to Dubbo. All include incredible scenery, artsy stops and delicious eateries to refuel at. You just have to decide how much cycling stamina you have.

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    Been looking for a way to de-stress? Surround yourself with trees at the National Arboretum Canberra. This extraordinary place is home to no fewer than 94 forests made up of rare and endangered trees, from Australia and more than 100 other nations. All in all, there are more than 44,000 trees growing across 250 hectares. And two of the forests are more than a century old.

    Feel free to wander freely or plan your adventure according to your interests, be they Argentinian Monkey Puzzles, Croatian Judas Trees or Japanese Snowbells. There’s also the National Bonsai and Peijing Collection, which includes a Yokoso Niwa (Bonsai Welcome Garden), Niwaki pines and a 165-million-year-old fossil, in the form of a petrified tree stump.

    Image: Chris Holly.

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    Tucked away within the concrete walls of the National Film and Sound Archive are more than three million recordings. Name an Australian film or doco and, chances are, it’s in here somewhere. To save you sorting through them, they’re divided into curated mini-collections, based on themes, people and ideas. There’s one devoted to superstar vocalist John Farnham, another to Indigenous short films and another to the history of Australian skiing. New shows pop up frequently so, if you haven’t visited for a while, you’re bound to find something new.

    There’s also a stack of resources dedicated to education and a busy events program. From September 2019 to March 2020, the National Film and Sound Archive will transform into Australia’s biggest video game arcade, with Game Masters, an exhibition featuring the world’s best designers, characters and more than 100 games you can play.

    Image: National Film and Sound Archive.


To discover solo experiences just waiting for you in Canberra, head to VisitCanberra and start planning your next city break.

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