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Seven Surprising Experiences to Have on Your Next Trip to Canberra

Spend the morning hand feeding lions and the afternoon throwing axes.
By Melanie Colwell
December 16, 2021
By Melanie Colwell
December 16, 2021


in partnership with

Spend the morning hand feeding lions and the afternoon throwing axes.

We love a spontaneous adventure as much as the next person, but sometimes it pays to plan ahead. Case in point: Canberra. Sure, there are plenty of excellent ways to fill an impromptu jaunt to the capital — from hiking and mountain biking to blowing a few weeks' income in the Braddon boutiques. But if you're willing to do a little forward planning, you can secure your spot on some tours and take that trip to the next level.

On such adventures, not only will you get to meet some locals (both humans and animals) and uncover some of the city's hidden gems, but you'll also avoid spending the entire time staring at Google Maps trying to navigate your way around. And, in the interest of saving you time now — and to save you from any internet rabbit holes — we've picked seven unexpected experiences you can have on your next Canberra vacay.

Please stay up to date with the latest ACT Government health advice regarding COVID-19.

  • 7

    It’s a tale as old as time. You’re with your mates and you’re all a few beers down, and suddenly a debate arises over whose athletic abilities outmatch the rest. Well, next time you’re in Canberra, you can put your money where your mouth is on the Axes and Ales Tour.

    Before you get too excited about the impending shenanigans (but rather fortunately for your safety), you’ll be doing the axe-throwing portion of this tour at Fyshwick’s Axxe completely sober. Afterwards, you’ll head for lunch at a pub before hitting up two of Canberra’s top craft breweries. Usually, those two visits are popular Capital Brewing Co and award-winning Bentspoke Brewing Co.

    Bask in the glory for having the best arm and aim with you for the rest of the day — just don’t brag too much or your mates will try to make you shout a round. The joke’s still on them though, as everything is already covered in your tour cost.

    Top image: Bentspoke Brewing Co, VisitCanberra

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  • 6
    Eat Canberra Food Tours

    So many restaurants, so little time. It’s a problem that food lovers face all the time when on a holiday. It’s a problem you’ll undoubtedly face when in Canberra for a weekend, too.

    One way to solve your culinary dilemma is by joining an Eat Canberra Food Tour. There are two tours to choose from: the Braddon/City Walking Tour ($145 per person) and the Sweet Tooth Tour ($80 per person). The former is a four-hour adventure that’ll have you hopping between five of the inner city’s top venues. You’ll get to chat with the owners, learn a little about each place and, of course, sample some of the food and drinks.

    If you prefer sweet over savoury, the Sweet Tooth Tour lets you go all-in on desserts. Over two hours, you’ll hit four locations around town and indulge in endless sweet treats — plus, score a few to take home with you.

    Image: Rizla, Nathan Harradine-Hale

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  • 5

    If you’re an animal lover, make a beeline to Australia’s only combined zoo and aquarium and, for a super special experience, get involved in one of the close encounters.

    The Awesome Roarsome Tour is an action-packed 90-minute experience that’ll allow you to hand feed a lion, a tiger, a bear (insert obligatory ‘oh my’ here) — and a hyena. You’ll also get to pat a python and meet the adorable meerkats and otters. The experience runs daily (apart from Tuesdays and Thursdays) at 7.30am, and costs $125–155 per person.

    Images: VisitCanberra

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  • 4
    Canberra School of Photography

    World-class architecture. Stunning natural scenery. Native animal encounters. There is a lot of beauty to be captured in Canberra. And, let’s be real, your phone camera is not going to do it justice.

    Give that neglected DSLR in your wardrobe a workout by joining one of Canberra School of Photography’s tours. Led by professional photographer Irene Lorbergs, these interactive tours (and private sessions) will have you stomping the streets of Canberra and creating keepsakes along the way.

    As well as taking you to the city’s best (and under-the-radar) vantage points, Lorbergs will give you the low-down on your camera’s (often bewildering) settings and photography techniques. Our pick? The Dusk into Night Tour ($220). This three-hour tour will help you master exposure, mood and composition as the natural light shifts from golden hour to sunset and then evening.

    Image: John Gollings, copyright National Museum of Australia. All Rights Reserved

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  • 3
    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Trail

    Spanning 145 hectares of land, there’s a lot more to the Australian National University campus than lecture halls and libraries. If you only have time to do one of the university’s many walking trails, we suggest making it this one. ANU worked with the four Representative Aboriginal Organisations in the ACT to develop this trail, which passes through Ngunnawal, Ngambri, Ngunawal and Ngarigu Country.

    Start at the National Centre for Indigenous Studies, which works with local communities to preserve Indigenous knowledge and experiences. You’ll then arrive at South Oval, an area that was used for hunting, camping or ceremony by First Nations people.

    Other stops include Sullivans Creek, Black Mountain, Acton Grassy Woodlands and Union Court (the site of much student activism in the 60s and 70s). Along the way, you’ll see native animals, scarred trees and a number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artworks within the ANU Art collection.

    Image: Stephen Dann, Flickr

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  • 2
    Dhawura Tours

    If you’d like to spend some time delving into the history of the land that much of Canberra occupies and its traditional landowners, the Ngunawal people, check out Dhawura Tours.

    Established in 2013 by Ngunawal man Tyronne Bell, Dhawura Tours runs language workshops and guided tours around the region, spanning Namadgi National Park, Mount Majura, Mount Taylor and more.

    Venture up the beautiful Black Mountain and enjoy panoramic views of Canberra. While following the tracks and service trails, an Aboriginal guide will interpret the mountain’s changing landscape since ancient times.

    Dhawura short tours run for two hours and cost $45 for adults, $35 for kids up to 16, and are free for children under six.

    Image: Lean Timms, Tourism Australia

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  • 1
    Big River Distilling Co

    Based in the industrial area of Fyshwick, directly behind Capital Brewing Co, is Big River Distilling Co. The artisanal distillery was established in 2017 by Clyde Morton, who has a post-doctorate in nuclear physics.

    The current range features two gins and a vodka, which you can sample with mixers and garnishes for $15 per person the distillery door. Or, for a more immersive experience, join a 45-minute distillery tour. Founder Morton will explain the distillation process and art of gin making before guiding you through a tasting. Tours run at 12pm and 3pm on weekends for $25 per person.

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Discover more experiences to have in Canberra at VisitCanberra and start planning your next city break.

Top image: Capital Brewing Co and Brodburger, VisitCanberra

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