Canberra, the Aussie capital, is a fascinating city with lots to see and do but what about the rest of the ACT? What can you see and do on a weekend getaways from Canberra?
Canberra became the capital of Australia after a dispute between the States as to whether it should be Sydney or Melbourne. The compromise came when it was agreed that neither city would be the capital – just as long as the new yet-to-be-founded capital was at least 100 miles away from Sydney. Thus, Canberra was born.
It’s an entirely planned city, which gives it a different vibe from other Australian cities. It’s the eighth largest, but the largest city you’ll find inland anywhere in the country.
There are some pretty important buildings here, from the High Court to the Australian Mint and the National Library. It’s all fairly official and uniform, but grand enough for a capital city.
Luckily for Canberra, it sits in an area totally teeming with natural richness. There are even wetlands and lakes in the city itself. And it’s super easy to plan a weekend getaway from Canberra, with a ton of stuff to do right on the doorstep of the nation’s capital.
If you like skiing, there are mountains with snow on them in winter – and resorts to cater to your every need. If you like wine, there’s a whole lot of wonderful wineries practically in Canberra’s back garden. If you like beaches, they’re just a couple of hours’ drive away. And if you feel like exploring the sprawl of Sydney, that’s in easy striking distance from the capital.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the best ways you could spend your time on a getaway from Canberra.
A weekend in Sydney from Canberra
Sydney needs no introduction. The capital of New South Wales is actually the most populous city of both Australia and the wider region of Oceania.
It’s such a desirable city that people travel thousands of miles from the other side of the globe just to visit.If Canberra’s feeling like too much of a quiet city to you, and you want a slice of big, coastal city life, then Sydney’s right there for the taking.
So if you’re in Canberra, count yourself lucky that Sydney is practically on your doorstep. There are heaps of sights and things to do in Sydney. Modern-day marvels, history, nature and shopping opportunities await.
Don’t worry if you feel like it’s too big to explore over a weekend. It’s possible to pack the highlights of Sydney all into a few days, especially if you narrow it down in terms of what your interests are.
First things first, you may want to check out some of its famous structures. There’s the marvel of 20th-century architecture that is the Sydney Opera House, the crowning glory of Circular Quay. You can even catch a performance here – there are over 40 a week – or simply take a tour of the building.
Then there’s the Sydney Harbour Bridge, another of the city’s famous icons. Opening in 1932, the bridge is Australian Heritage-listed and can be explored up close and personal by heading on the Bridgewalk tour. Suit up, get yourself a hard hat, and ready yourself for some vertigo-inducing views (and a history lesson).
From there, you can hit up The Rocks – one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city, known for its Victorian architecture, cobbled streets and The Rocks Market. You can also learn about the area’s older heritage through The Rocks Aboriginal Dreaming Tour.
For art, head to the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. If you’re looking for a relaxing stroll, check out Royal Botanical Garden Sydney. And when it comes to shopping, there are a ton of places to hit up, including historical ones such as The Strand, right in the heart of the CBD.
And then there’s the coast. You simply have to visit Bondi Beach if you’re looking for a slice of sun, sea and sand. One of the most famous Australian beaches, it’s internationally renowned not just for being a top surf location, but also for being a cool hang-out – think vintage markets, skate parks, hip bars and coffee shops.
How to get to Sydney from Canberra
Sydney is so well connected to the Aussie capital that you can even hop on a train to get there which takes 4.5 hours. Services depart from Canberra Railway Station in Kingston and terminate in Sydney’s Central Station.
Otherwise, driving is quicker at just under 3 hours by car. Head out on the Federal Highway ( M23) and on to the Hume Highway (M31) just before Goulburn. This then takes you to the M5, onto the M1 and right into the CBD.
Flying, of course, is the fastest and takes just over an hour with numerous flights daily.
Highlights of Sydney:
- Taking a break in the Royal Botanic Gardens
- Admiring the Victorian architecture of The Rocks
- Getting some impressive views on Sydney Harbour Bridge
- Soaking up the boho vibes at hipster-friendly Newton
- Hanging out with the surfers at Bondi Beach
Where to stay in Sydney
Meriton has 15 properties in Sydney and is great for families and longer stays as they mostly have self-contained apartments.
Our favourite boutique hotels in Sydney are the QT in the CBD and Bondi, Spicers Potts Point and Little Albion, a Crystalbrook Hotel. There are also 2 wonderful Ovolos, both in fascinating heritage buildings and as quirky as their brand projects. They are also two of Sydney’s best pet-friendly hotels.
Hotels on the harbour or with harbour views are very popular. Many people also like to stay in the inner suburbs of Potts Point, Darlinghurst or Surry Hills and of course, Bondi Beach and Manly Beach as well. The Blue Mountains are also a very popular choice for a Weekend Getaway.
The Snowy Mountains
Informally known by locals as the “Snowies”, the Snowy Mountains constitute the highest mountain range in Australia. At a distance of over 200 kilometres from Canberra, it’ll take you around two hours to drive to the Snowies – but it’s worth the trip, especially in winter when it is one of the best weekend getaways from Canberra around.
Home to the impressive Mount Kosciuszko, which soars to the height of 2,228 metres above sea level, the Snowy Mountains also host five of the highest peaks on the Australian mainland.
If you’re keen on snowboarding or skiing, then Mount Kosciuszko is where it’s at during snow season. It’s the centrepiece of Kosciuszko National Park, which itself boasts no less four ski resorts – all with a ton of places to stay and kick back apres-ski between them.
In the summer, when most of the snow is gone (or should be), the Kosciuszko National Park becomes a place for more outdoorsy activity than just skiing. There’s the chance to go mountain biking, and hiking, kayaking, and even horseback riding are definitely doable in this wonderland of nature.
One of the most popular driving routes in the Snowies is the Snowy Way – a 300-kilometre drive taking you through the rugged expanse made by the foothills of the mountains. Fun fact: The Man from Snowy River, penned by poet Banjo Paterson, was set here on the backdrop of the mountains.
Speaking of writers, a popular hotspot for those of a literary leaning is Gundagai. It’s touted as a classic country town, has been a popular topic for writers over the years, and is the starting point of the Snowy Way.
From there, the road passes Tumut – a beautifully scenic town on the banks of the Tumut River. It’s a good fishing spot if you feel like swinging by.
The Snowy Way then passes through Tumbarumba. Set on the western side of the Snowy Mountains, this town is known for its cold climate wines and picturesque natural scenery. There are food and wine festivals held here, and wineries to explore (of course).
Your road trip will carry on through Victoria before ending up in Beechworth. This historic gold mining town is famous for its Gold Rush-era architecture and surprisingly exciting food and wine scene.
Highlights of The Snowy Mountains:
- Making a road trip of your weekend along the Snowy Way
- Hitting up the slopes on Mount Kosciuszko
- Trying out some trout fishing at one of many lakes and rivers (e.g. Tumut)
- Going on a horseback safari in the Kosciuszko National Park
- Kayaking on the glassy surface of the tranquil Lake Jindabyne
Where to stay in the Snowy Mountains
A great spot for groups and families is the Shearers Hut at Boloco Station which has 3 bedrooms that can sleep, 6 people. Located on a working sheep farm on 4000 acres and there is also wild deer, kangaroos, wombats and significant birdlife as well as trout fishing, mountain bike riding and more!
Canberra Wine Country
If you like wine and feel like spending a weekend getaway from Canberra sampling a world of wines – and pairing them with delicious dishes – then Canberra’s Wine Region is the place you should go.
So close to the city that it’s practically part of it, within half an hour you’ll be in Canberra’s wine country. With 140 wineries and 30 cellar doors, there is a wealth of opportunity here to experience all the tastes that fermented grapes can offer.
Winemaking started in the area over 160 years ago, using traditional techniques, but didn’t see the boom we know today until the 1970s when more scientific research was put into action.
There are a lot of different wines produced in this region, which you can sample at the various cellar doors – the places to go to learn more about the process and growing techniques involved, too.
Taking a tour of the wineries is the best way to do it. Driving yourself is not viable if you actually want to taste some of the fine wines on offer here yourself!
Noted for its cool climate wines, Canberra’s vineyards typically sit between 500 and 900 metres above sea level. There are a number of grape varieties grown here, including riesling, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and shiraz.
Gundog Estate – set inside 19th-century stables – is a 5-star rated boutique winery where you can sample premium wines alongside cheese platters and charcuteries.
For something a little more rustic, the family-owned and award-winning Shaw Vineyard Estate produces a selection of cool climate wines; their adjoining restaurant is great for brunch.
Another family-owned enterprise is Long Rail Gully Wines. Set to the north of Murrumbateman, a visit to this winery means being able to see the whole process – from vine to bottle.
It’s award-winning and supremely picturesque, making its BBQ and picnicking areas well worth a visit.
If you like your vineyards with extra charm, Eden Road Wines is a great option year-round, with sprawling gardens and a cosy indoor sampling bar – complete with rustic decor for a warm, welcoming atmosphere.
- Joining a day-long wine-tasting tour of the area
- Tucking into a delicious dinner at acclaimed restaurant The Boathouse
- Getting your brunch on at Shaw Vineyard Estate
- Enrolling yourself in a painting class at Lake George Winery
- Learning hands-on (or feet-on) by stomping on grapes at Lerida Estate
Where to stay in Canberra Wine Country
Abode Murrumbateman is hard to beat! Brand new and in a great, central location, it has large, very stylish rooms ( some pet friendly) and nice extras such as an open fireplace and pushbikes.
There are excellent family rooms and disability access rooms as well as a communal kitchen and a guest lounge too.
image courtesy @Abode Murrumbateman
Getaway to South-Coast NSW
From Canberra, getting to South Coast New South Wales is a breeze – it’s just over two and a half hours by car. Once you’re there, you can spend the weekend swimming, spotting the natural wildlife, and experiencing some stunners of sunsets.
There are beaches to kick back on, coastal walks with sweeping views, and seaside towns packed full of coastal charm. The beautiful coastline along here is simply asking to be explored, with an abundance of just about everything on offer for any kind of visitor.
One place you could go to is Batemans Bay. A fun-loving seaside town in Eurobodalla, beautiful beaches abound in this area, as does delicious seafood; you can easily spend whole afternoons on the sandy shores tucking into fresh oysters. It’s famous for oysters round here.
This is the perfect place to base yourself for a holiday by the sea. There’s plenty to do, taking in just about everything from fishing, diving, and snorkelling to kayaking and surfing. If you’re into biking, no worries: there are some fantastic cycle routes here, with 400 kilometres of dedicated cycle path to explore.
Montague Island is a cool place to explore. Just off the coast, it’s abundant in wildlife, being home to a colony of fur seals, little penguins and 90 bird species. The only way to visit this wonderland is on a tour, so make sure you book ahead.
Moruya, on the Moruya River, is also somewhere you should consider paying a visit to.
Also in the Eurobodalla region of New South Wales, the town is placed on the coast where the river meets the sea. Come here for calm waters for kayaking, as well as pioneer heritage with architecture to match. Its beach – Broulee Beach – is famous for rock formations, surfing, and for being very long.
Nearby, the Moruya South Head is where you’ll find Shelly Beach and the Moruya South Head Lookout – a great spot to catch a glimpse of whales as they make their epic migration just off the coast.
Highlights of South-Coast NSW:
- Spending the day at one of the many beaches (83 in the Eurobodalla region alone)
- Lapping up the picturesque heritage architecture of Moruya
- Catching sight of migrating whales at Moruya South Head
- Indulging in fresh, delicious oysters at Batemans Bay – a must for foodies
- Bringing your wheels along and heading out for a cycle on one of the area’s cycle paths
Moruya South Head
Where to stay in Batemans Bay
Just north of Batemans Bay Pebbly Beach Escape at East Lynne offers a beautiful range of cabins and rooms right on a stunning beach. The rooms are very stylish and the attention to detail is exceptional with board games, quality appliances and high-end toiletries. This really is a place that you will return to again and again!
There are also some great beach-houses for rent in the area such as High View Haven which can sleep 11 guests.