Things to do and see in Canberra:

Map of fun and exciting Canberra activities

Navigate to the bottom of the page for a list of social activities going on during ALT, organized by local volunteers (not through ANU or ALT).


Canberra is Australia’s capital, inland from the country's southeast coast. Surrounded by forest, farmland and nature reserves, it earns its nickname, the "Bush Capital.” The city's focal point is Lake Burley Griffin, filled with sailboats and kayaks. On the lakeshore is the massive, strikingly modern Parliament House, as well as museums including the National Gallery, known for its indigenous art collections.

Canberra is:

  • 248 km (154 mi) SW of Sydney
  • 654 km (406 mi) NE of Melbourne
  • 958 km (595 mi) E of Adelaide
  • 945 km (587 mi) SSW of Brisbane
  • 3,087 km (1,918 mi) ESE of Perth

Canberra on Australia map


Canberra has a relatively cool dry temperate climate by Australian standards; it lies on a humid subtropical/oceanic transitional climate zone. In January, the warmest month, the average high is approximately 28 °C (82 °F); however, in July, the coldest month, the average high is only about 11 °C (52 °F). In December, temperatures will range from the mid 20s°C to mid 30s °C with few days of rain.

The ALT Conference is being held during the Summer months for Canberra. We recommend that conference attendees bring along with them a hat, sun screen and a drink bottle.

Getting to Canberra

International flights fly directly to Canberra Airport from Singapore and Wellington. There are also frequent domestic flights from major Australian capital cities. Canberra is a three hour drive from Sydney and a 6 1/2 hour drive from Melbourne. A more economical option than flying into Canberra may be flying into Sydney and then taking a coach bus to downtown Caberra:

Visa information

Visa information for visitors to Australia can be found on the Immigration Department website:

Although visa classes change from time to time so that we cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of this information, for most conference attendees the most relevant visa category will be 'eVisitor (subclass 651).

We recommend that event participants apply for their visa well in advance of their intended date of travel to Australia. Information about visa processing times is available on the Department’s website:

The Immigration Department has provided the following factsheets to assist you:

Activities to do

Escape to nature near the city

The heavily forested valley of Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is only 40 minutes from Canberra, but it teems with wildlife, including emus, kangaroos and cockatoos. Even closer to the city (20 minutes away) is Uriarra Crossing. Walk, picnic or fish on this short, lovely section of the Murrumbidgee River's epic 1600 kilometre (994 mile) journey from the Australian Alps. If you really want to get up close and personal with wildlife however, consider a stay at Jamala Wildlife Lodge. This incredible new hotel - located within Canberra's National Zoo and Aquarium, right in the centre of the city - has bungalows with glass walls that look onto animal enclosures, and suites in treehouses, with balconies that overlook the zoo's giraffes.

Explore beautiful galleries

As Australia's capital city, Canberra houses many of the nation's most important art, including a priceless collection of Aboriginal art. The National Gallery of Australia is Australia's pre-eminent public compiler of art, housing more than 7500 Australian, Asian and Aboriginal artworks across 13 different galleries. Nearby is the very cool National Portrait Gallery, featuring a wildly varied body of portraiture (from Mick Jagger to Barry Humphries), which originally came into being as a temporary exhibition called Uncommon Australians.

See democracy in action at Parliament House

Australia's Parliament House is a gorgeous example of modern architecture, which was only unveiled in 1988. Visitors can take a free guided tour through the building every day at 9.30am, 11am, 1pm, 2pm and 3.30pm. When Parliament is in session you can watch Question Time (from 2pm onwards), at which government ministers are questioned by other members of parliament. The building also houses a number of exhibitions and public galleries

Wine and dine around Canberra

Canberra's reputation as a culinary destination is relatively newfound. The city has played host to several excellent fine dining restaurants, such as Chairman & Yip, for decades. But in the past 10 years Canberra has found its own culinary identity based around an emerging cool climate wine region (Lerida Estate is particularly memorable) and an explosion of mid-tier eateries reflecting residents' changing tastes. Head to ONA Coffee to try a particularly excellent flat white (the cafe is owned by local Sasa Sesic, who won the World Barista Championship in 2015). Provini does excellent Italian  while Eightysix offers upscale modern Australian in hipster surrounds. For a dining experience that encapsulates modern Canberra's current tastes, book ahead for a table at the city's hottest restaurant, Monster.


Options for visitors for childcare in Canberra can be found on the following websites:

Australian National University campus

Find out about the campus

University website

Getting around campus

> Campus map

> Buses to campus - Action Buses website

Free bicycle service on campus (Guidelines for visitorsVisitor loan form)


> Facilities on campus 

Social Activities alongside ALT

Find below information relating to the extra social events during ALT (besides reception and conference dinner). Participants of ALT have been invited to sign up for these events in advance here. Please note that some events have already filled up, i.e. we cannot add more people.

We will post lists in the registration area with who has signed up for what (lest you forget) and for some activities it will be possible for more people to join as well. The information here was put together by Hedvig, Kyla, Avery, David, Caroline, Ronald, Saliha, Harold and Marie.If you want to recommend more things to do in Canberra, please send it to the ALT twitter or Facebook and we will share it onwards from there.

For many of the events we will be meeting outside Coombs (main venue) and then walk to the location. If you might struggle with walking for max 30 minutes, you can go directly to the location via bus, über etc. Let the local volunteer know when you get to Canberra.

Social events with local volunteer:


Songlines - tracking the seven sisters

Local volunteer: Hedvig Skirgård

Date: Sunday 10 dec

Time: 14.00

Number of people signed up: 18

Meeting place: front entrance of National Museum (or meet at Coombs for walk over at 13.30)

Tickets: $8.31 – $16.67

More info:

Take a journey across the Australian desert in this Aboriginal-led exhibition about the epic Seven Sisters Dreaming. See stunning artworks, immerse yourself in our state-of-the-art digital dome and visit our vibrant art centre.

The exhibition has had very good reviews and features Indigenous Western and Central Desert art and music.

More info about Songlines:

Trivia night

Local volunteers: Hedvig Skirgård, Kyla Quinn & Siva Kalyan

Date: Tuesday 12 Dec

Time: 18.30

Number of people signed up: 23

More info:

This event is especially created for ALT, ANU students have organised a quiz night for you at the local pub and restaurant Fellows on campus, very close to the conference venue. Dinner can be purchased during trivia, as well as drinks. The questions have been made especially for the ALT-crowd, so come and show how knowledgeable you are about languages, linguistics and pop music!

The Guild - boardgames restaurant

Local volunteer: Caroline Hendy

Date: Wednesday 13 Dec

Time: 18.30

Number of people signed up: 15 (FULL)

Meeting place: meet at Coombs at 18.15 for walk, or meet at restaurant at 18.30

More info: this is a boardgames restaurant where the staff teach you how to play whatever game you wish whilst munching on pizza.  

Restaurant: Copper Chimney

Local volunteer: Ronald Planer

Date: Wednesday 13th December

Time: 18.30

Number of people signed up: 21

Meeting place: Coombs main entrance (for walking over, you can also go there directly)

More info:

This restaurant is close to campus and features excellent Indian food at medium prices.

Wig & Pen (pub)

Local volunteer: Saliha Muradoglu

Date: Friday 15th December

Time: 19.00

Number of people signed up: 23

Meeting place: Meet there at 19.00 or walk together from Coombs main entrance at 18.30

More info:

This is Canberra's pride when it comes to brewpubs. Order the tasting menu and see what Australia's hip beer scene has to offer. Medium to expensive priced venue.

This event has changed location from Bentspoke to Wig & Pen.

Outdoors cinema

There were several people interested in the outdoor cinema evenings. Most people opted for:

Wednesday 13 Dec: Dirty Dancing - Girls Night Out


The gardens are walking distance from campus (20-30 min). Tickets can be bought in advance and there. Prices range from  $12-$19, more info here:

Botanic gardens and walks

There are nice walks around Canberra, for spotting kangaroos and admiring the landscape and views. However, due to safety policies, ANU/ALT or CoEDL cannot directly organise walks. Those who have indicated that they are interested have received a separate email last week. If you have not, get in touch, or follow this link.


Things to do without local volunteer:


Bush walking/hiking/trails/long walks

Here follow some further tips on walks for those who want to adventure out on their own. Please remember to be careful with the Australian wildlife, don’t poke under shrubs or stones and leave animals be. Wear long pants and sturdy shoes or hiking boots and don’t admire the view while standing on an ant-bed (flat or gently humped stretch of bare soil crawling with ants).  Carrying a supply of water is also a good idea. The user Trellovátrakho on is trying to put together some specific options to suit people with various energy levels and time budgets, with downloadable gpx maps.

Black Mountain

This is the most accessible trail from the ANU. There are numerous tracks, mostly shown on OpenStreetMaps.  It is very good for birds, but not so much for larger ground critters, such as kangaroos and echidnas, for which Ainslie-Majura is better (and has more climbs). On top of Black Mountain is the iconic Telstra tower. Jozef Meyer, an ANU student of graphic design, has produced a nice trail map (see attachment).

Ainslie-Majura reserve

This is the other hill of Canberra, with more roos. You can get there either by bike or taking the route 2 bus (going North, to Dickson) from Civic, which goes along the east border of the Ainslie-Majura Reserve (from the first stop on Chisolm St (Ainslie) to the Hackett Shops (Hackett) and wander around as you like. This area was originally grazed, first by cattle and now by (too many) rabbits and kangaroos. The area is not all in super-duper-tiptop shape, but it’s easy to get to, and still has some interesting inhabitants, such as echidnas and wallabies, (the latter mostly on the far side of Ainslie, in the northerly portion).  You can also take route 10 bus to the War Memorial and head up the ‘Kokoda Trail’ to the top of Mt Ainslie. OpenStreet Maps have all the major trails, and almost all of the minor ones.   Energetic cyclists might consider cycling all the way around Mt Ainslie.  The entrance at the corner Chisholm St and Duffy Street is probably the most efficient bike access from ANU.

Namadgi National Park

National park south of Canberra. This requires a drive of 1½ ~ 2 hours, depending on where you go.  Some options are OK for rental cars because no dirt roads, for example: Square Rock (moderate up, lots of shade, great views at the end) or Nursery Creek Swamp (more up, longer walk, less shade, no great views, but more representative of the ‘high country’). Yankee Hat is a little bit rougher, but there you can see rock paintings. There is a visitors’ centre a bit past Tharwa which has displays, maps and other information.


Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is a 54.5 square kilometres protected area, on the fringe of Namadgi National Park, that is a short drive from the city of Canberra (2 hours). It is a beautiful place with lots of indigenous animals, there is for example a koala sanctuary and if you’re very lucky you might catch a glimpse of a platypus! Tidbinbilla is more planned out and easily accessible, there are comfortable trails and a picnic area with BBQs and bathrooms (and lots of kangaroos begging for food who you should not feed).

Morton National Park

A very large area, with many possibilities, of which the best for a first visit would probably be Fitzgerald Falls, with two long walks along the escarpment; the far superior one goes to the right as you face the gorge (after taking a circuitous boardwalk from the Visitor’s Centre, which has lots of displays and information about the area).  Unfortunately, there is a fee for parking.  There are other walks and waterfalls, and are wineries in the general area and on the way (including two, I think, just north of Lake George near Canberra).


Canberra is the best city in Australia for biking. There are plenty of bike lanes and paths, and from campus you can easily loop around a lovely trail all around Lake Burley Griffin (or part). It is illegal to bike without a helmet or proper lights when dark. ANU offers bikes to visitors for free, but they have now all been booked-out for the conference duration.

For bike maps and more trails around Canberra, visit this page:

Musical performances

Smith’s Alternative

This venue is at the heart of the Canberra music scene, and there are regularly concerts and jam sessions on. For a closer look at the week of ALT, see their calendar:

The Phoenix

This pub is the rowdy heard of Canberra, with rock and punk gigs but also trivia quiz nights, and much more.

The Front

This cute little bohemian cafe is very popular with locals and features all kinds of music gigs, as well as stand-up, local art and more

Other entertainment

Palace Electric Cinema

Very close to ANU campus is the cosy cinema Palace Electric which shows indie and foreign movies more often than commercial


Canberra Theatre Centre

The Canberra Theatre Centre is showing Mamma Mia, among other things


National Museum

The National Museum has excellent permanent displays about Australian history, and about Indigenous Australian and Pacific societies and cultures. We recommend the Songlines: tracking the Seven Sisters exhibition at the National Museum:

National Portrait Gallery

One of the special attractions of Canberra is the National Portrait Gallery, it might not sound so exciting but it is definitely worth a visit!

Local wineries

List of breweries and wineries

The official tourist website for Canberra does a great job of listing local brewpubs and vineyards, so we will send you there rather than repeat what they list:


Canberra Winery Tours

You can even go on a special wine tour in the region.

More restaurants

We have created a map for you with many more restaurants locations than we are taking you to or have listed earlier or check out this compiled list

For questions relating to social events, please email:

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University