Looking for a unique way to spend the day in Canberra? We've found the best things to do, from an early-morning hot-air balloon ride to a secret swimming spot and the top mountain biking trails.
Take a sunrise hot-air balloon ride
Getting out of bed before dawn is a tough sell, particularly if you’re on holiday. But rally and you’ll be rewarded by the once-in-a-lifetime dawn hot air balloon experience with Balloon Aloft – take in the incomparable views of the sun rising over Mount Ainslie and see the capital’s top landmarks in a new way, including the huge and looping Uluru line sculpture at the National Museum of Australia. That your ride ends with a champagne celebration at the Hyatt Hotel doesn’t hurt either.
Go mountain biking
Biking is big in Canberra, from a leisurely ride around the lake to the more extreme mountain variety in surrounding ranges. Stromlo Forest Park is one destination, with newly-built trails and black diamond runs, while Majura Pines has more than 20 kilometres of tracks for all levels, as well as dirt jumps for the thrill-seekers. Or you could take on various legs of the extensive, 145-kilometre Centenary Trail (pictured top) that snakes through urban and rural spots.
Paddle on the lake
No other Australian city has a lake quite as alluring as Lake Burley Griffin and if walking along its perimeter doesn’t quite hit the mark, perhaps gliding across the lake itself will. From October to April, groups can rent stand-up paddleboards and kayaks from The Paddle Hub at the local YMCA. Journey out to Spinnaker Island or cruise through Yarralumla Bay on a brilliant sunny day.
Visit sacred sites
Discover the region’s Indigenous history on the self-driving Ngunnawal Country track that starts at Yarramundi, with stops including Tidbinbilla nature reserve and Namadgi National Park, and finishes at the Mount Ainslie Lookout. Along the way, you’ll explore sacred sites, places of archeological significance, a section of a Dreaming Track and maybe even spot koalas, platypus and emus.
Find a secret swimming spot
A beach in Canberra? Yep, it’s a thing. There’s a natural swimming hole, too. And you can walk between the two on an easy seven-kilometre trail that also takes you to a picturesque lookout point over a gorge. Start at Kambah Pool, around 20 minutes drive out of the city (take note: it has a designated nude swimming area that’s well signposted), then walk the marked path to Pine Island, a beach locals flock to when the weather gets hot. Around halfway, look for the side path that leads to Red Rocks Gorge and watch the mighty Murrumbidgee River rippling below.
Ski – indoors
If the weather’s not on your side, where do you take the kids to burn off some energy? VertiKal Indoor Snow Sports in Fyshwick is the place to do it, offering 30-minute skiing and snowboard classes that will help kids (and their grown-ups) learn how to navigate the slopes when the snow season starts again, with an expert instructor on hand to guide all of you through the basics – and catch you if you fall.