35+ free things to do in Canberra this summer


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Ahhh, summer. The season of cocktail parties, Christmas shopping … and the bare wallet.

Luckily for you, Canberra has plenty of ways to keep you entertained without spending a penny. We did the hard work for you and put together a comprehensive guide to all of the free activities to do this summer, from swimming spots to exhibitions.

1. Understand the year that was

Look back to 2021 and discover the best political cartoons at Behind the Lines at the Museum of Australian Democracy in the Old Parliament House.

This year’s collection is the largest yet, with more cartoons and cartoonists than ever before.


2. Explore one of the many places to swim in Canberra that aren’t pools

You don’t have to head to the coast to enjoy the beach. You will be surprised at how many incredibly beautiful waterholes are just outside the city, perfect for cooling off during the long, hot summer days around Canberra.


3. Learn the history of Canberra as the capital of Australia at the National Capital Exhibition at Regatta Point

This free tour explores exhibits about the people, events, history, and design of Canberra and shows what makes it unique. Discover the people behind the design (including Walter Burley Griffin and his wife Marion), see a new side of Cannberra, and enjoy.


4. Play tourist

Visit one of our national institutions like the Royal Australian Mint, Supreme Court or Australian Parliament building and make it a day.

5. Take a road trip

Do you want to get out of town? Visit one of Canberra’s neighboring cities to enjoy local delicacies and sights. Jugiong, Bungendore, Gundaroo, Braidwood and Gunning are all within a 90 minute drive and make for an easy day trip.

Salon, Braidwood. Photo credit: Simona Photography.

6. Go mountain biking with the family

Canberra is blessed with mountain bike trails right on its doorstep. So why not check out this list of Canberra’s top spots?

7. Explore the Canberra Museum and Gallery

If you thought of going to the Canberra Museum and Gallery this is your token. Her latest exhibition is about the artist Mandy Martin, who came to Queanbeyan from Adelaide in 1978 as an aspiring artist. Find out more about her life and art until January 22nd.


8. Encounter a bettong at Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary

Cute, fluffy and locals at Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary… do we need to say more?


9. Shoot some hoops

Put on your sneakers and shoot a few baskets on various local basketball courts. To find the closest dish in your area, follow the link


10. Discover the special relationship between Canberra and Nara, Japan

Located on Lake Burley Griffin, the Canberra Nara Peace Park is the perfect picnic spot.

11. View the city from the top of Mount Ainslie Lookout.

It offers breathtaking panoramic views and is the perfect way to spend a day with your family.


12. Help your time with the Acton

Acton’s community garden is a place to get your hands dirty and learn about growing food. Contribute to a local community where everyone is welcome and encouraged to come along.


13. See Australia’s leading glass artists in action

Visit the Canberra Glassworks for a hands-on class. If watching is more of your forte, sit back and learn the secrets of flame working, glass blowing, cold working, furnace forming and casting from Australia’s leading glass artists.


14. Take a break from the heat

Visit the Rainforest Gully at the Australian National Botanic Gardens and admire lush plants from the diverse rainforests of Australia’s east coast from Tasmania to Queensland.


Photo credit: Jonora Holmes

15. Climb Mount Stromlo

Looking for adventure? Go mountain biking on the Stromlo mountain or enjoy the flat path at the parking lot, where children can practice their cycling.


16. See what makes the National Gallery of Australia so phenomenal

Project 1: Sarah Lucas is a free must-see exhibit, but there is a lot to discover.


17. Explore the National Arboretum

As an endless natural playground with a physical playground also for the children, what could be nicer to spend a summer day?


Pod playground in the National Arboretum

18. Walk or ride a horse on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin

Set off in the cool of the morning or evening, enjoy the view or even make a pit stop along the way.


19. Discover a new favorite hiking trail

Tired of walking from bridge to bridge? Canberra is full of hidden hiking trails. =


20. Rummage through vintage treasures

If you are looking for popular items in the Canberra antique shops in search of treasure, you must dive into the suburb of Fyshwick and join the Vintage Trail.


21. Come to the Enlighten Festival!

Starting March 4, in the Parliament Triangle, watch the borough transform into a vibrant arts district with free performances and exclusive events.


Enlighten. Photo credit: Martin Ollmann.

22. Move it!

Search the HerCanberra ACTIVE directory for a way to get your body moving.


23. Leave the city behind you

Find a quiet place to get back to nature with these campsites.


24. Learn about honeybees and democracy

Can you believe it HiveMind: Honeybees, Democracy & Me unveils the old and new stories of beekeeping in Australian Parliament buildings and shares what we learned from bees about collective decision-making for democracy.


25. See the sketches by George French Angas

At the National Library of Australia, see nearly 200 works of art, sketches and books by colonial artist George French Angas, as well as items related to his life and the places he has traveled.


26. Think of the sacrifice at the Australian War Memorial.

Each day at 4:55 p.m. AEST, immerse yourself in the powerful and somber Last Post Ceremony honoring one of the 62,000 who gave their lives for service.


Photo credit: Martin Ollmann.

27. Visit one of the hidden gems of the north side

Home to Canberra’s smallest gallery – The Gallery of Small Things in Watson – discover artists from Canberra and beyond.


28. Look beyond the usual pages to unravel Canberra’s secrets.

Some are outdoors while others are hidden …


29. Be amazed when Canberra’s talented filmmakers are in the spotlight

Lighting! Canberra! Action! starts on Friday, March 11th, 2022.


30. Take your doll with you to splash around

Canberra has many dog-friendly swimming spots.


31. Visit an exhibition at the Canberra Museum and Gallery

Celebrate the region’s social history and visual arts with dynamic exhibitions.


32. Use bananas for bonsai

Visit the National Arboretums Bonsai and Penjing Collection. With 120 exhibits in one of Canberra’s most beautiful views, it’s the perfect place for a day of relaxation.


33. Explore the world of space in the National Space Station.

With a variety of interactive activities, every little kid and big kid will be kept entertained.


34. Learn about the personal experiences of secret agents

The Curious History of Espionage and Counter-Espionage in Australia runs until Sunday February 6th at the National Achieves of Australia in Spy: Espionage in Australia.


35. Take a free online course

The Amazing Face course explores the language of portraiture through the National Portrait Galleries’ online hub. Use your new skills to take beautiful portraits on your summer vacation.


36. Discover the stories and feelings behind our veteran’s tattoos, past and present

Visit the Ink Between the Lines exhibition at the War Memorial to learn more about the power of memory.


Credit: Rob Mulally via VisitCanberra


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