Canberra: it's perfect for active families

The adventure playground that is Canberra

The nation's capital has plenty of adventurous activities on offer, no matter your age.

It's the age old holiday conundrum - where do you go that's got something for everyone? Good food and culture for mum and dad, cute animals for the little kids and action and adventure for the older kids.

Surprisingly, the answer may be found in Australia's national capital, which is quickly developing a reputation as an adventure playground for the whole family.

As part of our Eat, Stay, Drive series, we've tracked down the best attractions, food and accommodation Canberra has to offer.

The incredible Pod Playground at the National Arboretum Canberra.
The incredible Pod Playground at the National Arboretum Canberra.  Photo: Graham Tidy

The National Arboretum and Pod Playground

The National Arboretum of Canberra is a botanical garden featuring 94 forests of rare, endangered and symbolic trees from around Australia and the world. 

Located near the city centre, arbortoreum features fantastic views of the city – great for a picnic lunch.  

The gardens are also home to the Pod Playground, an incredible modern playground considered the best in Canberra. Giant acorn cubbies or 'pods' on stilts, connected by net tunnels and ending in slippery slides – with different sizes to suit toddlers to tweens. There's a strong focus on sensory play features such as a musical bridge, giant banksia cones and sand areas.

The National Arboretum Canberra is located six kilometres from the centre of Canberra, at the western end of Lake Burley Griffin. Enter via Forest Drive, off Tuggeranong Parkway, Weston Creek.

National Zoo and Aquarium

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As Australia's only combined zoo and aquarium and just a quick 5 minute drive from the city centre, The National Zoo and Aquarium couldn't be better value for money. Kids under 4 are admitted via gold coin donation, and you can also keep costs down by using one of the onsite BBQs.

Kids will be kept busy spotting lions, tigers and bears – and may even get the chance to play with a cheetah. Our native animals are not forgotten with kangaroos, dingos, Tassie devils and emus on display.

The National Zoo and Aquarium is located at Scrivener Dam, Yarralumla, Canberra, Australia.

A cheetah at play at the National Zoo and Aquarium.
A cheetah at play at the National Zoo and Aquarium. Photo: Colleen Petch

Australian Institute of Sport

The training ground of some of Australia's best performing athletes, the AIS has been instrumental in leading Australia's international sporting success since 1981. Even if you're not the next Ian Thorpoe or Cathy Freeman, the AIS makes a great day out. Take a behind the scenes tour of the facilities and you might catch some of Australia's top athletes in training. Step in to Sportex to give the kids a try of the interactive sports exhibit and finish by picking up a boxing kangaroo in the AIS shop. Aussie Aussie Aussie!

The AIS is located on Leverrier Street, Bruce, Australian Capital Territory

Canberrans line up to order at Brodburger in Kingston.
Canberrans line up to order at Brodburger in Kingston.  Photo: Rohan Thomson

Segway tour

Show teens a different side of Canberra with a fun segway ride around the lake and parliamentary buildings.

Seg Glide Ride provide 15-60 minute tours for tweens and teens aged from 23. Training and equipment is included, so all you need to do is rock up. Canberra's flat landscape and many public paths make it the perfect place to try this unique activity.

East Hotel, Canberra.
East Hotel, Canberra. Photo: Nathan Lanham

Find Sleg Glide Ride at the lake's edge in front of Questacon, near the International Flag, or call 0406 379 518.

Mountain biking at Mount Stromlo

For something a little more strenuous, visit Stromlo Forest Park for bvreathtaking scenery and world-class biking facilities for BMX, mountain and road cyclists. Purpose built and free to the public, Stromlo Forest Park is located on Mount Stromlo, a 10-minute drive from the city centre.

Riders wanting to develop their technical skills will love The Playground - a 2.5km loop which features 12 separate skills learning areas incorporating such features as bridges, see-saws, wall rides and rhythm sections.

Stromlo Forest Park is on Opperman Ave, Stromlo

Where to eat

Brodburger Kingston

Revered as the best burgers in Canberra, Brodburger sell Old Fashioned Burgers With a Modern Twist. All burgers come with a choice of cheese – blue, brie, cheddar and swiss – and tasty homemade relish.

We recommend grabbing some takeway baby cheese burgers and fries for the kids and eating alfresco by Lake Burley Griffin, a short walk away.

Brodburger is located at Canberra Glassworks, 11 Wentworth Ave, Kingston

Where to stay

East Hotel Kinsgton

One of the newest additions to Canberra's accommodation scene, East Hotel has quickly racked up rave reviews, achieving a coveted spot amongst Australia's 25 best hotels by travellers on Trip Advisor.

The 4.5 star apartment hotel has impressed families with its 'kids cubby' accommodation featuring bunk beds, bean bags, game consoles and more.

East hotel is at  69 Canberra Avenue, Canberra