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A family is walking alongside picturesque Lake Burley Griffin

Your guide to an affordable weekend getaway in Canberra

Updated 28 Mar 2024

Best budget break ideas for Canberra

Canberra is the ultimate destination for a great weekend getaway without the hefty price tag. Bursting at the seams with attractions, cuisines, and an immaculate balance between nature and bustling cosmopolitan life, no matter your interests, Canberra has you covered. You won’t need to be cashed up for your visit, but you might just need to budget for more time to explore.

Take in the views

As locals will attest, one of the best parts of Canberra is how closely tied it is to its natural surroundings. A quick drive from your hotel and you can find yourself in what feels like a world away from the city.

The National Arboretum Canberra, just ten minutes’ drive from the city centre, is home to 94 forests of rare and significant trees, and is also renowned for its scenic lookouts and impressive sculptures. There are numerous ways you can explore the Arboretum, from taking a guided Ngala Tour, exploring the breathtaking views, enjoying a cuppa in their award-winning Village Centre, or cruising along the cycling tracks on your own. 

If you’d rather enjoy a close encounter with Aussie animals in the great outdoors, an explorative hike through Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve offers trails great and small, encounters with wildlife in the sanctuary, and playgrounds and picnic spaces for family gatherings of all size. The reserve visitors centre is currently closed, so visitors are advised to plan ahead for their trip, ensuring they’re able to enjoy the whole experience. A close drive nearby, Namadgi National Park is home to an abundance of native wildlife, 160 kilometres worth of hiking trails, and First Nations and European cultural sites. So much free beauty and bounty to explore, right on Canberra’s doorstep.

The dome at the war memorial looking over the outdoor memorial space, with an elderly man giving a tour to two men and two women. | © Rohan Thompson Pew Pew Studios

Explore our national attractions

Dotted around Lake Burley Griffin are a number of iconic national attractions that are essential to include on any weekend getaway to Canberra. You can hire an electric bike or scooter from the Canberra and Region Visitors Centre and explore the whole area, as you take in the stunning lakeside views.

On the shores of Lake Burley, immerse yourself in Australian and internationally renowned artworks at the National Gallery of Australia. If you want to refresh your knowledge on Australia’s most defining moments, head on over to the National Museum of Australia, which is a sight to behold with its exterior alone. Both attractions have free entry to their general galleries, and your visit can be rounded off with a frothy cup of coffee at their on-site cafes or by having a stroll through their beautifully curated gift shops.

You can also visit other major attractions that boast a free entry like the Australian War Memorial, the National Library of Australia, and the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House.

Man charring burgers over flames in the kitchen at Capital Brewing Co Brodburger | © Martin Ollman

Enjoy a feast of flavour

You don’t have to sacrifice flavour in Canberra when there are so many dining options offering phenomenal value for money. Locals and visitors alike flock to the Capital Region Farmers Market on Saturday mornings for a bountiful harvest unlike any other. Filled with passionate stall holders, fresh produce, and hot breakfast options, you’ll find everything from artisanal jams and sauces to fresh cut flowers and pastries. It’s the perfect way to try the best and freshest produce the region has to offer.

No affordable weekend trip to Canberra is complete without popping into the CBD Dumpling House for some steamed pumpkin and prawn dumplings (don't knock it till you've tried it). Located at the heart of Canberra’s city centre, this locally loved eatery is recognizable for its open kitchen, where you can watch the chefs at work. Around the corner, inspired by the hawker centres of Asia, everyone can find something they want at Tiger Lane. Showcasing more than 10 dining outlets spanning cuisines from Japan, South Korea, Southern China, Northern China and Southeast Asia. It’s a menagerie of tastes and neon lights, for a meal that delights more than one of your senses.

Burgers and beer work together in glorious tandem at Capital Brewing Co. The beer is brewed in-house and Capital is the first carbon-neutral brewery in Australia –proud to be B corp certified—which signifies their consistent dedication to giving back to the planet with the products they create. Within the same building, you find Canberra-famous Brodburger. Hailing from humble food-truck beginnings, Brodburger has cemented itself as one of Canberra’s greatest culinary prides, and always dishes up a satisfying feed.

A birds-eye view into the contemporary Vibe Airport Hotel.

Sleep it off

The Village Canberra is a fantastic choice for saving money during a weekend away. Centrally located and easy walking distance from plenty of the city’s most popular cafes and eateries, TVC proves that securing a great location doesn’t need to come with an exorbitant price tag. With room options to suit all budgets, your stay will be comfortable, accommodating, and clean. 

With the convenience of being located on the doorstep of Canberra Airport only 15 minutes from the city, the groovy Vibe Hotel offers guests fantastic deals. All the rooms are decked out in contemporary luxury and include the in-house restaurant Helix to satisfy your tastes and budgets.

If inner-city life in historical buildings is your speed, try a night and a buffet breakfast at Mercure Canberra. Most of Canberra’s national attractions are within a 10-minute drive from the 1929-built hotel, and the CBD is an easy 10-minute walk away, offering a wide range of cafes, bars, restaurants, and shops.

Nestled in a quiet bushland setting less than five minutes from the heart of Canberra city, Alivio Tourist Park is your perfect home away from home when visiting Canberra, with accommodation options to suit every budget. Take advantage of their great on-site restaurant, to enjoy pizza and a lengthy drinks menu, overlooking the inviting pool, water play space and heated spa. Leisure facilities include also tennis, basketball and volleyball courts, barbeques and picnic areas, playgrounds, and a ping pong table, so everyone in the family will have plenty to do.

For more advice on how to enjoy Canberra on a budget, chat to the team at the Canberra and Region Visitors Centre. Overlooking picturesque Lake Burley Griffin at Regatta Point, the friendly team at the centre can help with last-minute accommodation deals, local tips, and providing free Wi-Fi to visitors.

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