Canberra and the beach in 5 days

Canberra and the beach in 5 days

Get a true mix of culture, art, nature and exercise with a couple of days touring the national capital’s best experiences. A foody paradise, Canberra’s award-winning restaurants will take you on a gastronomic adventure.

Stay the night up close and personal with wild animals and explore Canberra’s distinct precincts. Then, head to the south coast – less than two hours’ drive away. Here you can explore a natural wonderland of parks and beaches, while also chatting with the friendly locals. Finish your trip with a whale watching tour in their oceanic playground.

Day 1: Canberra

Image: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory

The best place to kick off your fun in Canberra is Lake Burley Griffin. You can ride, walk or Segway around it, or take a little longer to relax on a floating GoBoat or paddle boat. So many options! Whatever you do, make sure you see it from its many different angles, with several of Australia’s national attractions dotted around. Stop near Regatta Point for a coffee.

As part of your lake’s journey, you’ll come across the National Gallery of Australia and its impressive outdoor Sculpture Garden – showing an extensive display of the Gallery’s collection. The design showcases 26 sculptures made by both international and Australian artists. Look for the fog sculpture by Fujiko Nakaya and the Pukamani burial poles nearby. Antony Gormley’s life-sized maquette for Angel of the North faces the lake.

Time for lunch at Bookplate in the stylish setting of the National Library of Australia. On a warm day, sit out on the balcony to take in the views or stay inside to watch the sun stream through the stained-glass windows. Breakfast is served until late, or you can indulge in a classic fish and chips with a crisp local Eden Road Sauvignon Blanc.

Head back across Commonwealth Avenue bridge to explore another of Canberra’s lakeside cultural attractions, the National Museum of Australia. Here you can get to know the real, treasured and surprising objects from Australian history. 

Drive about 10 minutes to arrive at the deluxe Jamala Wildlife Lodge. You’ll be sharing your overnight lodge with some of the most exquisite and dangerous animals from the National Zoo & Aquarium. Your stay includes an afternoon animal encounter, pre-dinner drinks and a delicious dinner so get there as soon as you can! This is an experience you will never forget.

Book Jamala Wildlife Lodge

Day 2: Canberra

Image: National Arboretum Canberra, Australian Capital Territory

Join a morning safari adventure after a lazy breakfast in your room with your zoo companions close by, then drive a few minutes to the National Arboretum Canberra for the stunning views across the 250 hectare expanse and beyond. Spend some time walking the trails, or take a guided tour. The gift shop and Bonsai garden are also worth a look.

Drive into the buzzing Braddon precinct for lunch. For good times and delicious, seasonal food, try Tipsy Bull (they also have an extraordinary gin collection) or eighttwenty for wholesome, divine dishes and terrific coffee.

Time for some retail therapy. Drive or walk the few minutes to the Canberra Centre in the heart of the CBD – home to speciality retailers including sass & bide and Mecca Maxima. To get the heart racing, try ten-pin bowling, gaming or an escape room at KingPin

When you’re worn out, drive across to NewActon and check in to the luxurious and inviting QT Canberra. Get glammed up and walk across to Parlour Wine Room in Kendell Lane for a lavish cocktail or two in their cosy lounges. 

Drive, walk or Uber the couple of minutes to the city for seriously sleek dining at Raku. Japanese-inspired, the chefs deliver works of art – plates of sashimi, nigiri and maki rolls, as well as flame-grilled flavours. Intimate booths, textured pottery and dim lighting complete the ambience.

With full bellies, it’s time to head back to QT Canberra.

Book a table at Raku

Day 3: Canberra to Eurobodalla Coast

Image: Hot air ballooning, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory

If you’re an early riser, book a magical hot air balloon flight with Balloon Aloft – for breathtaking views of the national capital of Australia. Come back to QT for breakfast in the Capitol Bar & Grill, then walk over to Mocan and Green Grout for a stylish coffee and crossword.

Grab a bicycle from the Share a Bike crew (swipe your credit card and you’re off) to take an easy ride around NewActon. Do as the locals do and complete the 5-kilometre bridge-to-bridge loop around Lake Burley Griffin's central basin.

Return your bike, then pop into Bicicletta within Peppers Gallery Hotel for an Italian feast of home-made pizzas, fresh pasta and antipasti.

Is the beach calling you? Drive from Canberra towards Bungendore. In less than two hours you’ll arrive at the south coast of NSW. Smell that sea air and soak in the sunshine. Turn right at the roundabout towards Batemans Bay and pick up a dozen or two of fresh oysters from the Wray Street Oyster Shed.

Now travel another 10 minutes to the little town of Mogo. Wander the shops, grab an ice cream, and say hi to the locals. Then back in the car and drive towards the coastal town of Narooma. On your way, stop into Bodalla Dairy Shed where you can feed the alpacas and baby calves or devour their premium range of cheeses.

On arrival in Narooma, head for dinner at the Whale Inn with its elevated location and ever-changing menu, always featuring fresh produce from their ‘whale garden’. 

Stay at the modern Southbound Escapes at the Wharf for stunning views over the Wagonga Inlet. 

Book Southbound Escapes

Day 4: Eurobodalla to Sapphire Coast

Image: Montague Island, Eurobodalla, New South Wales

Take an invigorating early morning swim at the beach, then wander into Narooma for breakfast at the gorgeous The View Coffee. This gem is brimming with character and flavour.

Take a tour from Narooma to Montague Island to explore the historic lighthouse, swim or dive with friendly seals. Montague Island is only 9km from Narooma, but only accessible by charter boat. Known as Barunguba to local Aboriginal people, the island is steeped in history, having been home to ceremonies and a source of food over thousands of years. Look out for the largest fur seal colony and the little penguins, though these guys spend most of their year at sea. You may be lucky enough to see humpback whales, as well as dolphins or even a green turtle.  

Once back on the mainland, drive about 20 minutes towards the Tilba Valley for a spot of boutique shopping and then a classic Ploughman’s lunch at Tilba Valley Winery & Ale House – a family-run winery set at the foothills of Mt Gulaga on the shores of Corunna Lake.

Hop back in the car and drive about an hour towards Bega, stopping at Stony Creek Farm distillery where you can sample North of Eden’s heavenly gins, or even join in Gin School to distil ingredients into a bespoke bottle of gin to take home with you.

Pick up some simple dinner supplies in Bega, then head into Mimosa Rocks National Park and stay in the historic Myer House. Its secluded, self-contained location means you can completely relax as you look out over Bithry Inlet.

Book Myer House

Day 5: More Sapphire Coast

Image: Pambula, Sapphire Coast, New South Wales

Awake to the birds and take a walk through the nearby eucalypt plantation. Or drive to the Middle Lagoon Walking track for an easy trek.

Start your journey south via the iconic seaside town of Tathra.  Grab a coffee and walk the 3 kms of stunning beach or stroll up to the headland to admire the wild scenery.  Make sure you take the scenic route south to Merimbula, via the Coastal Wilderness Drive of Touring Route 9. From mid-August through to the end of November large numbers of humpback whales travel past Merimbula. These waters offer one of the few places in the world where humpbacks can be observed lateral lunge feeding. Book a tour with Merimbula Marina Ocean Adventure Tours.

With a camera full of whales and dolphin snaps, head into Pambula for a succulent seafood lunch at Wheelers Seafood Restaurant. You can even sit back in the alfresco oyster bar with a cold beer. 

At the northern end of Ben Boyd National Park, only about 9km south of Pambula, you can take a swim or paddle at Barmouth Beach. Then take a 3km walk up to Haycock Point headland to search for more whales or gaze at the horizon.

Finish your day in the paradise of Eden. Visit the Killer Whale Museum to see the full skeleton of ‘Tom’ the Orca, plus uncover the history of Indigenous shore-based whaling. Explore the working port of Snug Cove, where fishermen unload the day’s catch, with Mount Imlay in the distance.

Book your whale watching tour