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Canberra, our “bush capital” is often overlooked on travel itineraries in favour of Sydney and Melbourne. Yet there is so much to see and do in Canberra. We lived just outside Canberra for nearly 20 years. We still visit regularly to catch up with friends and family. Spring, when the trees are blossoming in a resplendent display of pink and white is one of my favourite times to visit Canberra. The other is in autumn, when the deciduous trees put on their red and gold autumn display. When planning a trip to Canberra you will no doubt ask “What does it cost to visit Canberra?”
Whatever the season, it is possible to visit Canberra on a reasonable budget, with a little “insider knowledge”. Below we share with you some of our typical expenses when we visit Canberra. All prices are in AUD Australian Dollars.
You may find Lonely Planet’s Best Australia Trips available on Amazon useful when planning your Australian trip.
Accommodation in Canberra
When visiting Canberra, we always choose to stay in or around the city centre, where you are within easy walking distance or bus ride from the major attractions . = You can certainly find much cheaper accommodation further out, but we find the convenience is worth the additional cost.
Below we have outlined the cost of some of the places we stay when we visit Canberra These are not paid endorsements, but provided to give you an indication of cost when planning your Canberra budget.
- Mercure Canberra $127 per night two people
- Crowne Plaza Hotel $177 per night for two people
- Novotel Canberra $152 per night for two people
There is also a large range of motel and Bed and Breakfast accommodation available from around $120 per night for two people. You will also find a large range of self catering holiday accommodation, or caravan park cabins available.
Transport in Canberra
Canberra is so much smaller, less crowded and easier to get around than either Sydney or Melbourne. We always drive and find either hotel parking or the paid parking lots around Canberra to be comparatively inexpensive.
- If driving in Canberra, we are currently paying around $1.50 per litre for fuel. It will take around $60 to fill a small four cylinder vehicle.
Bus is the currently the only means of public transport around Canberra. A light rail is currently under construction. Acton buses run a “tourist loop”, which will take you past most of the popular attractions.
- You can repay your public transport fares using the MyWay Card. As an indication, peak hour single trip will cost $3.14.
- If you are planning to venture out of Sydney Discovery Pass provides unlimited travel on regional rail and coach links across NSW, Victoria Queensland and Canberra. Fares start at $232 per person for 14 days.
Food and drink in Canberra
Asking “how much does food cost” is like asking “how long is a piece of string?” It will depend upon your tastes and budgets.
Below I have outlined some of the typical costs of a meal at a bar or cafe in the Canberra central area, as well as indicative prices of a meal at a more upmarket restaurant. I have also included some grocery prices to give you an indication for self-catering.
- Counter meal at a pub or club for two people $60
- Lunch special at a pub for two $30
- Asian meal in Dixon $17 main
- Upmarket meal at a Canberra restaurant
- Entree $20
- Main $35
- Pizza in Manuka $24
- Entree $15 main $22
- Cafe Breakfast for two $25
- Coffee and cake at a cafe $20
- Meat pie from a bakery $5
- Take away coffee $3-$4
- Glass of wine at a restaurant $8
- Bottle of wine at a restaurant $30
- Schooner of beer at a restaurant $8
- Schooner of beer at a pub or club $5
- Glass of wine at a pub or club $5
- Bottle of wine at a pub or club $25
- Bottle of wine from a bottle shop $7 to $15
- Six pack of beer from a bottle shop $15
- Loaf of bread at supermarket $2
- Litre of milk at a supermarket $2
- Kilo of sausages at a supermarket $10
- Kilo of lamb chops at a supermarket $15
Cost of Attractions in Canberra
- Questacon $23 adults $17 children
- National Zoo and aquarium $45
- Telstra tower at Black Mountain $7.50 adults, $3 Children
- Dinosaur Museum $16 adults $8 children
- Cockington Green $19.50
- Walk in Aviary $13 adults $9.50 children
- Australian Institute of Sport tour $19.50 adults $13.50 children
Free attractions in Canberra
Some of the best things to do in Canberra are absolutely free. Entry into the permanent collection of the museums and galleries is free, with an additional charge for special exhibitions.
Enjoy the 40 kilometre walkways around the man-made Lake Burley Griffin, or hire a bike or a paddle boat in summer.
The great free activities in Canberra include:
- National Library
- Australian National Museum
- Canberra Museum
- ANU Art Gallery
- Captain Cook Fountain
- Lake Burley Griffin
- Cotter Reserve
- Mount Ainslie
- Weston Park Reserve
- Federation Square
- Gold Creek Village
- Bus Depot Markets
- Farmers market at exhibition park
- Blundells Cottage
- Parliament House
- Old Parliament House
- Royal Australian Mint
- Australian War Memorial
- Botanical Gardens
- Commonwealth Park.
Getting to Canberra
- Canberra is less than a two hour flight from all eastern cities
- Canberra is a three hour drive from Sydney or eight hours from Melbourne
- There are a number of train and bus services to Canberra from most eastern towns and cities.
Hopefully the above has helped you to plan a budget trip to Canberra