Planning a trip to Canberra, Australia’s “Bush Capital” and don’t know what to pack? What to wear in Canberra will depend very much on what time of year you are planning on visiting.
Casual clothes are fine if you are planning to explore the museums, art galleries and parklands. However you will need dressier clothes if you are planning on visiting some of the great restaurants or visit the theatre.
Canberra is an inland city, so experiences extreme variations in temperatures.
The summer average is 27C (80F), however can soar to the high 30’s (83F) particularly from December to March. It is a very dry heat, so you will want light clothing.
During winter, particularly from April until September Canberra is freezing. The average temperatures are 1-12C (33-53F) and it can snow. Not in a fun, build a snowman sort of way. Just in a sleeting, icy cold sort of way. So you will need to be prepared with lots of layers.
As an indication of seasons, we used to light the heater on April 25 and put it out the first weekend in October.
What to wear in Canberra
What you wear in Canberra will depend largely upon what you plan to do. Casual clothes will be fine if you are just planning sightseeing dinner at a pub. However if you are planning to visit smart restaurants or visit the theatre, you will want dressier attire.
Be aware that many clubs, pubs and restaurants will have strict dress codes. For ladies you will want a casual dress, or skirt and top with a pair of smart heels or sandals. For men you will need long pants or jeans, a button up shirt and closed shoes or sandals. Definitely no thongs or singlet tops.
If you are planning to head out to hike in the national parks, you will need longer pants and shirts, as well as sturdy hiking shoes.
Multi functional wardrobe
We pack a multi-functional, interchangeable wardrobe. Items that can take you from a day’s sightseeing to dinner at the pub. I love the “capsule wardrobe” concept. Basically it comprises of a few pieces that you absolutely LOVE and will mix and match together for a number of different outfits.
Summer packing for Canberra
Bear in mind that during summer, you will need to change your tops every day due to the heat. So you will either need to pack one shirt for each day, or tops that can be washed and dried quickly. Shorts, skirts and dresses will be much cooler than jeans in summer.
During summer ladies will want a couple of light tops and blouses in breathable fabrics, teamed with skirts, shorts or lightweight trousers. I always take a couple of light dresses to Canberra in summer, as they are cooler. These can be accessorised for dinner at a smart restaurant. You will also want a light cardigan in case you do have a cooler evening, particularly in spring and autumn.
I usually start with a pair of black pants and a skirt that can be worn day or night. I team these with two casual tops, two shirts and a couple of dressier tops for evening. This gives you 12 outfits that can easily be dressed up or down with scarves, necklaces and accessories.
In summer I always also take a light dress to Canberra , as they are cooler. You will also want a cardigan just in case of a rare cooler evening.
Some comfortable walking shoes are a must for exploring the city. Sandals are much cooler on hot days and you may want a pair of dressy heels for dinner in the evening. Thongs (flip flops to the rest of the world) are fine if you are picnicking and swimming by the lake, but many clubs and restaurants won’t let you in wearing them.
However, if you are planning on doing any bushwalking, enclosed shoes – joggers or hiking boots – are a must. You certainly don’t want to stumble upon a snake or spider wearing sandals.
For Ian I will pack two pair of shorts and two pair of long pants. Match these with three T shirts or polo shirts and two button up shirts, with a dressy shirt in case we go to a fancy restaurant. Once again, 12 outfits which can take you from sightseeing to dinner at the pub. You will want jeans or longer shorts if you are planning on bushwalking
A windcheater or light jacket will ward off the chilly breeze around the lakeside.
You will also need comfortable walking shoes and a pair of smart dress shoes. You may find sandals cooler in the summer months.
Make sure you also pack a sunhat for strolling around the lake.
Packing for winter in Canberra
If you are visiting Canberra during winter, layers will be the key. You will want warmer clothes that you can layer and put on or take off as the weather changes. All buildings will be centrally heated, so you will want to take your jumper off inside. Unlike summer, you will be able to get a couple of days out of one shirt.
Ladies, put the skirts and dresses back in the wardrobe. You will not be wearing them in the Canberra winter. Long pants or jeans and layers will keep you warm in Canberra in winter. We lived in Canberra for 18 years and I only ever wore pants in winter. Even when visiting the theatre or restaurant, you will be more comfortable in pants, a warm shirt and jacket.
Start by investing in a couple of thermals. These will make the difference between being miserable and enjoying the brisk winter air.
Layer these with three long sleeve shirts or long sleeve T shirts, underneath a lightweight jumper. Two jumpers should be plenty for one week. Canberra can be damp in winter, so you may need to change your jumper.
Team these with a couple of pairs of jeans and smart pants, with two dressy tops for evenings for the ladies. Men will want a couple of dressier shirts to be worn with smart pants or jeans for dinner in the evenings.
You will also need a warm coat and rainproof jacket that can live at the bottom of your daypack in case of showers. One of my favourite pieces is this taupe jacket, which can be worn with everything in my wardrobe. I can throw it over a long sleeved T-shirt and jeans and it will also take me to dinner.
Pack comfortable walking shoes, and some dressier shoes or boots to take you to dinner. Once again, put the strappy sandals back in the wardrobe. Replace them with a few pair of thick socks, a warm hat, gloves and a scarf.
Unlike Sydney or Melbourne, you will have two totally different wardrobes for Canberra in winter and summer. It is still possible to pack fairly lightly by choosing a wardrobe of co-ordinating pieces that can be worn together and layered.
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