Canberra would have to be our favourite Australian city. We lived nearby for nearly 20 years, so know there is always something to do in Canberra. It has so much to offer, with a thriving cultural scene, museums and art galleries to explore. We enjoyed many great culinary experiences and explored the park lands and national parks surrounding Canberra.
However there are also a number of great day trips from Canberra that you can take to escape the bustle of the city. Either escape to the coast, explore the nearby national parks, or head out into the surrounding rural areas. Whether you are looking for a fun day out, or a weekend getaway, here are some of our favourite weekend trips from Canberra.
Explore the cool climate wineries
Canberra is surrounded by a number of award winning cool climate wineries, with more than 30 vineyards located within a half hour’s drive of the city.
Take a day’s wine tasting tour around nearby Murrumbateman or Lake George, sampling the local produce. Many of the wineries are family owned, giving you the opportunity to meeting the winemakers, who will often be only too pleased to give you a tour.
A number of the boutique cellar doors also provide restaurants where you can enjoy a gourmet lunch paired with your favourite wine. Look out for concerts, festivals and other events which are held at the wineries each year for a really special day out.
Taking a guided wine tour from Canberra is a great way to sample the produce without having to drive.
Use our route planner to plan your getaway
Spend a day in Yass
Want to explore a little of the local history? The 1837 pastoral town of Yass is just half an hour’s drive down the Barton Highway from Canberra. Did you know that 1908, Yass was considered as the site for the Australian Capital Territory.
As well as being the centre of a thriving merino wool industry, Yass was a major trucking stop on the Sydney to Melbourne highway. Like many smaller towns it was bypassed during the 1990’s. Since then it has developed into a popular day trip destination, with cafes, art galleries and colonial buildings to explore.
Many of the town’s original colonial buildings, with their wide verandahs and wooden posts can still be seen along the main street today. The magnificent court house was built in 1880 and seems quite a large building for such a small rural town.
Enjoy a picnic in Riverbank Park, taking in the contemporary aboriginal murals and the arches from the town’s original bridge. Meander along the riverside walkway, where you will see ducks and other birdlife floating along the river.
The historic St Augustine’s Catholic Chapel in Meehan Street was built in 1844, at a time when Melbourne was part of the Yass Parish. Incredibly, the parish priest used to make the journey on horseback. The bluestone Mercy Convent adjacent was built in 1875 and now forms part of the Catholic college.
Cooma Cottage Yass
Just outside Yass you will find Cooma Cottage, home of the first Australian born explorer, Hamilton Hume. The original parts of the cottage date back to 1840. Tours of the National Trust listed property are available from Friday to Sunday, though it is worth checking opening hours. Watch out for special events, including concerts, ghost tours and historic re-enactments.
Camp for a weekend in Wee Jasper
A further hour’s drive from Yass brings you to the tiny town of Wee Jasper , which is an ideal weekend getaway from Canberra. Our family spent many memorable weekends camped by the rushing waters of Micalong Creek.
Along the drive from Yass you’ll notice the volcanic rock formations as you wind your way through what was once prime merino sheep pastures.
The Wee Jasper reserve is a tranquil bush setting at the foot of the Brindabella ranges on the backwaters of Burrinjuck Dam. There are a number of primitive campsites along the Goodradigbee River and Micalong Creek. It’s the perfect place to just relax and enjoy the serenity, cool off in the water, dangle a line or simply do nothing.
The area is teeming with birds and wildlife, which you are bound to encounter on your walks along the river. At the end of Micalong Creek you will find a refreshing swimming hole, replenished with a cascading waterfall.
Hiking and caving at Wee Jasper
If you are looking for a little more activity, hike along the section of the Hume and Hovell walking trail from Fitzpatrick Trackhead, or take the 15 kilometre return walk to Mt Wee Jasper.
While in the area,take a guided tour of Carey’s Caves. There are seven limestone chambers with unique crystal formations and subterranean pools. Experienced cavers can explore they myriad of limestone caves throughout the reserves. Geologists will enjoy a tour of the 400 million old fossils in the surrounding region.
One of the main attractions of Wee Jasper is it’s remoteness, however that does come at a price.
Whether you are visiting for the day, or planning a weekend camping you will need to pack everything you will need as there is no store in Wee Jasper. Ensure you have an adequate supply of drinking water, and fill your vehicle with fuel before leaving Yass.
There are no powered sites in the reserve, so you will need to ensure you have gas or battery operated lanterns if you are planning to camp overnight. The campsites are very basic, with no hot showers. However don’t let that put you off an idyllic weekend getting close to nature.
Make sure you have drinking water, plenty of fuel and food before heading to Wee Jasper.
Explore Historic Berrima
Under two hours from Canberra is the historic 1830’s town of Berrima. Many of the colonial sandstone buildings are well preserved, including the old courthouse and gaol. Take a tour of the gaol and courthouse. Browse through many of the arts, crafts and antique stores. Maybe even pop in for refreshments or a meal at the Surveyor General Inn, Australia’s oldest continually licensed pub.
Merino history at Goulburn
If you are interested in learning a little more about the Merino wool industry, you can take a short detour at Goulburn to visit the Big Merino. The 15 metre high concrete ram, known as “Rambo” to the locals was built in 1985 as a monument to the region’s wool industry. “Rambo” soon became a major tourist attraction for the town.
However In 2007, the affects of the bypass began to hit. Rambo was moved adjacent to the highway service centre, just off the Hume Highway. The complex has a museum showcasing 200 years of the local wool industry and a gift shop. Visitors can climb to the top and look out across the surrounding area through the rams eyes.
Canberra National Parks
Over half of the ACT has been designated as National Park, where outdoor lovers can enjoy gentle strolls or longer hikes through the native bushland. You’re bound to meet some local wildlife while taking in the views over the Brindabella Ranges.
Just a 45 minute drive out of Canberra, explore the local wildlife at Tidbinbilla nature reserve. With great picnic areas and an adventure playground for the kids, you’ll also find 22 bush walking trails to choose from. Stroll through the bush on a 15 minute walk, or enjoy a full day hike on marked trails, where you will find kangaroos, koalas, birds and reptiles in their natural environment.
Head for the Australian alps, just 40 kilometres south of Canberra and discover the region’s Aboriginal heritage at Namadgi National Park. The area provides campsites and picnic areas where you can enjoy the abundant birdlife as you take a guided ranger walk into the rugged Bimberi wilderness. The Bendora Arbetoretum is the last high altitude forest in the region, where you will find some of the oldest conifers in the world. 160 kilometres of marked walking trails, remote wilderness, wildlife and
Bushrangers at Braidwood
An hour’s drive south of Canberra brings you to the heritage town of Braidwood. If you are heading to the south coast, Braidwood is always an ideal stopping point on the journey.
Stroll among the graceful Georgian buildings which preserve the town’s colonial and bush ranger heritage. Browse through the antique shops and the many arts and crafts outlets. On the last weekend in November, the town hosts the annual “airing of the quilts” exhibition, with quiltmakers from near and far displaying their works from the balconies along the main street.
As the setting for a 1969 Ned Kelly movie, the local pub still displays bushranger artefacts in a nod to the town’s bush ranger heritage. Don’t forget to stop into the bakery while you are there for an award winning pie.
Head to the South Coast
A little over two hours through Bungendore and Braidwood will bring you to Batemans Bay and the beginning of the Eurobodalla Coast. Enjoy the unspoilt sandy beaches, or cruise along the Clyde River towards the village of Nelligen.
Enjoy fish and chips from the boat shed on the Clyde River, or stroll along the many restaurants and cafes on the riverside promenade.
Around Corrigans Beach you can hire a jet ski, or enjoy paddling your Kayak, while further south you will be spoilt for choice in great surf beaches.
An hour further south will bring you to the seaside town of Narooma. From July to November you can enjoy whale watching from the shore as humpbacks and southern rights make their annual migration. Take a charter out to Montague Island for a unique wildlife experience. Snorkel with the seals, see the whales up close and watch the colony of little penguins return from a day’s fishing.
Whether you are looking for a day out, or a weekend escape there are many great trips within easy proximity of Canberra.