Your go-to guide to Canberra’s best places to eat, sleep and top things to do with kids.
Where to eat in Canberra with kids
Wildflour Bakery is an optimal place for breakfast. As well as being a place where a beguiling cast of locals come together, the artisan bakery and café has an undercover courtyard overlooking play equipment, which will keep the kids happy until their mini French toast and chocolate croissants arrive. Take your pick between options such as smashed avo and shakshuka before getting properly caffeinated with a cup of ONA coffee. Pick up paninis to go.
Address: 8 Townsville Cresent, Fyshwick ACT 2609
Bring your Instagram-obsessed teens to East Row so they can refresh their social feed with images of doughnut French toast with peanut butter snow or the not-so-humble lamb burger built around a charcoal bun. The contemporary café, which also serves ONA coffee, is housed in the revitalised Sydney Building and is full of hip locals who arrange themselves artistically on the apple-green banquettes.
Address: Cnr London Circuit & East Row, Sydney Building, Canberra, ACT 2601
Clink glasses and toast to your success in finding a licensed café attached to a winery that comes equipped with a fully fenced sensory playground. The menu at the Farm Shop Café will placate parents who want their children to eat well with its focus on seasonal, ethically sourced, sustainable produce. Rub shoulders with rugged rugged-up locals over a croque madame while the kids tuck into a Pialligo Mini Me Grazing Board.
Address: 12 Beltana Road, Pialligo, ACT, 2609
You will get dinner and a show at the CBD Dumpling House as the chefs prepare thousands of dumplings a day in full view of their customers and passers-by. This noted dumpling den – the go-to choice for everyone from fat-cat politicians to students – is a decidedly fun place to enjoy xiao long bao (Shanghai soup dumplings) until you pop. Kids love the ice-cream with waffles, which arrive with a snowfall of sprinkles.
Address: Shop FG13C, 148 Bunda St, Canberra ACT 2601
In suitable weather, the laneway tables within the iconic Sydney Building maximise Canberra’s chilled hipster vibe. But, like most places in Canberra, Verity Lane Market is not too cool for school and you’ll get a warm welcome when it’s cold outside. The upmarket street-food market has a convenient CBD location where families can choose between vendors such as Pizza Artigiana, Ramen Daddy and Enoki Project.
Address: 50 Northbourne Ave, Canberra ACT 2601
The original red caravan where Brodburger began life is now housed in the family-friendly courtyard at Capital Brewing Co. and its disciples look like they eat here more than in their own homes. And why not? The flame-grilled burgers are some of the best in all the land: grown-ups should get the bigger-than-ya-head Deluxe stuffed with eggs, bacon, lettuce and onion while kids can order the same in a ‘Baby Size’ version.
Address: Building 3/1 Dairy Rd, Fyshwick ACT 2609
The home of the world-famous FreakShake is now known for so much more. The menu at Patissez pushes the same kind of pimped-up food that put the bakehouse on the map in the first place. Head to the café, tucked away in a suburban shopping strip, for loaded Tijuana tacos, Patissez fried chicken and Hangry Burgers aimed at children who are still growing and feeling hungry + angry.
Address: 21 Bougainville St, Griffith ACT 2603
Sit outside at the Southern Cross Yacht Club in Yarralumla and enjoy the crisp Canberra air while the kids kick a ball around. As the name suggests, the eatery is right on the lake overlooking Black Mountain, skewered as it is by the iconic Telstra Tower. Order the Whipper Snapper fish and chips from the kids’ menu and crumbed snapper fillet and chips, which arrive wrapped in a custom newspaper printed with dad jokes.
Address: Mariner Pl, Yarralumla ACT 2600
Teach your children to appreciate good food and retro-chic decor at Lazy Su in Lonsdale Street where these two components collide to great effect. Watch the chefs cook up a storm with dishes everyone seems to order such as Korean buffalo wings, charred broccolini and beef short-rib bibimbap. Families should arrive early for dinner at the Japanese-Korean-Americana eatery, as the place turns up the volume as the night progresses.
Address: 1/9 Lonsdale St, Braddon ACT 2612
This is one of the city’s best refuges for families and, as its names suggests, is designed for experimentation. Keep it simple at the innovative ice creamery with flavours such as vanilla bean and salted caramel, or challenge little palates by proffering out-there pairings that range from feijoa Pavlova to Vegemite on toast. Visitors can also celebrate the season with refreshing scoops of sorbet made from pear or white peach.
Address: Unit 57/28-30 Lonsdale St, Braddon ACT 2612
Where to stay in Canberra with kids
Located in the neighbourhood of Braddon, with its abundant cafes, restaurants and shopping, Avenue Hotel offers one- and two-bedroom apartments with full kitchens and washer/dryers, as well as the prerequisite entertainment inclusions of movies on-demand, Foxtel and free wi-fi. Downstairs there’s Marble & Grain steakhouse with a kids’ menu that includes cheeseburgers, fish and chips and chicken schnitzel, and a sunny courtyard area to relax in.
Proving family-friendly can be stylish, East Hotel in Kingston is a boutique hotel that has a buzzy vibe that embraces all ages. Book one of the Kids Cubby adjoining rooms (they are much sought-after so get in early), with their bunk beds, X-box, beanbags and snacks. There is plenty of room to relax in the lobby downstairs with magazines to browse, bikes to borrow, free lollies and metre-long pizzas served at Agostinis.
Abode Hotel’s properties offer families plenty of opportunity to suit themselves, with one- and two-bedroom apartments complete with kitchens and lots of room to relax (some are also pet-friendly). The star of the show is the Abode Pantry, which is stocked with a variety of food and beverage items and other travel essentials for guests to purchase – find it next to reception. Alternatively, Abode Pantry Online is also available to guests, enabling them to order food and beverage items from their room, to be delivered straight to their door. Borrow bikes from reception to venture out into the neighbourhood.
Luxe lovers will adore this sleek designer hotel in Barton, which provides family suites and two-bedroom residences with spacious living areas, big bathrooms and all the mod cons. You also get access to shared facilities at the neighbouring Burbury Hotel, including fun Lilotang restaurant with its manga wall mural.
Located in the buzzing Kingston neighbourhood, expect unfussy interiors with full kitchens and naturally lit, oversized living areas in the one- to four-bedroom apartments (which are serviced daily), as well as an outdoor pool, gym and barbecue facilities.
Make the most of the inner-city location, close to the shopping of the Canberra Centre and the lovely, leafy Glebe Park, venturing out from studio, one- or two-bedroom apartments. Rooms have kitchens, a dining area and separate bedrooms, the master with an en suite.
So close to Canberra Airport that you feel like you could reach out and touch it, the soaring atrium, bold style, generous family rooms and apartments with full kitchens, and its close proximity to the interesting suburbs of Pialligo and Fyshwick, make this a great choice.
What to do in Canberra with kids
Festivals & Events
Until 8 August
A spectacular exhibition curated and first staged by Bendigo Art Gallery and now on a national tour, this is Australia’s first major survey of contemporary Indigenous textiles and fashion, featuring the works of Indigenous artists and designers from across the country from city to desert. Kids will love the creative, vibrant and colourful designs and staging of the show.
Until 1 August
Spot familiar faces at the National Portrait Gallery’s Australian Love Stories: Family, friends, fanatics and foes (and everything in between!) such as Kath and Kim and Nick and Susie Cave, depicted in artworks using mediums ranging from photography to painting all the way to an immersive glass installation. As part of this, children will love the invitation to make their own tokens of affection by creating pebble portraits of someone or something they love. From parents to pets to places. Bring along your creation to add to the gallery’s special rock garden.
Until 1 August
As artist Patricia Piccinini’s airborne Skywhales embark on a tour around the country, visitors to Canberra can head to the Tim Fairfax Learning Gallery for an exhibition that shows the making of the Skywhale family through absorbing studio drawings and 3D models.
11 September – 10 October
Celebrate spring in Canberra with Australia’s much-loved flower festival – a colourful spectacle that brings the city to life with entertainment, art and more than 1 million blooms in Commonwealth Park, and from the city centre to the suburbs. Expect activities for children of all ages including workshops and, perhaps best of all, a gnome hunt.
Dates for the diary
- 18–19 June The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show, Canberra Theatre
- 8–11 July Fantastic Mr Fox, The Playhouse
- 18–22 August Canberra Writers Festival, various venues
- 3–4 September Pete The Sheep, The Playhouse
Day trips from Canberra
This inland city presents more like a big country town, with a wide main street where locals greet each other by name and stop for a chat. Stretch your legs after an hour or so in the car with a stroll (or a run for the little one) amongst the roses and manicured lawns of Belmore Park before heading off to explore the grand historic buildings and discover vibrant modern street art. The main thoroughfare of Auburn Street is known as the Golden Mile for its length and the excellent shopping it offers visitors.
The NSW town of Yass was once a hub of all things sheep related, and its prosperous past is evident in the grand buildings that flank its main street. Stroll along it before making a beeline for local collective Trader & Co. for lunch. The coffee here comes courtesy of roastery Six8 Coffee Roasters and there’s a kids’ menu. Next, visit Banjo Paterson Park and Cooma Cottage, the former home of explorer Hamilton Hume.
While it often feels cold enough to snow in Canberra, if you want to clock up some serious snowman-making your best bet is to plan a day on the slopes of the Snowies. It takes about 2.5 hours to get there (Snowy Mountains Shuttles has a daily shuttle bus service), but the look of wonder on the faces of your children as they set about making a snowball – and then throw it straight at you – is well worth the time and the snow burn.
Just over an hour’s drive from Canberra, lovely Braidwood is the kind of town you want to find at the end of a car journey, with laid-back eateries serving up food kids love and shops to browse. Try the family-run Dojo Bread for handmade pies and crusty breads to take back with you or Albion Café, serving brioche French toast and artfully stuffed toasties. A fun activity during winter is truffle hunting at Blue Frog Truffle Farm.
Just under an hour’s drive from the city, Namadgi National Park stretches more than 106,000 hectares, covering nearly 50 per cent of the Australian Capital Territory. Canberra daytrippers will be rewarded with 160 kilometres of walking tracks (including to the Legoland rock formations), loads of wildlife spotting opportunities, unspoilt landscapes and cultural sites of significance to the Ngunnawal people, who can trace their history here back over 21,000 years, and to the history of European settlement in the area.
Jugiong is a quintessential country town, located on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River just a 1.5-hour drive from Canberra. Once in town make a beeline for The Sir George, the historic pub that is now the coolest place in these parts, for a pub lunch of chicken schnitzel and sausages and mash.