Want to explore the capital of Australia? If so, there’s no better way than by taking a tour. Whether you’re a resident, an interstate visitor or overseas visitor, a well-run tour by a knowledgeable guide will make sure you hit the highlights. Tour guides can also introduce you to things you might never discover on your own.
Canberra offers a wide range of tours, including individual tours, group tours and specialised tours. Visit iconic national institutions, for example. You can also explore the bush capital, take a walking tour, visit Canberra’s many cultural institutions or indulge in the capital’s food and drink scene.
In this article, we’ll outline the qualities to consider when choosing a tour, and share where to find the best in Canberra.
What makes a great tour?
A great tour guide will take the stress away by organising all the details. All you do is show up and enjoy.
It can be helpful to keep the following in mind when choosing a tour.
- Variety. Most tour operators offer a range of tours for many types of interests. Check online to learn about general and specialised tours you might like. You can also ask about personalised tours.
- Size. You won’t want to get stuck on a tour with so many visitors you can’t hear your tour guide or see what you want to see. Ask about the maximum number of visitors on the tour before booking.
- Professional. Great tour guides are friendly, professional and experienced. The quality of your guide can make or break your tour experience so check qualifications and experience online. You can also check online reviews.
- Organised. Tour operators who take care of all the details are worth their weight in gold. You’ll want matters to be straightforward and simple.
- Personality. The best tour operators are passionate about what they do and make tours entertaining and informative. They’re also knowledgeable about sites on your tour, adding to your experience.
The best tours in Canberra
RiotACT’s editorial team has combed through 20 years of on-site comments to compile a list of the most recommended businesses according to you.
To be listed in our Best of Canberra series, each business needs to have consistently received positive feedback on RiotACT and Facebook as well as maintaining a minimum average of 4/5 stars on Google.
Canberra Secrets Personalised Tours is a boutique tour business. It’s owned and operated by best-selling author Marg Wade. Marg provides a unique, high-quality, tailored tour experience of Canberra and surrounding region. Her tours expose the gems and secrets within the capital’s national icons and its lesser-known or hidden attractions.
Tours tap into the Canberra region’s very latest happenings and are a fabulous way to explore the capital’s cultural heart, heritage, natural wonders, and food and wine.
Marg is exceptionally knowledgeable about all things Canberra, having researched and written “Canberra Secrets”, now in its third edition. Marg has sold more than 11,000 copies of the book which promotes quirky and fun “behind-the-scenes” secrets of the nation’s capital.
Canberra Secrets Personalised Tours was a natural progression from Marg’s book. Tours started at the beginning of 2017, for residents and visitors and with something for everyone. The “Canberra Secrets Highlights” and “Taste of Real Australia” tours are popular.
Marg also tailors tours to specialised interests, such as architecture, Indigenous heritage, Australian politics, art, nature, festivals, events as well as, food and wine. Heritage Secrets tours are popular. So too are Orientation tours, loved by those moving to Canberra.
Tours vary in length and Marg takes care of all details.
On Google, Frank Douglas wrote, “Great professional tour guide for Canberra! I had a limited amount of time and three places I wanted to visit—Parliament, National War Memorial and National Art Gallery. Marg masterfully organized our plan so we could arrive at each site at the optimal time.”
Safe and stress-free, Mulga Bicycle Tours offers fully supported cycling tours. This includes inspired and invigorating tours of Canberra’s history, culture and natural beauty. Jump in the saddle for a private guided bike tour, Capital Highlights Tour, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve Tour, Capital Twilight Tour or tailored tours for up to 10. All cycling abilities welcome.
As Dee Cross wrote on Google, “I enjoyed the Mulga Floriade, Canberra and Nearby NSW Tour immensely. Highlights were many …”
If it’s the weird and the spooky you’re after, Tim the Yowie Man has you covered. Tim has carved a curious career for himself as a mystery investigator and crypto-naturalist and has dedicated the past fifteen years to travelling the length and breadth of Australia in search of haunted and unexplained happenings. With a wide range of Canberra-based tours, from the Old ANU by Torchlight tour or the Top Secret Tour of Old Parliament House, among many others all filled with spooky ghost tours and hidden histories, Tim the Yowie Man is here to show you a darker side of Canberra.
Facebook user Debbie Crane writes, “Every tour we have been on with Tim have been fun, engaging, interesting, educational, scary... absolutely enjoyable. Tim is awesome.”
Eat Canberra Food Tours will take you on a foodie adventure and show you hot spots and hidden gems around town. These walking food tours include all food and drink at each venue that you visit and can be organised for all occasions including hens’ nights, Christmas and birthday parties, corporate events and more.
As Nella Powell writes in this Facebook review, “A really great afternoon chatting, sampling, tasting, learning, walking, laughing. So much information shared about food, sites and other restaurants of interest. (…) Locals and visitors will enjoy this foodie treat. Do it!”
Whether you’re a beginner or a golfing pro, or you’re stumped for a gift idea for the golfing nut in your life, Classic Capital Golf Tours has you covered. This chauffeur driven day of championship golf, gourmet food and wine – all within 30 minutes of the CBD – takes away the worry of trying to organise a golfing day yourself and shows you how great Canberra golf courses can be.
David Cohen recently went on one of these tours, and left the following Google review, “I highly recommend Warren, at Classic Capital Golf Tours. (…) Warren was great at providing a multi-faceted experience, involving golf, meals, transport and training. (…) Thanks Warren, I really enjoyed the latest tour that you put together for me! DC.”
Free tours of Old Parliament House introduce visitors to the building and its fascinating occupants from its opening in 1927 to the present day. This national heritage-listed building has a rich history. Knowledgeable and entertaining tour guides meet visitors in King's Hall and take them to the Models Room to show the changes that have occurred over the decades. Tour guides also share intriguing stories of the many famous people who have walked the halls of Old Parliament House.
If you’re looking for information on tours around Canberra and where to eat and drink in Canberra, you might like our articles on the best wine tours, best day trips, best fine dining, and the best gift experiences Canberra has to offer.
Your experience with tours in Canberra
Thanks to our commenters who have provided insightful feedback. If you believe we have got it wrong, please let us know.
Have you had experience with any of the tours listed above? If so, share your feedback in the comments below.
Frequently Asked Questions
What should I look for when choosing a tour?
You’ll want a tour operator who provides quality, friendly and professional service. Choose one who handles all the details so you can just kick back and relax. Don’t forget to check online reviews.
What types of services can I expect from a tour?
Many types of tours are available. Some are general and some customised. Some tours deliver an end-to-end experience. This includes itinerary planning. It also includes effective communication before, during and after the tour. Many tour operators offer pick up and return, as well as all travel and guiding services.
How much do tours cost?
Some tours are free and others charge. Paying that bit extra might give you the best experience possible, while free tours may give you just the basics. The cost varies on many factors such as type of tour, location and length. Other factors influencing cost include the number of people on the tour and extras included (like meals). It’s best to check online for details or call the tour operator to talk about costs.
What’s the ideal size of a tour?
It’s important to think about the number of people on your tour. Smaller tours are great because you can always hear your tour guide and can enjoy a more personalised experience. With smaller groups, everyone gets a chance to ask questions too.
How long are tours?
The length of a tour depends on factors like the type of tour and location. Some are short and sharp while others much longer. Some last an hour and others are half day or even all day.