Cooling off at Gelatissimo is Zariel Findlay-Steele,19 of Ainslie, Canberra.

Cooling off at Gelatissimo is Zariel Findlay-Steele,19, of Ainslie. Photo: Melissa Adams

The last time Canberra endured five days in a row above 35 degrees, acid-washed jeans were in fashion and Bob Hawke was prime minister.

Forecasters say the territory will reach its longest stretch of hot weather since 1988 on Tuesday, with temperatures set to hit the high thirties for the fifth day running.

And the hot spell is far from over.

Apart from a brief ''cool change'' on Wednesday and Thursday, when the temperature will drop to the high twenties and low thirties, the heat is forecast to continue until the end of the week.

Many Canberrans headed to the coast or stayed indoors with the air-conditioning to escape the heat at the weekend.

But not everyone was so lucky, and Canberrans who had to work through the heatwave said it was a struggle - even those with comparatively cooler jobs.

''It's not actually very cold in here, but if you stand right next to the freezer it's pretty nice,'' said Zariel Findlay, second-in-charge at Gelatissimo Manuka.

''We've had four people working today so it's not been too stressful, but Friday was intense because we only had two of us.''

Central Coast firefighter Tim Farlow spent his weekend working as a fire official at possibly the hottest place in Canberra - the Summernats burnout track at Exhibition Park.

''It's been a struggle at times but Summernats and the crew have been good supplying water to us the whole time to keep us hydrated,'' he said.

''Whenever we've had a chance, we strip down out of our gear and have some respite in the shade with water.''

The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast a top temperature of 36 degrees for Monday.

Friday was 37 degrees, Saturday 40 degrees and Sunday reached 38.

Temperatures are expected to hit 38 degrees again on Tuesday, before dropping to 31 degrees on Wednesday and 29 on Thursday.

''In 2010 there were four days in a row over 35 degrees, 2009 there were four days in a row, but to get more than four days in a row we have to go back to 1988, when we had six in a row,'' meteorologist Deryn Griffiths said.

''The longest record of days in a row above 35 was 1947, when there were nine in a row.

''Let's hope we don't get that.''

Ms Griffiths said inland areas, such as the territory, had missed out on a cool change, which meant the heat was continually building.

''Tuesday's going to be a bad day,'' she said. ''It's going to be windy which is going to make it extra unpleasant and extra dangerous. It's really just the whole inland area has not had a cool change to flush it out,'' she said.

''There's just those couple of days [this week] where it's high twenties to low thirties, and then it's warm again by Friday. It's not all over yet.''

Some of the hottest areas in NSW at the weekend were in the far west and the southern half of the state, including Hay, which set a record at 48 on Saturday, Ivanhoe, which hit 45, and Wilcannia, which hit 47.6 on Sunday.