Alright, we agree. Canberra isn’t a regional, rural or outback town, but we couldn’t cover the ACT without including the capital in Australia in the mix.
It might be a surprise (especially to those who haven’t dipped a toe into the ACT lately) to know that Canberra was ranked as the third-best city in the world to visit behind Seville and Detroit in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2018 guide. Huh. Who would have thought?
There’s no doubt about it, Canberra is a very pretty city, because every inch of it was planned after it was chosen in 1908 as the country’s capital. Well, somewhere had to be chosen between Sydney and Melbourne, and the sheer amount of space available in a flat area that was practically a desert means that today, whether you’re on a bike, in a car or on foot, it’s a very easy city to get around.
Wondering what to do in Canberra? You’re in luck; there are plenty of galleries and museums to visit – the city is famous for them – but these days Canberra’s hotels, restaurants, bars and wineries are also something to write home about.
If you’re looking for some stylish Canberra accomodation, check out the chic East Hotel, owned by the Bisa family and run by brother-sister duo Dion and Dan. They’re no strangers to hospitality, with their Italian parents being the first operators to open serviced apartments in Canberra. With all the services and facilities you’d normally expect, the hotel is fitted out with apartment rooms that are great for not only families (with a series of ‘kids cubbies’ and studios) but longer-term travellers, too. There’s Italian-style hospitality at Joe’s Bar (named after the patriarch) and awesome dinners to be had at Agostinis, which is not your average hotel restaurant. Its fun, edgy design cues pay tribute to the matriarch of the family, Marisa, whose family owned a restaurant in northern Italy by the same name, before migrating to Australia in the 1930s. Not just for guests, it’s a favourite among locals, with kids drawn to the one-metre-long pizzas made in an oven imported from Verona and grown-ups seduced by the fresh pasta made in-house and the restaurant’s Tuscan specialty, a one-kilogram, classic-aged T-bone.
Breakfast at Muse is a book-lover’s dream, and Kingston Wharf just down the road is packed with waterfront eateries to while away the afternoon. If you’re prone to the sweet stuff, don’t miss the FreakShakes at Pâtissez Manuka – and don’t worry, staff are keen to reassure customers that they are not alone if when they can’t finish their order. Great coffee and specialty blends can be found at The Cupping Room on the corner of University Avenue and London Circuit, and a stroll down Braddon’s Lonsdale Street reveals eclectic shops and hip bars and restaurants. Try eightysix for quality food and Frugii Dessert Laboratory for a sugar hit.
If you’re after something more adventurous than brekkie to start your day, take to the skies in a hot-air balloon for an early morning bird’s-eye view of Canberra’s picturesque parks and buildings of interest with Dawn Drifters. Not only will you see for yourself how spectacular this city and surrounds are from above, you’ll be treated to a post-flight champers at the Hyatt Hotel, where you’ll be presented with a flight certificate.
If you’re a lover of fine wine, extend your stay in Canberra by a day or two and visit the region’s 30 cellar doors within 35 minutes’ drive of the city centre. Meet the passionate vignerons, share some stories with the locals and of course, enjoy the wines made with grapes including riesling, viognier or tempranillo.
If you need to keep the energy up, swing by Robyn Rowe Chocolates in Murrumbateman. All sweet treats here are made from the highest quality Belgian chocolate, making the miniature pieces of art deliciously smooth and glossy. Flavours include ginger, peppermint, caramel, hazelnut praline, French vanilla and espresso.
We’re not forgetting beer lovers! BentSpoke Brewing Co. is the brainchild of Canberrans Richard Watkins (one of Australia’s most respected and awarded brewers) and Tracy Margrain. Its Crankshaft IPA was voted as the most popular beer of its style in the GABS Hottest 100 Aussie Craft Beers poll, and has scooped up medals at the most prestigious beer awards ceremonies in the world.
BentSpoke has almost 20 different varieties of beer and cider all brewed on premises, including hand-pumped ales, barrel-conditioned sours, lagers, seasonal one-off batches and Belgian styles.
Night will inevitably fall and that’s sure to bring the whisky and cocktail fans out to play. Luckily, there’s no shortage of bars and restaurants in Canberra; Hippo Go alone has more than 280 whiskies stashed in the back bar. Tastings are on Thursdays from 6pm til 8pm and Saturdays from 6pm til late, with bookings essential. The Hippo Go’s whisky specialists guide guests through the tastings, offering some interesting information about the production process of each tipple, talking about the flavour profiles and tasting notes, as well as discussing tasting and nosing techniques.
Next time someone tells you that Canberra is boring, tell them to go jump in the lake. Or better still, tell them to go for a spin on a paddleboard around Lake Burley Griffin with Paddle Hub. You’ll get yet another great view of Canberra sure to impress.