In Spring, Australia’s ‘bush capital’ bursts into life with its signature crisp blue-sky backdrop showing off a sprawling expanse of meticulously crafted gardens and parklands, stunning edgy architecture and looping roads and paths hugging a shimmering Lake Burley Griffin.
The centrepiece of all of this during the second half of September and through to 16 October is Floriade – one of the top spring events in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere’s largest flower festival. After it being cancelled in 2021 due to the pandemic, it is back – bigger, brighter and more blooming beautiful than ever for its 35th year. Stay right amongst the action at Best Western’s Signature Collection Garden City Hotel, the perfect base to explore Floriade and all the city has to offer.
A blooming good time for all
This year, Floriade returns to Canberra’s Commonwealth Park from September 17 to October 16. What better way to celebrate the joy of spring than to stroll amongst more than a million blossoms to the sound of music?
The festival theme for 2022 is The Sounds of Spring, with musicians, singers, actors and artists from all walks of life and music styles creating an ever-changing soundtrack for attendees. From jazz, classical and big band tunes, to rock, funk, folk and contemporary mixes, the non-stop entertainment will be happening across three stages surrounded by glorious gardens.
Performers from Aerial Sports entertain onlookers while defying gravity in acrobatic feats – dancing through the air wrapped in aerial silks, balancing on aerial hoops and static trapeze. Meanwhile, Clockwork Circus’ Parade of Bugs will be inspecting the flowers and delighting little ones (and the young at heart) with their aristocratic humour. Keep an eye out for the (rather human-like) Honorable Lady Bug, Lord Monarch of Butterfly and Duke Mantis.
The Jumptown Jammers swing dance troupe performs Charleston and Swing-era dances and feel the energy rise when Long Tall Sal and Big Bad Ted from the Fool Factory Rockabillies be-bop-a-lula to fifties tunes. They stilt dance to rockabilly music, played from their custom-made portable Wurlitzer jukebox.
If you’re in need of a more gentile spot of indulgence, nip on over to the Marion – Canberra’s newest premier lakeside venue – and enjoy a high tea brought to you by the culinary team behind The Tea Room QVB. Enjoy the selection of petits fours, finger sandwiches, sweet and savoury pastries, scones with preserve and clotted cream while taking in the stunning spectacle of Lake Burley Griffin and Floriade from a distance.
Another Floriade activity that might tickle your fancy is the Great Bulb Dig, where, after the fun you can take a piece of Floriade home with you and grow your own tulips.
Should gin be more your thing, join the crowds at the Clink! Gin Garden by Underground Spirits and have a tipple to warm the tastebuds before continuing your no-doubt blooming exploration.
If you’re true gardening fan then you’ll be making a beeline for Costa Georgiadis – the much-loved host of ABC’s Gardening Australia. Listen to Costa share his knowledge of all things nature and gardening and afterwards fit in a lesson of composting and worm farming with the Canberra Environment Centre.
If flowers and frivolity bring out the artist in you, you can join other festival goers and local artists for Pinot and Picasso – to work on creating a masterpiece while sipping on a top drop. Or if photography is more your style you can take part in an inspirational flower photography workshop led by some local award-winning photographers.
Dogs’ Day Out is an annual highlight of the program. Held on the last day of the show (perhaps in case there’s a rogue pooch?), visitors can bring their furry friends along to frolic amongst the flowers.
You can also explore Floriade’s dark side, as NightFest has an exciting program of after-dark entertainment. Running over four nights from September 29 to October 2, light displays will illuminate and transform the gardens between 6.30pm to 10.30pm, while roving entertainment, market stalls, pop-up bars and food trucks showcase Canberra’s local artisanal produce. Grab your best buds, a glass of wine and take a stroll through a wonderland of blooms lit up like jewels in the night.
The creative conception of Canberra
Canberra is wonderfully bike and pedestrian friendly, and that’s largely because before it was created, the city was conceived in blueprints by husband-and-wife team Marion and Walter Burley Griffin from Chicago after they won a global competition to design Australia’s capital.
The pair wanted to perfectly balance its natural and man-made elements in a user-friendly, well-planned city and you can see the city’s precise layout from vantage points such as Mount Ainslie. Rather cleverly, Marion’s sketches demonstrated that one of the best views when the city was complete would be from a hot air balloon. So today, balloon rides are a popular activity to see the city from above.
Lake Burley Griffin is not only a beautiful spectacle, but a central hub for sports, recreation and picnicking. Walk a section of its 40km circumference, enjoy a cruise, go kayaking or chill out at one of the many lake-side cafes for a coffee and a snack. If you want some wind in your hair and to travel around with ease and style, hire an electric scooter and zoom about the city at speeds of up to 25km an hour.
Wind down for some wine time
After a drive of less than 45 minutes from Canberra’s CBD you’ll find vineyards that are renowned for produce top quality, cool climate wines.
Murrumbateman is the go-to place for fine Canberran wine and Four Winds is no exception: offering personalised tastings for two or more. Savour its lemony crisp Rieslings and delicately balanced light rosés.
Poacher’s Pantry is a 700-acre estate that is home to Wily Trout wines and some of the country’s finest smoked meats and cheeses. Just 20 minutes out of the big smoke, it’s the perfect day trip. Enjoy a leisurely lunch in their landscaped gardens overlooking a working farm and rustic sheds, or enjoy a tasting at the cellar door where many delicious local condiments are sold.
Check out Lerida Estate just outside the city and opposite Lake George for excellent wines with a magnificent view. Café Lerida also offers a lunch menu and delectable cheese and charcuterie boards. Check out its slow-cooked kangaroo with crispy smashed rosemary chats, broccolini and shiraz jus.
Where to stay
Best Western’s Signature Collection Garden City Hotel is the perfect place to head out and explore Canberra. It’s barely a ten-minute drive from Canberra’s CBD, with easy access to Parliament House and the National Art Gallery. The hotel is just minutes away from leafy and super-cool suburbs of Kingston and Manuka, which are brimming with boutique stores, trendy waterside eateries, pubs and thriving clubs for those after some nightlife.
Bestowed with 4.5 stars, Garden City Hotel has everything you need. The rooms come with free undercover parking and Wi-Fi, LCD TVs, air conditioning and free in-house movies and cable TV. Relax in the landscaped garden and pool area or enjoy a drink and a bite to eat at the Secret Garden Bar & Restaurant.
Want to explore Canberra even more? Check out our guide to the ultimate weekend away in the bush capital.