Canberra doesn’t have the sexiest reputation but as we discovered, there’s more to the nation’s capital than meets the eye
When we told people we were heading to Canberra for the holidays, they inevitably asked us why?
As the seat of government, Canberra doesn’t have the sexiest reputation but as we discovered, there’s more to the nation’s capital than meets the eye.
An easy five-hour drive from Newcastle, Canberra mixes small town vibes with big city attractions to offer visitors a laid back attitude, modern architecture, world class galleries and an ever-evolving food scene. And thanks to the political thriller Secret City, which was filmed in the capital, there’s an edgier side to Canberra just waiting to be explored.
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
Where: 9 Lonsdale Street, Braddon
With a mash up of Korean and Japanese retro posters, a wall of waving maneki-neko (lucky cats) and bright neon lights, this place is a riot! The menu is a fusion of Korean and Japanese flavours with a touch of Americana so expect wagyu cheese steak spring rolls and fried chicken bao-gers. It’s usually booked out but they reserve some tables for walk-ins. My advice: get there early!
Where: Kingston + Fyshwick
Starting life as a food truck, this hip American-style diner has since morphed into two bricks and mortar eateries in Kingston and Fyshwick. With an infectious energy it serves a range of diner classics including it’s namesake burger – the Brodburger that includes a beef patty topped with tomato, Spanish onion, aioli and your choice of cheese.
Where: Corner Franklin & Furneaux Streets, Manuka
Belluci’s is a Canberra institution and is so popular, it has a second outpost in Woden. We were lucky to nab a last minute table early in the evening but saw them turn away countless patrons. The food is as authentic as what you would expect to find in Italy with everything from wood-fired pizza to hand made pasta on the menu. Just make sure you book in advance.
Where: 40 Bunda Street, City
This bustling city restaurant offers an Asian inspired street-style menu with a strong focus on share plates including everything from dumplings, bao and sashimi. The interiors are fun and bright with neon light boxes illustrating Japanese street scenes lining the walls and a bar that offers some of the best sake in town.
WHERE TO DRINK: COFFEE
HIGH ROAD CANBERRA
Where: 1 Woolley Street, Dickson
One of the outposts of local coffee legends, ONA Coffee, High Road is located in the inner-north suburb of Dickson. Serving some of the best coffee in Canberra, it’s a cavernous light filled space with polished concrete and blonde wood furniture.
Where: 9 Lonsdale Street, Braddon
This scandi-inspired cafe oozes a relaxed charm with minimalist interiors of pale timber and bright lights. And with a menu that includes Danish smørrebrød (traditional open-faced sandwiches made on rye) and Five Senses coffee, it’s the perfect spot to enjoy a slow start to the day.
THE CUPPING ROOM
Where: 1/1-13 University Avenue, Canberra
Another popular café from the team at ONA Coffee, this is a must stop for coffee connoisseurs. Go on a flavor journey with bespoke coffee blends such as Raspberry Candy and Black Betty and enjoy the tempting all-day menu.
Image credit: VisitCanberra
And if you have time, make sure you check out KYO Coffee Project hidden down a little laneway off Lonsdale Street, Braddon or Penny University which is a great spot to refuel while gallery hopping.
WHAT TO DO
Canberra is a city full of history, art and culture and with so much to choose from, (and two kids to entertain) we decided to stick to a few of the cities main attractions.
I highly recommend exploring Australia’s military history at the Australian War Memorial, a moving national memorial to our fallen soldiers. I got goose bumps at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier remembering those who have fought for our freedom and left with a greater appreciation of the sacrifices made by our service men and women.
If you’re a culture vulture like me, a visit to the National Portrait Gallery is a must. With over 400 portraits of Australians from all walks of life, it’s a beautiful way to explore the story of Australia through its faces. It’s also worth popping into the National Gallery of Australia, within the parliamentary precinct, and browsing through its stellar art collection that includes the works of Monet, Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol and Sidney Nolan.
And if you love an artisan market, make sure you head to the weekly Old Bus Depot Markets which take place every Sunday in an old industrial building in the heart of Kingston. With over 200 stalls, expect to find organic gourmet food, designer home wares, hipster clothes and handmade jewellery.
Image Credit: VisitCanberra
FOR THE KIDS
As one of Canberra’s most popular attractions, Questacon is a must visit with kids. With more than 200 interactive science and technology exhibitions spread over eight galleries, our kids had fun messing around with static electricity, testing gravity on the six-metre free fall slide and experiencing an earthquake.
Another favourite with kids is the National Dinosaur Museum, which can only be described as the ultimate dino-lovers paradise! Housing one of the largest permanent collections of interactive dinosaurs in Australia, the kids loved the life sized dinosaurs skeletons and fossils on display.
WHERE TO STAY
BURBURY HOTEL & APARTMENTS
Where: Realm Precinct, Barton
Sitting under the shadows of Parliament House in the leafy suburb of Barton, The Realm Precinct is kind of like a precinct within a precinct that includes a handful of cafes, restaurants, bars and day spa. It’s also home to three Doma Hotels - the luxurious five-star Hotel Realm, the Little National Hotel, which offers minimalist luxury (one is due to open in Newcastle this year) and the Burbury Hotel & Apartments which is where we stayed.
Our one bedroom apartment was light filled and modern with plenty of space for the kids to play. The interiors are stylishly minimal and with bathroom amenities from Kevin Murphy, you know you’re onto a winner. The free on-demand movies and pool (across the road at Hotel Realm) are an added bonus and make it a great place to stay with kids.