Cool in Canberra
Once a destination reserved for year six school excursions (hello, Questacon!), Canberra has more recently undergone a renaissance, with new hotels, shops, cafes and galleries popping up all over the city. Just a few hours drive from Sydney and a quick flight from Melbourne, Canberra is a great spot for a speedy weekend getaway, with Expedia’s Kiwi travellers usually spend around 1-2 nights in the city. We recently did the road trip from Sydney to spend a couple of days in our fair nation’s capital and here’s our guide to help you get planning your own trip!
Mocan & Green Grout, 1/19 Marcus Clarke Street, Newacton South
This is the place where breakfast dreams come true. Excellent fair trade coffee, locally sourced produce and a menu that reflects the seasons of Canberra and surrounds; rhubarb, truffles, and black garlic all made an appearance on the breakfast menu when we dined. Brass tables and repurposed building supplies make up the interior, feeling warm and welcoming – but not cramped or noisy, despite the cafe being packed out for most of the day.
Patissez, Shop 2/21 “The Lawns” Bougainville St, Manuka
A trip to Canberra isn’t really a trip to Canberra unless you manage to get yourself a slurp of worldwide viral sensation the ’Freakshake’. The widely acclaimed and highly sought after milkshakes created by this small cafe in Manuka feature decadent additions to the point of being barely recognisable as a beverage. Queues start each day from 6.30am for the limited number of Freakshakes made on-site.
Not for the faint hearted (or the diabetic), the Freakshakes come in a variety of options, such as the Nutella & Salty Pretzel (Nutella shake, scoops of Nutella, whipped cream and crushed pretzels), the Muddy Pat (warm hot chocolate, fudge brownie, chocolate fudge, whipped cream and toasted house made marshmallow), and a special option is added to the Freakshake line up each week, such as Red Velvet, Salty Nutz, and the absurd Pork Star. The freakshakes are made freshly baked ingredients and Tilba Jersey Milk.Tackle them if you dare.
If you have a stomach that defies the laws of normal human consumption and are still after more, there’s also an extensive breakfast and lunch menu at Patissez, and a very impressive cake counter.
A.Baker, New Acton Pavilion Unit 2, 15 Edinburgh Avenue
In the heart of the Newacton precinct, A.Baker has plenty to offer in the way of contemporary dining, from breakfast through to dinner. The open kitchen gives you a peek behind the scenes and the seasonal menu even extends to their grain all being milled on-site. The bakery menu features plenty of sourdough breads, as well as pastries ready to take away.
Bicicleta, 1/15 Edinburgh Avenue
Just next door to A.Baker is Italian restaurant Bicicletta, another bright spot in the Newacton precinct scene. Lunch is served from a take-away window where you can get a pizza slice or panini to go. Facing into a sunny courtyard area, it’s a great stop for a quick bite on the go and to soak up some sunshine.
Sweet Bones Bakery, 8/18 Lonsdale Street, entry via Eloura Street
Winners of the people’s choice award for ‘Best Cafe in Canberra’ last year, it’s clear from the outset that Sweet Bones is doing something right. This vegan bakery has a huge array of baked goods to try each day – the cupcakes in particular are always popular. Plenty of tasty treats (even for the skeptics who love dairy), but don’t leave your run too late in the day because things will sell out!
Me and Mrs Jones, 26 Giles Street, Kingston
A happy discovery early on a Saturday morning, Me & Mrs Jones sits in a huge corner spot of Kingston and was already buzzing by 9am. Exposed brick, ferns hanging from the ceilings and an extensive breakfast menu add to the atmosphere. Great coffee, along with gems such as classic Brioche French Toast and Baked Apple with Hazelnut & Pistachio Crumble meant we were happy breakfast campers!
Capitol Bar & Grill, QT Hotel, 1 London Circuit, Canberra
QT Canberra’s on-site restaurant ‘Capitol’ is Italian-themed in concept, but with offers a refreshing take on classic favourites. A great spot for a dinner that’s a little bit romantic, a little bit fancy and a whole lot of tasty. Succulent rib eye, antipasto plates, and 80’s classic pasta dishes are all worthy of attention. Even the simple side options are taken to new heights, from the steamed green beans with almonds and black sesame, to the Mac n Cheese which would have done as a meal in itself (Black truffle, white parsley, Reggiano… and more!). If you’ve got room left for dessert, all of the options are tantalising, so you’ll be hard pressed to make a choice. We split the Classic Profiteroles, drowned in dark chocolate sauce and filled with vanilla ice-cream and were not disappointed!
A good hotel can make or break a city stay, and in the case of QT Canberra, they’re doing everything right to ensure you have a perfect stay. With a ‘Politician’ theme, the faces of Australian parliament through the ages adorn many surfaces – even down to the wallpaper and room keys. Comfortable rooms with views of the lake or the city have in-room crystal bar sets so you can DIY drinks and enjoy an old-fashioned in the comfort of your fluffy robe, along with cute features like Mondrian glass tumblers in the bathrooms (if you like enough you can purchase for yourself from the lobby). With Lucky’s Speakeasy tucked away downstairs, a Barber Shop so the gents can get spruced up for the weekend and the Capitol restaurant all onsite, there’s plenty to do in the one location. If you’re planning on venturing out, QT is conveniently located for most of Canberra’s attractions. Pop behind the hotel and you’re in the Newacton precinct, an easy stroll to great places to dine all day long. If you’re more adventurous, QT also has bikes for hire, which you take out for a spin to the lake and surrounds. 1 London Circuit, Canberra
What to do
The National Gallery of Australia – Parliamentary Triangle, South side of Lake Burley Griffin
The NGA is Australia’s largest art museum, home to more than 160,000 works of art, housed in the impressive Brutalist concrete building. Even for those with only a minor interest in art, it’s a must do (and it’s free!) while you’re in Canberra. The permanent collection is set out in wings, arranged by art movement, making navigation a cinch as you move through the ages. If you can’t tell your Monet from your Matisse, this is a great spot to brush up on your art history. The addition of James Turrell’s Skyspace ’Within without’ installation is another drawcard, and shouldn’t be missed!
Unit Concepts, 28 Lonsdale Street, Braddon
A sleek design store full to the brim of big names in homewares and furnishings, this spot is worth a visit. From Hay, Kate Spade and Tom Dixon to Jonathan Adler and Normann Copenhagen, there’s something here for everyone. A great spot to pick up a wedding gift or something special for yourself.
Down Memory Lane, 34 Geelong Street, Fyshwick
A vintage store located literally down a laneway, this store is every bit deserving of it’s name. Packed with antiques and vintage pieces, the store is arranged in sections by colourway and material. All the yellow ceramics in one shelf, all the marble pieces in another, next to all of the hand turned wood pieces. Furniture, clothing and knick-knacks also abound, and a shop dog that lazes in front of the fire makes for a great way to spend a while treasure hunting.
Canberra Antiques Centre, 37 Townsville Street, Fyshwick
With more than a dozen different traders under one roof, the Canberra Antiques Centre has everything vintage – furniture, jewellery, militaria, kitchen ware, coins… the list goes on! There are plenty of gems to be found in the ‘Jet Age’ section; from Big Banana coasters to Nallyware Spice containers, it’s a treasure trove of kitsch.
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