So much more than politics and Questacon, Canberra has plenty of attractions to keep you busy – here are our top picks for a weekend vacay
Surrounded by rugged mountains and bushland, Canberra is a cool city-meets-country destination. And if you haven’t road-tripped down to Canberra since school excursion days, it’s time to hop in the car. The capital city is more than just politics and power players. This political playground has the perfect mix of foodie delights, arts, culture, history and natural wonders.
Here’s your guide to an action-packed weekend in Canberra.
Lush green pot plants welcome you to Mocan and Green Grout, a corner café in Canberra City that oozes so much personality with its stylish, yet down-to-earth retro-chic look. The menu changes all the time, but you’ll always be treated to inventive, ethically minded dishes. And all-day they’re keeping locals well-fuelled with fair-trade coffee.
1/19 Marcus Clarke Street, Canberra
A concept café in Canberra City boasting stylish interiors and brewing incredible boutique coffee, The Cupping Room is kind of a big deal. Run by Australia’s first World Barista Champion, it’s safe to say this specialty coffee house knows its stuff. Serving ONA coffee, house-made soda, and delectable brunch classics, it is a must-try for any Canberra visitor.
1/1-13 University Avenue, Canberra
Eating is one of life’s simplest pleasures, and XO makes it a playful one, too. The restaurant whips up pan-Asian classics and share plates to a predominantly 90s soundtrack, making it a millennial magnet.
16 Iluka Street, Narrabundah
Tucked inside the Ovolo Nishi Hotel, Monster made its name with the Yabby Jaffle – but that’s just the beginning. Open all day, the industrial-chic eatery’s delish Modern Australian menu is made for sharing.
Ground/25 Edinburgh Avenue, Canberra
Perfectly positioned inside Canberra Centre, CBD Dumpling House is one popular eatery. With an industrial fit-out and a kitchen that’s open on two sides, you can watch the chefs at work while munching on some seriously tasty dumplings. It’s packed every day of the week, so it's best to book ahead.
Shop FG13C, 148 Bunda Street, Canberra
A café and wholefoods store in one, Local Press’s rustic interiors go hand-in-hand with their ethos of crafting dishes made with meat and proteins that are free-range, pasture-fed, and chemical and hormone-free. Using locally sourced produce, wherever possible, they make everything in-house. It’s healthy, and seriously flavoursome and packed with wholesome goodness.
35 Eastlake Parade, Kingston
For a lively night, this tex-mex bar and restaurant is perfect for those looking to party. Come the weekend, the outdoor garden is packed with people enjoying the Mexican bites, sipping on tequila-laden drinks, and dancing to the live band.
17 Garema Place, Canberra
On the scene for over10 years, Parlour is local institution. Combining moreish tapas and an impressive cocktail list, Parlour is the perfect spot for an intimate dinner or late-night drink.
16 Kendall Lane, Acton
Inside East Hotel, between Manuka and Kingston, is a small bar with a lot to boast about. First up, food and wine. A curated wine list and a great selection of cocktails pair beautifully with the contemporary Italian menu. And the colourful interiors, plush furnishings and good vibes, makes Joe’s Bar an ideal place to let the good times roll.
69 Canberra Avenue, Griffith
With an expansive view of Lake Burley Griffin, Walt & Burley has fast-tracked its way to being a firm favourite along Kingston foreshore. Local produce and wines dominate the menu with Aussie favourites, such as steaks, burgers and schnity’s. But if there is a group of you, the large share menu is definitely the way to go.
70/17 Eastlake Parade, Kingston
Tucked away in a basement through a hidden doorway, this chic den raises the bar scene stakes. With its classic yet modern style, everything about this bar oozes cool; from the mini chesterfields to the crisp cocktails.
Basement 2/15 Edinburgh Ave, Canberra
A glamorous nightspot with a whimsical fit out, this cocktail bar takes you down the rabbit hole. Taking inspiration from Alice in Wonderland, expect creative cocktails and curious bites.
65 Northbourne Avenue, Canberra
A dimly lit lounge bar with taxidermy décor, Hippo Co’s love affair with whiskey and cocktails is what makes it a popular night-life destination. Hosting masterclasses, tastings and live music throughout the week, this Garema Place watering hole comes alive on the weekends. So much so that you need to get in early to avoid the queues.
1/17 Garema Place, Canberra
Arty, funky and sustainable, Ovolo Nishi marries beautiful design and functionality to create the ultimate home away from home. Bringing the outside in, the stunning wooden atrium is a sight to be seen. Over and above the lush rooms, downstairs you will find popular eatery Monster Bar & Kitchen and upscale cinema Palace Electric, so you will never have to leave the hotel.
New Acton Precinct, 25 Edinburgh Ave, Canberra
With a bunch of cool, contemporary rooms and suites, East Hotel is a good spot to lay your hat. One of Kingston’s top spots to stay, you will truly feel like you are living like a local. If you decide to stay in, you won’t be disappointed. From Italian restaurant Agostini’s and Joe’s Bar, to book and wine bar Muse, you are guaranteed an awesome night in.
69 Canberra Avenue, Kingston
You don’t need to travel too far for a safari experience. In Canberra, the Jamala Wildlife Lodge is connected to the National Zoo & Aquarium. You’ll meet some of the most incredible and endangered species on earth and find out how you can help their survival. Back at your treehouse, the resort’s resident giraffe, Humbekhali, might pop his head in for a visit!
National Zoo & Aquarium, 999 Lady Denman Drive, Canberra, ACT
Swish, sip and repeat at some of Canberra’s premier wineries. At Pialligo Estate, you can simply visit the cellar door, or make a day of it by signing up for a wine or cooking class, or lingering over lunch at the restaurant. Just a 15-minute drive from the city centre, Mount Majura Vineyard has made a name for itself for its boutique wines and beautiful views. To learn more about viticulture, sign up for the gumboot tour.
Take the Market Trail
Foodies and thrifty shoppers will have a fun time in Canberra with their plethora of weekend local markets. On Saturday mornings, Capital Region Farmers Market in Mitchell is the place to go for fruit and veg to meat, seafood, condiments and baked goods – almost all of which comes from less than 300km away. On Sundays, Kingston’s Old Bus Depot Markets offer everything along with arts, crafts, clothing and fresh produce.
Picnic on the Lake
Thanks to Go Boat Canberra, you can skipper your own boat and enjoy a picturesque picnic (and maybe a cheeky glass of wine) on Lake Burley Griffin. No boat’s license required.
Check Out the Sights
It goes without saying, that a trip to Canberra must involve some sightseeing and landmark hopping. From the science-laden Questacon to the poignant Australian War Memorial, your weekend getaway will turn into a learning expedition. For a bit of local history and nature exploring, head to the National Arboretum Canberra to see the 250 hectares of beautiful rare, endangered and native trees standing in commemoration of the Christmas 2001 and 2003 bushfires. For an art-filled adventure, head to the National Museum to catch the latest exhibition.
Get Amongst Nature
From bushland to dense wetlands, you can spend a whole day exploring Canberra’s natural wonders. The Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve wetlands are amazing for wildlife watching. As you move along the marked walking trails, you might spot a platypus, possum, wombat, echidna, emu or kangaroo. There’s also a koala sanctuary. To enjoy a picnic lunch on a rainforest boardwalk, then make your way to the Australian National Botanic Gardens.
Make sure to check out the National Zoo and Aquarium while you are in town. Small in size, you can conquer it in a half day. It’s home to exotic animals like lions, tigers, giraffes and penguins, and offers hands-on experiences for animal lovers. For an incredible safari experience close to home, book the Jamala Wildlife Lodge. Part of the National Zoo, you will learn all about the zoo’s animals.