Category Archives: Canberra

— Canberra —

Canberra’s craft beer circuit cometh


  • If your tastes run more to the amber and bubbly, there are now a handful of microbreweries and craft beer bars blazing a hops-and-malt-scented trail around Canberra.

    The bright and shiny BentSpoke Brewing Co. in Braddon is a hops spot for brews such as the Reflector Amber Ale and Sprocket IPA.

    This loved taphouse with the beer-and-bikes theme also has a well thought-out, beer-driven menu, with options such as hop- and malt-dusted chips, or a cider-braised pulled pork belly burger.

    Wig & Pen Tavern & Brewery is also pouring pints of the 16 different beers brewed on-site at its new(ish) premises in Llewellyn Hall at Australian National University.

    Tap into the crisp, refreshing kettle-soured Berlinerweisse, the salted Göse beer or even the mysterious Multigrass – a one-off blend of similarly one-off house brews, that seems to contain every ingredient in the pantry (even Japanese sake yeast).

    You can also get a glass of the good stuff at the ‘beerhemoth’ Zierholz Premium Brewery, the region’s only commercial-scale microbrewery, located in Fyshwick.

    Zierholz is also available at Zierholz@UC at the University of Canberra, where the predominantly student crowd gives thanks for the Schankbier and the Hopmeister.


    More: While you’re in Canberra…

    Australian Traveller magazine 66

    Enjoy this article?

    You can find it in Issue 66 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.


    — Canberra —

    Canberra’s best lunch and dinner options on 1 plate


    Help is at hand to navigate Canberra’s foodie maze. Here are the dining bunch to help you find the best lunch and dinner options in the capital, forks down.

    For a capital lunch…

    Join the Kingston community bustling along the boardwalk, and linger for lunch at Brodburger, where you can whack down a huge, abundantly flavourful Broddeluxe burger with the lot.

    You can also sandwich yourself in between locals at Local Press for cold-pressed juices and wholefood salads.

    For coffee and lunch on the go, ramble on to Remedy, an offshoot of Lonsdale Street Roasters, for a Lebanese-style zaatar bread stuffed with meat or falafel, tomato, greens and dry slaw.

    Another top spot for a power lunch is Braddon’s Sage Dining Rooms, where simple, seasonal ingredients are taken to a higher place, such as roast carrot, elevated with hazelnut and parsley and the artful addition of Binnorie feta.

    Take your time over a three-course lunch at Courgette Restaurant, with a menu created by chef-wunderkind James Mussillon, while at the chef’s-hatted Aubergine, Ben Willis makes good use of the region’s bounty.

    His dishes include White Rocks veal, parsnip, baby spinach, red cabbage gel, artichoke, thyme and port jus, or Cowra lamb cutlets, lamb shank, tomato chilli jam, baby fennel, celeriac and mulberry.

    For a very Canberra dinner experience…

    Chef Brendan Walsh developed his eye for composition at the acclaimed Vue de Monde in Melbourne, and The Dorchester in London, before starting his new adventure here at the Farmhouse Restaurant at Pialligo Estate a year ago.

    The restaurant picked up a hat in its first year thanks to the 27-year-old and his team, who are part of the push-through of young, creative talent redefining the nation’s capital.

    Walsh’s six-course prix-fixe menu changes daily, with recent highlights including the Fraser Island spanner crab with watermelon, smoked cream and young radishes, or red venison with a cranberry and truffle granola.

    Those looking for a more casual affair should try Temporada. Claim a stool at this indy darling of ACT eateries and ask one of the hipster waiters to help you navigate the wine list, which features a strong local influence.

    Dig into creative takes on tapas and wood-fired food, such as the barbecue mackerel, beetroot, smoked eel parfait and horseradish.

    Bring your posse to Malamay, in the Barton hub, for spirited Sichuan fusion fare made to share in the Shanghai-style dining room, or head to the hatted restaurant Water’s Edge, the second of James Mussillon’s properties.

    You can also taste the city’s more innovative side at Aubergine, where dishes such as seared wagyu rump cap, walnut pesto and parmesan make it clear why this is a two-hatted foodie temple.


    Before and after dinner temptations in Canberra

    Australian Traveller magazine 66

    Enjoy this article?

    You can find it in Issue 66 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.


    — Canberra —

    Review: Little National, Canberra


    Explore Canberra’s museums and galleries from this perfectly designed hotel. But as Dan Down finds, it can be hard to leave.

    Vast swathes of Canberra are how I imagine much of California’s Silicon Valley to feel, all manicured lawns bordering start-ups’ offices and research labs.

    The capital really is starting to feel cutting edge, partly thanks to a raft of new hotels, architecturally considered on the outside and carefully curated within, where the likes of Brin and Zuckerberg would surely feel at home.

    The Little National is one such establishment. From a distance it resembles a rather brutal black box, but up close different materials give it texture, perforated metal enabling partial views of the interior, while strips of LEDs set it off with a futuristic glow at night.

    Intriguingly, the lobby occupies the ground floor, while its 120 rooms sit on the top fifth and sixth floors; the rest of the building takes the form of a carpark so discreetly concealed you’d never know it was there, an ingenious use of space.

    The lobby immediately sets the tone, echoing that of the National Gallery down the road, with polished concrete floors and an extra from Minority Report behind a pine desk who efficiently processes our arrival.

    Like the building as a whole, our room is a masterclass in space management and simplicity. Wide, dark timber floorboards provide a welcome natural texture underfoot and earthy tones complement a contemporary scheme of muted greys.

    And if the Little National feels futuristic then it takes the form of a Far Eastern utopia. A window takes over one whole end of the room affording views of a bamboo garden, yet somehow the space remains completely private.

    Two blinds are activated by bedside switches; one brings down a cream canvas that evokes a traditional Japanese rice paper wall, while the other blocks the light completely.

    An oriental tea set greets you by the bed and what a bed it is, a king that fills the space from wall-to-wall.

    It’s so comfortable we found it hard to avoid napping when we should have been perusing Cook’s diary or admiring Pollock’s Blue Poles, especially with free movies to watch on a TV on the wall above.

    A sleek bathroom with rainfall shower and Apelles products completes a very stylish pad indeed.

    Remarkably, there’s even room for two wonderful shared spaces in the Little National: the Lounge and the Library.

    Surrounded by floor to ceiling glass, both offer views of Capital Hill and are perfect spots to read a newspaper in one of the armchairs.

    Paper sculptures by artist Benja Harney, inspired by origami, adorn the adjoining corridors and draw the subtle Asian theme together.

    Things have clearly moved on in Canberra since Bill Bryson walked its streets looking for a place to eat in vain.

    We opt for pizzas at Ostani, over the road at sister hotel Realm, and one of six restaurants in the ‘Realm Precinct’.

    This is a collection of businesses from which guests can place all charges to their rooms (you can also use Realm’s gym and spa if you’re staying at the Little National).

    Buvette, a French offering, is closed for the holidays, which may account for Ostani’s staff being a little overwhelmed.

    But perhaps this is the future of urban areas: privately owned districts with their own micro economies.

    Indeed, the Little National is a little like Canberra itself: small but perfectly formed, and with an eye on things to come.

    The details: Little National Hotel, Canberra

    Where: 21 National Circuit, Barton, ACT; 02 6188 3200;

    Verdict: A sophisticated, perfectly formed hotel; the ultimate place to crash after a day of perusing Canberra’s cultural greats at the National Library and Gallery.

    Score: 4/5

    We rated: The calming, Far Eastern-infused room and the comfiest ever king-size bed.

    We’d change: Ostani Bar & Restaurant was bursting at the seams and the staff were overwhelmed.

    Notes: A quick hop over the road to Realm and its sauna, steam room and pool is the best way to re-energise legs to do it all again the next day. We paid $155 per night.

    All AT reviews are conducted anonymously and our writers pay their own way – so we experience exactly what you would.

    Australian Traveller issue 67

    Enjoy this article?

    You can find it in Issue 67 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.


    — Canberra —

    Top 10 Canberra shops for discerning splurgers


    Canberra is the new capital of shopping, home to lots of unique boutiques and bustling markets. Here are the must-stop-and-stare shops to while away a weekend and splurge in style. (By Leigh-Ann Pow)

    1. Moxom and Whitney

    Helmed by friends Belinda Whitney and Lou Moxom, Moxom and Whitney is a florist with an edge, producing exuberant, organic arrangements, as well as its signature whimsical made-on-the-premises terrariums, filled with all manner of lush greenery, as well as tiny people and animals. Book a place in their Terrarium School to learn how to make your own little world in a glass.
    DETAILS: 28/30 Lonsdale Street, Braddon

    2. Bisonhome

    Headed up by creative director Brian Tunks, Bisonhome sells its ceramics and glassware from its light and airy flagship shop in the suburb of Pialligo. Rendered in a rainbow colour palette, Bison’s beautifully crafted ceramics are tactile and organic in shape, with everything from plates to mixing bowls to serving platters to vases to its signature tea bowls on offer here. The temptation to take home one in every colour is hard to fight. DETAILS: 6/8 Beltana Road, Pialligo

    3. Hustle & Scout

    Founded in 2013, Hustle & Scout is a regular twilight market showcasing the best in independent Australian designer fashion. Since then it has grown and grown (and incorporated local street food event The Forage), requiring a new venue, a new multi-level car park, to contain it. Once there you will find fashion and designs that are big on unique value, from the vintage to the sustainable pieces to the handmade and the up-cycled, lots of it made in and around the city itself. Keep an eye on the website for the date and details of the next market. DETAILS: Little National Hotel, 21 National Circuit, Barton

    4. Muse

    Equal parts cafe, wine bar and bookshop, Muse is the latest addition to the hip East Hotel in the equally funky Kingston neighbourhood. Inspired by a similar concept discovered by co-owner Paul Eldon when he lived and worked in Beijing, the bookshop, with its oak bookshelves and vintage Afghan kilims, has 2000 new and second-hand titles to peruse. This can be done while tucking into breakfast from 6:30am, lunch during the day, brunch on the weekends or just a relaxing glass of red in the afternoon. DETAILS: East Hotel, 69 Canberra Avenue, Kingston

    5. The Hamlet

    A former garage space that has been resurrected as a space for ‘makers, foodies and local creatives’, The Hamlet features food vans galore, selling everything from coffee to pizza to hotdogs from crowd-pleaser BrodDog, and there’s fashion, jewellery and ceramics to shop, as well as live music and night markets. DETAILS: 16 Lonsdale Street, Braddon

    6. The Curatoreum

    After you’ve finished walking among nature, admiring bonsai or watching the kids play in the totally fabulous Pod Playground, you have to visit The Curatoreum before leaving The National Arboretum. This brilliantly considered book and gift shop is filled with books, toys, homewares and jewellery, much of which I had never seen anywhere else before. A personal favourite is the lovely selection of stationery, including delightfully quirky offerings such as the Beautiful Chickens Notecards (no, seriously). DETAILS: Forest Drive, Weston Creek

    7. Old Bus Depot Markets

    Held every Sunday in the old bus depot located on the Kingston foreshore, which is getting a serious makeover at the moment with lots of new apartments, restaurants and bars moving in, these markets have been around for over 20 years. You’ll find fashion, jewellery, homewares, art, collectibles and food all under cover, so the show goes on no matter what the weather. DETAILS: 21 Wentworth Avenue, Kingston

    8. The Shop at the National Gallery

    One of the best art gallery shops you are likely to frequent, the range at The Shop at the National Gallery is expansive and well curated, especially its books, which cover everything from art to fashion to interiors to architecture, and lots more besides. This light, bright space should not be relegated to a cursory browse as you leave the gallery; you will want to spend some serious time here discovering all it has to offer (arts, crafts, diaries, journals, stationery, prints, posters, toys, games, jewellery… should we go on?). DETAILS: Parkes Place, Parkes

    9. Lonsdale Street

    Once you’ve finished your coffee at Lonsdale Street Roasters, take a stroll around the neighbourhood to browse fashion, books, vintage design stores and more.

    10. Canberra Centre

    Big and bold and jammed with all the labels and outlets required to be considered a true shopping destination. Canberrans flock to the Canberra Centre on the weekends and spend up big. There is a pleasant precinct feel about the place, though, with ample eateries located in and around the centre and pedestrian-ised side streets snaking out from it. Bunda Street, Canberra; 02 6247 5611.


    MORE… Canberra through our eyes

    Australian Traveller magazine 66

    Enjoy this article?

    You can find it in Issue 66 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.


    — Canberra —

    Canberra’s 10 best walks – choosing your own adventure


    If you’re looking to lift your spirits, and your heart rate, here are 10 of Canberra’s most wondrous wanderings for a bespoke weekend in the exhilarating ACT outdoors.

    Canberra is “basically just one big national park,” says local photographer Damian Breach. Despite the ultra-cool tide of urbanity seeping through the city, for walkers and mountain bikers such as Damian, Canberra is still the Bush Capital. In a few minutes you can leave the city behind to be a million miles away on a soundless bush trail, on one of the alluring hills that frame Canberra.

    The choice for wanderers, day-hikers and mountain bikers is perplexingly wide, but no fear, you will find what you’re after in at least one of these 10 tantalising trails.

    The all-of-Canberra walk: The Centenary Trail

    The Centenary Trail is an all-of-Canberra loop that sweeps near the NSW border to the north and dips its toes into the Murrumbidgee to the south. It threads into several urban highlights, such as Parliament House, then just as quickly retreats into secluded picnic nooks and relative wilderness. The challenge? Well, the trail is 145 kilometres long with no sections that loop around, so it’s a point-to-point proposition.

    “Because the trail ducks in and out of the suburbs and city, you can always pick up a drink or a snack – or stay the night somewhere,” suggests Damian, who rode the entire loop in 10 hours, including “stopping off for a beer and a burger”. For mere mortals, though, it’s best to try one or two sections at a time, including these three highlights:

    1. Murrumbidgee Discovery Track
    At the Centenary’s southern end, the well-signposted Discovery Trail meanders through rolling fields and bushland, the deliciously flowing track a boon for walkers and mountain bikers of most levels. The section kicks off at mountain bike Mecca Stromlo Forest Park. This track runs for 27 kilometres all up, from Point Hut Crossing to Casuarina Sands, but our favourite section passes by the vivid cliffs of Red Rock Gorge Lookout. The churning rapids of the Murrumbidgee River below are your added pay-off for the 4.4-kilometre return journey, starting – or ending – near legendary local swimming hole Kambah Pools, where you can cool down and chill out on the ‘beach’. WHERE: End of Kambah Pool Road, near Gleneagles.

    2. One Tree Hill
    Northern sections of the Centenary Trail can feel noticeably more remote, but find the right spot and all-encompassing city views unfold. One Tree Hill Lookout (90 minutes’ return walk) presents Brindabella mountain range vistas, reminiscent of what Canberra’s earliest inhabitants would have experienced, and the incline is mostly gentle on the way up. WHERE: Take the trail from the corner of Hall and Hoskins streets, Hall.

    3. National Arboretum Canberra
    The trail passes by the nascent 250-hectare National Arboretum, where a handful of intentionally meandering paths spread out over the slopes and soon-to-be forests. The 1.1-kilometre Himalayan Cedars Walk is a relaxing stroll of note – you’ll feel like you’re in a land far, far away. WHERE: Forest Drive, Weston Creek.

    Leisurely Lake Burley Griffin strolls

    Lake Burley Griffin: it’s an integral part of the landscape and a tranquil place to get away from it all, without getting away from it all. Choose the well-trodden path, or get off the beaten track through the wetlands:

    4. The Central Basin
    It’s flat, almost impossible to get lost on, and ventures through serene public spaces, always with the mirror of the lake to reflect upon. Power through the five-kilometre walk in an hour, or pause at countless charms along the way, such as the many and various attractions, historical cottages, or just tick off the Australians of the Year Walk. Take a side-trip at Reconciliation Place along pathways leading to the National Gallery of Australia et al. Linger longer here for a caffeine replenishment. WHERE: Start from the National Capital Exhibition. Trail loops from Commonwealth Bridge to Kings Avenue Bridge.

    5. Jerrabomberra Wetlands
    Cloistered away on Lake Burley Griffin’s eastern shore, the wetlands is a secluded slice of nature only 10 minutes’ drive from where the politicians hang out. Five timber bird hides help you get intimate with Kellys Swamp’s 200-plus bird species. Wander along the boardwalk, with popping frogs as your soundtrack, on the look-out for eastern long-necked tortoises, while Black Angus cows graze incongruently nearby. WHERE: Dairy Road, Fyshwick.

    Moving mountains in the city

    Wildlife nestling into old-growth forest – not just nearby the city, but actually within it. We kid you not. Here are three ways to get close to the nature that’s close to you:

    6. Mt Ainslie Summit Trail (Kokoda Track)
    A rosy-cheek-producing walk (4.5 kilometres return), that rises up directly behind the Australian War Memorial. The steepish path winds up through a shrubby woodland of scribbly gums, charmed by intense birdsong and ever-present rosellas, before opening up to a 270-degree view over the Parliamentary Triangle. You’ll probably stumble across hares, roos, lizards and maybe even a local politician, too. Don’t forget to stop and look around on the way for candid views, plaques commemorating the Kokoda Track and a (sidetrack) memorial to Aboriginal soldiers. WHERE: Start in Remembrance Park, behind the Australian War Memorial in Campbell. You can drive to the lookout but, seriously, why would you?

    7. Black Mountain
    West from Mt Ainslie, across the urban corridor, is her twin sister, Black Mountain, whose nature reserve is filigreed with excellently thought-through and maintained trails. Surrounded by other reserves, the bush here exudes a rainforest ambience, making it sublime for wildflower and orchid spotting. The Forest Track (one-hour loop) is blanketed in moss, ferns and lichens, with plenty of mammals and reptiles coming to the party, if you’re stealthy enough. WHERE: Off Black Mountain Summit Road and Rani Road, Acton. Head towards Telstra Tower (on the summit).

    8. Australian National Botanic Gardens
    For a manicured change of pace, the Australian National Botanic Gardens, directly to the east of Black Mountain, has plenty of passageways to explore throughout the 35-hectare ‘living collection’ (containing a third of Australia’s plant species). WHERE: At the foot of Black Mountain, Clunies Ross Street, Acton.

    Doable daytrips into the wilderness

    The weekend adventurer’s fundamental questions: how much time and energy do I have to burn? If your answer runs to slightly more generous amounts, envelope yourself in some national park adventure at one of these two outstanding daytrip options, a little further out from the CBD:

    9. Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve
    Forty kilometres west of the city, the wetlands, grasslands and woodlands of sub-alpine Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve beckon. The pick of the 20 or so marked, verdant valley walks is the moderate-to-hard trek (three to four hours) up to the glorious, house-sized boulders of Gibraltar Peak. Expect to see glades interrupted by spiky grass trees, barely babbling creeks, plus impressively expansive views, once you reach the somewhat phallic boulders at the summit. Tidbinbilla is well known for excellent opportunities to view wildlife in situ, such as mobs of curious kangaroos,
    emus and the endangered southern brush-tailed rock wallaby, throughout the reserve’s 14 protected habitats. WHERE: The 8.2-kilometre return walk starts at Tidbinbilla Visitors Centre or Dalsetta. Mountain biking is allowed on formed trails.

    10. Namadgi National Park
    Just south of Tidbinbilla, the 106,000-hectare Namadgi National Park, which borders Kosciuszko, is a trekker’s dream daytrip. Taking up almost half the ACT’s land area, it offers a selection of short and long hikes (up to seven-hour treks) through alpine meadows and snow gum forest. Yankee Hat Rock Shelter (six kilometres return, two-and-a-half hours) beelines towards an indigenous rock art site (protected by the Ngunnawal people) that was the first-ever identified in the ACT. Sheltered granite hides small red (ochre) and white (clay) figures – dingoes, turtles and kangaroos – and abstract, human-like figures. WHERE: Yankee Hat trail walk is 65 kilometres south of Canberra, via the Namadgi Visitors Centre in Tharwa.


    More: When the walk is over… What else to do in Canberra

    Australian Traveller magazine 66

    Enjoy this article?

    You can find it in Issue 66 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.


    — Canberra —

    The Canberra Bucket List – 10 capital ideas


    Ten things you just have to do in and around Canberra, throughout the year.

    1. Nothing but hot air

    Hot air ballooning over Canberra is already a good bucket-list contender but, if you’re looking for the ultimate experience, visit during the Canberra Balloon Spectacular (12–20 March) and book a passenger flight to be up among the vibrant, sometimes fantastical balloons that fill the skies from 7am every day during the event, weather permitting. If it’s your wallet that doesn’t permit, come to the lawns in front of Old Parliament House before sunrise to watch all the balloons inflating and launching – an amazing sight that’s totally free.

    2. Grin and bear it

    Or lion. Or giraffe. In fact, there are so many animals you can meet at Canberra’s National Zoo & Aquarium, either one-on-one or in a small group, that the classic zoo experience will never be the same. Have an Animal Encounter with anything from a white lion to a meerkat, or pat and play with the world’s fastest animals with Meet a Cheetah; take the two-hour Zooventure and hand-feed a range of animals behind the scenes; or become a zookeeper for the day in the ultimate Walk on the Wildside tour. If you’d like to play stare-eyes with a bear from the comfort of your bathtub (through strong glass), stay overnight in their Jamala Wildlife Lodge, winner of our People’s Choice Award for the Best Hotel for Children.

    3. Do the freak shake

    A milkshake that makes people travel to Canberra especially – that’s got to be something pretty remarkable. Patissez in Manuka has tapped into a deep need in us all to consume epic concoctions of milkshake, pastry, custard, cream and other second-childhood-inducing treats, all to the tune of $9.50. As much a sight to see as any of Canberra’s other towering edifices.

    4. Get hot and hands on

    As if seeing Canberra Glassworks artists working the glass right in front of you wasn’t cool enough, you can take a tour that allows you to make your own. Guided by a professional, you’ll use a piping hot kiln to mould glowing glass into amazing shapes and colours. Each Saturday and Sunday, you can sign up to make a paperweight (20 minutes) or a tumbler (40 minutes), and the prices are reasonable, considering the rarity of the experience.

    5. Take the lake

    Lake Burley Griffin is not just for gazing at over the rim of a G&T (although we absolutely endorse that, too). Hire a canoe or kayak and you can properly explore Australia’s most famous artificial lake, loosely curving around Capital Hill. For a little more adrenaline, contact Canberra Yacht Club and sign up to join in on club races, usually Wednesday evenings or Sunday afternoons; visitors are welcome, when there’s room.

    6. Enlighten yourself

    In an explosion of light, music, shows and night noodle markets – yes, we love that bit – the Enlighten festival (4–12 March) brings Canberra’s famous sights and monuments to life after hours. The Parliamentary Triangle becomes known as The Electric Garden, an outdoor entertainment hub with free entry, and the main architectural behemoths of the city are illuminated with artful projections, while other events (rare films, behind-the-scenes tours, stand-up comedy and more) are generally ticketed.

    7. Selfie under the flag

    It’s a rare traveller who comes to Canberra and doesn’t drop in to Parliament House. And when you do, check out that Australian flag, high atop the whole structure and around the size of a double-decker bus. Now, we notice on VisitCanberra’s Instagram that they’re making selfies under the flag a ‘thing’ – and we like it! Take the elevator to the roof, then you’ll have the perfect angle. (Tag #CBRbucketlist to join the Instacrowd.)

    8. A different hat each night

    In a state of only 390,000 people, the fact that the ACT has 10 chef’s-hatted restaurants seems a little unfair. Address the imbalance by visiting a different award-winning restaurant every night. You could stay for more than a week and still have options left! Choose from: Courgette, eightysix, The Farmhouse Restaurant at Pialligo Estate, Lanterne Rooms, Lilotang, Monster Kitchen and Bar, Ottoman, Temporada, and Water’s Edge, or venture over to Aubergine if only two hats will do.

    9. Tiptoe through the tulips

    Canberra without Floriade would be like Year 12 without a formal dance. Taking place in September and October, this is the capital at its prettiest, drawing almost half-a-million visitors each spring to see more than a million flowers in full bloom, as well as music, entertainment, the spectacular lights of NightFest and the famous ferris wheel. Combine this with a hot air balloon ride to really get the most from the gardeners’ amazing patterned plantings.

    10. Climb every mountain

    Pack your boots, or your bike. There are more than enough slopes to conquer if you’re that way inclined (no pun intended). We talk you through hiking Black Mountain and Mt Ainslie in this issue, but there is also the southerly Red Hill (visit in autumn for its famous colouring), the incredible 360-degree city views from Dairy Farmers Hill in the National Arboretum, and the easy trail of the Mt Taylor Zig Zag – among so many others.

    See VisitCanberra for more bucket list options.

    Australian Traveller magazine 66

    Enjoy this article?

    You can find it in Issue 66 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.


    — Canberra —

    Canberra by Cafe – best of the breakfast and brunch bunch


    You would have to get up early in the morning to find a better breakfast or brunch cafe in Canberra than these bunch…

    You’d be hard-pressed to find a better brew in the morning than at The Cupping Room – especially when reigning World Barista Champion Sasa Sestic is manning the new San Remo Opera machines. Arrive early to claim a spot among the bearded, nose-ringed crowd at this concept cafe, designed by the team from Ona Coffee specialty roasters. Geek out over an Ona education, then cap it off with a chia and sago pudding with strawberries and lychee.

    Bookish types should also cross over Capitol Hill to Muse, a newish nook in East Hotel, between Kingston and Manuka, which is dedicated to enjoying food, all-Australian wine and books. Make your first meal of the morning one of brown rice with sprouts, avocado, crispy beef, fried egg and chilli jam. Buy a great literary work or brainstorm your next novel at this convivial cafe, which celebrates Canberra’s modernist heritage.

    Head east to Silo Bakery in Kingston for a plate of chilli jam eggs with tomato, and a baguette to go. Continue the Kingston crawl at Penny University, which serves a righteous slab of brioche French toast, topped with strawberries and cream.

    Or join the queues at Patissez in Manuka which is now a destination in its own right, after the infernally evil and divine concoction known as the ‘freakshake’ broke the internet. Make the freak show complete with its blueberry cheesecake number, the Blue Ballz.

    Families, couples and big, happy groups of friends spill out into the tables bordering Manuka Lawns at nearby popular brunch spot Urban Pantry. (5 Bougainville Street).

    With its industrial cool vibe and very obliging wait staff, you could transplant Me and Mrs Jones to café capital Melbourne and it’d still be packed. You absolutely have to order the doughnut French toast, which comes drizzled with maple syrup and accompanied by maple glazed bacon and cinnamon mascarpone. Divine! (26 Giles Street, Kingston).

    A few doors down, the small but busy Penny University café is kitted out in vintage and recycled objects is well-frequented for breakfast in the mornings and coffee all day. (15 Kennedy Street, Kingston).

    If you’re not a big breakfast eater, popular opinion from locals and expats with Sydney/Melbourne caffeine sensibilities has Lonsdale Street Roasters pegged as the best purveyors of coffee in the city. The coffee is good enough to have two stores on the one street. (7 and 23 Lonsdale Street, Braddon).

    Australian Traveller magazine 66

    Enjoy this article?

    You can find it in Issue 66 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.


    — Canberra —

    Jamala Wildlife Lodge: The zoo stay with all the creature comforts


    A unique hotel in Canberra, Jamala Wildlife Lodge, lets you stay alongside some of the rarest animals on the planet (By: Leigh Ann Pow)

    One of the many reasons that people check in to hotels is a little solitude from the Sturm und Drang of everyday life. But lying in my luxuriously appointed hotel room in the dead of night
    I am almost willing the silence to be broken.

    And then I hear it, an almighty commotion from the room next door. It’s hard to tell if it’s an argument and at any other hotel I’d be demanding that the disturbance be dealt with, but instead I just lie there in awe.

    You see, the occupants of Bungalow 1 next door are not quarrelling newlyweds, they are a pride of lions. It’s the kind of experience that safari camps in Africa pride themselves on delivering.

    But I’m not in Africa. My 11-year-old and I are at Jamala Wildlife Lodge, a 10-minute drive from the centre of Canberra.

    Part of the privately owned National Zoo and Aquarium, Jamala Wildlife Lodge is the passion project of Richard and Maureen Tindale, who, in 1998, bought an aquarium and small native wildlife park after it went into receivership.

    Almost immediately they set about expanding the property, with a mission of housing animals in as comfortable surroundings as possible, aiming for best practice when it came to animal welfare.

    Many of the animals they initially brought into the zoo had spent their lives in circuses and were in desperate need of love. In the 17 years since, the zoo has continued to take in animals in dire straits, growing in size and contributing to international breeding programs, while educating visitors on the importance of wildlife conservation.

    The lodge offers guests the chance to spend time with some of the most endangered animals in the world, from the comfort of five-star facilities. All of the rooms scattered around the zoo are directly adjacent to an animal enclosure, with just floor-to-ceiling walls of glass separating man from beast.

    The rooms in the central uShaka Lodge overlook the likes of lemur, hyena, shark, and cheetah; six Giraffe Treehouses allow guests to feed the resident giraffe, Hummer, from their balconies; and the Jungle Bungalows look out over lions, cheetah, tiger and brown bear (conversely the animals can look in at the humans, including in the bath).

    Our room, Bungalow 2, is directly adjacent to the Malayan Sun Bear enclosure, and when we enter (walking past a cute as a button red panda munching on bamboo) we find Arataki, the man of the house, sprawled outside the window determinedly working his way into a coconut with his enormous claws.

    His partner Otay was rescued from Cambodia where she was being held in a cage until she was old enough to be sold to a restaurant – their paws are made into soup. It is impossible not to be totally transfixed, given that a Malayan sun bear is mere centimetres away.

    Later at dinner, which is taken as a group safari-style back at uShaka Lodge, the zoo’s keepers coax a pair of white lions up into an enclosure on the verandah where pre-dinner drinks are taken.

    The majestic beasts are close enough to reach out and touch (not advisable). While this kind of encounter may seem contrived and the opposite to being ‘in the wild’, many of these animals have never actually been in the wild.

    It is a fact that hits home the next morning when we set out on a behind-the-scenes tour of the zoo. We stop at the Sumatran tiger enclosure and hear about their plight: deforestation in pursuit of money from palm oil harvesting is wiping out the big cat’s habitat at a sickening rate. In a mere 20 years, the only place you will be able to see these tigers is in zoos; they will be totally extinct in the wild.

    And that’s where the gimmick of sleeping next to lions and tigers and bears becomes a serious attempt to stem the tragic flow of animals that are endangered. The funds raised from the room rates at Jamala go straight back into the zoo, allowing it to continue to strengthen its breeding program.

    As we wrench ourselves away from Arataki and Otay to check out of our room in the late morning we glimpse the young couple who spent the previous night beside the raucous lion family. Like most of the other guests they look happy, if not just a little tired.

    More information:

    See JamalaWildlife Lodge

    Finding the cool in Canberra

    Australian Traveller magazine 66

    Enjoy this article?

    You can find it in Issue 66 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.


    — Canberra —

    New Acton – Canberra’s ultimate designer day out


    In Canberra, a capital was designed and created from a town to become greater than the sum of its parts. It’s a tradition that has been continued in the newly designed and evolved NewActon, centred around the impossibly hip Nishi building.

    From my position in warrior pose, the flagpole atop Parliament House is at the tip of my outstretched right hand. As I sink into the yoga stance, I watch a lone kayaker spear through the glassy waters of Lake Burley Griffin.

    On the eighth floor, above NewActon’s achingly hip Hotel Hotel, the pace is set for a perfect day in one of Canberra’s coolest ’hoods. NewActon Precinct, in its present form as a cutting-edge design hub, was only completed in 2013. The award-winning Nishi building, a Japanese-inspired, sustainably designed architectural gem, is at the centre of the NewActon aesthetic and ethos.

    Housing both residential apartments and Hotel Hotel, the details of its public spaces are beautifully considered, from the cool, concrete-clad fireplace in the hotel’s Monster Kitchen and Bar to the infinitely Instagrammable Grand Stair, made from reclaimed wood from sources as diverse as a dismembered house and an old basketball court.

    The remainder of NewActon hasn’t missed out on any of this design-led curation, either, making the precinct one of the rare places where the adjective ‘hip’ truly applies. It’s the sort of place that gets design junkies all steamed up, and is a great example of how new neighbourhoods should evolve.

    Having begun with a virtuous bout of yoga (free for Hotel Hotel guests, but everyone’s invited), it seems only natural that a very decent breakfast should follow. Happily, in NewActon, very decent food offerings are never more than a three-minute walk away.

    Cosy cafes and artful attractions

    This morning, the cosy corner café of Mocan & Green Grout wins out over the equally worthy A. Baker. As my choice of venue is clearly a hit with the locals, you’ll always find people milling about, waiting for their morning takeaway fix or for a seat inside, where rough woods, leather, and curious furnishings send out bush-cabin vibes.

    Oscillating between robust fried eggs, chorizo, guindillas (a type of chilli) and corn puree, or the less guilt-laden smashed eggs with goat’s curd and black garlic, I keep my halo intact and opt for the latter.

    After breakfast, you could indulge in a treatment at La Bimbi spa, head to a movie at the Palace Electric Cinema, housed in the Nishi building, or muse over the latest exhibition at the petite Nishi Gallery.

    Being a creative precinct, there are often events to check out, from performance art to markets but, if not, a stroll across the overpass will take you lakeside. Should you feel actively inclined, you could follow a path along the shore, as I did, to the National Museum of Canberra or hire a cute, retro-red pedal car from Mr Spokes and set out for a laid-back trundle along the lake.

    Remember to take a look over your shoulder every now and then, to behold the Nishi building cutting an origami-like figure across the lake.

    The street food scene

    After all that activity, you’ll likely be in need of a little sustenance, so head back past Mr Spokes to Westside Acton Park in nearby Acton.

    Some clever people decided this prime lakeside spot could benefit from a little activity, so they stacked a bunch of shipping containers together to create a street-food jam, bar and event space. The bar, Aviary Rooftop, is up top, all canary yellow and pallet furniture.

    Aviary is hands-down the best place to spend a lazy afternoon, taking in those iconic Canberran views across the lake. Before you settle in, though, fill up downstairs at one of the many street-food stalls set up inside old shipping containers.

    Miss Van’s Street Food pumps out fresh Vietnamese and Laotian favourites, and the (fiery) hot tip is to opt in for their homemade chilli sauce. There’s also Indian, Middle Eastern, classic sandwiches and other snacks to be enjoyed.

    Unwind, it’s wine time

    Aviary Rooftop has removed my halo, and the late afternoon seems set to unwind in a similar vein, so it’s back across the overpass to pop into a couple of cool bars. First stop is the QT’s Capitol Bar & Grill for a G&T, where some politically themed quirk goes down perfectly.

    Then onwards to A. Baker’s basement bar, a little moodily lit bunker beneath the restaurant that feels a world away from anywhere. You could continue on to Parlour Wine Room for an elegant morsel, but I have a date with a Monster, back at Hotel Hotel. Chef Sean McConnell’s menu is designed to share, so bring as many friends as you can rustle up.

    The Asian mash-up style of the menu seems to reference the building, with additions such as katsuobushi (dried tuna flakes) and togarashi (seven-spice mix), but the theme doesn’t overwhelm the impeccable produce.

    The roasted bugs’ tails and pulled lamb shoulder are superb, made all the better with help from the resident sommelier. The glow from the bar’s fireplace draws replete diners to its side, where recounting a perfect day seems only natural.

    I’m eight floors below where my day began and, while I may have come down from a lofty morning in more ways than one, my opinions of NewActon as a dynamic, artfully minded neighbourhood stand even taller than its flagship building.

    Australian Traveller magazine 66

    Enjoy this article?

    You can find it in Issue 66 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.


    — Canberra —

    The best bars in Canberra right now


    Best bars and pubs in Canberra right now? You simply cannot go past these establishments without stopping in for a cocktail, aperitivo, rum, craft beer or whatever’s your poison. 

    Joe’s Bar offers a wry wink to Canberra’s Brutalist architecture with its centerpiece, a custom concrete curtain, which contributes to its theatrical and quirky vibe. This ‘small bar celebrating big things’ is a more lofty bookend to its sister cafe Muse, and is mobbed by locals wanting to indulge in rustic Italian fare such as polpettine di carne (meatballs) and cocktails such as the Bitter Pig, featuring pancetta-washed bourbon.

    Back across town in Braddon, head down the dinky lane off Lonsdale Street, marked with a red neon light, to find Bacaro, the tucked-away small bar attached like a speakeasy sidecar to Italian & Sons. The main draw here is the aperitivo menu. Once you’re inside, sidle up to the marble-topped bar and order an amaro and a selection from the enviable cheese and meats list.

    Honky Tonks is a top spot for tacos, and has the largest selection of tequila in town, while Canberra’s new Cuban-themed bar, Highball Express, has more than 300 varieties of rum on offer.

    Mint Garden Bar is also a magical spot for a few cocktails, under trees festooned with fairy lights.

    Molly’s is another chic, well-designed throwback to the Prohibition era and a dark, discreet place to go when you’re in party mode.

    If it’s an old-school pub experience you’re after, however, the owners of Sydney’s The Hive Bar have taken over the reins of The Old Canberra Inn, which was built as a coach house in 1857. This atmospheric, low-ceilinged pub in Lyneham, not far from the Federal Highway, is now a fun, low-key family-friendly flophouse with a leafy beer garden, DJs and a more sophisticated take on pub food, as well as taps from which flow a variety of craft beers.

    More… Everything else you ever really wanted to know about Canberra

    Australian Traveller magazine 66

    Enjoy this article?

    You can find it in Issue 66 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.


    — Canberra —

    Browsing Braddon – Canberra’s go-to eat street


    Once a strip of auto stores and car yards, Braddon is wearing its new eclectic eat-street rep with ease. Set aside plenty of time to discover just how delicious a neighbourhood revival can be. (By Lara Picone). 

    Braddon has been infiltrated. Slowly at first, but with escalating fervour, the once prosaic stretch of mechanics and auto-part stores has been taken over by hot, new cafes, architecturally designed buildings and stylish shops.

    There are still remnants of the past in shop names that reference the area’s receding industry, like burger joint Grease Monkey. Some even still cling to their leases, despite the encroaching cool. Repco is wedged self-consciously between a trendy bakery and a cafe, like the youngest child in the middle seat on a long car trip: aware its presence is a persistent annoyance.

    Yet, it’s this very history that has given Braddon’s evolution a good foundation for lasting transformation. Without the auto industry warehouses to convert into quirky restaurants, Braddon would feel a little manufactured. Layering above what has gone before means the shiny and new benefits from some good, ingrown grit; in a city so young, it’s quite hard to come by.

    Designer and developer Nik Bulum has been credited with much of Braddon’s reclamation, beginning with pop-up space Lonsdale Street Traders, which he spearheaded with a policy of flexibility and cheap rents to emerging creatives. It took off and, soon enough, Bulum had his sights on some more permanent improvements.

    His Ori building on Lonsdale Street opened earlier this year, and is a mix of retail and residential spaces. The design makes use of reclaimed materials in a nod to Braddon’s industrial past, while the more contemporary elements are distinctly futuristic. It’s a proclamation of the new: design-led, energetic and open to ideas.

    Homewares, fashion, coffee

    Inside, and spilling onto the street, is a cluster of homewares, fashion and food stores, including some from the original Lonsdale Street Traders and Bulum’s own Unit Concepts. There is a collaborative undercurrent running through the Ori building, with the spirit of the pop-up lending an excitement to the space.

    Joining in the fun is florist Moxom + Whitney, with their artful arrangements and new-Braddon aesthetic. There’s also ice-cream parlour, Frugii, whose ‘alchemists’ freeze some of the cutest looking concoctions onto sticks, and fashion store Rebel Muse, as well as a handful of gift and homewares stores, among them Handsomepretty where the eclectic range of curios and furniture is arranged by colour.

    But even more pervasive than an intent to steer Braddon’s streets into design nirvana is the area’s emergence as one of Canberra’s best eat streets. From Grease Monkey’s car shop-turned-beer garden now applying a liberal dose of grease to customers via burgers instead of oil changes, to the refined dining of eightysix (, or pop-up food truck venue The Hamlet, and a smattering of good cafes including the iconic Lonsdale Street Roasters and bakery Autolyse, Braddon caters to both the well-heeled and the hungry.

    The Hamlet, at 16 Lonsdale Street, perhaps couldn’t exist anywhere else but Canberra, where a relaxed allsorts bag of clientele keeps things on the level. It’s hard to imagine a place in either Sydney or Melbourne, where BYO alcohol, communal picnicking and a Saturday night DJ wouldn’t descend into anarchy and, ultimately, over-regulation.

    In the evening – bars and fine dining

    But in Braddon, it somehow works perfectly. Of an evening, a DJ spins some beats to keep it all lively, while punters chew on BrodDogs’ classic hot dogs and the half-size ‘puppies’, chanchito from Mr Papa, and bratwurst from The Brathaus.

    Throughout the day, Chasing Mr Morris serves up lattes from a converted Combi, which has had its driver’s seat removed in favour of a crochet-covered couch, and people mooch in and out as their appetites dictate. The whole set-up is again collaborative, chilled out and delightfully down-to-earth, with the sense that everyone is eager to embrace any new idea.

    If there is revelling to be had, it tends to happen across the road at Hopscotch Bar, where live music and a large front beer garden inflate the space with atmosphere. It’s so popular that, after a certain hour, a line appears out the front, where bar-hoppers must wait to enter.

    While both The Hamlet and Hopscotch tend to capture a younger set (and a fair few families at The Hamlet), Braddon also stamps its mark on the fine-dining scene.

    There’s the much-loved Italian and Sons with its refined and brooding interiors and sleek pasta dishes, such as the maccheroncini al’ ragu, starring suckling lamb. But the place that elicits an ‘Oh, yes’ from locals when you mention an impending booking is the Elouera Street restaurant, eightysix.

    When it comes to young, hip, tattooed chefs sliding unfussy but clever dishes across the pass, eightysix is entirely in step. Begin with a barrel-aged negroni and fried gnocchi, then move into the second act of share plates, such as the kangaroo with beetroot and horseradish, or perhaps the thoroughly street-sounding ghetto beef with salsa verde.

    Bare brick walls and an open kitchen add to the cool but, as with most new-wave Canberra restaurants, the service has a neighbourly touch to it. That’s what Braddon looks set to become in its new incarnation: swapping dungarees for aprons, but holding onto the community spirit of its past.


    What else would you like to know about Canberra? 

    Australian Traveller magazine 66

    Enjoy this article?

    You can find it in Issue 66 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.


    — Canberra —

    Journeys deep into Canberra’s wine country


    From the city limits of Canberra to the countryside stretching out into New South Wales, the Canberra District wine region is quietly making waves in the world of wine.

    The cellar door at Helm Wines has a beautiful backstory, and nobody tells it better than Ken Helm, the winemaker himself. The fact he is on hand to recount the tale is what makes knocking on this cellar door, on Canberra’s city limits, so attractive.

    “The cellar door was the original 1888 Toual Public School House, which was where Wesleyan Methodists signed a pledge against alcohol,” says Helm, with a hearty laugh. When he found the school house, though, it had sheep living in it and was being eaten up by the countryside.

    “I conned some mates to help me jack it up on the back of a truck and drive it the one kilometre back to its original home,” he remembers. “We restored the building, and the National Trust has since listed it as a building of importance.”

    After 22 years working as a horticultural scientist at the CSIRO, Helm purchased the 15-hectare property in 1973, and set up one of the district’s first wineries with wife Judith.

    German heritage

    Although he knew about disease and pest management, he was enamoured with the idea of following in his great grandfather’s footsteps; Helm is a fourth-generation descendant of German ‘vinedressers’, who were brought to Australia to transplant viticultural skills to the colony in the 1850s.

    His first wine, made in 1977, was a riesling that won first prize at the Forbes Wine Show. In fact, Helm is the founder of the annual Canberra International Riesling Challenge, and is credited for leading the district towards its, now, worldwide reputation for producing cool-climate wines, such as riesling and cabernet.

    “As well as having the Canberra district recognised nationally and internationally as a destination,” he says, “one of the most wonderful things about the ACT is that it hasn’t lost that family charm.

    “To go to a cellar door and find the winemaker there, to serve you and extol the virtues of the wine, is what makes us special.”

    The not-just-Canberra Canberra wine region

    The Canberra District wine region covers quite a large geographic area, including the Australian Capital Territory (encompassing Canberra city), north and west to beyond Yass in New South Wales and across to Lake George and Bungendore in the east.

    All up, there are 180 vineyards and about 600 hectares of vines, eight of which are located in the sub-region of Lake George and Bungendore at the 16-hectare Lerida Estate.

    Best known for its pinot noir, shiraz viognier and botrytised pinot gris, Lerida Estate is one of the 10 wineries in the district (including Helm Wines) awarded five stars by James Halliday, and its design by world-renowned architect Glenn Murcutt turns heads. The cellar door and cafe enjoy dreamy views over the ever-ethereal Lake George.

    A tutored tasting at Lerida Estate kicks off with a tour of the vineyard, winery and barrel room with either one of the owners or the winemaker Malcolm Burdett, and concludes with an introduction to selected award-winning wines.

    The Lake George factor

    “Our objective,” says co-owner, Jim Lumbers, “is to realise the full potential of the Lake George terroir to produce outstanding wines – particularly pinot noir – using low-yielding vines with minimal intervention, to give the full spectrum of primary and secondary flavours.

    This objective seems well on the way to being achieved,” he continues proudly, “with the Lerida Estate 2014 ‘Lake George’ Pinot Noir and 2014 ‘Josephine’ Pinot Noir both winning gold [including Top Gold] at the 2015 Canberra and Region Wine Show.”

    The Canberra District also shone at the 2015 NSW Wine Awards, with Nick O’Leary Wines taking out the NSW Wine of the Year, for the second year running, with its 2014 shiraz (produced on the southern escarpment of Lake George, near Bungendore).

    The elegance of Murrumbateman

    Tim Kirk, CEO of Clonakilla Wines, is another renowned winemaker putting the Murrumbateman area on the map.

    “The crisp, cool climate of the Canberra District enables us to craft complex, savoury wines of great subtlety and elegance,” he offers.

    “It’s from this distinct climate and landscape that we produce wines more about elegance than power: aromatic rieslings with gentle floral and citrus notes, backed by bright natural acidity, and fragrant shirazes full of dark spices, black pepper and fruit.”

    Oenophiles should also stop by to clink glasses with Sue and Dave Carpenter at Lark Hill Winery, a biodynamic farm high on the escarpment above Bungendore, and drop in, too, to the cellar door of Murrumbateman’s Shaw Vineyard Estate, where the area’s cool-climate wines are showcased right alongside a range of locally crafted produce, such as jams, olive oils, chocolates, sauces and mustards.

    Australian Traveller magazine 66

    Enjoy this article?

    You can find it in Issue 66 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.


    — Canberra —

    Ultimate Family Breaks: Questacon Canberra


    ***Created in partnership with our sponsor Questacon Canberra***

    Get ready to experience science in extraordinary ways at Questacon – The National Science and Technology Centre.

    Weave your way through the captivating world of Spiders with Questacon’s newest exhibition opening in November.

    Discover our unique Australian arachnids from the tiny dancing peacock spider through to the supersized Australian tarantula!

    The excitement continues in Q Lab with an ever-changing array of intriguing experiments, explosive demonstrations and interesting displays.

    The youngest scientists will enjoy Mini Q as they play, discover and learn in a gallery specifically for zero to six-year-olds.

    No visit to Questacon is complete without watching – or even starring in – a Spectacular Science Show.

    These entertaining shows will have you on the edge of your seat.


    Phone: 02 6270 2800

    Australian Traveller issue 59

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    You can find it in Issue 59 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.


    — Canberra —

    Review: Hyatt Hotel, Canberra – is classic enough?


    Canberra is coming over all hip and new, but there are some classic touches that never go out of fashion, such as the Hyatt Hotel Canberra, as Leigh-Ann Pow finds.

    You have to love any place where the person opening the door for you is dressed in pin-stripe plus fours, an argyle-patterned knit and a flat cap.

    It’s a far cry from the new hipster hotels sprouting up all over Canberra, with their exposed concrete everything, resident baristas and iPad check-in. But the Hyatt Hotel Canberra has a venerable history that it’s proud to let people know (questionable trouser length included).

    Opened in 1924 to house politicians in the newly minted capital (parliament sat in Melbourne until 1927), it was originally known by the rather pedestrian moniker of Hostel No. 1, before becoming the Hotel Canberra.

    Reclaimed from parliament

    The mighty Sydney-based Tooheys took over in the 1950s, and from 1976 to 1984 it was drafted into use as an annex for Parliament House and filled with government staff. After a drawn out mission to restore the grand dame to her former glory it was reopened in 1988 as the Hyatt Hotel Canberra.

    Located in the leafy surrounds of Yarralumla, close to the power and hubris of Capital Hill and the high walls and ever watchful CCTV cameras of numerous international embassies, you arrive off the long, wide Commonwealth Avenue into manicured gardens.

    The circular driveway leads up to the portico of the original structure, a wide, low whitewashed and red-tiled building that has an aura of the residential about it.

    Inside the lobby its grand proportions are much more evident, with a vast, hushed space of columns and polished floors instantly evident through latticed doors. Check-in is efficiently taken care of here while the fellows in caps outside collect the luggage and valet the car.

    High tea every day

    With key in hand the walk to the lifts, and the extension that houses the bulk of the rooms, takes you through the Tea Lounge, where high tea is served daily (make sure you book ahead as this is the favourite gathering place of ladies who lunch in these parts), past the bar with its outdoor seating among the pretty gardens, and the restaurant where breakfast, lunch and dinner is served.

    Suddenly the ceilings soar skyward as the atriumed modern space opens up in front of you, with stairs zig-zagging up to the floors above.

    Our room is one flight up (no need for the lift) and has generous floor space with a seating area and desk. The bathroom is grand, dark and marble drenched, with a separate shower and bath, and lots of space to primp and preen in preparation for the black-tie birthday we are in town for. The king bed proves insanely comfortable when we return to the hotel.

    The next morning we sit down for the buffet breakfast, which includes a very nice Bircher muesli and attentive service, before heading out to inspect the indoor pool and gym, housed in a modern glass building.

    Biking the lake

    There are a collection of bikes here that can be ridden along the paths that snake through the vast parklands that nestle up to the expanse of Lake Burley Griffin over the road, past Chinese and Japanese structures, gifts from the sister cities of Beijing and Nara.

    Back in the lovely historic lobby, ready to check out, we wait for the doorman to bring our car. It seems strange to watch someone in plus fours climb out of our modern ride, but it is this mix of old and new that sets the Hyatt apart during the current ‘hipsterisation’ of Canberra.

    So why not celebrate it, quirky uniforms and all.


    The details: Hyatt Hotel, Canberra

    The verdict: As Canberra reinvents itself as the cool capital of Australia, we love that there’s still room for a gracious grand dame such as this.
    The score: 7/10
    We rated: The helpful staff, the spacious rooms and, of course, the snazzy uniforms.
    We hated: Nothing really; with so many years under its belt the staff really have things humming along nicely.
    Contact: 120 Commonwealth Av, Canberra; 02 6270 1234;

    All AT reviews are conducted anonymously and our writers pay their own way – so we experience exactly what you would.

    Australian Traveller Issue 63

    Enjoy this article?

    You can find it in Issue 63 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.


    — Canberra —

    #32 – Taste the Poacher’s Way trail


    Canberra’s new cloak of cool is extending past the city boundaries. Case in point The Poacher’s Way trail showcases the best of food, drink and artisan wares, number 32 on Australian Traveller’s ‘100 amazing places you haven’t been to yet‘. Nominated by: Lorraine Elliott, food blogger and author.

    Canberra might be loudly shrugging off its reputation for daggyness, but in the towns of the city’s outskirts, a similar sort of revolution has been quietly happening for yonks, says Lorraine Elliott.

    “The Poacher’s Way trail is an initiative started by one local, designed to show that revolution,” she explains, “and it’s grown to include all the area’s best stop-offs – everything from historical pubs, artisan bakeries and unique wood-fired ceramics to sustainable spas.”

    Take Murrumbateman winery, Clonakilla, says Elliott. “They’re doing the most amazing things – each year, queues form just to buy a single bottle of their legendary shiraz viognier,” she says. “It’s previously been tipped as ‘one of the most important advances in the development of Australian shiraz since the release of 1952 Penfolds Grange Hermitage’.”

    Meanwhile, nearby Poachers Pantry is the ultimate stop for gourmet bowerbirds – “they have the most divine range of smoked goods, as well as a great little on-site restaurant.”

    There are plenty of other worthwhile offerings, she adds – “like the small pub in Gundaroo, which was built in 1872 and is worth a visit for a look at the lovingly restored roof alone, and Grazing, one of the most well-loved restaurants of the area, which uses a lot of local food,” but the list is just too long to fit here.

    Head to for more.


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    Australian Traveller Issue 62

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    — Canberra —

    #99 – Try a tree-change at the National Arboretum


    Hot air ballooning over the National Arboretum, Canberra, ACT, number 99 on Australian Traveller’s ‘100 amazing places you haven’t been to yet’Nominated by: Ewan Roberts, MD of Balloon Aloft (and proud Canberran)

    We thought: who would know the ACT’s hidden treasures better than a man who spends most days floating above them?

    And when we asked Ewan Roberts, someone who has spent over 2000 hours with his feet very much off the ground with Balloon Aloft, his answer was immediate.

    “Oh, the Arboretum area,” he said firmly. “We see it most mornings from the balloon and people are always asking what it is. The sculptured terraces, the lovely restaurant, the amphitheatre – it’s all there.”

    It is actually possible to build a pretty relaxing holiday itinerary around the National Arboretum. Between watching plays on the open-air stage, getting your pulse up on the walks and biking trails around its 250 hectares and enjoying the delights of the café, restaurant, shop and exhibition space, there is certainly more than a bunch of trees to be had here.

    A full events calendar means you can usually sign up for a guided forest walk or bonsai demonstration and, of course, a morning with Roberts in a balloon, which is a pretty fabulous way to enjoy the architectural plantings and award-winning landscape as they sweep below your basket-bound feet.


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    Australian Traveller Issue 62

    Enjoy this article?

    You can find it in Issue 62 along with
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    — Canberra —

    Floriade – the biggest blooming show in Australia


    Greta Stonehouse goes digging around for dirt on Australia’s most prolific flower show, Canberra’s Floriade.

    “The most asked question at Floriade is about the English daisies, which look like little buttons – people always want to know what they are.”

    The event’s head gardener Andrew Forster answers one of the most burning questions surrounding Floriade to date, and if anyone knows their tulips from their daisies it’s this guy.

    Floriade, held in Canberra’s Commonwealth Park, is the largest flower show in the Southern Hemisphere. In 2013 alone almost 450,000 thousand people attended. In 2014 more than one million flowers and 70 different kinds of bulbs will be making up the show and it made us wonder, how does such a mind-boggling amount of flowers come together. Surely Canberra’s Garden of Eden is hiding some skeletons in its soil.

    Forster explains that Floriade is not an “exotic display” of flowers or a native homage to our backyard bloomers, the mix of tulips, daisies and pansies are chosen because they can bloom for the September to October 30-day period.

    Even though the flowers bloom for the show’s entirety “the second week of Floriade is a great time to come and check out Floriade. The gardens are usually at their peak at this time,” says Andrew.

    During the 27 years Floriade has been running, surprisingly no flowerbeds have fallen victim to viruses or random plagues of exotic bugs. In fact, the only skeleton to be found in this garden bed is the odd orange tulip in amongst a bed of red ones.

    If your garden bed is in need of a few tulips or daisies you might want to consider volunteering next year because when the gates finally close in October all the flowers are distributed amongst the volunteers, nursery homes and hospital garden beds.

    Floriade runs between 13 September and 12 October in 2014 at the Commonwealth Park in Canberra.

    Four Floriade faves…

    Floriade spokeswoman Adelina La Vita is wrapped about a number of celebrity faces making an appearance this year. She says …

    1. Floriade favourite Barry Du Bois is returning for the second year – I can’t wait to see what DIY tricks he has up his sleeve.

    2. Bindi Irwin’s Wildlife Warriors presentations will attract huge crowds – she really is an inspiring young Australian.

    3. Miguel Maestre will no doubt be an absolute charmer and his Spanish cooking demonstrations should be fantastic.

    4. I’m really interested to hear what Indira Naidoo has to say about gardening in small spaces. Her book, The Edible Balcony, is a great read.



    While you’re in Canberra…


    — Canberra —

    Is this a sign that Canberra can out-Hollywood Hollywood?


    Nothing shouts ‘Canberra isn’t boring’ like a 14-metre high, Hollywood-style sign that is proposed by one tenacious ACT local.

    New Jersey-born Alicia Doherty is driving an ambitious idea to construct a corrugated steel sign that will spell out ‘CANBERRA’ on an entire tier of a disused quarry on Eagle Hawk Hill, facing the Federal Highway as you drive into the capital from Sydney, two kilometres on the NSW side of the border.

    “A lot of people were saying Canberra hasn’t got a real sense of arrival and this would certainly change that,” says Doherty. “When my husband and I first moved to Canberra we were doing a lot of travelling back and forth, because he is a Sydney boy, and every time I drove past this huge quarry I thought it was just screaming out for a sign.”

    The Canberra Times’ Tim the Yowie Man has described the capital’s current ‘sense of arrival’ by road as having “as much ‘wow factor’ as taking a packet of milk arrowroot biscuits to a dessert party.”

    Doherty believes the sign will represent much more than just a fancy welcome.

    “There’s been an ongoing debate about how boring Canberra is but that’s really just coming from ill-informed people,” she says. “I’ve lived all around the world and Canberra has a great quality and way of life.”

    “This will be a good way to reflect the personality and energy of Canberra today – and so many businesses and community groups can get involved with it.”

    The project is at the “can we do it?” stage, but the site has already been secured, free of charge, thanks to the former quarry’s owner, Lorenzo ‘Laurie’ Pastrello. He was so excited by the idea of the sign that he promised: “if you can make it happen, you can use the land.”

    Doherty is currently exploring ways to fund the project that will not rely on government funding, approaching various groups for support to build the sign and exploring corporate and community sponsorship of individual letters (for example, the capital’s rugby union team, the Brumbies, could sponsor the ‘B’). The Canberra-phile also wants to run an ACT-wide competition for the design.

    But even in its nursery stages the concept has copped criticism, particularly about the sign’s perceived lack of originality.

    “Sure, it’s big, it’s on the side of a hill, and a lot of people will see it, but we’re not just copying Hollywood,” counters Doherty. “It’s an artwork; the letters will have some elegant design to them [complete with proposed high quality lighting system and landscaping].”

    As she pushes through the approval, Doherty hopes the support from the community continues and she is optimistic that Canberra’s new welcome mat can be rolled out by March 2015, all going well.

    Do you support the Canberra sign?

    Is it a great idea or thumbs down for the new sign? Email us ( with your comments.

    Or contact Alicia Doherty directly (email: or Twitter: @MyCanberraSign) to show support and give your input.



    Ten reasons Canberra’s not boring

    Steve Madgwick

    — Canberra —

    Review: QT Canberra – the politics of luxury?


    QT Canberra brings new meaning to the term ‘political party’– but, asks Nikki Wallman, does it deliver on the serious side of the hotel experience?

    Politics, it seems, is having quite the pop-culture moment. Witness the download-now-or-die success of political TV drama House of Cards, with its cloak-and-dagger bed-hopping and backstabbing. Or Seinfeld’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus as feisty, gaffe-prone US vice president Selina Meyer in the hilarious Veep (Foxtel viewers, that one’s for you). Hell, even our real-life pollies seem increasingly focused on the power of pop politics (see: K-Rudd’s selfies; Abbott’s front-row fashionista daughters…).

    It’s snappy timing, then, for the QT brand to pull up at the former Rydges Lakeside hotel in Canberra, bringing its signature formula of crazy/sexy/cool to an extensive redevelopment of this 205-room former political hotspot (the hotel hosted several milestone party meetings, celebrations and conferences in its previous incarnation). The end result, according to QT’s website, is a site where “luxury chic and politics meet in the nation’s capital”.

    QT Canberra’s April opening follows hot on the heels of the new design-led Hotel Hotel, which sits in the foreground of the view of Parliament House from our balcony. Both hotels are located in the emerging arts and cultural precinct of New Acton, a testament to Canberra’s rising stock in ‘cool’.

    Our room is rendered in minimalist chic; the monochromatic theme accented with touches of colour and quirk (the signature QT cocktail station; a cute glasses-wearing dog on the chair pillow). The spy-themed minibar offers everything from an emergency bowtie and ‘Intimacy Kit’ to requisite booze and snacks. The large TV, mounted above a desk complete with postcards featuring infamous pollie quotes (“I wanna do you slowly” – Paul Keating), elicits a happy sigh from my husband as he flicks on the footy.

    And the bed… oh, the bed. Marshmallow-soft, it’s easy to imagine a few missed early-morning diplomacy phone calls (or just, ahem, breakfast). The small bathroom ticks most boxes: big mirror, large rain showerhead; good lighting, and quality toiletries from New York brand Malin + Goetz.

    However – and maybe I just don’t get minimalist chic – the room feels slightly lacking in the ‘luxe’ factor promised by the website. It might be the unadorned white walls (save for one odd, red wire ‘sculpture’); the way the furniture doesn’t seem to quite fill the space; or – a personal bugbear – the thin bathroom towels. Overall, however, these are small detractions, forgotten once we venture downstairs.

    Encompassing reception, lobby, lounge areas, cool barbershop-slash-entrance to Lucky’s Speakeasy, and the Capitol Bar & Grill, the sprawling ground floor is QT’s crowning glory. Dominated by dark tones and complemented by blond wood and monochromatic, patterned furnishings, it’s modern and sophisticated, full of playful, cheeky winks and nods to the site’s heavyweight political history.

    Service is smooth and friendly, the young staff obviously chuffed to be part of Canberra’s sexy new thang. Neon Twitter feeds scroll down mirrors next to reception, and the wallpaper is brilliant: a kaleidoscopic pattern of pollies, with miniature Tony Abbotts overlapping grinning Kevin Rudds.

    The central lobby area feels slightly redundant: a few glass-domed cabinets filled with politically-themed knick-knacks failing to inject much character into the large space. It’s a rare example of where, thanks to the existing structure, the design feels retro-fitted rather than purposeful.

    Turn the corner though, and you come to a cool lounge area where neon and pop-art portraits of world leaders past and present – from Kim Jong-un to Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy – line the corridor. This leads us to the Capitol Bar & Grill, where we settle in for a drink by the slick gas fireplace before dinner in the buzzing restaurant – the highlight of our stay.

    QT’s food guru Robert Marchetti presents a menu packed with confidence (our shared rib eye is smoky, perfectly cooked – the best steak I’ve had in years), flavour (hello, truffled mac’n cheese!) and that signature QT playfulness (crunchy, fluffy donuts come with jam and custard-filled syringes for you to inject). It isn’t cheap, but well worth the splurge.

    Vote QT? Why, yes. Yes, I would.

    The details: QT Canberra

    The verdict: QT is set to shake up Canberra’s hospitality scene with its signature blend of playful, chic décor and serious bar and dining clout. The ‘luxe’ factor could be dialled up a little in the rooms, but really you’ll want for nothing.
    The score: 16/20; great
    We rated: The dining experience is reason alone to visit; the cloud-like beds will make you linger a while longer.
    We hated: Sometimes it feels as though attention to political knick-knacks takes precedence over thoughtful furnishings. And we didn’t try the antipasto buffet, which is apparently ah-maz-ing. Our bad.
    Where: QT Canberra, 1 London Circuit, Canberra, ACT
    Notes: We paid $229 for a Queen room (plus $12 overnight parking fee)
    Contact: 02 6247 6244;

    NB: All AT reviews are conducted anonymously and our writers pay their own way – so we experience exactly what you would.


    MORE: While you’re in Canberra why don’t you…

    Australian Traveller issue 57: Guide to the Kimberley Special

    Enjoy this article?

    You can find it in Issue 57 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.


    — Canberra —

    Canberra: a restaurant for every occasion


    There have been excellent dining options in Canberra for a long time – way back in 1999 New York Times food writer Barbara Santich even wrote a front-page story raving about the restaurant scene for its travel section. These days, there’s fantastic dining available all over the place – including for those of us without government credit cards. (Leigh Ann Pow) We like:

    Italian & Sons

    A busy, buzzy take on the Roman trattoria – all hanging cured meats and thin, crispy pizzas. Definitely do not even contemplate attempting a weekend visit to Italian & Sons without a booking. 7 Lonsdale St, Braddon; 02 6162 4888.

    Jamie’s Italian

    You know you’ve made it when Mr Oliver comes to town. Located inside the sprawling Canberra Centre, Jamie’s is the perfect place to grab a bite between shopping forays or before catching a movie at Dendy Cinemas upstairs. 125 Bunda Street, Canberra; 02 6268 0400.

    The European

    A wine bar and restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner from its bustling open kitchen. 31 Giles Street, Kingston, 02 6295 1515

    OX Eatery

    Attached to The East Hotel, OX Eatery is the restaurant of the minute (and on Friday nights, its outdoor terrace is also the place to drink). Sit in the luxe fit-out of curving wood and leather banquets and order from the daily selection of meats on the specially imported French rotisserie at the restaurant’s heart. Or pre-order the whole suckling pig, but be warned, you’ll be eating all night – it’s only available to groups 16 or more. 69 Canberra Avenue, Kingston, 02 6178 0041.


    Another gorgeous spot. Perched front and centre in the heart of Manuka, from lunch until late Public is packed with bright young things enjoying the convivial pub atmosphere, sampling the menu of burgers and wood fired pizzas, beers on tap and schmoozy live music on the weekends. Flinders Way, Corner of Franklin Street, Manuka; 02 6161 8808.

    Hyatt Canberra

    Surrounded by high commissions and consulates, taking part in the high tea, in the genteel surrounds of this historic hotel, is a Canberra institution. Make sure you reserve a table at the Park Hyatt well in advance. 120 Commonwealth Ave, Yarralumla; 02 6270 1234.



    Top 5 brunch spots in Canberra

    AT issue 56

    Enjoy this article?

    You can find it in Issue 56 along with
    loads of other great stories and tips.