Once an industrial hub and the topic of hushed conversations, the ACT’s Fyshwick is being reinvented thanks to a band of forward-thinking entrepreneurs and a feast of new delights.
In decades past, Fyshwick had quite the reputation. You’d find adult stores, ladies of the night and firework sellers galore, but you’d be hard pressed to get a decent coffee. Now an urban reinvention is taking place and some of the city’s most energetic innovators are heading just south of the city to create a new and exciting enclave of good food, emporiums and enterprise, alongside some of the stalwarts.
Fyshwick isn’t Canberra’s prettiest suburb, which is no surprise given its past. It once housed the Molonglo Internment Camp, built in 1918 in the fever-pitch days following the First World War. The plan to house thousands of German and Austrian nationals was short-lived and instead came hundreds of families from recently closed camps in New South Wales. When those families were deported the following year the camp closed, but the streets that serviced it remained to become those of Fyshwick.
In the early days of growing a brand-new city, the suburb was slated as a light industrial area and large commercial sites saw manufacturers, distributors and mechanics move in. Many streets bear the names of industrial towns as a nod to the area’s beginnings.
Far from the world of shopping malls, Fyshwick is dotted with surprising finds and unique traders. It’s a place where new meets old, with interesting pairings and unlikely neighbours. The light industry continues, but a rebirth is occurring.
“It’s the vibrancy of the mix here that draws people: the bespoke next to the chain, the handcrafted next to the manufactured,” says Rebekah of vintage fashion store Material Pleasures. “Plus, you can’t underestimate the lure of free street parking.”
It’s an area Rebekah knows well. Her family has been associated with Fyshwick for decades, having bought one of the original blocks of land in Barrier Street auctioned in 1966 on the ‘other side of the railway’.
But it’s not just the old hands who inhabit this suburb, or visit. A new generation is being drawn here by new offerings, putting Fyshwick high on the hip list. For example, warehouse-laden Dairy Flat Road in particular has been reimagined, and now houses a collection of fresh faces, including a pop-up food and wine event, Forage, as well as a drink-in brewery.
Laurence Kain, one half of the founding team at Capital Brewery Co., is excited at the area’s potential. “Fyshwick’s a perfect spot for us, with room enough to allow us to grow our production, but close enough to stay connected to the community and allow us to offer a whole experience for our customers. We love it here.”
The future of Fyshwick is looking bright as it continues to evolve. Move over, Braddon: Fyshwick’s on the move. Here’s what to do while you’re there…
Cool but cosy is the newly minted Wildflour, an artisan bakery and cafe.
A reinvention of Remy’s Bakery, it brings some of Canberra’s favourite coffee gurus and foodies under one roof: Remy’s stayed on to continue the famed sourdoughs and pastries, and all-day dining has been added to the mix, including coffee by Ona, another Fyshwick legend. Mums and dads will love the covered outdoor space and cubby house for the kids.
Address: 8 Townsville St, Fyshwick
A year after switching from one side of the city to the other, DOS Emporium offers the ultimate in vintage chic with a modern twist. Mother and daughter duo Sharyn and Taylor Pitsilos have brought 13 traders under one (much larger) roof to offer a whole experience.
Now your retro treasure shopping can include a touch of new, with luxury toiletries, fresh flowers or a coffee on the side.
Address: Corner of Barier & 1 Lyell Street Fyshwick
Bringing a delicious touch of France to Fyshwick is ever-popular Flute. Think beautiful mousse cakes, tarts and pastries, and multi-coloured macarons in perfect Parisian rows.
This Barrier Street spot also bakes bread that’s the real deal. They don’t do weekends or credit cards here but they do make great gourmet pies for a quick midweek drop-in or takeaway. Go early or miss out.
Address: 8 Barrier St, Fyshwick
Spend a lazy few hours inside or out at Capital Brewing Co. and its taproom, or go behind the scenes to learn about its natural product and sustainability ethos.
Awarded best Australian brewery experience in 2019, Capital boasts 12 tap beers made on site, which you can sample there and then or take away to enjoy later.
Address: Building 3/1 Dairy Rd, Fyshwick
Foodies will rejoice in this unique providore specialising in gourmet artisan products, many made in Canberra and its surrounds.
Pick up chocolate delights, vinaigrettes or local wines in-house, or Dawn (who sports an unwavering big smile) will whip up a gourmet hamper for shipping anywhere in Australia. Snip off some herbs to take with you from the little community garden out front.
Address: 16 Of 8 Gladstone St, Paragon Mall, Fyshwick
A recent inside addition to the fresh food Fyshwick Markets, arty little sister Niche Markets is bursting with quirky traders and local craftspeople. From flowers to jewellery, homewares to hand-crafted gifts, the stallholders will add a new layer to your fruit and veg shop. It’s open from Thursday to Sunday.
Address: Fyshwick Fresh Food Markets, 36 Mildura St, Fyshwick
What’s a beer without a burger? The boys at Capital have you covered with Canberra’s famous red burger van finding a permanent home at the brewery – a match made in heaven. Only question is: burger or hot dog?
Address: Dairy Rd, Fyshwick
A family affair since 1992, Canty’s is a Fyshwick institution. With 1.2 kilometres of bookshelves, prepare for some happy fossicking among the glorious and sometimes perilous piles.
The ever-knowledgeable Luke Canty can assist or you can embark on your own magical mystery tour. Mostly secondhand, there’s also a collection of new books at good prices.
Address: Unit 4, 5 & 6 of Fyshwick Plaza, 59-61 Wollongong St, Fyshwick
Get your outdoors fix by strolling through one of Canberra’s most valuable wetland and bird habitats. Do a spot of birdwatching, shoot some photos or take a guided tour. You might even discover some trenches used for training during the war days by Duntroon Royal Military College.
Address: Dairy Rd, Fyshwick
Breathing new life into old, Material Pleasures brings a constantly changing and upmarket range of pre-loved fashion and designer labels to a city keen to be sustainable. It’s Mainly for the ladies but men get their own section too in this spacious store.
Address: 3 Barrier St, Fyshwick