East Hotel is outside the Canberra CBD; don’t expect your average CBD hotel.
69 Canberra Ave, Kingston ACT 2604
What to expect
As one of Canberra’s many corporate travellers, I’d seen it all – sparse minibars, ‘edgy’ (read: dark and cramped) rooms and lobbies reminiscent of airline lounges. By the time it reached Friday the last thing I wanted to see was the inside of another pokey hotel room.
Stepping into the East Hotel lobby, you do notice that ‘edgy’ feel – dark tones, modern furnishings, that obligatory lolly jar and Mac desktop – but it has a certain warmth to it. A neighbouring café bookshop emanates quiet jazz music and the comforting buzz of afternoon conversation, while a small magazine library has people browsing and flicking through pages.
Upon check-in, I receive a handy guide with my keys detailing the surrounding area (the lively ‘inner-South’ – suburban Manuka and Kingston) and the best local eats and activities. Bikes for hire and maps are available from reception.
I stayed in a Luxe One Bedroom Apartment, and I couldn’t have been happier.
Light and sun-filled, the apartment was pleasantly spacious, with its own fully-equipped open-plan kitchen and living area, separate bedroom and bathroom. The plush carpet and occasional pop of colour in a throw rug or cushion made it feel warm and inviting; a large balcony offered views of half suburbia, half mountains.
My Friday night consisted of a long bath (the generous Jacuzzi bathtub you could almost lie down in); a habit that continued throughout the weekend once I discovered the Appelles Ginger Lily bath salts were replenished daily.
Equally exciting was discovering the full-size washing machine and dryer (a long working week will do that to you), complete with washing powder. The kitchen was so well equipped – from the large Smeg oven to the steak knives – that my friend and I opted to cook up a storm the next morning rather than head out for breakfast.
It was nearly impossible to leave the apartment with its comfortable couch, bathrobes and bottle of red, but we eventually made it downstairs for some pasta at the (surprisingly packed) Italian restaurant Agostinis.
The place was packed with a bustling energy; head chef Francesco Balestrierihas’ passion is contagious and more than a few Italian accents were heard among the wait staff. Everything from the pasta to the gelato is made in-house, and we find ourselves ordering pizza as well; the dough is Roman style, and rested for 72 hours.
The adjacent bar – Joe’s Bar – seemed to also attract crowds despite the hotel’s suburban location. Sweeping chain curtains, retro leather lounges and Old Fashioneds served in smoking glass kloshes proved it had earned its place as the local date spot.
For breakfast, head to the neighbouring café Muse – it’s busy on a Sunday but not to the detriment of service – just make sure you book a table.
East Hotel sits in the city’s inner south, an easy 10 minutes from the airport and 5-10 minutes’ drive from the Parliamentary triangle. Corporate travellers will find it close to the city but enough out of the bustle to allow a breath of fresh air.
The surrounding affluent, leafy suburbs of Manuka and Kingston are known for their dining and shopping scene, with patisseries, wine bars, homewares stores and the occasional pub lining the streets. The award-winning Old Bus Depot Markets are within close walking distance, while the lake (with its popular walking circuit) can be reached in 10-15 minutes.
For families, Canberra institutions Questacon, Old Parliament House and the National Museum are easily accessible by bike – these are free to hire from reception. Ubers are affordable and frequent, or for those with a car, the hotel offers underground parking charged at an overnight fee.
Following a long night of negronis and pasta, the first thing I did the following morning was head to the gym. It was small but efficient, with shower facilities (complete with Appelles amenities) available for those who may have already checked out.
There is no hotel pool – in warmer months, guests can visit the nearby art deco Manuka Pool for free. The heritage-listed complex dates back to 1930 and was the first pool in Canberra.
Families with young kids can request an apartment with a Kids Cubby – an interconnecting playroom fitted out with bunk beds, bean bags, a play table with art supplies and building blocks and even an Xbox console. The minibar is (dangerously) stocked with child-friendly goodies.
A communal laundry is available for those staying in studio rooms (just ask for washing powder at reception) and eight conference and meeting spaces are available for business travellers.
Parking is charged at $10 overnight; Wifi is fast and free.
Your home away from home in Canberra. Book a Luxe Apartment or Studio for the spa tub and added ‘luxe’ feel.
The secret-recipe popcorn at Joe’s Bar. You’ll smell it when you arrive – it will keep you there for hours.
Not to be helped, but the view. While the mountains are majestic, run-down flats are not.