Culture

Canberra Has Found Its Cool, So It’s Time You Did Too

Canberra always had a bad rep because it was associated with boring school excursions to Parliament House. But the city was recently named as the third must-visit destination in the world by Lonely Planet’s annual “Best in Travel” rankings because it “packs a big punch for such a small city”.

And they’re not wrong. What was once an overlooked city is now bursting with some of the best places to eat and drink, plenty of cultural must-dos, and even spots where you can enjoy the outdoors. Make sure you don’t miss these on your next visit.

The Cupping Room

There’s no better way to start the day in Canberra than with a cup of freshly brewed coffee and where better to get one than at The Cupping Room, one of several cafes owned by Ona Coffee, Canberra’s largest speciality coffee roaster.

Try something new here – a different blend or different way to have your coffee. If you’re unsure, the staff, some of who have earned titles such as the World’s Best Barista and the Australian Barista Champion, will happily help make a recommendation.

Aside from the coffee, the bright and airy cafe also has a reputation for putting out some standout dishes. While the menu is constantly changing, expect dishes such as the crispy pork belly dressed in kimchi hollandaise and served with a fried egg, pickled slaw and horseradish powder ($22) or their take on the avo on toast, with poached eggs, smoked labne, and Hungarian dukkah ($19).

Where: 1/1-3 University Avenue; open Mon to Fri 7am–4pm, Sat and Sun 8am–3pm

Mount Majura Vineyard

It’s not typical for Canberra to be considered a wine district but with the city’s warm summers and relatively low rainfall, it makes it an ideal area to grow vineyards. Perhaps this is why Mount Majura Vineyard is able to produce grapes suitable to create a unique tasting Tempranillo, which owner Frank van de Loo has also blended with a shiraz and graciana to create a TSG. Tastings cost AU$10 per person, with an additional charge of AU$5 to taste their signature drop.

You can also stay at the newly launched Naked Cubby at the top of the vineyard for an overnight experience.

Tasting fees are waived on purchase of wine.

Where: 88 Lime Kiln Road, Majura; daily 10am–5pm

BentSpoke Brewing Co

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Since BentSpoke Brewing Co first opened it has attracted beer drinkers and non-beer drinkers alike. The brewpub always has 18 beer and ciders available on tap, including their core range Crankshaft IPA and Barley Griffith Pale Ale. Otherwise, opt for their hand crushed apple cider or gluten-friendly ginger beer.

But it’s not just about the drinks. The food is equally impressive as well. There are share plates like the smoked mac ‘n’ cheese balls (AU$15), as well as hearty dishes such as the Thai yellow curry (AU$20) and the beef brisket chilli served sour cream, cheese, fresh jalapeños on a bed of rice (AU$19).

Where: 38 Mort Street, Braddon; open daily 11am–midnight

National Gallery of Australia

The National Gallery of Australia is just one of those places that you can spend all day at and still walk out thinking that you need more time. It’s also a place you can’t go without visiting when you head to Canberra. It’s host to artworks by almost every famous artist you can think. of While there are always incoming and outgoing exhibitions, some of the famous works that still remain in the gallery include Monet’s Waterlilies, Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly painting, and an Andy Warhol Elvis print.

Where: Parkes Place, Parkes; open daily 10am–5pm

NewActon Precinct

You could easily sink a weekend into this area of Canberra. Trendy designer hotel Ovolo Nishi offers a cool stay, and there are plenty of spots to get exciting grub, like Mocan and Green Grout café, tapas bar Parlour, and Palace Electric Cinema (with attached prosecco bar).

Lake Burley Griffin

Get the blood flowing when you’re nearby the central basin of Canberra, Lake Burley Griffin. Whether you’re into rowing, sailing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, the Lake is large enough to fit it all. Head over to The Paddle Hub to hire yourself a kayak or paddle board, with cost starting from AU$20. But if you’re looking to stay on land, pick up a bike from Cycle Canberra from AU$40 for half a day hire and cycle along the 40km shoreline.

Questacon

Visiting Questacon was always the best part of any school excursion. Why? Because you could geek out and feel like a kid. Being yourself is cool whether you’re seven years old or 20. Go ahead and feel like a kid again. Enjoy the thrill from the giant free fall slide, while picking up a thing or two about science and technology. Cost of entry start at AU$17.50.

Where: King Edward Terrace, Parkes; open daily 9am–5pm

(Lead image: The Cupping Room / Facebook)