To many Australian’s, the thought of spending a weekend in the capital is usually met with a resounding and audible groan. Commonly considered to be cold, dull and grey, with resident politicians to match, not many people would consider Canberra to be a good weekend destination. So if the last time you visited Canberra was on your primary school excursion, you’d be pleasantly surprised to find that Canberra, like your twelve-year old self, has grown up. Now with a buzzing cafe and restaurant culture, a treasure trove of history and culture, and a tenacious drive to prove its worth; Canberra has moved to adulthood. Here’s a rundown on how to spend a weekend in the Bush Capital of Australia.
Canberra (probably) has the highest concentration of cultural institutions of anywhere in Australia. With only a couple of days in the city, you’d only be able to fit in one or two – so you’ll probably end up coming back to see more. I recommend:
- National Museum of Australia – it’s the one that looks like it has a roller coaster out the front. This, has the name would suggest, is home to many artefacts that make up Australia’s story. FREE
- National Gallery of Australia – you may remember coming here to see Jackson Pollack’s “Blue Poles” and learn about the ensuing political scandal following its purchase by then-prime minister, Gough Whitlam. As well as the permanent art, it’s also hosted special events, such as the travelling Versaille exhibit. FREE
- National Portrait Gallery – situated opposite the National Gallery, the NPG features, you guessed it, portraits of people in a range of mediums, from paint to video. We visited during the Icons exhibit which had some outstanding features of well-known Australians. FREE
- Questacon – Questacon is a fucking treasure and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise. This interactive science and technology centre is still just as good as when you were 12, and the terrifying free-fall, yeah it’s still there. $23
- The Australian War Memorial – still a number one attraction, you can learn more about Australia’s war history, sit by the reflecting pool and at 4:50pm everyday, they play the last post. FREE
Go hug a tree
The National Arboretum is solely dedicated to trees. Which you think would be rather boring but it’s an oddly calming environment. The arboretum was established as a symbol of healing following the devastating bushfires of 2001 and 2003. Today you walk, cycle or even ride a horse around the expansive site and enjoy great views of the city. There’s several outdoor art pieces scattered around and don’t forget to check out the bonsai house.
The Cupping Room is a legendary breakfast hotspot, and the perfect place to take a coffee snob – they don’t offer flat whites, cappuccinos etc, but rather you pick on the bean blends on offer, and they make you a coffee. Period. Luckily, you’re too busy enjoying it to even miss your extra froth! Plus, they make breakfast classics with a delicious twist – I ordered a poached egg on avo toast with shichimi and pomegranate!
Patissez is home to Canberra’s original freakshake – I always go for the baby size because when combined with food, you’ll already be rolling out the door with your jeans significantly tighter!
For a an experimental evening meal, try Monster Kitchen & Bar. The seasonal menu features a mix between bar food and sharing plates, and the staff can talk you through your choices (yes, apparently you will need help with ordering!).
Afs the day rolls into night, you’ll want to try out some of the great bars and clubs around the city. If you’re in Braddon, head over the Hopscotch on Lonsdale St, where the beer garden is large, packed with entertainment (think giant jenga, coits etc), and most importantly, heated in winter! Transit Bar is the perfect place to hang out and listen to some live music and play pool over cider and pizza. And for a memorable bar experience, sample some whiskey at Molly, one of the cities three speakeasy-themed bars – if you can find it, there’s no address given, only coordinates!
Read more: An invitation into Molly’s private room (to be written)
Need to know
You can get to Canberra by a Country Link train from Sydney Central that take approx 4 hours and arrives at Kingston train station. Murray’s Coaches also have hourly express services between Sydney & Canberra, with most buses equipped with aircon, charging outlets and wifi.
The public transport system is not as established as other major Australian cities. Relies primarily on buses, but if you want to get out to further flung attractions, or simply get around easily, you’ll need a car.
The whole of the ACT is plastic-bag free! I love this so much and can’t wait to see NSW follow. However, you’ll just need to keep this mind, or get caught out carrying your stuff.