A Capital Collection: The A-Z of Canberra

13 October 2016

Born and bred in Canberra, I fled to the other side of the world in my early twenties, in search of foreign accents, sophisticated drinking holes and masterpieces of art. When I left, caryards outnumbered coffee shops, wine bars were a niche market and art could be found in a handful of establishments. That is not so anymore! In recent years, as with many smaller cities around the country, Canberra has experienced a resurgence in independent food and beverage establishments, boutique retail offerings and the region is leading the way for paddock to plate, locally focused fare. Welcome to centre stage a capital city with style, confident to challenge her rivals, and that isn’t afraid to fly a flag proudly her own.

A is for art and architecture

Canberra is home to a blooming gallery scene, welcoming both local and visiting artists. The renowned National Portrait Gallery is top of my list, and while you’re there you can pop next door to the National Gallery. Smaller galleries that pack a punch include Nishi Gallery and the M16 Artspace.

B is for burgers and brews

Brod Burger, which started out as a burger van on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, is now a shopfront at the Canberra Glassworks (also worth a visit) in Kingston, and still serves the best burgers in town. For brews, head to Canberra’s boutique brewery, Bentspoke in Braddon.

C is for coffee, really good coffee.

Canberra has taken to the hipster coffee scene arguably more passionately than Melbourne. If you’re going to get a good coffee and breakfast anywhere, it’s in Canberra. Notable places to seek out include The Cupping Room and Harvest in the CBD; Lonsdale Street Roasters and Barrio in Braddon; Mocan and Green Grout in New Acton; and further afield, A Bite To Eat in Chifley.

D is for dining

Canberra is often reputed to have the most restaurants per capita in Australia, and I’ll have you know they are generally pretty good, from high end establishments like A. Baker and Courgette to cafe fare and takeaway Thai.

E is for exploring the great outdoors

They don’t call it the bush capital for nothing. Canberra’s suburbs are dotted with nature reserves and bush walks. Head to the Cotter Dam for a midsummer swim, take a picnic to Ginninderra Falls or stroll around Western Park on Lake Berley Griffin.

  Action shot #thecotter #summer   A photo posted by Evie Roberts (@eviejro) on

F is for farmers markets

Australia loves a good farmers market and Canberra is no exception. Grab your fresh produce, delicious brekkie and a decent cup of coffee at the Capital Region Farmers Market on Saturdays at EPIC, or on Sundays at the Southside Farmers Market at Canberra College. Bonus tip: Get there early to get your hands on a Bombolini doughnut.

G is for The Great Hall at Parliament house

Head to Parliament House, not to see politicians, but to bask in some beautiful architecture and art. Most notably, the impressive Great Hall is home to Arthur Boyd’s mesmerising Untitled (Shoalhaven Landscape) 1984, which reflects the beauty of the Australian bush.

H is for the infamous Hotel Hotel

An impressive example of modernist architecture and a melting pot of creativity, luxury and art, Hotel Hotel is the only place to stay in Canberra.

The atrium. Shot by @u____p #hotelhotel #canberra #hotelhotelapartments

A photo posted by Hotel Hotel (@hotel_hotel) on

I is for ice cream

Get yours at Fugli in Braddon, on in over-indulgent thick shake form at Patissez in Manuka.

J is for Jazz

The best in town is either at Tilley’s Devine Cafe Gallery in Lyneham, at the Botanical Gardens as part of the Summer Sounds line up, at Hippo Bar in the CBD or the National Press Club on Fridays.

K is for the Kingston Old Bus Depot Markets

Sunday mornings in Canberra are for craft, boutique and vintage fashion and food at the Old Bus Depot Markets. Warning: your wallet will get a workout.

 

To market to market #canberra #locumlife #market #kingston #oldbusdepotmarkets

 

A photo posted by miss_stef (@miss_stef) on

L is for lookouts

Canberra’s pretty valley situation means lookouts galore. My favourites are fairly obvious for most locals – Mount Ainslie, Red Hill, Mount Painter and Mount Taylor.

M is for Manuka swimming pool

Art deco architecture at its finest, Manuka Pool is one of the prettiest places to take a dip in Canberra - it’s definitely worth an Instagram shout out.


More of Australia to explore:

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N is for Night markets at The Hamlet

The Hamlet is a former caryard come night market with a bunch of ever-changing food trucks – and it’s in the middle of a hotspot of bars and pubs to kick on afterwards.

O is for ONA

These guys won the World Barista Championships in 2015, so you should really go there and drink their brew.

P is for picnics

Lakeside, mountainside, wherever you want to go, there are plenty of options around Canberra. Pick up your picnic supplies from local favourites like Silo Bakery, Three Mills Bakery and Barton Grocer.

Q is for The Q

The Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre hosts a stellar line up of theatre each season that has zero to do with politics (usually) and is very entertaining.

R is for Ricardos

If you’re craving cronuts, cakes, tarts or any other sweet treat, head to this Belconnen cafe tucked away in the back of the Jamieson Centre.

 

#ricardoscanberra #snickers #cronuts omg!!

 

A photo posted by Jessica White (@jlwhite1986) on

S is for speakeasy bars

Canberra might seem quiet at street level, but don’t be fooled, because the locals are savvy to some exceptional drinking holes hidden from plain sight. Try out Suke Suke, a Japanese Izakaya (gastropub), Molly (which gives you coordinates only to find the place), Black Market, in the basement of A. Baker and Lucky’s Speakeasy, which has a barber shop as a front on the street.

T is for delicious Turkish food

If no other cuisine, Canberra delivers on the decent Turkish food, from the institution of Ottomans, to local favourites Sultans and Little Istanbul.

U is for urban pantry

In the heart of high-end Manuka, Urban Pantry is a quality offering serving modern Australian good from Breakfast through til late afternoon.

V is for Vineyards

Head off on a wine tour of Murrumbateman for a day-long sojourn in the sunshine with a glass of vino. Or if you want something a little faster and closer to home, drop into Mount Majura Vineyard, just near the airport.

W is for the War Memorial

A must-do at least once, the War Memorial is an excellent ode to the country’s military history and those who have lost lives and loved ones. If you’re around on Anzac Day, the dawn service here is worth the early start.

X is for XO

A communal style, Southeast Asian inspired eatery, XO is a delicious restaurant focusing on local produce and great service. XO is at the Narrabundah shops.

Y is for Yarralumla Yacht Club

Actually the Southern Cross Yacht Club, this venue offers one of the best views Canberra has to offer. Come for fish and chips at lunch or fine dining in the restaurant at dinnertime. A drink on the deck anytime.

Z is for Zoo luxury

The Jamala Wildlife Lodge at the National Zoo and Aquarium offers a unique dining or accommodation experience in a luxury lodge setting. Get up close to some of the magnificent wild animals like tigers and Giraffes for a great date night experience.

Jamala Wildlife Lodge - it’s almost like being in the same room #jamalawildlifelodge @nationalzoo A photo posted by Home Beautiful (@homebeautiful) on

Vicki Fletcher

A writer and photographer for Flight Centre, Vicki loves road trips down unknown tracks, hiking into mountain ranges, following locals to the best food in town, and spending long afternoons people watching in city squares. She's written for publications across Australia and Europe. Top travel tip: always look up. Follow Vicki on Instagram @vickijanefletcher.