Canberra exudes cool from its hipster breweries to high-end dining – all in sight of flag-waving Capital Hill.

Our nation’s capital is undergoing a transformation as the city fills with hip bars, hatted restaurants and bespoke craft breweries. The small but mighty Canberra punches far above its weight with hidden natural gems, family-friendly attractions and unique Indigenous experiences. All of these new offerings, combined with some of our country’s most famous landmarks, make a visit to the capital one cool holiday. 

Perhaps a surprising attraction is the region’s cellar doors. The cool climate has given birth to the Canberra Wine District, with wineries just a 35-minute drive from the capital. Home to 140 vineyards and more than 40 boutique cellar doors, the region offers a pleasant way to spend the afternoon sipping riesling, sangiovese and the rare gruner veltliner. Otherwise, find many of these local drops in restaurants throughout the city.

Once you’ve had your foodie fix, nature-based experiences are plentiful with more than 80 per cent of the Capital designated parkland. In the northern suburbs, Mulligans Flat is a protected nature reserve of woodlands which are home to kangaroos, echidnas, lizards and birds. Take a twilight tour to spot sugar gliders and eastern bettongs (small kangaroo-like marsupials).  

The more energetic might like to hike the 843-metre-high Mount Ainslie for some stunning city views or set out on foot to cover the 145-kilometre Centenary Trail. You can also hire a bike and cycle around the man-made Lake Burley Griffin. 

For lovers of culture and art, it’s easy to get lost in the city’s wonderful museums and galleries, many of which have free entry. One of the highlights is the world’s biggest collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artwork at the National Gallery of Australia. And at the National Museum of Australia. visitors can learn about our country’s past, present and future. 

Hot air balloons drift by the National Museum of Australia.

Eat

The city has stamped its place on the Australian fine-dining scene with niche cuisines and innovative chefs. Canberra has eight hatted restaurants including the creative and contemporary Aubergine in Griffith and the buzzing Eightysix in Braddon. 

Those with adventurous taste-buds should seek out the city’s first Nikkei restaurant, Inka, which offers up a blend of Peruvian flavours infused in Japanese cuisine. Under the direction of executive chef Michael Muir, who cut his teeth under chef Neil Perry at Rockpool, the menu focuses on seafood, preparing raw fish with Japanese precision and treating it to fresh Peruvian flavours. 

New to Civic’s dining scene is Verity Lane Market, a chef-led food hall in a laneway behind the heritage Sydney building on Northbourne Avenue. Start with a cocktail at Verity Bar, then choose from Asian and Portuguese-inspired plates at My Sabor, handcrafted slices at Pizza Artigiana and Japanese noodles with a French twist at Ramen Daddy. For drinks head to Dear Prudence, a European-style wine bar serving tapas, or Brew Nation, a lively beer hall serving craft brews. 

Beer lovers should also head to Capital Brewing Co in Fyshwick, 10 minutes’ drive south-east of the city, to try their seasonal brews. The food menu is from local cult favourite Brodburger and the long share tables are great for meeting new people. 

In Braddon, take a tour of BentSpoke Brewing Co which produces Crankshaft American IPA, the winner of the 2020 GABS Hottest 100 number-one craft beer.

Stay

Ovolo Nishi

If you’re looking for a designer vibe, stay at the Ovolo Nishi hotel in the NewActon precinct. The hotel has won several awards for its innovative style and sustainable design. The rooms are all elegantly and artfully dressed with salvaged and restored 20th-century Australian furniture and original artworks. The pet-friendly hotel also has a 24-hour gym, self-service laundry and some rooms have kitchens. 

A by Adina

Book in at one of Canberra’s newest apartment hotels, A by Adina, in the heart of the city centre. A stay in one of its spacious apartments combines the comforts of home with the luxury of hotel services. Perched in the famed Parliamentary Triangle, this five-star hotel adjoins a retail and hotel laneway precinct and is also close to the Canberra Centre, the city’s largest shopping centre, and the Bunda Street dining strip.

What’s on

1. Indulge in a feast for the senses at the Canberra Truffle Festival. Enjoy the thrill of a truffle hunt and marvel at the way truffle dogs hunt. Learn how to cook truffles, then pop along to a market to buy some for yourself. There are a number of truffle producers that offer insights into foraging these prized culinary gems. The festival, which runs throughout June and July, will also give you a chance to sample truffle dishes at local eateries.

2. The Canberra Writers Festival (18-22 August) is an annual celebration of literature which brings together some of the most accomplished authors, writers, journalists and political commentators. This literary event, which started five years ago, feeds on our inherent love of words, ideas and debate.  

What’s new

Nature lovers can look forward to taking one of the guided tours recently introduced at the National Arboretum, a 250-hectare mosaic of forests of rare trees and gardens with breathtaking views. Nulla Tours’ new, 40-minute guided Discovery Tour takes you by minibus around the arboretum’s endangered trees while guides tell you about the stories and history of the area. The arboretum has 20 kilometres of family-friendly walking and cycling tracks. Just grab a free map from the Village Centre. More than 44,000 trees from over 100 countries grow in the forests and themed landscaped gardens – don’t miss the bonsai collection.

The National Gallery of Australia.

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