Canberra is full of surprises

For some reason a lot of people I know have always had it in for Canberra.

“Oh, the weather’s terrible.”

“There’s nothing to do.”

“It’s boring as”

“You know I just don’t like it”.

I do understand that our countries politicians are ensconced there and that is enough to unsettle even me. But it’s not like they are running the hotels, wineries, restaurants and cultural precincts. They wont be showing you around town, and they certainly wont be hanging out with you and the family at dinner.

On further investigation I find out that the majority of the people that bag Canberra actually have not even been there! Preconceived impressions from the grapevine probably passed on by others that have never experienced Canberra either.

Canberra is full of surprises

A sunny day in Canberra is well-spent on the water

Well I have visited Canberra on many occasions. I have filmed travel shows there. I have played tourist with my family there. I have also performed there.

So I have experienced many different flavours of Canberra and I must say those flavours seem to be expanding and cultivating more and more on every visit and for the most of it, it seems to be in the positive.

Of course you have the standout ‘tourist’ attractions in The War Memorial, Questacon, The National Gallery and for those who are that way inclined even the Old Parliament House gets a run. These are in a sense the bread and butter attractions and all have strong points in their own right.

The War Memorial is one standout in my eyes. Engaging, moving and ever changing and of course it pays homage to the men and women who have served our country so bravely. A visit here is a must for the younger generation I believe.

Questacon is fun for the kids and the kid that still lurks in you, and you can certainly spend a few fun filled hours there.The National Gallery will appeal to anyone who has a penance for fine art. Simply some of the greatest Australian and International works on show and there is often a touring exhibition that takes the experience to an even higher level of sophistication.

There is enough reason just there to #VisitCanberra alone, but I want to give you a little insight into some of the not so well proclaimed offerings. The inner city Canberra suburb of Braddon continues to attract exciting talent and ambitious new dining ventures with an eclectic mix of homeware stores, vintage op shops, pop up art, fashion and design shops.

Bentspoke Brewing

Bentspoke sell 18 boutique beers inside their funky fitout

Canberra’s food and wine offerings are really starting to turn some heads and tantalize some tastebuds as well.

One such establishment has to be Bentspoke Brewing ( situated in Mort St Braddon unassuming and somewhat unadorned from the outside, once you pass through the doors it’s a totally different story. The brainchild of Richard Watkins and Tracy Margrain it is a venture they were always destined to attempt, and so far the cards have come up trumps.

A mix of classic timbers, glass, mirrors, bicycle rims and exposed stainless steel beer pipes it has a funky brewery feel with an inviting essence throughout. 18 different boutique beers, some with a distinct bent edge to them, which is exactly what Richard aimed to achieve.

For the locals this place serves as the perfect after-work drinks arena, but for the inquisitive traveller it serves as the perfect spot to enjoy a nice lunch or maybe that pre-dinner drink experience, or you might want to milk Richard for some insights into making that killer homebrew yourself.

Bentspoke Brewing

Tasting the housemade brew is a must

The fare at Bentspoke lends itself to the callings of the brew also, with the most delightful Hot Wings and a Barley grist crusted Barramundi that will blow your tastebuds away! For the keen beer aficionado, Bentspoke have a unique take away option in their stainless steel mini keg which is refillable and re-gas able and one now adorns my bar at home, a super idea.

I also recommend that you explore some of Canberra’s outskirts and this can mean as little as a half hour drive out of town.

The Poachers Way has got a lazy Sunday written all over it and is made up of a collection of winemakers, artists, chefs, galleries and rural retreats and is a super way to immerse yourself in their lifestyle and experience some of their passions as well. Four Winds Vineyard ( is one of these and here Winemaker Bill Crowe will pass on some of his expertise over a nice cool climate wine and a wood fired pizza.

Four Winds Vineyard

Four Winds Vineyard adds that personal touch to winemaking.

Poachers Pantry ( is another top little destination. Being a true family operated establishment it is a welcoming, warm and delightful experience. Here Robert and Susan Bruce and the rest of the family specialize in smoked meats and flavorsome wines.

I have to admit I have never been a fan of smoked meats; maybe I have always been on the receiving end of tastings that had an overpowering flavor of charcoal and that had turned me off. A visit to Poachers Pantry has sure changed that opinion.


East Hotel is full of art and design, making it a great backdrop for your trip.

For accommodation, I can recommend East Hotel ( I really enjoyed my stay there and here a few of the reasons why. It’s situated nicely between Manuka and Kingston. It’s a chic and funky apartment style hotel that caters to everyone. Intriguing art installations adorn the walls and hallways and the rooms are really tastefully decorated.

I also love apartment style hotels especially if the family is in tow. If that is the case the kids will love the cubbyhouse rooms. Todd and the team here are attentive yet unobtrusive and nothing seems to be too difficult. In fact, I will find it hard not to make it my hotel of choice on my next visit – it just has a really cool vibe.

As far as dining options go East Hotel has a couple of interesting and engaging options.

Muse Canberra ( is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner is unique in its own right. Here you can not only experience good food and great wine, you are surrounded by the enchantment of the written word, and we all know how powerful that can be, and when you combine all three…. well who knows?

Muse Canberra

Lots of hanging greenery make this alfresco dining feel tranquil.

If you are after an intimate catch up, a pre-or post-dinner cocktail or maybe dinner with a difference Joe’st ( will totally engross you. Dan and Dion Bisa have created a space that combines a rich love of their Italian heritage with an intriguing modern design that certainly complements the hotel itself. A modern Italian menu complimented by Tuscan and local wines, I believe you will be hypnotized by your surrounds as much as the gastronomic delights on offer.

Oh, and there is also the new kid on the block, Agostinis ( where Italy’s North has been delivered right into Canberra. I have to say that you don’t need to venture away from East Hotel to satisfy your epicurean desires!

Agostinis Canberra

Newly opened Agostinis is carving a name for itself in the Canberra dining scene

So, if you have never ventured to our nations capital I beg you to give it an opportunity to display its wares I really believe that you will be pleasantly surprised.

For all the info you need to make your Canberra adventure far from boring, head to

Scott McRae is a travel writer and currently hosts  ‘A Taste of Travel’ on the TEN/WIN Networks.