For some reason a lot of people I know have always had it in for Canberra. ‘’Oh the weather sucks”, “Dude there’s nothing to do,” “It’s boring as”, “You know I just don’t like it.”
Yeah okay, I do understand that our country’s politicians are ensconced there and that is enough to unsettle even me. Buts it’s not like they are running the hotels, wineries, restaurants and cultural precincts. They wont be showing you around town, and they certainly won’t be hanging out with you and the family for dinner or at the Zoo.
On further investigation I find out that the majority of the people that bag Canberra have never actually even been there!
Preconceived impressions from the grapevine probably passed on by others that have never experienced Canberra either.
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 passion 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.
Canberra’s food and wine offerings are really starting to turn some heads and tantalise some taste buds as well.
One such establishment, and possibly leading the charge, has to be the Bentspoke Brewery Co situated in Mort St Braddon – unassuming and somewhat unadorned from the outside, once you pass through the doors it’s a totally different story. 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. 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. 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 works 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?
The fare at Bentspoke lends itself to the callings of the brew also, with the most delightful Hot Wings and a Barley grist crusted snapper that will blow your taste buds’ little sensors! 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.
One Canberra constant that has taken on a fresh approach to engaging its audience is The National Zoo, with interactive experiences really coming to the fore. I took my son Max to experience the changes and he and I were both totally enthralled and at times a little nervous! Zooventure is an opportunity to get right in amongst the animals on a personally guided tour. Interacting with giraffe, brown bears, otters, cougars and snakes and you also get to feed some of them too. I guess the highpoint of this quest had to be the white lions. Feeding them by hand albeit through a tiny hole of an inch thick glass wall with a pair of tongs was so cool, you could actually see inside the lions mouth, now that’s something you can’t do everyday, and when one of them gave the signal through the comforting glass wall that Max would fit nicely in his belly we figured we should have brought more steak.
The Zoo is also just about to open their “Jungle Bungalows” and I managed to get a sneak peak. This is something totally unique in Australia. Varying styles of bungalow lodgings and not only are they beautifully adorned with touches of Africa, it’s the special guests that share the space with you that makes it all the more extraordinary. How about having a lion outside your lounge room window? Or feeding a few giraffe from your balcony?
Yes this experience is as close as you may get to being in an African game park lodge, and I cannot wait to get back and experience it myself.
The highlight of my Zooventure was without doubt ‘Meet the Cheetahs’!
Being a Leo I do love the big cats, but the cheetah has been a favourite of mine since I was a young fella. To be in the presence of such a fine specimen of the feline family was just fantastic. To stroke the fur, hear the purr and look into those big brown dish size eyes was one of those “I will never forget the time I” moments in life.
I also would love to 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 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 winery 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. 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 specialise 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 flavour of charcoal that turned me off. A visit to Poachers Pantry has sure changed that opinion.
For accommodation I can recommend The East Hotel. I really enjoyed my stay there and here are a few 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. Also the onsite restaurant The OX Eatery is a brilliant dining experience with a distinct lean towards the French style of cuisine with sharing dishes the way to go. For you lovers of swine, well the crackling on the rotisserie cooked pork was the best I have ever devoured…. no lie…. best ever!! Mmmm crackling!!
So if you have never ventured to our nation’s capital I beg you to give it an opportunity to display its wares – I really do honestly believe that you will be pleasantly surprised.
For all the info you need to make your Canberra adventure far from boring, head to