The Mistake I Made About Canberra and Why You Need To Visit

Canberra.Post

Canberra is an interesting place.  It’s not somewhere that’s high on the tourist list, but with extended time in Australia, it’s worth a visit. About 3.5 hours’ drive South of Sydney, it’s both a University town and the Political Hub of Australia.

It’s an interesting mix.

But I have to admit:  I have always been on the fence when it came to Canberra.  I found it … dare I say… boring. Sadly I don’t think I’m the only one.

Canberra Parliamentary Zone

Having grown up in a small country town in Australia, a quiet town is always welcome to me. I enjoy quiet places. I love the vibe of a small town, the community feel I get.

While Canberra is a major capitol city, it feels a lot more like a big country town.

As a city, you’d expect it to be lively.  And it is. It’s just done behind the scenes.  It’s done with class and intention.   The few times we’ve been, we’ve found no traffic congestion to speak of.  A multitude of excellent museums and restaurants are readily available for your pleasure and it sports a great outdoor lifestyle.  Walking and biking trails are abundant throughout the city and its plentiful green spaces.

For most major cities, quiet and peaceful is hard to come by.  Sydney is brash and tends to be full of itself.  Melbourne on the other hand think they are better than Sydney and for some things they are….but only with some things.  (What can I say:  I’m from Sydney. There’s a healthy rivalry between the cities)

I mistook Canberra’s laid-back vibe as boring, but nothing could be farther from the truth. You just have to go deeper.

Belconnen Views

Canberra seems to have the work/life balance thing worked out. It provides amazing experiences for those who work their asses off, offering  them a quality life that would make any city green with envy.

While staying in the suburb of Belconnen, only ten minutes from the Parliamentary Zone, we looked out from our seventh-floor apartment toward Lake Ginninderra.  As the clock ticked past five o’clock, many sailboats and kayaks appeared on the water.  We could see people walking around the perimeter of the lake enjoying the fresh air.  Once the sun goes down, the city quiets.  Tucked into side streets are bustling restaurants offering a wide range of cuisines.

Being in the capital of Australia, the museums and galleries are all here.  The National Gallery of Australia (NGA) houses indigenous art, works of Monet, Degas, and Warhol as well as special exhibitions.

The NGA is an example of how this city brings the wonders the world to this pocket of Australia.  One our visit, the Palace of Versailles had loaned some of their ‘trinkets’ to the NGA. If you’ve never travelled, or been to Versailles in person, it’s a lovely way to get a feel for the opulence and history of the Palace.

My favourite museum and, in my opinion, one of the reasons every tourist should visit Canberra, is the National Museum of Australia

This museum does an amazing job of presenting Australia’s history.  It not only represents European settlement, but has a huge section dedicated to Indigenous life. It shows Australian life as it once was and the direction of its future.  It’s hands on and tells the story, which I find many museums fail to do.  In fact, I find the Indigenous section of the NGA hugely disappointing because it fails to tell the story along with the artwork which, if you know anything about indigenous artwork, it’s all about the story.

We’ve visited Canberra many times now.  When Nat was younger we would always visit Questacon, an interactive Science museum.  It’s an amazing museum for kids (young and old). It was one Natalie would often talk about as one of her favourite places in Australia.

Some great markets are on offer too, including the Old Bus Depot market that offers both culinary delights such as locally made olive oils and vinegars. Along with fruits and vegetables and baked goods.  Additionally, it offers a variety of artisan made wares, which always sucks me in.  I love the variety at this market.  But, sadly, it’s only open on Sundays.  The key is to get there early.  It’s almost as if the whole of Canberra comes out and makes a day of this market.

Whatever your interest –  sport, arts, history –  it’s all here in Canberra.  It’s just quietly tucked away.

IMG_4129

Recommendations:

First and foremost, stop at the Tourist Information Centre and find out what’s happening at the beginning of your stay.  They are super informative.  Or, visit their website for the latest exhibitions and recommendations.

If you’d like to save some money on your stay in Canberra, I suggest staying in a AirBnb in Canberra.  I compared the two for a week stay and saved over $300 staying in an AirBnb, more if we decided to stay in the Civic Centre.  See below for my recommendations.

Experiences

  • Hire a bike, ride around Lake Burley Griffin.
  • For amazing views of the Australian Capital Territory, head to Black Mountain (Telstra Tower) or better yet, go to Mount Ainslie if you want to see better views for free (frugal filly here!)
  • For great Sunday markets, try the Old Bus Depot Markets.  I’ve visited a few times now and always find some yummy dish or some handmade items. (Scarves and earrings are always my thing!)  Be warned, all of Canberra comes out for this market it seems. Parking can be a challenge, so get there early!
  • Grab a picnic and head to Weston Park, on the western side of Lake Burley Griffen.Yarralumla, off Weston Park Road. The 40-hectare park has a wading pool (operating in summer only), beach, miniature train and cycle track. Other facilities include a playground with climbing net and swings, picnic tables, electric barbeques, public toilets, adventure playground, miniature train and a fixed orienteering course.
  • For something different, try Expedition Escape Rooms. A really fun experience that will make your head spin.
  • For the Local’s Tip, try Canty’s Bookshop in Fyshwick.  It’s a bookshop tucked away around industrial and home stores, but it’s the type of bookstore you want to get lost in.  Piles of books to look at and at far better prices than the shopping centre retailers!
Canty's Bookshop in Fyshwick
Canty's Bookshop in Fyshwick

Restaurants:

  • Tandoor Indian Restaurant, Belconnen – the best naan I’ve ever tasted!  While the dishes are very good, the naam is out of this world.
  • Turkish Halal Pide Housethere’s nothing like a good kebab!  Mouth watering, deliciousness.
  • Tikka Take –  amazing ‘fast food’ Indian but a relaxing vibe.  This is one stop I ALWAYS make when in Canberra.  Located in Civic.
  • Cream Café & Bar–  a great café right in the centre of Civic.  Great coffee, fantastic pancakes, delicious meals.  It’s also great people watching if you stay and work for a while.
  • Grease Monkey – There’s nothing like a good burger and fries, with a great beer with it.  Grease Monkey is communal tables outside, but more intimate tables inside. Order, then be amazed at how fast the staff move.
  • Kinn Thai Restaurant –  It always seems busy whenever I go by, but the food is amazing, so it’s no wonder!  Make a booking.  Eat inside or out.
  • Another lovely café in Canberra is Pollen, in the Australian Botanical Gardens.  It’s like eating in someone’s expansive garden, with massive portions and really good strong coffee. What’s not to love about that!  Tucked just below Black Mountain.
Tikka Take
Tikka Take

Must see Museums:

Questacon
Questacon
National Gallery of Australia
National Gallery of Australia
Old Bus Depot Markets
Old Bus Depot Markets

Where to Stay

I’m a big fan of Airbnb and I have stayed primarily in Airbnb accommodations mostly because I haven’t had much luck with hotels in the Canberra area.  There is one hotel I recommend, which I will also include.

Here are the Airbnb’s I have loved in the Canberra area (and I’ve stayed in quite a few over the last 18 months).

The Airbnb Link:   Relax with lake views

Airbnb Description:
Canberra has never looked so good! North facing apartment in the heart of Belconnen CBD, situated on an upper level so you can enjoy plentiful natural light, warmth and lake views. Access to stunning pool, gym and bbq area.

Why I recommend it:
This apartment was lovely.  Fresh and new, and located within minutes from the Parliamentary Zone, this Airbnb is located in a suburb bustling by day, yet a ghost town at night.  The views of Lake Ginny were spectacular no matter what the weather and it was the perfect spot to sit and get some work done.  The bed was really comfortable and the kitchen very well equipped. But if you needed anything, including groceries, the shopping centre was right across the road including restaurants all around if you weren’t in the mood to cook.  Modern, well-positioned and secure.

Read other Airbnb reviews on this place here.

 

  • Forrest, A.C.T.  Near the Parliamentary Zone of Canberra.

The Airbnb Link:   CENTRAL! Spacious, modern, comfy and private home.

Airbnb Description:
Spacious one bedroom apartment in the heart of the parliamentary triangle – minutes away from Canberra’s key attractions (Parliament House, Lake Burley Griffin, the Foreshore, national museums/galleries) and government departments. Sleeps up to four. Comfortable (ergo flex mattress and king furniture sofa/sofa bed). Full kitchen, separate laundry – with a covered balcony – and a bathroom with a tub. Secure underground parking.

Why I recommend it:
Out of the many places I stayed in Canberra, this of one of favourite places to stay. Located within the Parliamentary zone, it’s in a great location for exploring. It’s close to shops and restaurants.  It’s easy to find and easy to park. It has a really spacious bedroom with a very comfortable bed. The hosts were thoughtful and gracious, especially when I accidentally took their hairdryer (I returned it, don’t worry).  I found this place an oasis in Canberra and add in a great Wi-Fi, a great shower, and enough room to relax after long days in Canberra, it was a great find.

Read other Airbnb reviews on this place here.

  • Turner, A.C.T.  Close to Civic yet on a quiet, leafy street.

The Airbnb Link: Comfy, Close, Cool

Airbnb Description:
My place is walking distance to the Canberra Centre (shopping mall), parks, Lonsdale St (restaurants and pubs), ANU and AIS. You’ll love my place because of the quiet and leafy neighbourhood, the comfy bed, the spacious yet cozy living room, the fully equipped kitchen, the modern bathroom and the secured car park underneath – entirely all to yourself. My place is good for business travellers, couples, solo adventurers, and families of 3.

Why I recommend it:
This was my second home for a while, my go-to in Canberra. It’s a great base for any type of visit to Canberra and Lito is a great host- very accommodating, providing everything for a great stay. It’s walking distance to the shops and restaurants and the neighborhood is quiet and safe. The owner, Lito, communicated quickly and effectively. The apartment is easy to find and access was straightforward. Due to the height of my vehicle, I couldn’t park in the secure parking but street parking was plentiful.

Read other Airbnb reviews on this place here.

 

Hotel Recommendation: 

  • Adobe Narrabundah
    While this isn’t the most convenient place to stay – on the outskirts of the Parliamentary Zone, I recommend it for its simplicity and cleanliness. That’s the issue I’ve had with Canberra hotels –  they always seem either too small or too dingy.  I liked this place because it was spacious, even for three people. With the added conveniences like a kitchenette and laundry within the room, it makes it functional too.
The Belconnen Airbnb -  Lake with views
The Belconnen Airbnb - Lake with views

If you’ve never tried AirBnb, here is a FREE CREDIT for your first stay.

And, if you need some assistance on how to use Airbnb, check out my post, How to Sign up (and Use) Airbnb for the First Time, which will walk you through the process.

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Why You Need To Visit Canberra, Australia. | Travel Far Enough | Do you know Canberra is Australia's Capital City? Canberra is an interesting place. It’s not somewhere that’s high on the tourist list, but it’s worth a visit. It’s both a University town and the Political Hub of Australia. I share why you need to visit, where to visit, where to eat and stay. So put it on your Australian itinerary. I mean, it's a great pitstop between Sydney and Melbourne!

NOTE:  Affiliate links were used in this post.  I do not promote any brand I have not used or experienced myself or had recommended highly to me.  All opinions are our own. Please follow our advice at your own risk. By clicking these links helps support the Travel Far Enough website as I get a small payout from links when you purchase from them.  For that, I thank you.

What recommendations do you have for Canberra?  Let’s add to the list!

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