Going to Canberra on a school excursion when you’re nine years old isn’t exciting. You get carted around to Parliament House, the War Memorial and as much as you liked being away from your parents, it was much more fun to play Hangman with your friends on the bus ride. A few years later, I had to go there again on another excursion (this time, it was high school) which wasn’t much better. Instead of Hangman, we were reading Dolly magazines and gossiping about our latest boy crushes.
When I hit university, Canberra was still terribly uncool to me. It was for “old people and politicians”, and for some of my friends, that view hasn’t changed at all. Imagine their surprise when I came back from a recent trip raving about the amazing time I had. “In Canberra?” they asked, sceptical about some place which we really only knew as the roundabout capital of the world.
But seriously, a lot has changed in the last few years, and believe it or not, Canberra is now cool. The recent Human Brochure project run by Canberra Tourism had 500 visitors experience everything from art galleries to adventure, fine food and family fun.
On my trip, one of the most interesting places I visited was Kingston, a small suburb not far from the city centre, and packed with quirky homewares stores, amazing cafes and a large enough collection of drinking holes for a good pub crawl. We started at the Little Brussels Belgian Beer Cafe for artisan European beers and finished up at The Kennedy Room, a cocktail bar and dining room with a great atmosphere on a Saturday night.
There’s a burgeoning food and wine scene to be discovered in Canberra with up and coming winemakers in the Southern Highlands region taking their wine south to be stocked in some of the great restaurants in Canberra including Mount Majura Vineyard wines available at Restaurant 2602 in Ainslie, which also boasts a fantastic seafood menu. There are loads of restaurants in areas like Barton and Manuka, from fine dining to casual Thai, Indian or Chinese.
If it’s adventure you’re after, a short drive away is Tidbinbilla, a national park that offers cycling, bushwalking and the opportunity to get seriously close with some native wildlife. I initially whinged about the bushwalk (I’m a little averse to exercise) but the 1-hour bushwalk was an easy amble and made even more exciting by the sight of wild kangaroos, wallaroos and lizards. And I didn’t even break a sweat! There are harder walks for more experienced bushwalkers… I might even get there one day!
I know there’s a lot more to be discovered in Canberra, so I’m not afraid to say – I’ll be back!