Aussies are a weird bunch. We will blithely travel 24 hours to New York to look at The Metropolitan Museum but we won’t visit our own national gallery.
The same national gallery that houses $5 billion worth of art.
We also happily ignore our national museum, library and portrait gallery in favour of a jaunt around Washington DC, Paris or Amsterdam.
And yet our stuff is good. Really good.
Most Aussies go to Canberra on a school excursion in Year Six. We stay in a thin-walled dorm room eating lollies with our friends, get dragged around the Australian War Memorial and Parliament House and then hop back on the bus to woop woop.
I am here to tell you that Canberra deserves a second chance.
From the world-leading Hotel Hotel, with it’s recycled building materials, cinematic Japan-meets-David Lynch décor and contemporary art collection, to Local Press café on the Kingston Foreshore dishing up hearty organic food in a cosy environment, Canberra has grown up into a very cool nerd.
Yes, Canberra is cold, but like Melbourne, all that nasty weather encourages people to make indoor experiences wonderful. Canberra’s bar and restaurant scene is thriving, patronised as it is by cashed-up, bored-to-tears public servants. Local wine and produce features prominently and restaurateurs are shipping in top Sydney professionals, like the ex-Rockpool chef working at Akiba, the new Japanese pop-art izakaya in the CBD.
Spring is particularly beautiful in the capital, with all the blossoms coming out, Floriade taking over Commonwealth Park, and the weather warming up.
Where to stay: East Hotel, Hotel Hotel or QT.
Where to eat and drink: Monster Bar and Kitchen, Lucky’s, Parlour, Akiba, Local Press, and Hyatt for morning or afternoon tea.
What to see: National Gallery of Australia, National Museum of Australia, National Portrait Gallery, the embassies (if you can chance an open day – these are poorly publicised so you need to check in with the relevant embassies you want to see), see a movie at Palace Electric, go shopping at Handmade, a shop that only sells handmade items, or ride a bike around Lake Burley Griffin (East Hotel and Hotel Hotel both offer free bike hire to guests). Go and check out the new National Aboretum, especially if you’re travelling with little people. It has killer views, good coffee and the best playground equipment I have ever seen.
Other stuff you need to know: WINERIES, PEOPLE. There’s a tonne of top wineries such as Clonakilla, Lark Hill and Mount Majura with cellar doors within 30 minutes of Canberra’s CBD.