Canberra is Ngunnawal country and derives its name from the Ngunnawal language. Canberra is of course Australia’s Capital and the eighth largest city in the country. It is ideal for a weekend away being a vibrant and youthful city that has really come of age.
Canberra is easily accessible from Western Sydney whether by car, bus, or train. The Canberra XPLORER is a stunning rail trip that you can book in advance and runs three times a day from Sydney. Driving is an equally beautiful option, and we’ve suggested a few stops along the way to really make your trip into an adventure.
The first stop is a detour into the Southern Highlands town of Mittagong - an easy loop on and off the highway timed for a morning break. You can drop into a favourite haunt, The Boston Ivy, for some perfectly brewed Campos coffee and a treat. Have a wander before jumping back in the car to head south through Welby and back onto the Hume Highway.
For many, it’s all about getting to Canberra as fast as possible but on this occasion we love the journey as much as the destination. Make time to take a second detour, not long after you have passed Lake George. Lark Hill Winery on the road to Bungendore is well signposted and a great visit to the producers of some of the finest cool climate wines in Australia. Canberra’s wine region spills into New South Wales and is a fine cellar door hop. Make sure to pick up a bottle from Lark Hill for later.
Our next destination is great fun, and one that avid bargain hunters will love. Dirty Janes is on the outskirts of Canberra in the retail suburb of Fyshwick. Have a rummage through their collection of all manner of antiques, old wares, and curio. There’s a lovely cafe there too so you can grab something easy for lunch.
If you’re staying overnight, it’s now time to head into the heart of the city to check into your hotel. The Capital has so many great choices for you to explore. We checked out a hotel that is something of a design icon – Ovolo Nishi on Edinburgh Avenue. Boasting a very cool exterior and interior, a cool bar, cool people, cool food, it’s cool everything really!
Base yourself here as you explore the city. A popular and fun way to get around Canberra is on one of the e-scooters that you can hire via app. It’s the easiest and quickest way to feel like a local.
Food beckons and Canberra is, without exaggeration, a destination full of incredible places to eat and drink. A cheeky cocktail in the hotel bar is a must, then head out to Bar Rochford. Tucked away upstairs on London Circuit. This is where locals like to go for something sophisticated. It’s a great place to go in your weekend best perfect for pre-dinner drinks. If you’re peckish, they also do great share plates.
For dinner let us recommend something to round off your day. Rebel Rebel is a new dining venue and as the name says, it has a tastefully edgy vibe. It’s a minute’s walk around the corner from Ovolo Nishi and serves great wine, share plates, and a killer menu. Rebel Rebel is all about the experience, so take in the moments created by thoughtful spaces, well considered food and great service. The Chef’s Selection menu will leave no-one hungry, and each generously portioned dish is bursting with flavour. Afterwards you can wander back to your hotel or take a stroll and admire the views over Lake Burley Griffin, which you can easily access via Parkes Bridge at the end of the street.
The following day, after a glorious hotel breakfast, visit one of the many museums or galleries Canberra is famous for. There is always an incredible exhibition of one sort or another and you can time your visit to see something that inspires and informs you.
We visited the National Arboretum, a relatively new and an enormous space dedicated to showcasing rare, endangers and symbolic trees to Australia. The site has over 44 000 neatly planted trees and is dedicated to conservation. Explore the events, experiences, tours and incredible playground for the children. Take the time to check out one very special space, the National Bonsai and Penjing Collection of Australia. This is a collection created by some of Australia’s leading artists in their fields with exhibits from private collections as well as those owned by the Arboretum.
Whenever you do decide to head home, we have one last detour suggestion for your way back. Just on the edge of Lake George you will see signs to the small village of Collector – head just off the highway. You’ll find the aptly named Some Cafe on Church Street which delivers contemporary charm and old-world character. Apart from some very good coffee you can also check out a few wineries all in very close proximity for your drive home. One local producer is Collector Wines who make the Tiger Tiger Chardonnay, a local favourite and worth a taste.
Exploring West of West makes for a magical little getaway. Canberra is full of interesting places to visit and has an impeccable food and wine scene. The capital comes to life at night and the energy of the city is infectious. This is a place you can easily visit time and time again, exploring something new every single time.