Less than ideal Sydney weather was all the excuse I needed for a spontaneous overnight trip to the capital. I left suitably impressed by the laid-back lifestyle, up and coming food scene and the (surprisingly) good weather!
While it’s unlikely you’ll find Canberra anywhere near the top of ‘places you have to visit’ lists, it makes for a perfect weekend getaway destination for Sydneysiders. The beauty of it is that little to no planning is required – I made the decision to go on the Saturday morning and made most of it up as I went along. All you need is a car, a full tank and a quick visit to a hotel booking site for last minute, cut price accommodation.
The itinerary below worked well for me:
9.00 am: Started the morning with a light breakfast given the anticipated morning tea break (and associated eating potential).
10.30 am: Eling Forest Winery Cafe is located very conveniently at about the midpoint between Sydney and Canberra. While you can power through and get to Canberra within 3.5 hours, I personally prefer breaking up the journey so as to stop, stretch the legs … and eat of course. I settled on the ‘famous’ (their inverted commas, not mine) fruit tart and a flat white. The coffee was surprisingly decent for non-metro standards and the fruit tart had a nice rustic hearty country vibe to it. Sugar and caffeine are a designated driver’s best friends and that Saturday was no different.
12.30 pm: Brodburger is a Canberra institution but my friend tells me to manage my expectations – describing it as Mary’s (of Newtown)’s poorer cousin. With expectations duly in check, I settled on the classic Brodburger – a 1/2 pound flame grilled beef patty with tomato, onion, aioli and tomato relish. I was especially impressed by the option of choosing your cheese (blue, brie, swiss or cheddar) – brie worked well for me but I’d imagine this comes down to much personal preference. Chips were pretty ordinary and could have been given a miss – a case of wasted calories.
2.15pm -2.45pm: The Mount Ainslie lookout is a short drive (who am I kidding, everywhere in #CBR seems to be a short drive) away and is definitely worth a quick stop to take in the fresh air and spectacular panoramic views of the city.
3.00 pm: The last guided tour of Federal Parliament starts at 3pm and is definitely worth going for if you plan on visiting Parliament. Without a local to show you around, you’re likely to miss many subtle features of the building such as the use of a central water feature to prevent eavesdropping in an otherwise echo-ey chamber.
7.00pm: If you’re feeling hungry and have quantity on your mind, look no further than the Yarralumla Turkish Halal Pide House. It’s not often I’ve had to concede defeat but the overwhelming deluge of sliced lamb, chicken, pide and dips in the Ottoman banquet definitely earns full marks for generosity. I’d recommend taking away rather than having there though as the spread easily feeds 4 non-giants (whereas you might have to kop a $25 additional person surcharge if you’re dining in). Sadly (and I guess somewhat unsurprisingly though), the quality couldn’t quite deliver in the same way as the quantity.
10.00am: Lonsdale St Roasters would feel right at home in Melbourne and appears to be hipster central in Canberra. One urbanspoon reviewer amusingly described it as “great if you’re 26 and ride a fixie, not so great if you love a coffee”. While I certainly did not have the same reaction to my flat white, I was told by my local friends that it does tend to be very inconsistent and that today seemed to be a ‘good coffee’ day. I ordered the sourdough waffle with caramelized apples, cream and bacon which aka heart attack on a plate. It met expectations – the sweet/salty combination of cream, apple and bacon went down well but was heavily guilt-inducing. I did struggle to discern the sourdough in the waffle, but to be fair it was always going to struggle against the other big flavours on the plate.
11.30am – 12.00: Depending on when you finish up at Lonsdale St, a lap around Lake Burley Griffin is a good way to fill the time between a lazy Sunday brunch and a visit to the highest court in the land.
12.00 – 12.30 pm: Doors to the High Court of Australia open at noon. We were lucky enough to crossover with a school tour and were invited to sit in on a talk about the history of the building, Australia’s legal system and the symbolism throughout the building. Much like the tour of Parliament, I’d highly recommend going on a tour or an insider as you’ll miss out significantly if you were to wander by yourself.
1.00pm – 5.00pm: Marked the start of the drive back to Sydney. I fought the temptation to stop by Bentspoke Brewing Co – a microbrewery around the corner from Lonsdale St Roasters – in favour of a coffee break in Goulburn on the way back. If I had my time again I would have stayed for lunch in Canberra as my shepherd’s pie and coffee from Roses Cafe was subpar at best.
Positives from the stop in Goulburn include seeing the ‘big merino’ and the view from the Rocky Hill War Memorial