The nation's capital is marking its centenary with 12 months of vibrant arts and cultural events
A mere hour on a plane, Canberra is nevertheless frequently overlooked as a quick getaway destination, largely because of its dated reputation as a fusty maiden aunt.
Blowing that preconception out of the water is the Peppers Gallery Hotel in Canberra’s freshly unveiled New Acton precinct. It’s a cluster of boutique villas connected by the reception-slash-mini art gallery, a library bar, courtyard, gymnasium and the hotel’s Italian restaurant, Bicicletta. The hotel feels snug despite its 80 rooms and the service is personable. Deluxe suites have a Bang & Olufsen flat screen, free Wi-Fi, and you can request a cheeky 4am homemade lasagne.
It’s worth stopping in at a Canberra oldie for an olde English pint at the Wig & Pen tavern. And visiting one of the city’s galleries is a given – we picked the National Gallery of Australia. Canberra’s hidden gem is Braddon’s Lonsdale Street. It’s coined the “hipster hangout” – but ignore that. The area is undergoing development and in the short term there's a boutique pop-up market for arts, antiques and fashion, plus plenty of interesting cafés.
Peppers Gallery Hotel, 15 Edinburgh Ave, Canberra 2601. 1300 987 600. Rates: $270-$600 from 1-6 guests.
Top breakfast and lunch eateries are popping up in every quarter. The new Me & Mrs Jones is our pick for mornings, but when the sun goes down Canberra has stacks of fine dining options. Soju Girl is a good example; its menu, created by chef Derek Brown (Waters Edge), works like South-East Asian and Japanese tapas – the coconut braised duck yellow curry is plenty to share between two and desserts are popular. Try the deconstructed raspberry shortcake that resembles a foamy Eaton Mess with balls of meringue that act like popping candy.
Soju Girl, 41/43-45 Northbourne Ave, Canberra 2601. 02 6257 5328. Mon-Fri noon-11pm; Sat 2pm-midnight.
Time Out Tip
The most scenic way to enjoy Canberra is on two wheels. The city’s infrastructure is perfect for it: cycle ways make it safe and there’s a bike rack on every street. Hire from Mr Spokes and take a ride round the lake.
Barrine Dr, Acton 2601. 02 6257 1188. $20 for one hour.