To welcome the new year of 2016, my partner Peter and I decided to do something different. Instead of heading to the usual hotspots of downtown Brisbane or the beaches of the Gold Coast or even the craziness of Sydney, we decided to head to Canberra. I’d never been there, although Peter has had to endure many tours of my country’s capital, Washington, D.C. in the past, and it was a good time of year to visit price-wise as the Australian government wasn’t in session.
So we road-tripped to Canberra starting very early on the 28th of December, with an overnight after 13 hours of driving in Castle Hill (just outside of Sydney), and the final 3 hour trip occurring on the 29th mid-morning.
I have to admit that Hotels.com is our new favorite app (yes, even over and above Wotif). Between the prices and the accrual of points (and free stays), it just makes sense. And before hotel owners go crazy, yes, we do double-check the prices on the native ‘sites’ before we click OK.
Through Hotels.com, we got a super-awesome deal with the Burbury Hotel, which is part of the Domo group of hotels who are all clustered in one area in Barton. Since we showed up early, we ended up at the Burbury Hotel’s main hotel, and for $10 more were offered a suite for the night. Um…yes please.
The remaining part of the trip, we moved over to the Burbury Apartments part of the hotel, which suited us perfectly. With a balcony, kitchen, washing machine, and separate living room area, it gave us enough space to do our own thing without getting on each other’s nerves more than usual.
We’d definitely stay here, or at one of the sister hotels again (Hotel Realm, Little National Hotel, etc.) on a return trip.
Places to Visit in Canberra
Our first day in Canberra, we took a bit of a driving tour to scope out what we wanted to see in the following days. We also took a trip up to Mt Ainslie, where I discovered that Canberra had actually been initially designed by Americans from Chicago, who had at the time never been to Australia. (I may or may not have chanted “USA, USA” after learning that fact.)
Over the course of our trip, we visited the current Parliament House (Pro Tip: Get there at opening time or just after – 9am-9:30am if the government isn’t in session…the tour groups won’t be there yet), drove to Questacon (which got dropped from our list because we’re not 12 and we’re not paying $23 per person for entry), the Australian War Memorial (bring Kleenex), the Australian National Museum (it’s the weirdest-looking building just off Lake Burley Griffin), the National Gallery, the old Parliament House and the National Carillon.
Peter also enjoyed driving around the embassies and pausing dramatically outside of and waving at the American embassy, where several cautious guards watched closely. I swear we’re on 60 new watch lists now. (It’s a pretty awesome piece of land we’re on though!)
Food and Shops in Canberra
We were lucky enough to ring in the New Year in Canberra, heading downtown for the free music and fireworks starting at 9pm, but heading back to the hotel room to catch the Sydney fireworks on television by the stroke of midnight.
Since it was the holiday, several restaurants and shops were closed. However, we had fun people-watching in the immaculate Canberra Centre (giant mall, shopping center, whatever you want to call it). We had a surprisingly good meal at Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant. Whatever crap reviews it’s incurred in the past didn’t seem to have relevance when we visited. I recommend the polenta chips and the Vanilla Lemon martini! The Canberra Centre also has the hipster-laden yet caffeinated necessity of Coffee Lab. We had a beautiful portion of fish and chips overlooking the lake at Snapper – On the Lake. Although unimpressed with the service, the food and coffee were both delicious at Urban Pantry in Manuka (just be sure you go with a certain amount of patience). Finally, don’t leave without checking out the collection of food truck offerings on Lonsdale Street in Braddon. I had a scrumptious ‘perrito’ from Peruvian street food truck Mr. Papa.
Don’t forget to walk around the different shops in Manuka. That’s how I found what bills itself as the original independent bookstore in Canberra – Paperchain Bookstore – which, of course, I had to give some love to. Now I’ve got more books to read for our next trip!
Books Read While in Canberra
The books I read on the way to and while we were in Canberra: