Weekend away in Canberra? What a capital idea

The Last Post ceremony at the Australian War Memorial. Picture: Charlene Macaulay


Imagine a place where there’s virtually no traffic, plenty of sightseeing to be had and great restaurants to boot.

While it may not be an obvious travel destination, there’s more to Canberra than politicians and cold weather. In fact, there’s a lot to like about our nation’s capital.

Only a quick one-hour flight, or easy seven-hour drive up the Hume Highway from Melbourne, Canberra is perfect for a relaxing few days away.

While it’s somewhat small and quiet by this Melburnian’s standard, I’m quickly won over by all the greenery (or to be more precise, the yellow, red and burnt orange leaves) from the trees lining the streets, and the parks that seem to be, well, everywhere.

There’s plenty of walking trails to be had, and many hotels encourage getting out and about by offering bikes for hire.

If you’re a keen walker, head down to Lake Burley Griffin, where you’ll come across a variety of landmarks and memorials – such as the National Police Memorial and the International Flag Display.

Lake Burley Griffin. Picture: Charlene Macaulay
Lake Burley Griffin. Picture: Charlene Macaulay

There’s also Mount Ainslie to the north, and Black Mountain to the west, both of which offer up great vantage points of the city, and a good view of the sunset. A quick tip: avoid paying the entrance fee at Black Mountain’s Telstra Tower, the views are just as good if you walk up the mountain yourself.

A must-see in Canberra is the Australian War Memorial, where you can easily spend a full day exploring its various exhibitions that cover the many conflicts our armed services have been involved in across the world.

Stick around for the Last Post ceremony, which is held each day at 4.45pm by the Pool of Reflection. The event includes the story behind one of the 102,000 Australian service men and women whose names are on the Roll of Honour at the war memorial.

Australian War Memorial. Picture: Charlene Macaulay
Australian War Memorial. Picture: Charlene Macaulay

Parliament House is also worth a look-in for anyone with even a vague interest in politics. Entry is free, as is an informative and pretty entertaining 45-minute tour, where you’re shown both the upper and lower houses of Parliament.

A bit of an aside, did you know our shortest-serving Prime Minister, Francis Michael Forde, only held the top spot for eight days? It took longer than that to paint his official portrait, which features in a gallery alongside the portraits of other former prime ministers.

If it’s a sitting week, you can even sit in on question time and see our pollies in action.

Parliament House. Picture: Charlene Macaulay
Parliament House. Picture: Charlene Macaulay

Then there’s old Parliament House, which has been turned into the Museum of Australian Democracy. Here, you can walk through the former prime minister’s suite (where, incidentally, there was a peep-hole in the chief of staff’s office looking into the PM’s private office), and view a variety of exhibitions.

Looking for a place to stay?

The Burbury Hotel in Barton is one to consider. Boasting a monochromatic decor with timber and metal details, rooms are tidy and service was polite and accommodating without being intrusive.

The hotel, which is located within the “Realm precinct”, also includes the Hotel Realm (both hotels are owned by the Doma Hotels group), a number of restaurants and cafes, and is within walking distance of Parliament House and Lake Burley Griffin.

There’s free underground parking on weekends, or $15 on weekdays, and free wifi.

While you’re there, try out the Burbury’s high tea on the terrace, which is served on the topmost level of the hotel, and offers stunning views of the leafy Barton district.

Kingston’s East Hotel is also a worthy option. Rated number one on TripAdvisor, each room in this boutique hotel has its own coffee machine, there’s free underground parking and wifi, and if you can’t be bothered leaving the hotel for a bite to eat, there’s Italian restaurant Agostini’s (try out the antipasto platter and save room for cannoli), cafe and library Muse, and small bites at Joe’s Bar.

While you’re in Kingston, head down to the foreshore for a range of pubs, restaurants and cafes.

East Hotel. Picture: Charlene Macaulay
East Hotel. Picture: Charlene Macaulay