One day three ways: Canberra

Penny pinch

In architecturally daring NewActon, fuel up on a ham and cheese croissant ($6.50) in the TwentyOne cafe at 21 Marcus Clarke Street. From there, take a freeloading five kilometre walk around the central basin of Lake Burley Griffin. The National Capital Exhibition (nationalcapital.gov.au) charts the city's rise from sheep paddocks to seat of government. And, until October 12, the elaborate garden displays of the Floriade festival (floriadeaustralia.com) are next door.

On the south side, have a $9 tuna tabbouleh sandwich among the gorgeous stained glass of the Bookplate Cafe in the National Library (www.nla.gov.au). Budget time to marvel at logs and letters written by the likes of Captain Cook, Burke and Wills and Bennelong in the library's superb Treasures Gallery too.

Hit recently-opened microbrewery BentSpoke (bentspokebrewing.com.au) in hipster suburb Braddon for a $19 pork belly burger before retiring to the slightly drab, but handily spacious twin rooms at ANU University House ($120, unihouse.anu.edu.au).

TOTAL: $154.50

Take it easy

Soak up the Braddon vibe with $18 huevos rancheros at Elk and Pea (elkandpea.com.au), before picking up a hire car via the likes of Rentalcars.com ($53). Drive to the Australian Institute of Sport (ausport.gov.au/ais), where a 90-minute athlete-guided tour ($18) shows off the facilities that will hopefully produce the next Ian Thorpe or Cathy Freeman.

Lunch at NewActon's bakery/ seasonal ingredients-obsessed restaurant, A Baker ($19, abaker.com.au), then revel in Canberra's easy bush access with the lookouts and walking trails at the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve ($11, tidbinbilla.act.gov.au). Return in time for the highly moving Last Post ceremony, just before 5pm, at the Australian War Memorial (free, but donate $5).

In the evening, hop over to Campbell for the Chinese-Malay fusion 'nyonya' cuisine at the Lanterne Rooms ($33, lanternerooms.chairmangroup.com.au) before bedding down among serious designer wow factor in Hotel Hotel ($248, hotel-hotel.com.au).

TOTAL: $405

Splash out

Set the alarm scandalously early for a balloon flight with Balloon Aloft ($290, canberraballoons.com.au). It's the best way of seeing the pretty patterns of the city's ultra-planned roads and roundabouts. It starts and finishes at the Hyatt (Canberra.park.hyatt), which handily has both the plushest rooms ($315) and most lavish breakfast buffet (an extra $40) in the capital.

Fully satiated, jump in a cab ($15) to the Canberra Glassworks (canberraglassworks.com), where weekend workshops at the Canberra Glassworks let you make your own glass paperweight or bird for $70.

From there, take a five hour private tour with Executive Drivers ($320, executivedrivers.com.au) around the increasingly-renowned cool climate wineries of Canberra's surrounding region. Stop in for a lunch showcasing the best of the area's produce at the Poacher's Pantry ($34, poacherspantry.com.au) on the way.

Finish off with a $15 cab ride to chef's-hatted wine-matched degustation, Turkish-style, at long-standing local favourite, Ottoman ($115, ottomancuisine.com.au).

TOTAL: $1214

The writer travelled as a guest of Tourism Australia. Canberra's annual Floriade festival continues until October 12.

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