Hit the road with your squad for a girls' weekend in the capital of culture.
In an election to contest the best places for a girls' weekend getaway, Canberra would get our vote. With chic design hotels, sophisticated bars and restaurants, and a long list of the nation's best museums and galleries to boot, the capital of culture is well worth a visit.
WHERE TO EAT
As you'd expect in a city with more than its fair share of international residents (not to mention pollies' expense accounts), there's an abundance of diverse, quality restaurants in Canberra.
Start the day with a French affair at Buvette in Hotel Realm. Served buffet-style, this elegant breakfast is light years ahead of a typical hotel brekkie. Slow-roasted potatoes and chorizo nestle in Le Creuset skillets, alongside buttery mushrooms, poached eggs and char-grilled bacon. Healthy eaters are well catered for with cold-press juices and Bircher muesli, and the coffee is excellent.
If a late night necessitates a late breakfast, roll it into brunch in the inner-city Braddon precinct. Alongside cool boutiques, vintage op shops and homewares stores you'll find some of the best coffee in town at Lonsdale Street Roasters and sweet treats worth queuing for at Autolyse bakery. On the same block, Italian & Sons serves the highest quality antipasti, pizza and pasta (consider the zucchini flowers with burrata, and the maccheroncini pasta with luscious suckling lamb, tomato and red wine ragu).
Power dining is alive and well in the capital; a slew of fine dining restaurants will hit the mark for ladies who dine with discernment. Book well in advance to nab a table at locals' favourite spots including Courgette, Pomegranate, Ottoman Cuisine and Chairman & Yip. The food and service are always on point, and the premium experience of these venues make them a good choice for special birthday celebrations (29, again?).
WHERE TO DRINK
Gather the girls for after-dinner drinks at Monster Kitchen and Bar in the industrial-chic Hotel Hotel, or Parlour Wine Room, where a menu of cocktails with amusing names (Bang Bang, Jessica Rabbit, Current Affairs) has been designed to be savoured, one drink at a time.
New and worth checking out is the recently revitalised Kingston Foreshore precinct. At Betti Bravo's, cocktails have a Caribbean accent and are created with sugar and spice and all things nice. The West Indies Yellowbird (rum, vanilla Galliano, creme de banana, pineapple and OJ) could replace dessert, and the Planters Punch, with fresh lemon and lime flavours, is a one-way ticket to the tropics. Nearby, at Walt & Burley, raise a glass to the refreshing water views with a selection from the well-curated wine list, many from Australian wine regions.
WHERE TO STAY
The recent blossoming of a chic design hotels scene in the capital is a win for visitors, who finally have plenty of choice in stylish accommodation.
Hotel Hotel will appeal to the urban sophisticate, with its eco-architecture, green design and industrial aesthetic. This oasis of recycled timber and concrete has an enviable location in the award-winning NewActon cultural precinct, close to an art-house cinema, popular bars and restaurants, a gallery space, Roji - an Aveda hair salon and Soma Day Spa.
For Japanese-inspired minimalism, prime Parliamentary Circle location and affordable rates, Little National Hotel is a winner. Bear in mind, all beds are king-size and rooms cannot be configured with single beds or two doubles. Rates are low enough for everybody to get their own room, though close pals (or sisters) might not mind sharing. Across the street, Hotel Realm offers more spacious rooms and Mudd The Spa, one of the most luxurious spas in the city.
Australian history buffs will get a kick out of Hotel Kurrajong, a recently refurbished heritage hotel where Prime Minister Ben Chifley lived, along with an army of political aides and political advisers. The teal decor makes us squeal.
QT Canberra follows the delightfully quirky lead of its sister hotel, QT Sydney, with cheeky design, luxurious rooms and on-site bars and restaurants that have become landmarks in their own right. Dine in style at Capitol Bar & Grill or get sauced in flattering light at Lucky's Speakeasy.
WHAT TO SEE AND DO
If shopping tops the weekend agenda, make haste to chi-chi Manuka and neighbouring Kingston, where you'll find stylish boutiques, specialty bookstores and more. At the Old Bus Depot Markets, held every Sunday in a vast industrial space on the Kingston Foreshore, unique souvenirs, handmade jewellery and covetable homewares are offered.
Get your culture cred on by hopping around Canberra's world-class galleries and museums. Take the opportunity to tour the permanent collections and current exhibitions at the National Gallery of Australia and National Portrait Gallery, or check out the National Museum of Australia, where 50 years of Play School is being celebrated (until 24 July).
Fly your patriotic flag by taking a free tour of Parliament House, or take a moment to consider the contributions of service-men and -women at the Australian War Memorial.
Special events are a good excuse to organise a weekend away, and the capital offers plenty of incentive. If planning a visit this winter, check out the seasonal food, local wines and music at Fireside Festival, held in various locations throughout the month of August. Springtime is all about the flower power of Floriade, while the annual Enlighten festival illuminates the city each March, when light installations and projections present iconic buildings in an entirely new way.
A new international terminal, set to open in September, will link Canberra Airport to the world. See canberraairport.com.au.
The capital is a 3-3.5 hour drive from Sydney. See hertz.com.au for car rental.
DINING + DRINKING
This article brought to you by Visit Canberra.