11 secrets Canberra’s been keeping from you
Our nation’s capital has been hiding some of its best bits – but we’re here to betray the locals and give them all away
1 The best coffee in Australia
Ona Coffee’s founder, Sasa Sestic, won the World Barista Championship in 2015, and his employee Hugh Kelly has won the Australian Barista Championship two years running. Of Ona’s several cafés around Canberra, the bright and airy Cupping Room is our pick. cupping Room, 1/1-13 University Ave, Canberra 2601.
2 A ski field
The Brindabella mountain range has the longest alpine slide in the Southern Hemisphere – Corin Forest Alpine Resort. In summer it’s all about that silver toboggan. During the colder months, snow machines make this a guaranteed slope spot for budding skiers and snowboarders. corin Forest Alpine Resort, 1268 Corin Dam Rd, Paddys River 2620.
3 Great handmade pasta
Canberra’s newest Italian joint may be attached to a hotel, but it’s locals who keep the place packed. The menu is all about housemade pasta and pizza cooked in a gloriously firepowered Marana Forni oven. The early seating is packed with families digging into handmade lasagna and ice-cream sandwiches while the second shift caters to a hip crowd drawn in by very nice selections of Canberra region and Italian wine. agostinis, 69 Canberra Ave, Kingston 2604.
4 A bright red money tree
There are a number of secret courtyards hidden inside Parliament House. But there’s one in particular we’re sure you’ve seen before. It’s spectacular in autumn, thanks to ‘the Budget tree’. This is the courtyard where politicians often choose to address the press and in late April and early May (budget time) the maple turns luminously red. Normally, only those that work in Parliament House can access these gardens, but for one week a year, when the Budget Tree is at its brightest, tourists can gain special access on a ‘Colours in the Courtyard’ tour. parliament House, Parliament Dr, Canberra 2600.
5 The chance to live with a bear
Take a bubble bath in a luxury hotel next to a pair of three-year-old Bengal tiger brothers or a fully grown brown bear. Yes, we’re serious. This is a real, actual thing you can do at Jamala Wildlife Lodge, inside Canberra’s National Zoo & Aquarium. jamala Wildlife Lodge, National Zoo & Aquarium, 999 Lady Denman Dr, Canberra 2611.
6 Fresh water swimming holes
It may surprise you to learn that Canberra has a nude beach – a delightfully sandy stretch beside the Murrumbidgee River. In fact, the Murrumbidgee offers some of the nicest freshwater swimming spots within shouting distance of Sydney.
7 A major glassmaking centre
Ever wondered where your favourite tankard came from? Canberra Glassworks is totally mesmerising and you don’t have to be a pro to give glassworking a go at this nation-leading facility. The workshop hosts Make Your Own sessions on weekends that allow you to walk away with a paperweight after 20 minutes, or a tumbler after 40. canberra Glassworks, 11 Wentworth Ave, Kingston 2604.
8 Locally made treasures
An expansive space has timber shelves filled with jewellery, millinery, clothing, ceramics and homewares, all of it made within a 100km radius of Canberra. You’ve discovered Trove Canberra, a not-for-profit cooperative of nearly two dozen makers and designers. trove Canberra, 70 Bunda St, Canberra 2601.
9 The tiniest bar you’ve ever seen
If you want to grab a beer and a very cheap bite, there’s one place to head. Lined with reclaimed plywood, and plonked in the middle of a food truck park called the Hamlet is Hutch: the tiniest bar in Canberra, and possibly Australia. This itsy bitsy joint is licensed to fit just four people inside, plus your friendly bartender. hutch, 16 Lonsdale St, Braddon 2612.
10 An ultra-slick day spa
If you want to sit fluffy-robe-to-fluffyrobe with Canberra’s elite, book yourself into the city’s newest wellness palace, Hale, inside Barton’s refurbished Brassey Hotel. Think massage-heavy facials using Sothy products, massages, all the grooming services you could want, plus an infrared sauna, steam room, ice shower and gorgeously heated plunge pool. hale, 10-14 Macquarie St, Barton 2600.
11 One of the hippest hotels in the country
Boutique Hotel Hotel has ingratiated itself into the Canberra community thanks to an excellent lobby bar, gallery, regular events and yoga classes. Upstairs, the rooms are individually decorated, mostly with refurbished midcentury furniture, brightly coloured blankets and textured walls. hotel Hotel, Newacton Nishi, 25 Edinburgh Ave, Canberra 2601.