Apologies to any readers!...
FIRST DRAFT…publishing this before a proofread as we’re about to leave hotel room in Chatswood, Sydney on return trip to Canberra (good stay on Nth Shore + good news from spinal Dr!…post for another day). Once on the train I’ll lose wifi and want to let our UK friends (visiting soon) about this post.
NICE TO BE HOME IN CANBERRA:
We love that Canberra, our Capital City, now has an international airport (started in 2016) with direct flights to Singapore as well as Doha in the Middle East (with Qatar Airlines). At this stage, we’ve only done Singapore Airlines flights to Europe via Singapore stopovers.
We recently arrived home in Canberra from our 2 months away in Europe (via Singapore – “Tropical Tales” in 2 previous posts if interested). The weather has been beautiful and Floriade (our Spring festival) was in full swing (“garden cafes of Canberra” – a longer post for another day).
Seeing we were in Scotland just last month thought it would be appropriate to begin with our Scottish/Canberra connections!…
There’s a recipe for “British Burgers…shred salad, pickles and things” by Jamie O at end of this post 😋 Like many Australians, our ancestors were British…eg. my Scottish grandparents; English Great, great grandparents; now Australia is very Multicultural…well functioning in most places except when sometimes, a few politicians (+ a few loud Monarchists…yes they still exist here😉) who seem to still think of Australia as a Colony, occasionally stir up trouble. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen too often and generally, we have a very harmonious country…Canberra is a very welcoming/friendly small city.
We do have some solstice traditions in Canberra, as can be seen from next two photos:
Canberra weather from a local’s perspective:
Many Canberrans would say that Spring and Autumn are the best times to visit, particularly if you enjoy seasonal colours of nature…Unlike Sydney (about 4 hours drive from Canberra), we have 4 distinct seasons – well usually it’s been that way, but in recent years our summers (hot sometimes) appear to be getting longer and drier.
Winters can be cold (not as cold as even Southern parts of say Canada though)…minimum temperatures overnight in mid winter would be approximately minus 5 Celcius (don’t quote me on that…I’ll check Net😉) and daytime temperatures sometimes get to double digits! 2018 winter (June-Aug) was very dry and often sunny so we loved the daytime sunshine (great for long walks) although our gardens suffered a bit without the usual rain until early Spring.
CANBERRA: LONELY PLANET lists Canberra as “one of hottest destinations of 2018″…not sure about that rather silly description but if you enjoy small cities, it’s definitely one to consider.
I’ll start with some places not in the Tourist Guide books…if you do want to know a local’s perspective on the more popular places for tourists skim over The Tuggeranong paragraphs/photos.
THE BUSH CAPITAL
Try to leave the urban areas of Canberra and head to a nature reserve…on our doorstep to the south is Tidbinbilla nature reserve – https://www.tidbinbilla.act.gov.au/
There are many ranger guided walks, particularly on the weekend – some to show you where to look for platypus (fascinating creatures); it’s possible to do self guided walks and see kangaroos, koala, echidna etc. A good idea to either start or finish at the Tidbinbilla Visitor Centre.
There are many places where it’s possible to take a picnic lunch – just watch out for the emus sometimes! There are also excellent children’s playgrounds. A visit to Tidbinbilla is highly recommended.
INFORMATION ABOUT SELF GUIDED WALKS IN CANBERRA:
If time permits, it’s also worth exploring near Birrigai in the same vicinity as Tidbinbilla. There are many longer walks which I use to do when I was a teacher and accompanied school groups “to camp” at the Birrigai School/Outdoor Ed centre. They were always great fun!
LEISURELY LAKE OR RIVERSIDE WALKS:
Most of the walks on the link above are quite energetic but if you’re wanting something at a relaxing pace (or wheelchair friendly)…even for just 30 min, there’s a lakeside walk not far from the Tuggeranong Town Centre/Hyperdome shopping complex. This would be the closest town centre to Tidbinbilla so a possible place to stop either on the way there or back? Also, unlike Tidbinbilla, there are places where you can swim – either indoors or at the river – Pine Island.
The photos below were taken in and around Tuggeranong Town Centre (about 20 min South of the CBD if you avoid peak hour, depending on the road you take – we prefer the Monaro Highway…which continues onto Cooma). In this area, the Murrumbidgee river flows into Lake Tuggeranong.
There is a popular riverside/swim area near the centre of Tuggeranong Town Centre called Pine Island...in the mid 1970s we often had picnics there and went swimming in the river.
Now there are houses, townhouses and apartments etc. just minutes from this riverside area (Pine Island) but it’s still a very pretty spot and children love it too.
It only takes another 15 min of driving to get to more secluded parts of the river. Our son and his young family know “some really beautiful places” which he said they’ll take us to this summer – the water is clean and cool and there’s a sandy “beach” and shady trees. Good place for swimming as well although watch children carefully as rivers can be just us dangerous and the seaside of course.
Here’s another place our grandchildren like to visit on Tuggeranong Lake (the playground is popular too) – closer to town centre + next to the indoor pool/leisure centre with an outdoor water park all part of the complex:
FAMOUS REGIONAL LIBRARY:
The Tuggeranong Library with views out to Lake Tuggeranong was nominated as one of the most beautiful libraries in Australia. The architecture is worth looking at from both the outside and inside.
The Tuggeranong College (also an interesting design) is for Year 11 and 12 students…in Canberra High School is from Year 7 – 10 and students then move onto College system ie. most would be 16 – 17+ years when they finish their school Education. Canberra has a very high student retention rate to Year 12.
A little along the lakefront path from the library (heading South) is the Tuggeranong Arts Centre...also interesting architecture. Here they have regular Jazz evenings + sometimes book launches as well as a variety of art exhibitions and small/local theatre productions.
If you’re feeling like morning tea…think about heading to Brew Bar at the Tuggeranong Hyperdome (outdoor space) or perhaps Little Istanbul next door serves Turkish coffee and Baklava ($4.50…same for any coffee with a pastry).
Talking of Australian books and illustrating…
I’ve always loved children’s books and I have a collection – here’s one I remember from my children based on May Gibb’s “gum nut baby” stories. The artwork is delightful for all ages too:
AUSTRALIAN BOTANIC GARDENS:
If you have a particular interest in plants and gardens like I do, don’t miss the Botanic Gardens – particularly in Spring. There are lovely strolls to be had, even one down into a cool and leafy rainforest garden. The cafe there is under new management so I can’t comment on what it’s like but the setting is very attractive + a popular place as well (could be worth booking if wanting to go for lunch?). There’s also a small gallery and bookshop.
BLACK MOUNTAIN TOWER
Not far from the Botanic Gardens is a great lookout tower at the top of Black Mountain (near ANU)…there is a fee to go up. The views are excellent if it’s a clear day. If you’re feeling more energetic try walking up:
RED HILL (you can drive up too)...there’s a good cafe at the top; a great view over Canberra including Manuka village and Kingston (see notes below) and many other parts of Canberra. Red Hill is only minutes from where we live now in Griffith – also near Manuka Village (see note below),
Also think about hiking up…MOUNT AINSLIE...with views over the city.
TUGGERANONG HILL eg. NEAR THEODORE – views over the valley (Brindabella Mt Range views from other side of hill/Conder side)…there’s a lovely 5+ km trail at the back of the houses where lots of kangaroos can often be seen in late afternoon (sometimes in the morning).
If you head to Eltham Place, Theodore, there are stairs that take you up to the trail; it’s wide enough for vehicle access although mostly used for hiking and cycling. “Our” house (sold 2015) backs onto this nature reserve (look for interesting green colourbond roof near top of stairs)…the new owners got a bargain as we hadn’t planned on selling and probably over capitalised with new bathrooms and a beautiful solid Australian timber front door (photo below) not long before we made decision to buy Griffith apartment.
We loved that house and miss it sometimes now we’re in an inner Sth apartment but what we had with a view of hills to North (best orientation in Oz), a nearby creek (where our boys played), nature reserves and river on our doorstep is replaced with being able to walk to Manuka village + 5 min to the Kingston train station where we depart for Sydney. We got back from Sydney and I’m editing while we’re sitting in our courtyard – a balmy Spring evening 🥂
ENOUGH REMINISCING!….BACK TO MOUNTAIN VIEWS AND LAKESIDE WALKS:
I’ve also heard MOUNT TAYLOR is very pleasant but we haven’t tried that one?
WALKS AROUND LAKE NEAR YARRALUMLA – including Government House; Nara Peace Park; Beijing Gardens (near Chinese Embassy); Historic Hyatt Hotel (good place for morning or afternoon tea or an evening drink…very grand/elegant). More on this beautiful area in a future post.
My walk here often starts near the YARRALUMLA NURSERY (beautiful selection of plants including coastal varieties…we’re only 1.5 hours to Batemans Bay). There’s a cafe just across from Nursery but I’ve found service is slow so I often take my own thermos of tea and after a visit to nursery, have morning tea on a seat nearby (sometimes with a friend) and then take a walk down the hill/around the lake. More in a future post as I have some beautiful photos too.
TO SOUTH OF CANBERRA – LAKE TUGGERANONG WALKS:
Here are a few of the landscapes and native plants and trees you can see if you take the Tuggeranong lakeside walk:
Fortunately, we’re not too far from the Snowy Mountains (where many go skiing at Thredbo and surrounds) and the Murrumbidgee and Molonglo river systems + our main dam’s capacity was increased not so long ago. We have many nature reserves, such as Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve on our doorstep…Canberra is often called The Bush Capital.
CLOSER TO CANBERRA’s CENTRE – LAKE BURLEY GRIFFIN AND SURROUNDS:
“Floriade” – Canberra’s Spring Festival:
While we didn’t have time to get to Floriade this year, we have enjoyed the beautiful Spring blossom trees and other outdoor pursuits that are so good to visit at this time of year. It’s also been a pleasure to look back over our photos from Floriade and Springtime in Canberra over the years – including those above and below:
MORE THINGS TO DO NEAR CANBERRA’S LAKE BURLEY GRIFFIN:
We have friends visiting from UK next week, so I’ll compile a few photos that might help them to decide where they’d like to visit over a few days. With the weather so lovely, some interesting places that combine the indoors/outdoors + some good food of course…either a self prepared picnic or a few interesting cafes for lunch will be included too. A few of our favourite places in the centre of Canberra (close to our apartment) are:
The Australian National Museum
Most of the Museum is free and there’s so much to see. There’s also lots for children to do – see their website. The school holiday activities are excellent – and very popular. Most of the temporary exhibitions have an entry fee – the current exhibition is…. When I take the grandchildren, I often take a packed picnic as there are outdoor tables and/or a grassy slope to picnic and usually roll down! Them not me!…now with my bionic back😉
There are guided tours if you’re interested in either the architecture and/or Australian politics. Also good views across to Old Parliament House and the War Memorial (2nd photo shows that view if you look closely!)…the intention of this arrangement/symbolism is to (supposedly!) remind politicians, particularly the Prime Minister, of the enormity of war…www.awm.gov.au; The War Memorial was officially opened in 1941.
OLD PARLIAMENT HOUSE…now the Museum of Australian Democracy
If you love gardens…check out the Old Parliament House Rose Garden…
There are a variety of cafes and restaurants both near the rose garden as well
As inside the building as can be seen in the photo above on RHS.
THE MUSEUM OF AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRACY – in “OLD PARLIAMENT HOUSE”…it’s worth taking a tour even if you only have a slight interest in politics; there’s also a fabulous Political Cartoon Exhibition each year. We visit every year and have some of the “best of” books…
The 2018 exhibition just closed…2019 will open early next year. It’s not all about Australian Politics – of course, Trump has been a focus of some of the cartoons and how some Australian politicians try to copy his “success”. Australians in general often have a very irreverent sense of humour so we always find these exhibitions very entertaining and often amusing!
FOR KIDS AT MoAD…
There are lots of activities for children eg. A permanent area with big mirrors and
Dress ups; school holiday activities too.
THE NATIONAL LIBRARY:
IF YOU ENJOY MORE OF A VILLAGE FEEL WITH SMALL BOOKSHOPS, INTERESTING CAFES etc:
Try to make time for Canberra’s oldest “villages”…Manuka Village (mostly built in 1920s), including Paper Chain Bookstore – there are lots of small boutique shops nearby and a variety of cafes; also “Old Kingston” (also circa 1920s) which is similar to Manuka Village but Manuka does have a cinema and a large supermarket (Coles).
Kingston has a small supermarket with a focus on organic produce etc. + a great little kitchen shop/gourmet grocery store called “The Essential Ingredient“…reminds me to look at their blog as one of the young women who writes for it (+ works at shop) was one of my students in Year 3! Does make me feel old as she’s finishing (or has recently finished?) her Journalism degree at UC!
I particularly love the bookshop/cafe/bar, Muse, on short walk between Manuka Village and Old Kingston. Muse is a great place for morning tea or lunch; there’s also an Italian Restaurant next to it (part of East Hotel).
Another good Italian restaurant (authentic home style cooking at a reasonable price), try Ricetta Antica in Manuka Village. A waitress there suggested we visit Bologna (her home town) which we recently did!…a post I’ll write very soon!
OTHER FAVOURITE PLACES NEAR LAKE BG WE LOVE TO VISIT:
THE NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY – has a beautiful cafe/bookshop too
THE WAR MEMORIAL – we were only there last week with our granddaughters…took some beautiful photos I’ll insert soon. Also see above note under Parliament House + www.awm.gov.au
THE NATIONAL ART GALLERY
NATIONAL FILM AND SOUND ARCHIVE (not far from the National Museum – see photos above)…although check if it’s still open before you go as it’s being moved to a new location.
QUESTACON – SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY CENTRE...fun for kids and adults!
IN THE CITY CENTRE:
If you like shopping…
THE CANBERRA CENTRE – a very modern complex…would only recommend if you’re avoiding bad weather; want to catch a movie or do some shopping and/or you enjoy looking at modern town planning…like I like to do when we travel. Good to see more of these complexes connecting indoor/outdoor spaces.
GAREMA PLACE near Canberra Centre…The Canberra Centre (very large/modern mall) took business away from this City Centre for shopping/cafes etc. but it’s gradually coming back to life again! Wander around near the famous Merry-Go-Round and you’ll see some new initiatives happening including picnic tables with colourful umbrellas + some pretty Spring gardens at the moment.
Our favourite cafe is Gus’ Cafe…don’t miss the history of this cafe (Gus’ story – an Italian/Australian) on the walls in photos/text…on walls outside the cafe as well. It was the (or 1 of?) first outdoor cafes in Australia!
WHILE NEAR THE CBD think about going to:
THE REGATTA POINT EXHIBITION ON LAKE BG…or walk around from the National Library?
The National Exhibition Centre at Regatta Point is a great first stop for visitors to the national capital. This display can be heard in seven languages. The exhibition explains the choice of Canberra as the national capital over 100 years ago.
THE NATIONAL BOTANIC GARDENS: See photos above
SCENES FROM SUBURBIA…most places in Canberra aren’t far from the centre (average drive would be about 30 min) as Canberra is a small city – but growing fast!
For almost a decade we lived both on the Northside of Canberra (a suburb called Kaleen) near the University of Canberra where we both studied in our 20s/30s, (and also not far from the ANU); from 1990 we lived in the Tuggeranong Valley…on the hillside/nature reserve of Tuggeranong Hill.
We loved our garden with it’s many courtyards taking best advantage of various aspects (the house was designed with many passive solar features):
HISTORIC GINNINDERRA SCHOOL HOUSE and GOLDCREEK VILLAGE
A little north of the CBD is the historic Ginninderra School House (now The Green Herring Restaurant) – as the name tells us once a school house in the 1800s and moved to it’s current location a century++ later! It’s one place we would like to bring our grandchildren before they get much older…particularly in winter when they have the fire roaring! It’s so cosy + the food is delicious – nothing fussy, just tasty home style cooking.
There is also the Goldcreek Village nearby with various cafes, arts/crafts/garden stores etc. Ginninderra was the name of former agricultural lands “surrendered” for urban development in Canberra…I don’t know much about how that process occurred but I’d like to learn more so this blog post reminds me to do that!
FOOD IN CANBERRA/ 2 RECIPES:
We eat a lot of seafood in Canberra as being just 1.5 hours by road from the coast, trucks of fresh seafood are delivered daily…large deliveries on a Thursday as we have many fresh food markets all over Canberra from Thursday – Sunday.
Tony and I usually have both vegetarian meals and other meats from about Sunday – Wednesday (or perhaps go to a restaurant 1 night) and have fresh seafood dishes at other times. There are lots of seafood recipes on my blog…can be found on posts related to most coastal destinations.
So on this occasion I’ll focus on recipes using Australian beef…often more affordable here than other parts of the world we’ve noticed, although prices have increased a lot in recent years and many Australians are cutting back, particularly on red meat; for health reasons as well.
My iron levels sometimes get quite low + both our grandfathers were butchers, so I don’t think we’ll ever go completely vegetarian…we do look for ethical farming practices (if that exists?…I know there are many debates about what’s ethical and what’s not and I have started looking for high iron/beef substitutes). There are some foods I won’t eat eg. Whale meat…we saw it for sale in Norway recently.
Enough on that…here’s a recipe for Sizzling Sirloin
METHOD: I’ll type later
BRITISH BURGERS with Shred Salad and Pickles:
From Jamie’s 15 min Meals P60:
Ingredients: 500 gm lean beef mince; 1 heaped tsp whole grain mustard; 1 swig of quality beer or ale; olive oil; 4 wholewheat baps (bread buns?); 2 tbsp natural yoghurt; Worcestershire sauce; 1 ripe beef tomato (think he means Roma?); 2-4 gherkins; tomato ketchup (Aussie say ‘sauce’😉) to serve.
For salad: 2 carrots; 1/4 of a white cabbage (approx 250 g); 1 pear; 1 small red onion; 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil; 1 tbsp red wine vinegar; 70 g rocket.
METHOD I’LL type soon
ONE FINAL FOODIE PHOTO….FOTO in Sweden…a post in the near future as we loved our week there recently!