Canberra is having a moment. Australia’s capital city has gone through the revival stages in the last half-decade to become a hustling and bustling city with a host of new restaurants, bars, and attractions that step well outside the classics like the National Gallery, Parliament House and good ol’ Questacon.
While your typical weekend trip to the ACT might throw these in for good measure, we thought it was about time we focused on a few must-visit locations you’ve probably never heard of, let alone considered.
We think there’s more to Canberra than meets the eye and we’ve put together the itinerary to prove it. This is one of the most jam-packed journeys one can make on a weekend to Canberra and we’re bringing you along for the ride and highlighting where we stayed, ate, drank, and visited in just 48 hours.
Related: Best Bars in Canberra
Where We Stayed
This was our second time staying at East Hotel in Canberra and it surely won’t be our last. We think this is one of the best accommodation options in Canberra as the hotel is located in trendy Kingston and is positioned on a quiet corner opposite Manuka Oval. The rooms at the hotel vary from studios that sleep 2 people to luxe multi-bedroom apartments that can host up to 7 (with additional bedding).
During our stay, we spent our time in an ‘East Apartment‘ that is large and spacious at 63m2 and includes a separate living room, bedroom, balcony, bathroom, kitchen and laundry. It’s one of the most comfortable hotel rooms we’ve stayed in recent times – it’s hard to fault – and we always look forward to coming back. We love that there are TVs with Chromecast for streaming, plenty of desk space, free internet, a balcony with chairs, and comfortable living spaces. There’s also secure parking on site that’s free if you book direct.
The hotel plays host to its own bar (Joe’s Bar), Italian restaurant (Agostini’s) and Cafe (Muse) which are all so outstanding in their own right. If you’re only visiting for a night, we’d highly recommend checking out all three over the duration of your stay, but if you’d rather venture out into the surrounding suburbs we’re touching on that later. More information on East Hotel can be found via the link below.
Address: 69 Canberra Ave, Kingston ACT 2604
Phone: (02) 6295 6925
Where We Ate
We first wrote about Wilma when it opened its doors back in December 2021. The 200+ capacity restaurant is founded by famous Australian chef and restaurateur, James Viles, who was known for his two-hatted Biota Dining in Bowral (now closed) but he’s brought all of his experience to the Canberra CBD with the opening of Wilma.
In case the James Viles name drop wasn’t enough, the restaurant is helmed by head chef Brendan Hill of Aria and 12-micron fame. His focus? Using coals and wood fire to maximise flavour, burning wood in an offset smoker and coals in a custom-made, two-tier konro yakitori grill weighing just over half a tonne. The kitchen is open and acts like a live performance of explosive flavour creation, you’ll struggle to hold a conversation as your eyes are watching every move.
We opted for the 9-course ‘Baller Banquet’ that’s reasonably priced at $95pp. The quality of the food, portion sizes, and overall flavours are outstanding and we’d happily return month after month after month. Highlights of the menu for us included the classic smoked kingfish sashimi, roast duck pancakes, and black bean and chilli beef short rib that was simply next-level.
Address: 1 Genge St, Canberra ACT 2601
Hours: Wed 5-10pm, Thurs-Sun 12-10pm
Phone: (02) 6171 2092
Onzieme is where we stopped on our last night in the ACT and we fell in love with the French Bistro vibe from the get-go. If it wasn’t for the quiet neighbourhood and lack of foot traffic on the streets you could’ve told us we were in the 20th arrondissement in Paris checking out one of the many natural wine bars (or the 11th as that’s what ‘Onzieme’ refers to).
We’re strong believers that restaurants like Onzieme will take Canberra to the next level and draw visitors from Sydney on any given weekend. We’re planning our next trip back as we write this.
If you’re a regular Sydney foodie we’d say Onzieme holds similarities to favourites of ours like 10 William St, Love Tilly Devine, and Paski Vineria Popolare. It’s a fun and bubbly natural wine-focused bistro that withholds a mature menu focused on local ingredients that changes very regularly.
We recommend choosing the ‘feed me’ menu that’s priced around $85pp (we didn’t, but we should’ve) and let head chef Chef Louis Couttoupes decide what he wants to bring you. In our case, the rack of lamb, yakitori-style mushroom, and the octopus were standouts, but the selection changes so regularly who knows what will be on your menu! All we can promise is that it’ll be delicious. Our choice of wines consisted of a Lucy Margeaux Sauvignon Blanc and a Poppelvej Mourvedre.
Address: 35 Kennedy St, Kingston ACT 2604
Hours: Tues-Sat 6-11pm
Phone: 0424 894 763
Related: Best Rooftop Bars in Canberra
Where We Drank
Capital Brewing Co
The first spot we hit on our journey from Sydney to Canberra was Capital Brewing where we had the chance to take a brew tour and meet the founders of this fine brewing establishment. Co-founders and Managing Directors Tom Hertel and Laurence Kain are Canberra locals and the passion they have for building a brewing empire in Australia’s capital city is only matched by the awesome flavours of the beers they produce.
In 2011, the pair pooled together the money they’d put away from working behind bars and got to work turning an old Italian restaurant into Canberra’s first bar focused on independent Australian craft beer (pre-craft-beer boom). While the brewery is located somewhere between our accommodation in Kingston and the Canberra Outlet Centre in Fyshwick (worth a look) you can think of the location as its own little suburb that’s regularly packed to the rafters with local punters and beer fanatics.
We tucked into a classic Aussie hamburger from on-site food truck Brodburger before jumping through a tasting paddle that consisted of a selection of the brewery’s finest. Sadly for you, you’re not sitting at Capital Brewing right now! But if you’re new to the label we highly recommend jumping into a mixed case as it includes most of our favourites, but there’s also a new kid on the block in the non-alcoholic ‘Capital Brewing ALC-LESS’ that’s very worthy of a drink if you’re looking to relax on the tomfoolery.
Address: Building 3/1 Dairy Rd, Fyshwick ACT 2609
Hours: Sun-Mon 11:30am-8pm, Tues-Thur 11:30am-9pm, Fri-Sat 11:30am-10pm
Phone: (02) 5104 0915
We pre-gamed our Saturday night meal at Onzieme with a little tipple at Joe’s Bar. Located downstairs in East Hotel it’s far from your average hotel bar and draws fans from around the Canberra area thanks to its fantastic cocktail menu and funky aesthetic. Take your pick from any one of the cocktails on rotation or order a classic Old Fashioned, Whisky Sour, or Negroni before indulging in house-made focaccia from the pizza oven located in the bar. Joe’s bar is fun, reliable, and often quite busy so we recommend you make a booking.
Located in: East Hotel
Address: 69 Canberra Ave, Griffith ACT 2603
Hours: Tues-Sat 4:30-10pm
Phone: (02) 6178 0050
While we never planned on heading to Queenies, our eyes were drawn to the venue’s bar as we walked from East Hotel to Onzieme. Taking a mental note that this would be a great spot to visit for a post-dinner espresso martini we rocked up around 8:30 pm on a Saturday night and took a seat on one of the couches near the door. Queenies operates as both a restaurant and a bar and although we haven’t had a chance to try their food menu yet we can report the espresso martinis were outstanding – just make sure you ask for Mr Black Coffee Liqueur.
Address: 26 Giles St, Kingston ACT 2604
Hours: Mon-Thur 4-11:30pm, Fri-Sat 12pm-12:30am, Sun 12-10pm
Phone: (02) 6174 4096
Related: Best Italian Restaurants in Canberra
What We Did
AFL at Manuka Oval
Our trip to Canberra was capped off by Saturday afternoon’s GWS Giants vs. Freemantle Dockers AFL game at Manuka Oval. Typically reserved for a few one-day cricket matches, the AFL gets its mitts on the oval a few times a year to show the local crowd what a few 6fters in short shorts can get up to on the footy field.
Sydneysiders might be used to rocking up to Giants Stadium with their binoculars, but the beauty of Manuka Oval (seating capacity of 13,550) lies in its vast low seating arrangement that means you’ll never miss an ounce of the action. We’ll definitely be heading back to catch a few more Giants games next season.
So how did the game stack up? While the Giants had a cracking first half it was a late surge by the Dockers that put Freo up by 20 at the siren. Of course, we got stuck into a few Capital Brewing beers while taking in the game as they’re a major sponsor of the GWS Giants. The special release ‘All Night Long’ Dark Lager was a particularly good fit on this occasion.
Address: Manuka Cir, Griffith ACT 2603
Capacity: 16,000 (overall); 13,550 (seated); 12,000 (cricket)
Teams: GWS GIANTS, Canberra Football Club, ACT Comets, ACT Meteors
National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA)
The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia is home to events, exhibitions, and the Canberra film festival. While we weren’t able to catch the film festival this year (it’s running from August 26-28th) we did make it in time to check out the Australians & Hollywood exhibition that shines a light on some of Australia’s biggest movie moments from all of our favourites like Eric Bana, Paul Hogan, Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin, David Michôd, George Miller, Norma Moriceau, Mia Wasikowska, and more.
We were amazed at the collection of cinema moments, rare behind-the-scenes footage, costumes and props with everything from the customised steering wheels from Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015), to costumes from Moulin Rouge! (Baz Luhrmann, 2001), to Catherine Martin’s art concept books for Romeo + Juliet (Baz Luhrmann, 1996). The highlight for us had to be THE knife from Crocodile Dundee.
Tickets for the exhibition can be bought via the link below and cost $16 for adults or $40 for a family, with under 5s free.
Address: McCoy Cct, Acton ACT 2601
Hours: Sat-Thurs 10am-4pm, Fri 10am-8pm
Phone: (02) 6248 2000
Collection size: 3 million works