The Top 7 Best-Kept Secrets of Canberra

Karmi Chan

With museums, galleries and historic sites galore, Canberra is Australia‘s artsy capital, a dynamic hub of activity and a beautiful home to the nation’s Parliament. And from hot air balloon rides to dinner dates with lions, Canberra boasts a wealth of entertaining and impressive activities flung far from the beaten tourist track. Looking to do something a little different in the city? Here’s the top 7 best-kept secrets of Canberra.

Canberra sunset/

1. Sage Restaurant

Restaurant, Bar, Australian

Voted ‘Best Restaurant 2015’ by the ACT Savour Australia & Catering, Sage Restaurant is an establishment oozing class and offering fantastic food. With a choice of meals comprised of three or five courses, a night of dining here allows visitors to sample an array of delectable dishes. The ocean trout, wagyu beef and peanut butter parfait are simply delicious. The menu is constantly being upgraded as chefs experiment with different flavors and work with the changing seasons. Plating modern Australian dishes in style, Sage is definitely worth a visit for a great dinner whilst in Canberra. Price: Fine-dining Opening hours: Tues-Sat, 12pm-2pm & 5:30pm-10pm Watch out for: taste and test events Address & telephone number: Batman Street, Braddon, ACT, Australia

2. Cotter Reserve

Cotter Reserve

The perfect family spot, Cotter Reserve is a stunning park on the outskirts of Canberra. Take a step away from the city and relax here for a peaceful day amongst the beauty of nature. Cotter Reserve is equipped with multiple BBQs and picnic tables for outdoor lunches or dinners, and has well kept lawns and lots of open space for children to happily run around. There are also clearly defined, pretty walking paths for casual strolls, and a nearby stream boasts turquoise water and is just waiting to be explored. Cotter Reserve is a wonderful place to spend a sunny day in Canberra. Address & telephone number: Cotter Road, Casuarina Sands, ACT, Australia, +61 13 22 81

©Blue Mountains Local Studies/FlikrCotter River Reserve I ©Blue Mountains Local Studies/Flikr

3. Jamala Wildlife Lodge

Hotel, Lodge

Jamala Wildlife Lodge

Jamala Wildlife Lodge offers a truly unique experience combining zoo adventure and hotel comfort. Located at the National Zoo and Aquarium in Canberra, Jamala Wildlife Lodge provides accommodation built around the habitats of the zoo animals. Guests can stay in a wealth of unusual rooms, from giraffe treehouses to jungle bungalows. The Lodge offers a variety of different packages, one of which sees a three course meal being served very near to the lions’ den. The rooms are large and luxurious here, and allow guests to get up close and personal to the Zoo’s beautiful inhabitants. Address & telephone number: 999 Lady Denman Drive, Weston Creek, ACT, Australia, +61 2 6287 8444

LionsLions I ©Derek Keats/Flickr

4. Mount Ainslie Lookout


Mount Ainslie Lookout

Journey to the top of Mount Ainslie for a gorgeous, panoramic view of Canberra. Lake Burley Griffen, the Australian War Memorial and the Parliament House can all be seen from this lovely lookout point. Hike, bike or drive to the top of Mount Ainslie to enjoy a unique bird’s-eye view of the layout of the city, and gaze upon the beautiful mountain ranges surrounding the region. Whilst Mount Ainslie Lookout is accessible both day and night, the view is particularly stunning as the sun sets. Address & telephone number: Mount Ainslie Drive, Canberra, Australia, +61 13 22 81

© Dylan's World/FlickrView from Ainslie lookout point I © Dylan’s World/Flickr

5. Balloon Aloft Canberra

Balloon Aloft Canberra

A locally owned and operated company, Balloon Aloft Canberra offers the best way to take in all of Canberra’s beauty. Spend your morning catching a sunrise balloon flight and experience the wonderful sensation of floating through the sky. The hot air balloon excursion takes around three hours from start to finish, and will make a truly unforgettable memory. Balloon Aloft Canberra has over 25 years of experience and continues to provide passengers with beautiful scenic flights everyday. Address & telephone number: Pialligo, ACT, Australia, +61 2 6249 8660

Hot Air BalloonsHot Air Balloons I ©Nic C/Flickr

6. The Durham Castle Arms

The Durham Castle Arms

A popular Canberra pub, The Durham Castle Arms prides itself on its hand-crafted burgers and wide selection of beers. With outdoor seating and live music, the Durham Castle Arms is a great place for a relaxing meal and a drink with friends. The atmosphere is upbeat and casual, with smiling waiters serving up generous portions of good food. The venue offers a special $10 lunch menu brimming with burgers, chicken, salads and more. Price: Mid-range Opening hours: Mon-Thurs, 12pm-1am, Fri-Sat, 11:30am-4am, Sun, 12pm-1am Watch out for: Canberra’s best burgers Address & telephone number: Shop 1, Green Square, Jardine Street, Kingston, ACT, Australia, +61 2 6295 1769

© Quinn Dombrowski/FlikrBeer I © Quinn Dombrowski/Flikr

7. Telstra Tower


Telstra Tower

Telstra Tower is another great place to see stunning panoramic views of Canberra and its surrounding landscape. With an indoor observation deck and two outdoor viewing platforms, the sights seen from Telstra Tower are unparalleled. The lower level of the tower is home to the Telstra Heritage Exhibition, a presentation showcasing the history of Australian telecommunications. The Telstra Tower also has a small cafe with coffee and pastries. Opening hours: Mon-Sun, 9am-10pm Address & telephone number: 100 Black Mountain Drive, Acton, ACT, Australia, +61 2 6219 6120

Telstra TowerTelstra Tower I ©asheshwor/Flickr

By Karmi Chan

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