How to Spend 48 Hours on Canberra’s South Side

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May 05, 2017

by HANA JO

Experience another side of Australia’s capital.

Canberra has a budding reputation as a cool, cultured capital and the ideal city for a weekend getaway. If you’ve explored the much-hyped NewActon precinct and you’re wondering what’s next, reacquaint yourself with the city’s south. The suburbs near Parliament House offer plenty of options for dining and sightseeing and great accommodation in the area means everywhere is walkable.

Stay

East Hotel

A happening new restaurant and trendy digs aren’t the only reasons to base yourself at this boutique apartment hotel. East Hotel’s location in the picturesque suburb of Kingston is right by Manuka and Barton and within walking distance of a variety of restaurants, markets and galleries. Rooms are decorated in a cool, relaxed style and come in various configurations, from studio to two-bedroom, with the ability to interconnect certain rooms to accommodate larger families. All have Nespresso machines and a kitchenette or full kitchen; some also have spas, laundries and balconies. There’s a fully equipped gym and conference and meeting rooms and friendly touches such as a lobby library and free bicycle hire. For sustenance, there’s the rather plush Joe’s Bar downstairs, a popular hangout for cocktails and snacks; café-cum-bookstore Muse is next door with fabulous coffee and a brunch menu worth queuing for; and Agostinis, a new Italian restaurant on the Canberra scene. Book now

69 Canberra Avenue, Kingston; (02) 6295 6925 

Eat

Agostinis

Downstairs at East Hotel, Agostinis welcomes patrons with pink neon signage, a sleek interior with a buzzing open kitchen and gregarious chef Francesco Balestrieri. The menu takes its inspiration from Northern Italy, with a few innovations by Roman chef Balestrieri, but the pizza is the showstopper. The oven is the only one of its kind in the city, turning out up to 15 amazingly crisp pizzas at once. Also cooked in the oven is frico: layers of Montasio cheese and potato baked to a perfect crunch – it’s a must-try dish. Pasta is house-made and paired with Italian classics from bottarga to salsiccia and mushrooms. The Bistecca alla Fiorentina, a house-special t-bone steak that serves two or more is a favourite around here, as is the traditional Agostinis Tiramisu and the Maritozzo con Gelato, which sees gelato served in a freshly baked brioche bun “sandwich”. The concise wine list does a good job of representing Italian varietals; try the Italian wine on tap or Beppo’s Blend, a local Aussie creation made especially for Agostinis.

69 Canberra Avenue, Kingston; (02) 6178 0048 

Ottoman Cuisine

This softly lit Canberra institution with its courtyard water feature, arbour walkway and refined, elegant interiors has been hosting Canberrans since 1992. Ottoman Cuisine chef Şerif Kaya’s authentic Turkish recipes cover the classic and the contemporary and are ideal to share. Rice-, pine nut- and currant-stuffed vegetables, zucchini puffs and duck-filled pastry rolls catch the eye from the entrees while from the larger dishes, char-grilled kingfish, lemon-marinated spatchcock and spiced lamb cutlets tempt. The reasonably priced wine list has a good mix of local and international drops and there’s also a BYO option. Save room for Revani, a syrupy semolina and orange cake and the homemade Turkish delight.

Corner Broughton and Blackall streets, Barton; (02) 6273 6111

An eating and walking tour of Kingston and Manuka...

Northeast at the local “shops” you’ll find plenty of popular places to grab a drink, a bite to eat or coffee, including Otis Dining Hall, Jones & Co., Penny University and Bittersweet. Further afield, about 15 minutes on foot, enjoy views of Lake Burley Griffin from the cafés, restaurants and bars on the Kingston Foreshore. Try The Organic Bean for coffee, The Dock for drinks with friends or Morks Restaurant  if you’re in the mood for Thai. Walk five minutes in the direction of Manuka Oval and you’ll find some great little eateries and bars. Local favourites include the hipster bar Public, casual Mee’s Sushi and popular brunch spot Ona on the Lawns. 

Do

Markets

The Old Bus Depot Markets, just a 15-minute stroll from East Hotel towards Kingston Foreshore, have been showcasing local businesses, artists, craftsmen and producers since 1994. Browse the vintage clothes, original art and handmade jewellery, accessories and homewares and get a taste of what Canberra has to offer, from cheese and cannoli to biltong and bagels. They’re on every Sunday from 10am to 4pm.

21 Wentworth Avenue, Kingston; (02) 6295 3331 

A newer addition to the market scene is The Forage. Held on a semi-regular basis and popping up in different locations, these markets are home to street-food stalls by local cafes, food trucks, wineries and breweries. The whole event is accompanied by live music, games for kids and space to kick back and enjoy a meal. Check Facebook for upcoming events. 

Galleries

The National Gallery of Australia is a must-do for any art-lover in Canberra. About a half-hour walk from the East Hotel (break up the trip with a stop at Maple & Clove or Little Bird café). You’ll find a Sculpture Garden outside, as well as James Turrell’s incredible Skyspace and Fiona Hall’s fern garden in the gallery’s courtyard. Highlights include one of Claude Monet’s water lilies paintings, Jackson Pollock’s striking and controversial Blue Poles and Sidney Nolan’s famed Ned Kelly series.

Parkes Place, Parkes; (02) 6240 6411

Cross the pedestrian bridge from the NGA over Parkes Place East to the National Portrait Gallery. This beautifully designed Johnson Pilton Walker building houses portraits that encompass beloved, infamous, controversial and influential characters throughout Australia’s history, including historical and modern-day figures such as Captain James Cook, actress Deborah Mailman, the band Midnight Oil, and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark.

King Edward Terrace, Parkes; (02) 6102 7000 

Waterfront sights

Jump on a free bicycle or get your walking shoes on and make your way to nearby Bowen Park to begin a leisurely lakeside wander or stop and enjoy a quiet picnic with scenic views. Lake Burley Griffin’s Central loop is ideal for cyclists and walkers; see the Captain Cook Memorial Jet, National Capital exhibition, National Carillon (a musical bell tower on an island on the lake) and historic Blundells Cottage, managed by the National Trust. Bring along a packed lunch – there are picnic benches and plenty of places to stop and rest along the trail.

Top image: National Portrait Gallery

SEE ALSO: One Perfect Day in Canberra