An Insider's (Townie's) Guide to Canberra

A Townie’s Guide to Canberra: Part I

Dear fresh faced college kids: here are some helpful tips from your caring townie counterparts to help you navigate eating, drinking and shopping around Canberra when you want to punch yourself in the face rather than hear the word ‘Civic’ again, or just want to explore your new home.


Belconnen (Inner West):

Good old Belco’ is home to the hallowed halls of the University of Canberra, but there’s more to be found in the Inner West than midwifery and bulging triceps.

Get there: Buses go regularly from Barry Drive at the Eastern side of Bruce Hall.

Have some fun: Zone 3 is the home of Laser Tag in Canberra.

Drink at: Haha Bar and LaDeeDa have great local DJs and a waterfront location.

Eat at: Max Brenner chocolate café in the Belconnen Mall (a giant Westfield, should you ever tire of Civic shopping). Also there’s a Lick frozen yogurt place just across the mall.

Feeling fancy?: Ellacure restaurant does a killer brunch all weekend.



Manuka, Kingston, Yarralumla & Griffith (Inner South):

Home to the swankier set of Canberra, bordered by the leafy Consulate suburb of Forrest, Parliament House and the lake, these suburbs are great for a grown up nights out and amazing food.

Get there: Buses go from Civic regularly, or it’s a short bike ride over either Bridge across the lake.

Go there for: Fancy eating and special occasions. Want to impress your parents when they come to visit you? Got an occasion that needs celebrating? Just feelin’ spendy? The Inner South is for you.

Mecca Bah in Manuka for stylish Morrocan and for their intimate bar that’s great to hire for small events.

Rubicon in Griffith has fine dining for special occasions with an especially fine degustation menu.

Me and Mrs. Jones in Kingston for a rustic Italian vibe, great for special dinners or just afternoon tea.

The Farmer’s Daughter in Yarralumla for beautiful interiors and an extensive lunch menu as well as fantastic coffee.

Brodburger by the Lake in Kingston is a cult favourite. Go on weekday nights to avoid the notoriously long waits for the best burgers Canberra has to offer.



Fyshwick (Inner East):

If strip clubs and brothel’s aren’t your thing; don’t stress, this strange industrial suburb has many hidden delights.

Get there: Drive or take the 30min+ bus ride.

Go there for: Op-shopping, discount shopping and sex shopping.

Shop at: DFO; Canberra’s own outlet mall. A soulless doughnut shaped mall, worth it for excellent bargains at Alannah Hill, Tony Bianco, Calvin Klein and Oxford.

One of the best Salvation Army op-shops is on the way to Fyshwick on Mildura Street, especially good for furniture.

If you’re craving something a little different, Fyshwick’s selection of fine boutiques such as Hello Sexy and Fantasy Lane Adult Supermarket will be sure to brighten the dullest day.


Dickson (Inner North):


The closest shops to many ANU share houses, this sleepy suburb houses Canberra’s take on Chinatown and is a student favourite.

Get there: Buses run up Northbourne Avenue every few minutes.

Go there for: Asian food of all varieties

Eat at: Dickson Asian Noodle House: A word to the wise: book ahead. Alternatively they have a solid take away service too, even on the busiest nights.

Anywhere along Woolley Street. Korean BBQ? Chinese Dumpling House? Japanese? Vegetarian Restaurant with fake chicken? Take your pick.

Drink at: Sub-Urban. Pricey but delicious menu and slick décor make this a weekend favourite for Canberrans, but don’t expect an ANU-heavy crowd.

Shop at: Any of the Asian supermarkets along Woolley Street for the most amazing variety of desserts, canned drinks and instant noodles.

Also there’s an excellent Vinnies there too.


And the rest of the best:


The Duxton at the O’Connor Shops. A 20 minute walk from campus due North, this two story bar has been recently renovated and will cater to pretty much any occasion. Best for: Quiet Sunday drink with mates or hire out the sexy upstairs section for a function.

Tilley’s at the Lyneham Shops. This jazz bar is a favourite with the locals as the sultry velvet and black glass interior creates a cozy, secretive vibe with booths. If that’s not your thing, you can soak up the sun in the large outdoor seating area. Best for: Friday evening drinks with friends outside or tea for two, cuddled up indoors. About a 5 minute drive or 15 minute walk from campus.

A Bite to Eat at the Chifley Shops is a large, retro café restaurant that, despite it’s size, is usually fully booked for brunch all weekend. Unique menu options and mismatched tableware create a casual atmosphere and it’s also great to hire for events. Top tip: Book ahead before you commit to the drive. Best for: Brunch on weekdays. Approx. 15 minute drive from campus due South.


The Great Outdoors

Kambah Pool: Forget Civic Pool, this is the best swimming in Canberra. A half an hour drive from campus (Google it), you’ll find a swimming spot on the edge of the Murrumbidgee.  Bring food, towels, sunscreen and portable speakers and get ready to go bush. FYI there’s a nudist beach just down river (don’t say we didn’t warn you).

Mount Ainslie: At the back of the Inner North suburb of Campbell, just behind the War Memorial you probably visited with your school on “the-world’s-most-boring-school-trip” to Canberra, is a clearly marked path that leads to the top of Mt. Ainslie. A great trail for getting in shape (hella steep in some parts), the large lookout at the top provides stunning views that are usually utilised by local youths in cars (there’s a road up there too) for a lil’ bump ‘n’ grind.

The Rose Gardens at Old Parliament House

These public gardens are most beautiful when the roses are blooming from Spring to Autumn. There are benches, water features and lots of grass to sit on. Bring a picnic rug, scones and tea and get ready to feel like you’re in The Secret Garden. A great place to ride to on the weekend.

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