So, you’ve been stuck in social isolation with no way of leaving the house. Your outside adventures were limited to exercise and grocery shopping. Now that the restrictions have lifted, your freedom might be overwhelming. The local Woolworths isn’t quite cutting it anymore. How to choose which Canberra supermarket to revisit first?
We can help. Over the past few months, every time we’ve needed something from the shops, we’ve changed the shopping centre (observing all hygiene and social distancing rules). As time progressed, we started to review and rate these centres. Of course, we couldn’t visit every centre in Canberra, so we settled on “group centre” level complexes. These we defined as centres that serve a group (4-5) suburbs, and as containing one or more of an Aldi, Coles, Supabarn or Woolworths, in addition to a decent selection of other shops. Large IGAs or Supabarn Express did not count, and neither did a supermarket on its own.
Some of your favourite shops may not be included, but sadly we couldn’t cover the whole of Canberra. Despite this being the ‘definitive’ ranking, all comments on the centres are only our opinions. If we’ve left a bad review on your local shops, please don’t take it personally! So without further ado, let’s begin:
Name: Marketplace Gungahlin/Gungahlin Village
Summary: The centrepiece of Gungahlin has more character than most of the district, but a fragmented layout holds it back from being in the same league as Belconnen Westfield.
Pros: Nice outside food vibes. More character than the rest of Gungahlin. Has the convenience of light rail. A large variety of shops.
Cons: Layout felt fragmented. Unpleasant parking experience. Free parking only for a short time.
Name: Casey Market Town
Summary: A modern and nuanced take on the weekly shopping experience. The Supabarn will be hard to forget.
Pros: Stunning Supabarn. Stylish, modern interior. Large amounts of free parking. Good choice of food options. Can buy fresh pizza at the supermarket.
Cons: Parking can get congested.
Name: Crace Central
Summary: Pretty much just a sterile feeling Supabarn with a handful of shops. Exists for functionality.
Pros: Quite clean. Supabarn pleasant to shop at.
Cons: Very sterile. Not much there. Limited albeit free parking.
Name: Belconnen Westfield
Summary: An expansive centre with a wide variety of supermarkets and stores, even if the aesthetic is a little dark.
Pros: Convenient due to a lot of other stores around it. Many supermarket choices. Large amounts of parking. Bustling, expansive centre.
Cons: Takes a lot of time walking around the mall. A bit dark and dimly lit around the supermarkets as a result of being downstairs. Parking not free after a few hours.
Name: Hawker Shops
Summary: An unusual selection of shopfronts pared with an aging Woolworths led to a somewhat mediocre shopping experience.
Pros: Perpetual smell of fried chicken from nearby KFC. Community vibes. Decent bakery on the corner.
Cons: Quite an old feeling Woolworths. No bakery section in Woolworths.
Name: Kaleen Plaza
Summary: Does the job, but lacks charm and finesse.
Pros: Honestly, not much going for it. Free parking though.
Cons: Coles was a bit cramped. Lack of charm. Bit bland and clinical. Had a bit of a depressing vibe – people seemed a bit sad. Deli still used the ticket system, which was confusing.
Name: Jamison Plaza
Summary: Ideal choice if you want to get out of the city and do your shopping in the burbs.
Pros: Light and spacious, high roof. Modern and clean. Felt like a well-kept regional shopping centre. A decent selection of shops. Spacious and large Coles. Nice new Aldi. Free parking.
Cons: Entrance is a bit gaudy. The layout doesn’t provide much adventure (i.e. unexciting).
District: West Belconnen
Name: Charnwood Shops
Summary: Not as bad as the reputation that proceeds it. Admittedly, the smoky and concrete centre does leave a somewhat dystopian vibe.
Pros: Large, clean Woolworths. Good fried chicken. Sensible layout. Free parking.
Cons: Quite busy. Traffic a bit difficult to navigate. Somewhat grungy vibes.
Name: Kippax Fair
Summary: A very regional feeling centre – can only recommend for the large, modern Woolworths or if you live out there.
Pros: One of the largest, good looking Woolworths in the ACT. Free parking.
Cons: Felt a bit run down. A bit claustrophobic from the narrow hallways. Has dark lighting.
District: North Canberra
Name: Canberra Centre
Summary: Simple, elegant layout (compared to Woden) boasting an enormous variety of modern, clean shops. Parking is a pain though.
Pros: Nando’s. Wide range of sushi. Centrally located. Huge selection of shops. Monaro mall is a stylish new addition. Good lighting. Ten-pin bowling and Dendy’s.
Cons: Coles is usually very busy. No free parking at all. Hard to find a park. The downstairs food court is a bit sad. No butcher despite being in the centre of Canberra.
Name: Dickson Shops
Summary: It’s the Dickson shops – what more can you say. An urban community vibe.
Pros: Nice variety of shops and eating places, urban community vibe. Often a sausage sizzle on Saturdays. Convenient for the inner north. Many Asian grocers.
Cons: Not free parking generally. Woolworths is usually very busy. Can feel a bit grotty.
District: South Canberra
Name: Kingston Shops
Summary: An inner-city hipster paradise that falls down in grocery shopping and parking.
Pros: Really good vibes, cafes and restaurants.
Cons: Limited parking that isn’t free. The Supabarn is quite small and not ideal for your weekly shopping.
Name: Manuka Shops
Summary: Unsurprisingly, similar to Kingston. Less trendy, but better for groceries.
Pros: Decent sized Coles. Many trendy cafes and restaurants.
Cons: Parking spaces are small and difficult to navigate. Coles is quite busy. Parking not free after a while.
District: Woden Valley
Name: Westfield Woden
Summary: Like Belconnen, but confusing. Vast and mysterious.
Pros: Lots of shops, lots of space. Harry Hartog. Great for niche interests. Variety of supermarkets.
Cons: Very confusing layout and parking. Parking not free after a while. No Aldi.
Name: Curtin Shops
Summary: Small, inner suburban shops that retain a cosy and quaint atmosphere. Reminiscent of Dickson.
Pros: Nice trees and open-air shops. Convenient layout. Community vibes. Free parking.
Cons: A little bit rundown. The Coles building is not the nicest and a bit small. Limited parking.
Name: Southlands Centre
Summary: Hidden away with a confusing layout, the expansive Woolworths and wide range of stores will reward the persevering shopper.
Pros: Large Woolworths – spacious and high ceilinged. Fresh fruit market. Open spaces with gardens.
Cons: Confusing layout and confusing aesthetic. Couldn’t decide what it wanted to be.
District: Weston Creek
Name: Cooleman Court
Summary: Pleasant shopping centre with a nice community vibe.
Pros: Lots of free parking. Nice main street. Community vibes. Good lighting in the centre.
Cons: Woolworths has a strangely dominating presence for the size of the centre. Had a Target but is not closing.
Name: Tuggeranong Southpoint
Summary: Somehow blends a mix of renovation and datedness. One of the more eccentric centres.
Pros: Very spacious, lots of stores. Wide choice of supermarkets. Novelty of climbing stairs to go down an escalator from the carpark. Has some unique stores. Ticket gate was busted (so free parking?).
Cons: Should have stuck with the old name of “Hyperdome” which sounds way cooler. Clinical lighting. Despite what appears to be renovations, still feels dated. Climbing stairs to go down an escalator from the carpark. Takes a long time to get anywhere. Ticket gate was busted.
Name: Calwell Shops
Summary: A peculiar charm emerges from the plastic and metal interior – vaguely reminiscent of a metro station
Pros: Community vibes. Large Woolworths. Symmetric layout. Free parking.
Cons: Lack of cafes. Rather small. Not very flattering from the outside.
Name: Chisholm Village
Summary: Nice and spacious, but nothing much distinctive to recommend this one.
Pros: Good Coles. Brightly lit. Open, crescent-shaped layout. Free parking.
Cons: Not much distinctive.
Name: Lanyon Marketplace
Summary: A scenic and well-designed shopping centre with all the right shops and a nice, modern interior. Too bad it is nearly out of Canberra…
Pros: Mountain scenery. Picturesque layout. Modern interior with wood panelling. All the good shops, especially for food. Large amounts of free parking.
Cons: Very, very, very far south…
Name: Kambah Village
Summary: These shops stand out with a distinctive rural style and aesthetic, despite the size and potential lack of variety.
Pros: Interesting rural style and atmosphere. Free parking. Nice central courtyard.
Cons: Shops did not feel modern. A little small.
Name: Erindale Centre
Summary: Honestly, quite forgettable.
Pros: Large bakery. Simple layout. Largish Woolworths. Free parking.
Cons: Aisles in Woolworths were not where we expected them. Outside was a bit plain.
Name: Wanniassa Shops
Summary: Not the flashiest of shopping centres and feels a bit redundant considering the bigger Erindale Centre is in the same suburb. Similar vibes to Kaleen.
Pros: Free parking. Playground in carpark??
Cons: Lacks charm. Feels redundant. Quite cramped and claustrophobic. Not an extensive range of shops.
Name: Majura Park (NB – did not go to Costco)
Summary: Vast, but feels barren and hollow. Not a pleasant place for weekly groceries. (Note: Due to not having a membership, we did not go to Costco. If we did, it may have swung the rating)
Pros: Costco. A huge amount of free parking. Very large Woolworths and a large number of other stores. Near Ikea
Cons: No sense of community. Very sterile.
Name: Riverside Plaza
Summary: Large mall servicing a regional area. Hence, it has strong nostalgic regional vibes (both authors are originally from regional areas)
Pros: VERY large Coles. A large number of convenient shops. Free parking
Cons: Woolworths is not in the mall complex. Nothing really stands out, given how many people it services.
Name: Jerrabomberra Shops
Summary: Quite small and isolated. Not unpleasant to visit, but also not much there.
Pros: Free parking. Clean exterior. Homey feeling.
Cons: Had highway service station vibes. Quite small with a lack of shops.