Discover Canberra and beyond with Avis
Drive beyond the expected Canberra and you can enjoy beautiful scenery, gourmet tempations and life in the slow lane.
Forget the Canberra clichés. We routinely dismiss our capital, but what’s not to like about wide-open spaces, lovely landscaping, agreeable sights, fine museums and great dining? This city also provides a fascinating look into what it means to be Australian, from ancient Indigenous art to the latest space science. You can see a Gallipoli landing boat, Phar Lap’s heart, Ned Kelly on screen, and the bionic ear we invented.
Beyond the city, however, you’re in for even more treats. Rent an Avis car and drive into voluptuous hills and you’ll find Canberra surrounds that allow for a gourmet safari along the road less travelled. Cellar doors, farm gates and historic villages invite indolence, and the food-and-wine scene is excellent. For a three-day getaway of petite pleasures and utter relaxation, few destinations are better than Australia’s seat of power.
Left: View over Canberra from Mount Ainslie; Right: The vine rows of Long Rail Gully Wines.
DAY 1: URBAN ATTRACTIONS
With Avis’ innovative Digital Check In, you can minimise contact, speed up the collection process and be beyond Canberra airport in no time. You can even share the trip with an extra driver for free when you sign up to Avis Preferred. First stop, Jerrabomberra Wetlands Nature Reserve – a wonderful bird sanctuary almost in the city centre.
Then, lunch at nearby Boat House Restaurant: scallops with squid-ink pasta perhaps, with a side of lovely views over Lake Burley Griffin. If you haven’t been to Canberra before, you’ll want to visit key sights afterwards. Otherwise, Parkes Way takes you along the northern shore of Lake Burley Griffin to the National Museum of Australia, which explores everything from cricket to convicts, Holden cars to Aeroplane jelly.
Behind the museum looms Black Mountain. Although summit Telstra Tower is no longer open, you can still get your bearings with views that give you an urban designer’s appreciation of Canberra’s layout. Walking tracks take you through bush of diverse plant and bird species. Further down the mountain, the Australian National Botanic Gardens showcases Australia flora, while Pollen Café provides a caffeine-and-cake fix.
Left: Gallery of the First australians at the National Museum of Australia (Image by Richard Poulton); Right: Black Mountain and the landmark Telstra Tower.
Now head north on the A25 towards the New South Wales border. On the way are two classic tourist sights. The National Dinosaur Museum has a splendid collection of 23 complete dinosaur skeletons, while Cockington Green Gardens recreates famous world landmarks in miniature, set in English-style gardens abuzz with bees.
Tomorrow you’ll be exploring the Canberra District wine region, but get a taster today on a detour to Brindabella Hills Winery, the region’s most picturesque cellar door. The estate, which overlooks the Murrumbidgee River and ridges of hills, produces lovely reds with rich berry flavours, though on a hot day the Rieslings and Chardonnays are just as satisfying.
Stay overnight in Murrumbateman, where among accommodation choices are stylish studio rooms at Abode Murrumbateman, a brief walk from the village centre. Aim for dinner at Olleyville Restaurant in Shaw Wines’ vineyards: the menu focuses on rustic, seasonal dishes cooked in a wood-fired oven, such as beef short ribs with Shiraz jus, or pork cutlet with wattle seed.
DAY 2: GRAPE EXPECTATIONS
Murrumbateman lies at the centre of the Canberra District wine region, whose cool-climate vineyards are notable for Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. Cellar doors are pleasingly informal, so there’s a good chance you can chat to owners and winemakers. The countryside is dotted with restaurants, craft shops and attractive small towns in which to while away the time.
Return first to Shaw Wines, only two kilometres out of town. It has a spectacular contemporary cellar door for wine tastings, which you can pair with chocolate for additional indulgence. Shaw’s Cabernets are outstanding – the 2015 Merriman is one of Australia’s best Cabernet Sauvignons – and the estate also produces Riesling, Shiraz and Malbec of considerable quality.
Continue to Long Rail Gully Wines amid gently undulating countryside stitched with rows of vines to sample energetic Pinot Gris and lush Pinot Noir. Another attractive cellar door, this time noted for Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon, is that of Helm Wines, which occupies a schoolhouse built in 1888. And don’t miss Clonakilla’s stone-and-timber cellar door – the Shiraz Viognier is especially good, and you can also sample lesser-known grape varieties such as Mourvèdre and Cinsault.
Left: The National Museum of Australia; Right inside the barrel room at Clonkilla Wines.
Aim for a languid lunch deep in the countryside at Poacher’s Pantry and its perfumed gardens. A must is a platter of charcuterie produced at the on-site smokehouse, matched with a peppery Shiraz from adjacent vineyards. Resist dessert, and stop up the road instead at Robyn Rowe Chocolates for irresistible Belgian-style gourmet chocolates in 26 flavours. Ten kilometres brings you to Tallagandra Hill Winery where you can stay in self-contained cottages and enjoy the view from your deck as late-afternoon sun turns vine leaves to burnished copper. An alternative is Gundaroo down the road, where one accommodation option is a self-contained luxury villa at The Nest.
Gundaroo is a National Trust-listed village packed with heritage buildings dating to the Gold Rush and later European settler eras. The adroitly restored Royal Hotel has one of the region’s best fine-dining restaurants, Grazing at Gundaroo, so be sure to book in for dinner. The menu matches local wines with an inventive three courses that might feature the likes of confit duck and charred kingfish, and comes to a satisfying conclusion with tarte tatin made with candied blood oranges.
Left: Masterfully prepared ham at Poacher's Pantry; Right: Delights of Robyn Rowe Chocolates.
DAY 3: COUNTRY CHARM
No need to rush. Enjoy a morning stroll along Gundaroo Heritage River Walk, which covers the historical highlights of this sleepy little outpost. From here a half-hour meander by car takes you to Collector, another attractive heritage town with a lively bushranger history. You could have a late breakfast here at Some Café, but otherwise head back south to Lake George.
For the full lunch experience, stop at Lake George Winery for excellent mod-Oz fare such as kangaroo and chicken terrine or cured kingfish with ruby grapefruit from onsite Westerling restaurant. Otherwise, continue further south for a lighter lunch at Lark Hill Winery (think cheese plate and wine in a sunny courtyard) or Mediterranean-influenced dishes at Contentious Character – the gnocchi tossed in brown butter and Chardonnay is a treat.
Contentious Character sits at one of the Canberra District’s highest elevations. This is the quintessential Aussie cellar-door experience, shaded by giant gum trees and gazing out on hillsides of shuffling kangaroos. On a clear day, you can squint at the distant Snowy Mountains as you savour a glass of Merlot or Riesling.
The town of Bungendore provides a pleasant pause for its Georgian-era architecture and well-known Wood Works Gallery, whose beautiful furniture is made from lustrous Australian timbers. From here, a 40-minute drive brings you back towards Canberra, but stop at Mount Jerrabomberra to look out over Queanbeyan and its humped hills.
You could however be tempted to explore more; the Avis App allows you to extend your car rental with ease if the spirit takes you. The road south to the Snowy Mountains beckons; alpine gateway Cooma is an 80-minute drive... otherwise slide back into the city for a celebratory drink at Capital Brewing Co., whose lively and youthful vibe belies Canberra’s reputation for stuffiness. You’ll find it in Fyshwick, a suburb of growing cool with a hopping dining scene.
Lastly, for those really looking to spoil themselves, the intimate and luxe dining experience at Aubergine in adjacent Griffith is a fitting finale: the beautifully plated classic fare and contemporary flair will leave you mighty satisfied...
Eager to hit the road? Plan your dream escape to the Canberra region today and be driven by better with Avis
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