Walk the streets of Canberra and you’ll find them awash with a happy, future-focused vibe, a surprising diversity of residents – politicians, artists, lobbyists, chefs, students and journalists – and enough young people to signal a rebirth. This is the new generation of creatives who are excited about what lies ahead and are keen to put their stamp on the city that drives the nation.
06:00: Take a sunrise stroll
Mount Ainslie is the big-name lookout for walking but locals have a special affection for the 3.5-kilometre roundtrip trek up and down Black Mountain, with its 360-degree views of the city and surrounding region. If you head up as the pink streaks of sunrise fill the sky you’re unlikely to be sharing the path with anyone except the wallabies and kangaroos who call the mountain home.
08:00: Fuel up with the city’s best breakfast
Image credit: Lean Timms
Be one of the first through the door when Highroad café in Dickson opens, for a rich Ona Coffee macchiato and its smashed avo on foccacia with poached eggs, Vegemite ricotta, herbs and toasted seeds and nuts.
09:00: Hit the gallery circuit
Australian women artists from 1900 to today are the focus of the Know My Name exhibit that runs from mid- November through January at the National Gallery of Australia. Be sure to snap up a monochrome T-shirt printed with the names of some of our most admired Australian creatives, including Grace Cossington-Smith and Banduk Mamburra Marika, after seeing their work. While you’re there, stop in at two of the most instagrammable vignettes in the entire city: Yayoi Kusama’s spotty, dotty The Spirits of Pumpkins Descended into the Heavens and James Turrell’s permanent and dramatic Skyspace installation, Within without.
Just a few minutes walk away you’ll find the National Portrait Gallery and its Pub Rock exhibition, which runs until 14 February. The collection of candid moments, staged portraiture and mid-performance snaps celebrates the many Australian musicians who have shaped our culture through the live-music scene, including artists such as Paul Kelly, Nick Cave, Johnny O’Keefe and Kylie Minogue.
12:00: Lunch at the cool kid of the restaurant scene
Sean McConnell’s follow-up to Monster Kitchen and Bar in the Ovolo Nishi hotel, Rebel Rebel is a sexy space (think salvaged timber beams and polished concrete) to enjoy a casual bite. If the pig’s ear sandwich with romesco and anchovy sounds too adventurous, there’s the lamb rump, which is spot-on.
14:30: Walk lakeside then visit an icon
Work off any lunchtime indulgence with a wander beside famed Lake Burley Griffin – the section near Commonwealth Park offers great views of the Captain Cook Memorial with its impressive water jet. Next, make your way to the Australian War Memorial; a tour at any time is moving but the solemnity of the Last Post ceremony, which takes place every day around 5pm, is an experience no visitor forgets. It’s free but be sure to book ahead. Before then, visit the For our Country memorial, which recognises the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have served in Australia’s defence forces. A vessel at the centre of the pavilion is for Indigenous visitors to leave soil from their country in. Another must-see is the Circling Into Sleep memorial that pays tribute to the generations of military working dogs who have served our country faithfully.
19:00: Indulge in the capital’s finest food
Image credit: Massaman carrots at Pilot Restaurants + Bar/Lean Timms
Pilot Restaurant + Bar is one of the hottest restaurants in Australia, seating just 22 people inside, with a further 11 in a new outdoor area, and boasting a swagful of hats and stars. The eight-course dégustation dinner offers fresh twists on classic flavours and uses the best in local produce. But the artistry isn’t only on the plate; you can also purchase its custom-scented candles.
22:00: Wind up with a nightcap
For an elegant way to finish the day, nab a booth or score a seat under the arched window at hatted wine and cocktail haunt Bar Rochford in the city centre. The scene is a little bit polished, a touch hipster, the music is on vinyl and the drinks list hits all the right notes.