Travelling to Canberra for business? Tap into the best breed of accommodation in Australia's capital, from eclectic pads to heritage-inspired hotels.
If the name “Canberra” conjures up images of interminable roundabouts, stodgy bureaucracy and yawn-inducing politics, dismiss them at once. Australia’s capital is undergoing a renaissance as lively new districts are delineated, restaurants and hotels spring up and its 390,000 fabulously diverse inhabitants spill out into public places to have a good time.
Yes, it’s taken decades for Canberra – designed by architect Walter Burley Griffin in 1911 as the federal capital – to develop the personality, patina and grit of much older metropolises. But its grid-like design, once seen as somewhat sterile, is the perfect foundation for a progressive city: traffic is channelled efficiently along its roadways, inner-city suburbs are safe and welcoming and new neighbourhoods are neatly accommodated within the city’s expanding radius.
Most office blocks are conveniently located off Northbourne Avenue and London Circuit in the eminently walkable CBD (there’s a free city-centre bus, too). But Canberra is so compact – with hotels and restaurants scattered around and the airport never much further than a 20-minute drive – that there’s no need to contain yourself to just one of its vibrant precincts.
Housed in the provocative pineapple-shaped Nishi Building in trendy NewActon, Hotel Hotel is dressed in materials that evoke the Australian landscape: reclaimed wood, natural fibres, aniline leather and clay. About half of the rooms overlook Lake Burley Griffin or the bush but if you have a taste for the quirky, ask for one that faces the internal atrium filled with tree ferns salvaged from a Tasmanian rainforest destined for clearing.
Business facilities: Two boardrooms are available for guests to use at Servcorp, which is also located in the Nishi Building. There are tea- and coffee-making facilities and the hotel’s restaurant, Monster Kitchen and Bar, offers catering.
Wi-fi: Free throughout.
Food and wine: Monster Kitchen and Bar is excellent but if you’d prefer to venture out, try nearby Parlour for cocktails and jazz; Bicicletta Restaurant for pizzas and a thoughtfully curated wine list; or cute bike maker-cum-café Močan & Green Grout for coffee.
Fitness and wellbeing: There’sa gym with cardio, free-weight and machine-based equipment, complimentary yoga classes (see website for schedule) and bike hire.
Run route: Cross the footbridge at the corner of Parkes Way and Marcus Clarke Street then take a short jog along the foreshore. If you’re up for a 16-kilometre run, loop all the way around the western side of Lake Burley Griffin, past the Canberra Yacht Club, across Commonwealth Avenue Bridge and back to the hotel.
NewActon Nishi, 25 Edinburgh Avenue, Canberra
Hyatt Hotel Canberra
This doyen of Canberra hotels was built to accommodate politicians (Parliament relocated from Melbourne in 1927). It was so comfortable that James Scullin – prime minister from 1929 to 1932 – and his wife chose to stay at the Hyatt to save the expense of living at the Lodge during the Depression. Although it has since been revamped, the hotel retains its Art Deco ambience and spacious lawns.
Business facilities: Important decisions have been made within these walls for 90 years, making the hotel a veteran business-services provider. The suite of comprehensive offerings includes an in-house audiovisual company.
Wi-fi: Free throughout.
Food and wine: The Private Dining Room at The Promenade Cafe caters for groups of up to 20 people. For informal meetings or drinks, head to Griffin’s lounge, tucked beside the Speaker’s Bar and warmed by a log fire in winter.
Fitness and wellbeing: The Clubhouse is equipped with a gym, indoor pool, personal trainers, a spa and a floodlit tennis court. You can also hire a bike or take an aquarobics class.
Run route: There are jogging and cycling paths aplenty in Lennox Gardens and along Lake Burley Griffin – just a two-minute walk from the hotel.
￼120 Commonwealth Avenue, Canberra
Little National Hotel￼
Located on top of a four-storey car park and surrounded by unkempt grassland that can’t be cleared because it sustains a colony of protected golden sun moths, Little National Hotel is bound to stand out. The car park is clad in black perforated metal panels, while the hotel’s upper floors are sheathed in black glass – a futuristic aesthetic that’s delightfully at odds with the homogeneous office blocks of the Realm Precinct.
Business facilities: The lounge and library, connected by a dramatic spiral staircase, feature slick cubicles, comfortable fireside couches and tables with communal seating. An evening beverage service is offered during the week and tea- and coffee-making facilities are available.
Wi-fi: Free throughout.
Food and wine: There are dining options at Little National Hotel’s nearby sister establishments, the Burbury Hotel and Hotel Realm. The latter’s Maple + Clove café serves a wholesome breakfast and lunch, while Ostani lounge, bar and restaurant offers wood-fired pizzas and just the right atmosphere for informal meetings. Burbury Hotel’s upmarket LiloTang is suitable for smart dinners.
Fitness and wellbeing: Hire one of the hotel’s bikes or take advantage of complimentary access to Hotel Realm’s Evo Health Club, which has a heated lap pool, hydrotherapy spa and sauna, as well as spin and boxing classes. In-house publication Little National Post has exercises you can do in the gym, your room and the nearby park.
Run route: Join the Hotel Realm running group at 6.15am on Tuesdays and Thursdays or take yourself on the six-kilometre loop around the Parliamentary Triangle and Lake Burley Griffin.
21 National Circuit, Barton
This apartment-style hotel is the very antithesis of boring bureaucracy: public areas are bursting with artworks, rooms are hung with photographs by up-and-coming artists and there are quirky elements, including retro bikes in the lobby that look like art installations but are, in fact, for guests’ use. The whimsy is offset by pragmatic details, such as a fully equipped kitchen and laundry in every room.
Business facilities: There are boardrooms, breakout spaces and meeting rooms; a function room is expected to open next month. Equipment includes a projector screen, flipcharts and whiteboards, plus videoconferencing.
Wi-fi: Free throughout.
Food and wine: Joe’s Bar is good for informal after-work meetings, with its squishy sofas and cocktails made with fresh purées, juices and sorbets. Muse, a café that doubles as a bookshop, offers a selection of breakfast dishes and is open until 10pm most nights. Both can be accessed via the hotel’s lobby.
Fitness and wellbeing: The hotel has a fully equipped gym and guests enjoy complimentary entry to historic Manuka Pool (open from late October to mid-March) in nearby Telopea Park. Alternatively, challenge a business associate to a game of tennis in the grounds of Old Parliament House (the hotel provides racquets and balls) or take one of those retro bikes for a spin.
Run route: It’s 500 metres to Telopea Park; take one of the paths weaving through it and run for as long as you like. The route is particularly beautiful in autumn when the poplars and willows erupt with colour.
69 Canberra Avenue, Kingston
Top image: East Hotel