There’s a lot to be said for burrowing deeper into an unfamiliar city. Stepping away from the CBD and the main attractions into neighbourhoods can provide a glimpse into how the locals live and inspire a sense of community and belonging.
Like Newtown in Sydney, Fitzroy in Melbourne and Beacon Hill in Boston, Canberra’s neighbourhoods have a distinct flavour but with an extra benefit – free parking! Explore them and you’ll gain a better sense of the national capital as a whole.
There’s no better place to start your exploration than through your stomach and thirst in Canberra’s inner north, so we’ve compiled a list of the local cafes and pubs that are currently making their residents buzz.
More than 6,000 people move to Canberra every year, so be warned – our neighbourhoods may inspire you to set up home here!
With Mother’s day coming up, this line-up also serves as the best places to take your mum for her special day.
Since it opened in November 2017 on the landmark corner of Woolly and Cape streets in Dickson, High Road has been attracting groups of all sorts – from girlfriends and families with teenagers to pre-school parents and kids, university students, young daters and retirees. The mosaic and cast concrete bathrooms are as cool as the spacious, split-level café and bar that’s furnished with built-in, curvaceous plywood booths. On our server Lauren’s advice, we tried the delicate and elegant 40-degree salmon with salsa and boiled egg served on potato and jalapeno bread with a pot of the Fujian China Jasmine Dragon Pearls tea.
1 Woolley Street, Dickson
Mon & Tues 7am-4pm, Wed—Fri 7am-11pm, Sat & Sun 8am-11pm
Two Before Ten
Two Before Ten has turned the old Aranda shops site into a bustling community hub where locals and blow-ins gather to enjoy a quick coffee after dropping the kids at school or spend lazy afternoons in the courtyard. Its outside dining area is protected from the sun in summer and heated in winter and all the greens on the menu are sourced from the garden beds nearby. Our waitress recommended the bacon and egg roll with cheese and tomato chutney and the spiced eggs on sourdough with avocado and Persian fetta. Both blended and brewed coffee options are available – try the cold brew which is steeped over 22 hours and triple filtered.
68 Bandjalong Cres, Aranda
Mon—Fri 7am-4pm, Sat & Sun 8am-2pm
Opened four years ago and named after owner Natalie’s collection of pig-centric object d’art, Little Oink at Cook shops is now a local icon. As its name states, its specialty is pork dishes but the menu also caters to vegetarians. The manager, Alice, recommends the ‘wild boar’ or ‘get in my pork belly’ breakfasts and for vegetarians and the gluten intolerant, the ‘smooth criminal’ blueberry smoothie bowl with fresh fruit. Stroke the large fibreglass pig standing on its hind legs over a planter box outside and, in winter, snuggle under the blankets provided. Now you have the perfect excuse to cuddle up while tucking in.
22 Cook Place, Cook
Mon—Fri 7am-4pm, Sat 8am-3pm, Sun 8am-2pm
Taking up a whole corner of the O’Connor shops, the always-busy Duxton is light and airy. With both indoor and outdoor seating and long opening hours, it provides a home away from home for local residents. Try the breakfast fare of waffles with berries, yogurt and honey or a burrito of sweet potato, black beans, avocado, cheese and egg whites. Lunch includes a selection of local and imported cheeses, tuna poke and crispy duck and half a rotisserie chicken, but the Duxton also caters to those who prefer the standard pub fare of burgers, pizzas, steak and schnitzel. If you’d like to sit above street level sipping cocktails, take a table on the rooftop terrace which is open from Wednesday to Saturday.
Cnr Sargood and MacPherson Streets, O’Connor
Mon—Thurs 12pm-12am, Sat & Sun 9am-12am
Tilley’s Devine Cafe Gallery
The fully-licensed Tilley’s in Lyneham has been a Canberra institution since it its owner Paulie Higgisson opened its doors in 1984. Named after Matilda Devine, a British-Australian gangster and madame from Sydney, it was intended to provide a space for women, with men allowed entry only if accompanied by a woman. This policy was only enforced for two years but Tilley’s went on to make history in other ways; its lush red velvet lounge and old-fashioned booths became an icon of Canberra’s lesbian and gay scene and it was the first bar by eight years to ban smoking indoors. For many years, Tilley’s was also a concert venue that attracted the likes of The Go Betweens, Paul Kelly, Renee Geyer, The Church, The Whitlams, and more. Soak yourself in Tilley’s history by ordering up and lounging long, inside the bar or out. We recommend the lemon and ricotta hotcakes, salmon and cracked pepper pates, and the organic beef burger and cheese plate.
Cnr Brigalow & Wattle Streets, Lyneham
Mon—Sat 7:30am-10:00pm, Sun 8am-5pm
Abode Hotels is the perfect place to stay when visiting the capital. With five hotels, located conveniently in town centre locations, Abode Hotels has the Canberra region covered. Book your stay with us below. Be Smart, Book Direct to receive the best deal.