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How to Eat, Drink, Shop and Play Your Way Along Canberra's Legendary Light Rail

All aboard — there are food precincts, cocktail bars and cultural gems to discover.
Flip the switch below and discover Canberra by day or night
By Kosa Monteith
December 03, 2021
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By Kosa Monteith
December 03, 2021
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HOW TO EAT, DRINK, SHOP AND PLAY YOUR WAY ALONG CANBERRA'S LEGENDARY LIGHT RAIL

in partnership with

All aboard — there are food precincts, cocktail bars and cultural gems to discover.

Canberra's light rail, the swish new(ish) north-to-south route that delivers passengers into the heart of the city, is more than a commuter line. It's an easy — and cheap — way for visitors to get around town between 6am and 11.30pm (or 1am on Saturday nights). Yep: no designated driver, no ridesharing, just you and the open rails. Well, 12 kilometres of them, anyway.

Make your Canberra weekend away as simple as possible, and leave yourself with more money to spend on food and fun, by touring the capital via the light rail. Some of Canberra's best eats, well-stocked bars and intriguing curiosity shops (plus a surprising nighttime sports hub) are waiting to be explored along the light rail line. Here, we've got the ultimate hop-on-hop-off adventure for a day out in Canberra.

Please stay up to date with the latest ACT Government health advice regarding COVID-19.

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    Good morning to the northern ‘burbs. Just like our friend Lionel sang, there’s nothing easier than a Sunday morning. And this sweet little spot has been bringing those vibes to Canberra every day of the week since opening in 2017. The airy, pup-friendly cafe slings solid brunch dishes that are a cut above fruit toast or ‘eggs your way’ (come on, it’s too early to choose).

    There are fun Latin American touches: chimichurri croissant, fish tacos, whisky pork belly, and poached eggs with bacon, hash, pico de gallo and gravy hollandaise. The famed Recovery Burger is there when you need it (you know why), soothing your soul with bacon, eggs, avo, cheese and hash brown on a milk bun — or, you could take the more wholesome route with the yoghurt and granola bowl. Pair your meal with a coffee, milkshake or mocktail.

    Sunday in Canberra is conveniently located near the first stop on the light rail, so hop on at Gungahlin Place Station to start your day out.

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    Canberra and its surrounds are known to have some of the country’s best local produce and handmade food — and you can get your hands (and tastebuds) on it fresh from the source at this weekly market.

    Every Saturday from 7–11.30am, producers, growers and artisans gather at EPIC (Exhibition Park in Canberra) to offer their wares. Jump off the light rail at EPIC and Racecourse station for a two-minute walk to the markets.

    Among the 100-plus stalls, you can expect fruit and veg, baked goods, olive oil, smallgoods, hot food, handmade pasta, fresh flowers and even leguminous premixes. There’s even a mix-your-own-muesli stand. You may also stumble across luxe items that don’t appear at your average local market — we’re talking truffles, alcohol-free craft cocktails and cold brew coffee. Visitors (like you) have the opportunity to buy direct from the source and learn a little from the growers and makers. Don’t know what to do with celeriac? Strike up a conversation and find out.

    Image: VisitCanberra

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    GOST, as it’s known, is a gallery with a difference. Director Anne Masters has a passion for supporting handicrafts, ceramics, jewellery and sculptural items that don’t fit in fine art galleries. These exquisite items are individually made, from vases, bowls, cups to jewellery, large mixed media pieces and collages. They’re artworks to fall in love with and find a home for.

    All the pieces are for sale, so it is a gallery where it’s acceptable to take something with you when you leave (after payment, of course). This is a special place for small, independent artists to exhibit and tell their stories — and let you be a part of it.

    Just a one-kilometre stroll from Swinden Street Station, Gallery of Small Things is a must for your adventure through Canberra.

    Image: Mel Hill

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    Stay on the light rail for four quick stops and jump off at Eloura Street to find Hive, home to the beautiful, delightful and practical objects that make life a little more lovely. Perhaps it is an elegantly tapered watering can or a sheathed gardening knife. Or maybe Japanese ceramics, patterned beeswax wraps or whisky tumblers. You could also find whimsical card games, soft wool toys, cookbooks, all the natural candles and diffusers your heart (and home) desires or a grazing board and cheese knife set.

    It’s also the perfect store for that hard-to-buy-for friend. What do you get for the person who has everything? Wooden toast tongs. A honey drizzler. A waxed canvas log carrier. A leather fly swat. Insulated wine bottles. Like we said: beautiful, practical and quite unique.

    Image: VisitCanberra

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    Just across the road from the last stop on the light rail line, Alinga Street Station, is Verity Lane Market. It’s the freshest foodie destination — and home to the hub of hot noods, Ramen Daddy. The slick digs, with its soaring ceiling and floodlights, is a far cry from the classic hole-in-the-wall ramen joint you may be used to.

    This is ramen with a difference. Here, The Boat House chefs John Leverink and Eddy Tsai fuse their love of Japanese and French food into the signature Tori Paitan creamy chicken broth — luscious like all the best French dishes but unquestionably Japanese with precision-engineered noodles.

    Spice-seekers can hit the Dan Dan ramen instead, which adds a generous dash of house-made chilli oil, field mushroom xo, chilli soybean shoots and toasted sesame paste to chicken broth. And vegos won’t go hungry with plant-based ramen and rice bowl options. Just after a small snack? Grab a chicken katsu sando or fries with ‘ramen gravy’.

    Dining is currently outdoor only, so you’ll be slurping up your ramen in the fresh air.

    Flip the switch at the top of this page from day to night to discover the best venues to visit along the light rail line after dark. 

    Image: Ash St George

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    Sometimes it’s better to enjoy the great indoors and take the wall less-travelled. Never been rock climbing (or, at least, not since the times of kids’ birthday parties)? You don’t have to be a pro and you don’t have to BYO equipment at Canberra Indoor Rock Climbing, a two-minute walk from Well Station Drive light rail stop. Just bring enthusiasm and boundless energy. If you’re a beginner to top ropes, the staff will give you a quick tutorial before you start scaling the wall. The top rope climb is a two-person gig, so bring a belaying pal.

    On your lonesome this time? No worries, you can just go bouldering instead. There are no ropes, but you do have a safety mat to catch you. Lead climbing — clipping your rope as you go — is for experts only, so staff will have to sign off on that first. Canberra Indoor Rock Climbing is open until 10pm every night. Sessions start are just $19 per person, plus gear hire.

    Classes are currently uncapped, but there is a gym capacity of 100 people under current restrictions, in line with the one person per two-square-metres rule.

    Image: VisitCanberra

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    Dickson Taphouse

    Hop on the light rail at Dickson Interchange to uncover a foodie precinct home to Dickson Taphouse. From the buzzing front courtyard — sun-drenched in fine weather — to the cosy dining area and mismatched lounge chairs, Dickson Taphouse is a pub that welcomes you with open arms. It’s humble, but it boasts a rotating selection of up to 18 different craft beers, including local stars like Capital Brewing.

    It offers big, family-style Italian pub food where pasta takes centre stage. You can also expect bar snacks and a few market specials based on the best meat and fish of the day. The flavour twists are fun, not fussy — think kimchi arancini and wattleseed gin and malt chocolate tiramisu.

    With regular live music and a comfortable vibe, Dickson Taphouse can be your new local — even if you’re just visiting for the weekend.

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    Dear Prudence is inspired by tapas bars — those snug, but lively, best-kept secrets of the Barcelona night. A comfortably distressed-chic aesthetic makes Dear Prudence feel like a local haunt that’s always been here (even though it’s brand new).

    The Euro-heavy wine list demystifies vino covers all of the essentials, and the bar also carries liqueurs and all manner of aperitif and digestif.
    At the moment, the kitchen is currently; however, when it’s up and running, expect snacks made to pair perfectly with long, slow evenings of wine and group grazing. It’s casual dining of the highest quality with a bit of fun.

    Image: Lean Timms

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    Corella

    For dinner hop back on the light rail one stop to Eloura Street Station or enjoy a ten-minute stroll straight to Corella. Head Chef Nemanja Babic is inspired by native ingredients and modern Australian cuisine, creating unusual spins on fine-dining classics — think brioche with chicken liver, onion and bush apple; and oysters with lemon myrtle vinegar and finger lime.

    The desserts are playfully Aussie, with lemon myrtle and brown butter ice cream with strawberry consommé being a standout. And the delightful house cocktail list features the Native Negroni (Davidson plum aperitivo, native amaro, Poor Toms Sydney dry gin) and the Frosty Fruit (Ketel one vodka, pineapple, passionfruit, lemon, soda).

    Corella’s decor follows suit by balancing old-world French bistro elegance and new-world simplicity. Trust us, you’ll want to spend a while here.

    Image: Ohboi Creative

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    For the final stop of the evening, it’s back into the heart of the city for craft beers. With 12 rotating taps and a glorious lineup of tinnies and bottles, Brew Nation can have as many as 70 different beers on offer at one time. We’re talking puckering sours, smooth stouts, hearty ales, easy lagers, plus all the acronyms: IPAs, NEIPAs, WEIPAs, DIPAs and, yes, even a TIPA.

    Grab a pint or a tasting paddle and settle in, beer geeks, for a beautiful journey of hops, malts and wild ferments. Brew Nation doesn’t do food, but you can order in from one of the Verity Lane Market joints: Ramen Daddy, Pizza Artigiana, SuperBao, or the limited-time popup My Sabor, which is dishing up pan-Asian-Australian-Portuguese haute cuisine (sure, it’s a mouthful, but one you’ll want to try). Settle in and stay late.

    Flip the switch at the top of this page from night to day to discover the best venues to visit along the light rail line during the day. 

    Image: Lean Timms

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Discover more experiences to have in Canberra at VisitCanberra and start planning your next city break.

Top image: Canberra Indoor Rock Climbing, VisitCanberra

Discover more experiences to have in Canberra at VisitCanberra and start planning your next city break.

Top image: Canberra Indoor Rock Climbing, VisitCanberra

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