Eight Top-Notch Ways to Indulge on a Weekend Away in Canberra

Go all-out with up-close animal encounters, boozy high teas and luxurious spa experiences — you deserve it.
Jasmine Crittenden
Published on March 06, 2020

Eight Top-Notch Ways to Indulge on a Weekend Away in Canberra

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Go all-out with up-close animal encounters, boozy high teas and luxurious spa experiences — you deserve it.

Tired? Rundown? Stressed out of your mind? It could be time to treat yourself to a wee trip away. Or maybe you've just got some savings or birthday money burning a hole in your pocket, and you're ready for a big blowout weekend.

A city break can definitely help you burn through some cash, but it might not be the first place you think of for a relaxing break. But Canberra's a bit different — in the best possible way. With a population of just under 400,000, it has plenty of open skies, expansive leafy parks and spots where you can sit, think and, well, keep thinking. Plus, countless restaurants, bars and luxe experiences when you're ready to splash some cash.

Here are eight ways to go all-out on a weekend away in Canberra, from sipping fine wine in an impossibly cosy lounge to sleeping in a giraffe treehouse.

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

  • 8

    Melbourne has yoga with wine. Sydney, koalas. And Brisbane, goats. But, in Canberra, you can get it with something that has a bit more science behind it. Clinical neuropsychologist Doctor Andrea Murray and her physiotherapist partner Charlie Murray set up Here in 2017, after living in Okinawa, Japan, where the average life expectancy is the highest in the world. Their space invites you to slow down, get in touch with all your senses and partake in an activity that suits you. Designed to remove the stigma behind taking care of your mind as you would your body, Here offers yoga, pilates and physio alongside sessions with psychologists.

    Image: Charlie Murray

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  • 7

    Imagine if you could escape everything — absolutely everything — for just one hour, then return to reality. That’s very much possible at the Astral Float Studio. This wondrous place invites you to enter a world completely free of stimuli, where you can separate yourself from all the things that niggle at you every day. More specifically, it’s a saltwater pool warmed to 34 degrees, saturated with epsom salts and shrouded in darkness. For one glorious hour, you’ll float here — without being able to see, smell, hear or feel anything — and give your brain a break.

    Image: Nathan Harradine-Hale

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  • 6

    No indulgent weekend away is complete without a cosy, dreamy spot to sleep. Book yourself a bed at the Little National Hotel and the luxury you crave is at your (well-manicured) fingertips. The super-cute rooms here are compact, but filled with everything you need — from Pukka Organic Tea to fluffy robes. Plus, there are free movies and free wifi, too. Every room comes with a deliciously comfy king-sized bed, pushed up against the window so you can stare out over Canberra, be it the city’s dramatic architecture or the mountainous surrounds. What’s more, the Little National is central — it’s just one kilometre from Parliament House and within easy travel of all the other indulgences on this list.

    Image: Nathan Harradine-Hale

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  • 5
    Jamala Wildlife Lodge

    You can take a trip to the animal kingdom at Jamala Wildlife Lodge. At this luxe stay, you’ll find yourself sleeping with tigers, lions and cheetahs. The Jungle Bungalows are literally side-by-side with animal homes (albeit separated by sturdy glass walls), so you can look your new friends in the eye while dozing in your king-sized bed or soaking in your oversized bathtub.

    If you’d prefer the company of non-people-eating creatures, opt for a Giraffe Treehouse instead, where you’ll be feeding giraffes by hand from your verandah. Or, go underwater at the uShaka Lodge, which has a room with a window into the five-metre aquarium or another right next door to a shark tank.

    Image: VisitCanberra

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  • 4

    If you think you know Southeast Asian food, you’re in for a ride at XO Restaurant. Here, Malaysian-born head chef AK Ramakrishna gives traditional dishes a whole new life. One item on the menu that’s pretty hard to skip over is the Asian Bolognese ($22), where stir-fried udon noodles meet Ramakrishna’s signature XO chicken ragout and comes topped with a 60-degree egg. You can also tuck into steamed dumplings, pork katsu banh mi and XO’s spin on nasi goreng with squid ink fried rice, spanner crab and ‘fluffy egg floss’.

    For dessert, opt for the calamansi soft serve or go all-in with the Chengdu Snow with chilli white chocolate mousse, sichuan pepper, goma (Japanese spinach salad) and freeze-dried mandarin. Groups of six or more are encouraged to jump on the banquet menu — it costs $75 per person and includes ten dishes, plus a side and dessert. XO scored its first Chef’s Hat this year, so things have been busy — we recommend booking ahead.

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  • 3

    On a cool day, one of the cosiest spots in Canberra is Parlour Wine Room, where you can sink into possibly the comfiest couch in the city, order a drop and let the hours pass amiably by. The wine list travels from close to home, with a Tertini pinot noir from Tumbarumba and a Lerida Estate rosé from the Canberra region, to far way, with an Artigiano pinot grigio from Venice and a Trenel chardonnay from Burgundy. Match your pick with a selection of plates from the tapas menu — like charred corn with spiced cream, beef tartare with caperberry and black lavosh, and duck breast with pan-roasted heirloom carrots, blacked carrot puree and date jus.

    Image: VisitCanberra

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  • 2

    Hale is a health and fitness hub where you can get your wellness in whatever way suits you best, be it a lush spa treatment or a hardcore workout in the gym. If it’s the former you’re looking for, go for a signature massage — that’s a 60- or 90-minute swedish massage, including a warm foot towel compress infused with essential oils. There’s also an infrared sauna and steam room, plus a peaceful plunge pool and a couple’s room. Meanwhile, the gym has you covered for high-tech workouts with its collection of the latest Technogym gear.

    Image: Nathan Harradine-Hale

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  • 1

    Like the name suggests, this rather magical cocktail bar takes inspiration from Lewis Carroll’s novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Here, your cocktail comes in a teapot, bearing a delightful name and containing an even more delightful concoction. How about a Walrus? That’s Talisker, Johnnie Walker Black Label, fresh lemon juice, egg white and house-made syrup, served with crystallized ginger and nutmeg. Of course, every possible classic cocktail is also available for order, too, if you’re not feeling that adventurous.

    Pair your tipple of choice with a cheese board or charcuterie ($30 each), a croque monsieur or the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party — a sweet eton mess-like concoction with white chocolate mousse, raspberry sorbet, strawberry gel, almond crumb, popping candy and mini meringues. To really treat yourself, book in for the Tipsy Tea. It’s a boozy high tea that happens every Saturday from 2–5pm and features an array of savoury and sweet treats paired with cocktails or sparkling wine. Tickets cost $70 per person, and bookings are essential.

    Image: Nathan Harradine-Hale

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To discover more indulgent activities to have in Canberra, head to VisitCanberra and start planning your next city break.

Top image: Nathan Harradine-Hale

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