An Eco-Friendly Traveller's Guide to a Weekend in Canberra
Hike to a heritage cottage and bliss out at a garden spa.
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Captaining an eco-friendly boat, sipping biodynamic wines and feasting on farm fresh produce — this is just the very beginning of what a sustainable weekend in Canberra could include. The nation's capital is an ideal location for travellers who want to reduce their environmental footprint while uncovering new sights, tastes and adventures.
We've rounded up a list of some of the top eco-friendly eateries and drink purveyors, sustainably powered activities and luxe experiences, plus accommodation options focused on preserving the natural beauty of the territory. Use this as your guide to exploring Canberra's renowned city sights and discovering the region's hidden gems — while staying green.
EAT AND DRINK
Canberra's top farm-to-tote-bag source for fridge and pantry staples — plus, early morning sustenance — is the Capital Region Farmers Market. More than 100 local stalls pop up every Saturday from 7–11.30am at Exhibition Park, offering everything from fresh fruit and veg to flowers, honey, bread, smoked meats, eggs and pastries. Explore it all with a coffee in hand, and get to know the local producers' tips for planet-friendly cooking and growing.
For a second breakfast, head to vegan cafe and bakery Sweet Bones to enjoy another caffeine fix and sugar rush. Order a plant-based big brekkie or stock up on sweet wonders from the treats cabinet. Next, make a quick trip southeast to Pialligo Estate. It wears many hats, including cafe, restaurant, grocer, vineyard, smokehouse, small farm plot and children's playground. Enjoy the fruits of the estate over an al fresco lunch, before touring the grounds for a real paddock-to-plate experience.
Ready for a tipple? Start with sustainable malted magic at Capital Brewing Co. This Canberra craft beer baron is well on its way to becoming a zero-waste brewery, sending spent beer-making ingredients to farmers for cattle feed, composting leftovers, minimising water and energy consumption, eliminating unnecessary packaging, and more. Chip in on the environmental effort and order a banana-forward Belgian blonde ale or exquisitely tart pear and elderflower sour from the warehouse taproom.
If you prefer vinous varieties on a drinks list, check out Lark Hill Biodynamic Winery. The drops here get gold stars in the organic and biodynamic wine categories, while also hitting the mark on the delicious scale. Regular sippers of riesling, chardonnay and pinot noir will be well served at this lofty location in the hills above Canberra where shale and clay soils let these hardy grapes thrive. Book a $10-per-person tasting by the open fire at the intimate cellar door and work your way through some zesty whites and dark cherry reds.
Reconnect with nature while you enjoy a little self-care luxury at Jindii Eco Spa. This dreamy retreat is hidden within the vibrant Australian National Botanic Gardens, offering spa treatments that utilise wild harvested native ingredients and Indigenous knowledge. Unwind with a massage and mineral bath, allowing botanicals like lemon myrtle, white flannel flower and banksia seed to hydrate your skin while the expert therapists pummel all the stress out of your weary muscles. Add a little retail therapy to the rejuvenation mix and stock up on a few goodies from the spa's signature skincare range after a wander through the gardens.
One fun way to explore Canberra is zipping around on an e-scooter. You might have a few childhood memories of tragic scooter tumbles, but these electric beauties are far easier and safer to handle. You can tour Lake Burley Griffin and track down famously transient The Pop Inn, which moves its wine and pizza bar to new locations around the capital most weekends. Hire e-scooters from the Canberra and Region Visitors Centre for an hour at $15 or for two hours for $25, or book the Beam and Neuron scooters via their own apps.
Keen to get out on the lake? GoBoat provides eco-friendly electric vessels that can ferry up to eight inland pirates (and seafaring dogs) around Lake Burley Griffin. You'll be captaining the boat yourself. It's super simple to steer and doesn't require experience or even a driver's license — however, skippers will need to be over 18 years old. Pre-packaged boat picnics and a sensible amount of BYO alcohol for passengers are encouraged, but GoBoat can also supply snacks from local eatery, Bean & Table.
If you've got enough steam left for one more activity, make it an epic hike up Mount Gingera, which sits atop the western NSW/ACT border in Namadgi National Park. If you want to conquer the full 15-kilometre return journey from the carpark, expect an intermittently steep but stunning trek with endless mountain views at the summit. There are shorter trails to follow in the area and plenty of opportunities to spot native birds and frogs throughout the carefully preserved park. Keep in mind this peak can be covered by snow in the depths of winter.
You can get well and truly off-grid staying in Canberra while maintaining accommodation elegance. The bell tents at Naked Cubby Co provide luxe mattresses and linens you can get lost in, as well as breakfast in bed and easy access to the cellar door at Mount Majura Vineyard, all just a 20-minute drive from Canberra's CBD. Choose between the solar-powered glamping tents perched among the vines and the tiny house on wheels near the pine forest.
The facilities are similarly minimal but the nature is top-notch at Nil Desperandum, a heritage cottage in the foothills of the Tidbinbilla Range. You'll need a 4WD to make the last leg of the 45-minute journey here from the centre of Canberra, but intrepid explorers with smaller city wheels can hike the last six kilometres along the dirt roads. The charming two-bedroom cottage has solar lighting, a kitchen with a wood stove, a long drop toilet, and a veranda and fenced yard where you can spend the night cooking on the gas barbecue and reclining by the fire pit. Just remember to bring in your own firewood. Also be aware that there's limited phone reception and no power outlets, so you'll need to be pretty self-sufficient to enjoy a night or two in the reserve.
Alternatively, you can stay within the city limits for access to all the mod-cons you've come to love at Ovolo Nishi. While this CBD hotel is 'plugged in', it does have a clear commitment to sustainability and nature. The retro furnishings and artworks in each room are made from materials like clay, cork, refurbished eucalyptus timber and natural fibres, and the lofty atrium rooms gaze into an internal courtyard of salvaged Tasmanian tree ferns. The in-house dining at Monster Kitchen and Bar also has a sustainable focus, including a 100-percent vegetarian menu for the next year led by local seasonal produce.
Discover more experiences to have in Canberra at VisitCanberra and start planning your next city break.
Top Image: Mount Majura Vineyard, VisitCanberra
Published on May 28, 2021 by Olivia Gee