16 April 2024

4 places that prove Canberra isn't boring

| John Coleman
Smith's Alternative Canberra

The piano sounds like a carnival and the microphone smells like kombucha at Smith’s Alternative. Photo: Region.

The states have always been rude to each other, but they’ve always been much crueller to the territories – to the extent they twice tried to stop us having senators like them. So when the shiny-faced Queensland Premier called Canberra “awful” not so long ago, no one was surprised. And no one was offended.

Except the Member for Canberra Alicia Payne who – bless her loyalty – mounted a response that sort of proved Steven Miles’ implication that we are all boring. Her rebuke concluded with: “Let’s have a constructive conversation”.

Well, if we do want to have one, perhaps a good start is to list four places that prove Canberra has a ‘rizz’ all of its own. Contrary to Yvette Berry’s suggestion, the Belconnen Owl will not be included because while phallic landmarks are nice to have around, there’s no nightclub at its base. It therefore doesn’t make the place fun for longer than a “hey look, [sub-editor removed]”.

1) We have colour: Smith’s Alternative

You know you’re nearing Canberra’s bohemian bar when you hear the sound of a dead piano being flogged.

A live music, improv and poetry platform with a bar/cafe as an afterthought, Smith’s Alternative is always open when you need it to be. Furthermore, you will never be the weirdest thing in there, and collapsing into the garish red sofas is like a hug from an abundantly-bosomed aunt. It’s a great place to end the night, and an even better place to grab a cup of chai and a rum and Coke before the Murrays bus out of here.

If that’s your last memory of Canberra, you’ll be back.

2) We have vibe: The New Acton precinct

New Acton succeeds where so many precincts fail: it has soul, thanks to Molonglo Group being the Sir Christopher Wrens of Canberra. There are leafy gardens and rusty sculptures to discover, lovely promenade cafes in a style that fits the heritage of Canberra, and in the imaginative Nishi building itself you’ll find a boutique cinema and one of Canberra’s more unique cocktail bars. That’s everything from lunch to 11 pm sorted.

If Canberra was defined by the New Acton precinct and Melbourne was defined by Federation Square, we would win.

3) We have serious institutions: Australian War Memorial

War memorial

Currently undergoing a massive extension, the Australian War Memorial is a world-leading museum and memorial. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

Unlike other world capitals, Canberra didn’t have the chance to have all the national institutions in one place – our National Gallery is good, but you know your art journey in Australia isn’t complete until you’ve been to the National Gallery in Melbourne.

The Australian War Memorial is not divisible, however. It is a definitive institution and, like the British Museum, you can only recommend it to visiting friends with the note: “Don’t try and do it all in one day”.

4) We have imagination: Lake Burley Griffin, these days

Credit must go to GoBoat’s Nick Tyrrell and Love Boats‘ Charles Chatain for making a charcuterie board and a game of cards on Lake Burley Griffin a Sunday afternoon reality. We haven’t quite got to wakeboarding, seaplanes or floating saunas yet, but the idea of boating on Canberra’s body of water as comfortably and accessibly as possible was a visionary one.

READ ALSO Who makes Canberra’s most delicious noodle soup?

Add to that a litany of lakeside venues, including The Jetty, Margot, The Marion, and a revamped Snapper & Co, and suddenly no one’s talking about blue-green algae and shopping trolleys anymore.

5) Telstra Tower

Just kidding. Read our story here on where that’s up to.

What do you think? What places in Canberra do you think show we’re not boring?

Original Article published by John Coleman on Riotact.

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