Canberra is a starting point for short trips to the Snowy Mountains, the New South Wales South Coast and a cluster of historic villages well versed in food and wine.
By Jennifer Pinkerton
Among the reasons Canberra locals love their city is the fact that, nearby, there are numerous locations from which to craft a day trip. A three-hour stint on the road will land you either at the beach or the snow. Closer to home, charming small villages and towns such as Gundaroo, Bungendore and Braidwood offer a calm contrast to the hip inner city streets of the nation's capital. In a nutshell: Canberra's surrounds are all about natural beauty, character-laden stone buildings and air so clean you'll want it bottled.
Drive just 30 minutes north of Canberra to Gundaroo, a pint-sized village that boasts a Gold Rush-era pub and country-style restaurant with cuisine to swoon over. Stop in for a tipple at the 144-year-old Gundaroo Colonial Inn before making a beeline for lunch at Grazing, housed in a restored, red-roofed former pub. Indulge in the ash-dusted kangaroo fillet, cassoulet beans and garden beets. Veer west and return along Murrumbateman Road, making pit stops at local wineries Eden Road Wines and Four Winds Vineyard before pulling up a chair in the pretty gardens at Poachers Pantry for a cheese platter.
Rise early and travel an hour east to Braidwood, a hotspot for antique and retro-collectable stores such as Bernadoff and the Stur Gallery. Make your first stop the tucked away DOJO Bread for a loaf of artisan sourdough or a gourmet, handmade pie. Next, enjoy brunch and a coffee at the artfully styled Albion Café. Drive back towards Canberra before dropping in at biodynamic vineyard Lark Hill Winery for lunch and a taste of Canberra's cool-climate wine. On your way home via Macs Reef Road, join a truffle hunt – in which dogs locate truffles underground – at Blue Frog Truffle Farm. Hunts take place over eight weeks in winter and are held on Wednesdays and Sundays.
Fuel up with scrumptious coffee and pastries at Silo Bakery in Kingston before hiring ski gear at Straight Line Ski and Scuba in the nearby precinct of Fyshwick. You'll pass by the townships of Bredbo and Cooma en route to the Snowy Mountains. After arcing past the serene vista of Lake Jindabyne, weave a path to Thredbo or Perisher Blue Ski Resort and ski the day away, taking in the sight of snow weighing down the branches of Australian gum trees. Leave time for an après-ski aperitif of sour apple or Williams pear schnapps at the Wild Brumby Distillery, just outside Jindabyne, on your journey back along the Monaro Highway.
For a summer-style day trip, venture out of Canberra to the blissful beachside town of Huskisson. Make your first port of call the cheerful Loaded Dog Tarago Hotel for a pub lunch, before continuing along the bushy, scenic drive though Nerriga to Huskisson. Take in the vintage shops, as well as the great cafés here, such as 5 Little Pigs and Hyams Beach Store and Café before sinking your toes into the white sand and sparkling waters of Jervis Bay. Return to Canberra via Booderee National Park and stroll along the pure white Murrays Beach.
Less than an hour from Canberra lies the rugged Namadji National Park. One of the highlights of this park is the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, an expanse of protected bushland. Spot kangaroos, koalas, cockatoos and emus at The Sanctuary before following the well-signposted Birrigai Time Trail from the Visitor Centre to the Birrigai Rock Shelter, which the Ngunawal Aboriginal people occupied during the last ice age more than 20,000 years ago. Alternatively, take the challenging eight-kilometre (five-mile) hike to Gibraltar Peak. The panoramic view from the top is well worth the effort.