Brazen, bright new architecture meets grand Art Deco design in the nation's capital.
By Jennifer Pinkerton
In the past few years, a constellation of new hotels has surfaced in Canberra. All are architecturally forward thinking and inspired, and most can be found in the spirited precincts of New Acton and Barton, neighbourhoods that nudge the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. But you'll also find accommodation infused with vintage charm.
A hop and a skip from the city, QT Canberra pushes 15 storeys high into the New Acton skyline. Here, trademark QT quirkiness reigns (the group owns a series of hotels around Australia) in the form of a political theme crafted especially for its Canberra site. Guests can make their own cocktails in their rooms and there's a barber's shop towards the rear of the building. The foyer bears a neon Donald Trump print projected onto the wall, as well as capsule displays housing gift shop items such as piggy banks made from real pig hide. Dine at the Italian-style eatery Capitol Bar and Grill or sip on one of the stellar cocktails served at Lucky’s Speakeasy before retreating to your airy, Andy Warhol-reminiscent room – preferably with a vista over the teal-toned lake below.
1 London Circuit, Canberra
It's hard to think of a hotel more deeply and historically "Canberra" than Art Deco Hotel Kurrajong. It was the 1940s home of former Australian prime minister Ben Chifley. But don't be fooled by the hotel's heritage. This is no outdated stay. After a sweeping makeover, the hotel was reborn with neon-ringed bathroom mirrors, large-scale artworks in bedrooms, historic memorabilia in common spaces, and a restaurant serving local produce and offering a 120-bottle wine list.
8 National Circuit, Barton
A short stroll away, tucked behind the gargantuan offices of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, lies Little National. Its rooms are compact, but this cleverly designed space is not short on Zen. A double-storey lobby greets guests on arrival, paper sculptures by Australian artist Benja Harley line the corridors upstairs, and black and white toned rooms embody a Japanese aesthetic – they also feature four-poster beds and floor-to-ceiling windows. Wander across the road to sister hotel Realm to access its restaurants, leafy outdoor deck and other luxe facilities.
21 National Circuit, Barton
In nearby Kingston – a suburb teaming with cafés and restaurants, plus a new waterfront area – the boutique East Hotel puts art in the spotlight. Though its exterior gives nothing away, the hotel's interior spaces are flooded with contemporary design-orientated furniture, decor and lighting. Pop into one of its lively bar/restaurants such as the multi-award-winning small Joe’s Bar, or Muse café. The latter will delight book lovers, as it regularly hosts author events and is devoted to wine and the written word. Rooms are spacious and high on technological nous, especially the kid’s cubby: interconnecting two-bedroom apartments decked out with an Xbox 360, bunk beds, a kid's play table and bean bags.
69 Canberra Avenue, Kingston
Sitting in a suitably regal position on Commonwealth Avenue – with neighbours including the Albert Hall, Chinese Embassy and, a little further up the road, Parliament House – the Canberra Hyatt is housed inside a grand, cream-coloured 1920s building that takes style cues from The Great Gatsby. An interior garden courtyard fills its central zones, and at the hotel's rear lie the peaceful Japanese-themed Lennox and Nara gardens, parklands fringed with pine trees and views across the lake to the National Museum and Black Mountain. Rooms are fitted out in a chocolate and ivory palette, and high tea is served daily – a favourite among the Canberra ladies set.
120 Commonwealth Avenue, Canberra
Across the bridge in NewActon, a design-savvy hipster hub, wander up the staircase with its riot of upcycled wooden beams at Ovolo Nishi to enter a world that you won’t want to leave in a hurry. Fifty-six artists, designers and craftspeople – as well as 60 architects – put their heads together to create this stay that's like a 1960s play den crossed with a futuristic eco building. Rooms feature an eclectic mix of art and furnishings and have cavernous bathrooms with concrete egg-shaped tubs. Downstairs, Monster Kitchen and Bar serves an inspired tapas-style dinner.
25 Edinburgh Avenue, NewActon precinct, Canberra
As far as the most unique accommodation goes, Jamala Wildlife Lodge is without doubt the winner. Sleep in a luxurious African-inspired timber-clad room with nothing but a glass wall separating you from the lion's den. Or take up a bed in a Giraffe Treehouse and wake up to five- metre (16-foot) tall neighbours. Jamala is a conservation first and foremostly, providing a sanctuary to some of the world's most endangered and dangerous animals, in enclosures far larger than you'd find in any zoo.
999 Lady Denman Drive, Canberra