Originally published on newcastleherald.com.au
When the winter weather comes blowing into Canberra, it’s easy for couples to get warm and cosy on a romantic getaway in the capital.
Late-morning lie-ins, champagne breakfasts, gorgeous galleries and boutique hotels welcome lovers with open arms. As the evening falls, Canberra offers fireside nightcaps and oysters – and the night, of course, is just what you make it.
If you can bear to climb out of your cosy, warm bed before dawn, the Balloon Aloft group has a romantic sunrise tour that you and your love will never forget. Rise above the city while the rest of the world sleeps; drift on air currents and marvel at the Brindabella Ranges and Lake Burley Griffin below. Finish the experience with a glass of sparkling wine and a buffet breakfast at the Park Hyatt.
For anyone who’s ever fantasised about striding through a damp forest, following a hound on the hunt for treasure found only beneath the earth, the black truffle, a visit to The Truffle Farm on the slopes of Mount Majura is a must. Learn about these earthy fungi before you set off, then after the hunt return to the heated marquee for a cooking demonstration.
Give a little love to Canberra’s tiniest gallery, The Gallery of Small Things, which displays and sells the works of local designers and artists. In New Acton, you’ll love Nishi Art Gallery, where the sculpture outside makes for a great photo memory. Art lovers will enjoy the National Gallery‘s Matisse & Picasso exhibition, which ends mid-April, or the nearby National Portrait Gallery.
Every love story needs a luxurious and romantic setting. Ovolo Nishi in NewActon is Canberra’s newest boutique hotel and is often referred to as an art space in itself. More than 60 designers, artists, curators and architects were involved in creating the vibrant structure. The reclaimed timber featured in the interiors provide a striking backdrop to the space and reflects the Ovolo group’s commitment to sustainability. Only a 15-minute walk from the gallery precinct, the hotel overlooks the bush and Lake Burley Griffin.
Monster Kitchen, part of Ovolo Nishi, is a playful and modern space where soft furnishings co-exist with industrial concrete ceilings. Funky fixtures and a spectacular chandelier light the room. Indulge the senses and the palate at the table of executive chef Travis Goodlet. He favours wild flavours and loves to showcase the produce of local farmers. Since the bushfire crisis, the Monster team has been working closely with the farmers of the Oyster Coast and now offers an oyster trolley laden with handpicked, fresh oysters.
Afternoon tea at the heritage-listed Hyatt Hotel is an elegant affair sure to charm any pair of lovers. A quick walk from the gallery precinct, you can be nestled in an armchair, a glass of local sparkling wine in hand and succumbing to the pleasure that a decadent spread of sweet and savoury treats affords. Mini quiches, cheese tartlets and curry puffs sit alongside a rainbow of berry friands, macarons and chocolate eclairs. For history buffs, this Art Deco building is an homage to the country’s leaders and there is a sense that one walks in the footsteps of our prime ministers.
There are 30 wineries with cellar doors within half an hour’s drive of Canberra, and the romance of a winery tour through the vineyards should never be underestimated. Clonakilla is the home of one of the region’s most celebrated wines, the shiraz viognier. Lovers can order snacks, share a bottle of wine and relax by the open fire. To warm up after a winter stroll in the crisp Canberra air, drop into Bentspoke Brewpub in Braddon.
Take me there
Drive: Canberra is a 3.5-hour drive from Sydney and seven hours from Melbourne.
Fly: Virgin currently has one-way fares to Canberra from $99 (ex-Syd) and $125 (ex-Mel).
Stay: Book a room at Ovolo Nishi from $161 per night. See ovolohotels.com
Balloon tour: A romantic sunrise balloon ride, including champagne and chocolates, costs $1950. See balloonaloftcanberra.com.au