With bountiful tracts of unspoilt landscape, Canberra is known as Australia’s Bush Capital. But a new cultural edge is emerging, thanks to the city’s hip artisans and foodies.
Just minutes from the centre of Canberra, behind the Australian War Memorial, peak hour starts early. On the bush track leading to the peak of Mount Ainslie (above), there are friendly nods between passers-by. “Walking here is so popular it’s actually a bit cult-like,” says journalist and long-time local Ginger Gorman.
She’s right. Most Canberrans have a Mount Ainslie story. Politicians walk it. Mums hike it with their babies nestled in carriers. Some regulars have even been known to stroll up in costume. Whatever the demographic – or dress code – what most Mount Ainslie hikers remember are not the myriad corners leading to yet another set of steps, but the regular sightings of kangaroos, possums and Australian birdlife here. And of course, the perspective from the summit.
“It’s so peaceful; the only thing you hear is magpies. Then there’s that incredible view down Anzac Parade,” says Gorman of the sweeping vista across Lake Burley Griffin to both Parliament Houses. Also visible are institutions such as the National Gallery of Australia and High Court of Australia.
While the view from Mount Ainslie rarely fails to impress, Canberra itself has long had a hard time convincing the broader public of its merits.
But over the past few years, the city’s fan base has expanded exponentially. Make no mistake, Canberra’s Bush Capital status is still intact, but it now coexists alongside a lively cafe scene and creative artisans – and visitors and reviewers are taking notice.
For many, the shift to a hipper Canberra is best represented by two precincts, New Acton and Braddon.