Here’s how to spend the ultimate winter weekend in Canberra

There’s a lot to love about the nation’s capital during the colder months. First, you can really feel the season, with temperatures hovering around 12 degrees during the day and dropping to freezing sub-zero at night. West of the city, the Brindabella Ranges glisten with snow, offering even more spectacular sunsets at happy hour.

Compared to Sydney, Canberra is also quiet – its wide royal boulevards and freeways seem empty and serene compared to the chaos of Paramatta Road. But don’t confuse lack of circulation with drowsiness. On Friday and Saturday nights, Canberra’s restaurant scene is buzzing, proving this little town is a foodie’s paradise. The ultra-near Canberra District vineyards produce some of the country’s most sought-after Riesling and Shiraz, paired with award-winning cellar door experiences. Then there are markets, galleries, truffle farms, stylish hotels, and plenty of clean country air and spectacular natural scenery to soak up.

Feel the vibe? Here’s how to spend an epic winter weekend in Canberra.

Truffle hunting at the truffle farm

If there’s one thing that winter in Australia has more recently become synonymous with, it’s truffles. These earthy, zesty delights make their seasonal appearance on Sydney menus from June to September in truffle pastas and truffle-infused desserts. In Canberra, however, you can take your truffle experience to the next level with a real truffle hunt and truffle tasting at The Truffle Farm.

Led by founder Jayson Mesman, his partner Danielle, and a gang of truffle dogs (aka some really good boys, kudos to Goofy), this very special experience will see you navigating through the farm’s 6,000 French and English oak and hazelnut trees. truffle pup sniffs his truffle treasure. After finding, digging up and admiring some of The Truffle Farm’s huge black truffles, you’ll head inside for a six-course truffle feast created by the farm’s executive chef, Damian Brabender.

Canberra District Wine Tasting with Van Du Vin

The Canberra District wine region has become a hot property in recent years, with some of Sydney’s top chefs and hospitality moguls scrambling for hard-to-find vintages. This young and eclectic region is home to around 140 vineyards and 40 boutique cellar doors with Reisling and Shiraz (sometimes called Syrah here to differentiate from the heavier Barossa style) being the best drops to try. Called “District of Canberra” because it technically encompasses part of the ACT and New South Wales, you’ll find most of the grapes growing around Murrumbateman and Lake George, which means it’s a super quick 35 minute trip out of the city of Canberra and a perfect winter weekend activity.

The best way to see the region, in our opinion, is with Van du Vin – a private wine tour that includes tastings, lunch and a cool car to transport you too (like a London taxi, for example). Whether you choose a half-day or full-day tour, the Van du Vin team can organize the tour around the vineyards you wish to visit or according to the style of wine you prefer. Our cellar door picks would be Gallagher Wines, Brindabella Hills, Yarrh Wines, Helm, and The Vintner’s Daughter.

Next Level Food & Beverage: WILMA, Paranormal Wines, The Inn, etc.

Canberra’s restaurant scene is absolutely thriving right now. Post-pandemic, the city has seen over 60 new locations open, meaning you may need to lock down more than one winter weekend in the capital if you want to browse the full list. For a cozy but energetic dinner, we recommend booking one of the saffron orange stalls at WILMA, Canberra’s first progressive Asian barbecue restaurant. From former Biota chef James Viles and head chef Brendan Hill (ex-Aria), you’ll feel the heat of a fiery, gigantic konro yakitori grill here. The banana flower salad, fried rice with truffles and eggs, and hot smoked char sui pork are some of the tastiest dishes we’ve eaten all year. Be sure to grab a martini at the Pearl beforehand.

In Ainslie, The Inn, tucked away on the top floor of the Edgar’s Inn pub, is the perfect place for a sunset drink and Friday night treat. The terrace offers views – here you can watch one of Canberra’s perfectly clear sunsets, complete with the alien Telstra Tower and Mount Ainslie (and yes, you can sit there in the cold Canberra winter). The menu ranges from oyster and scallop ceviche, to kangaroo tartare with miso and black garlic, to Riverine’s rich and comforting ribs with smoked mash.

We also recommend checking out Paranormal Wines, a wine bar bottle shop lined with natural, minimal intervention vino; Bar Rochford and Pilot are must-sees; larger groups will love the pizza and ambiance at Agostini’s, and vegetarians will swoon for Monster Kitchen and Bar at Ovolo Nishi with its eclectic furnishings and now all-vegetarian menu.

For more epic things to do in Canberra, including our favorite places to stay, head here.

Image credit: WILMA, Kara Rosenlund for VisitCanberra, Helm Wines, WILMA

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