Two seats, open roads and a new designer precinct to discover.
To us, road trips evoke freedom, music and inspiration. A chance to escape the high energy of the city and all of its distractions. We love the feeling of being on a long drive where you can stop and go as you please. New store; go explore. That restaurant or dish that people are talking about; time to eat! All those quirky unexpected finds that make a journey more memorable (hello perfect gifts and epicurean delights).
Now, it may surprise you that Canberra came to mind as our destination, but think about its potential; close, but not too close, those politicians have no doubt refined their taste buds (doing it rough dining with ambassadors and all), and New Acton, a new living art and design precinct west of the city has us so intrigued we just had to get the low down.
To answer the call of the open road in one very stylish all-new Mazda MX-5, step in our Editor Carrie Kwan (who is pretty familiar with the whole cool hunting thing) and interior and event stylist Steve Cordony (who is producing shoots for Country Road, Sheridan and Belle magazine, not to mention styling crazy beautiful events for the likes of Dolce and Gabbana and Space Furniture) to school us in everything good to do in a weekend in Canberra.
Put on some killer sunglasses, crank up your highway tunes and leave the everyday behind you.
Carrie gives her places in Canberra to:
Get a healthy breakfast: Local Press Cafe. The cold pressed juices and pea pancakes!
Drink coffee: ONA Coffee or The Cupping Room. If you’re lucky, made by the world’s best barista Sasa Sestic.
Have a nightcap: Cosy up in one of the nooks at Parlour Wine Room with a well made cocktail.
Watch a movie: Courtyard Cinema (if it’s summer) or Palace Electric Cinema.
Indulge in a thick shake: They’re epic at Cafe Patissez. Get one to go, if not prepared to wait (sometimes an hour) for a table.
Hunt for treasures: Kin for bespoke jewellery (it’s easy to miss in The Hamlet in Braddon but if you find the food caravans parked out the front you’re almost there). Spend a day strolling through the Lonsdale Street Traders in the Ori building, a collective space filled with some great stores and galleries.
When on the road I’m always scouring for gifts, things I can collect or give. I especially love finding things that I can file away in this wonderfully large trunk box that I keep treasures in, for whenever a special occasion arises. I’m inevitably curious about places which just nail the whole retail or dining experience. The Mazda MX-5 with its nifty spring mechanism roof means in one seamless motion the roof is up or down – it makes for the easy spotting of random little places along the way.
Rest your head: One of Hotel Hotel’s six ‘Meandering’ rooms. Open the windows to the atrium and look up.
Find a new outfit: Rebel Muse or Itrip Iskip
Grab a flame-grilled burger: Brodburger. Ideal for a road trip stop. Tip: At lunch time it can take 90 minutes to get your classic patty and fries so order on the Brodburger app. They text you when it’s ready.
Go for a nice dinner: eightysix, an uncomplicated produce driven menu crafted with all due care. Trust what the staff recommends.
Get a culture fix: New Acton Nishi complex. There is so much detail in the architecture, which you don’t truly appreciate until you walk (or ride) in around it. Having great restaurants and a cinema in the precinct is always a plus, and it still feels boutique.
Weekend trips can become the ultimate getaway and I’m trying to take one monthly. I’m finding it more important than ever to disconnect by removing digital distractions and reconnect with real and present conversations. On the way there you can catch up on all the latest, what your travel companion has been up to, who and what’s important in their lives right now, and what awesome things they’re aspiring to do.
Driving along the scenic coast in a convertible like the MX-5 makes you feel a profound sense of freedom – and a cheekiness too. A willingness to push against prevailing norms about what you should be doing and go with what you want to be doing (and then have the courage to do it!). I love how you can get an unexpected injection of confidence and clarity, all from one open top drive.
Steve gives his take on travel rituals and where to stay:
Usually after checking in I like to wonder the hotel and explore – check out the restaurants, gym/pool and spa area and communal spaces. Then I walk the block around the hotel to see what the neighbourhood is like and what is around the area.
I always bring my camera, laptop, phone, face wash, and sometimes a travel candle. I know, a travel candle – but I love having a scent remind you of a place you have been.
I never travel without my phone. No matter where I go, I always start by googling “best restaurant” in the place I am travelling to (for this trip I left the insider know-how to Carrie). It’s all about the food! Then the shops of course.
To be honest, apart from all of the textures and the interesting layers of furniture, styling and art pieces, what struck me the most was the feel of the hotel. It felt so warm and inviting, with open fires and big comfy sofas which gave you a sense of home, which is not easy to achieve in a big hotel.
The linen was beautiful as was the bathroom amenities. Aesop in the bathroom is always a winner. It didn’t feel like your average corporate hotel room and the joinery and attention to detail was very impressive.
Tip: Make a reservation at Monster restaurant in the hotel as it books out and is delicious. There is also a Palace Cinema downstairs in the complex, which is great for a rainy Friday/Saturday night.
I hadn’t been to Canberra for many years until our road trip and I wish I had! So many great new stores and young designers, amazing hatted restaurants and great bars and cafes.
Who would have thought a Road Trip to Canberra would be this much fun?
Tip: On the way to Canberra from Sydney take the more scenic drive along the coast and be rewarded by picturesque spots such as Bald Hill lookout (look up; you might see some high flyers). Soak up some local charm in Thirroul – stop for coffee and treats at Finbox surf store and cafe.
This message is brought to you by All-New Mazda MX-5. Discover more by visiting www.allnewmazdamx5.com.au