A drive up to Telecom Tower also provides you with a great panorama of Canberra.
A drive up to Telecom Tower also provides you with a great panorama of Canberra. Geoff Lung/Tourism Australia

Pack the woollies and embrace the Canberra winter

CANBERRA doesn't seem to be the place Queenslanders visit in winter. But it should be.

I recently spent the weekend in our capital city for a cousin's reunion which is held every two years in June.

On telling people my plans I heard "Why in winter? It's bloody freezing down there." And this was from people who live in windy Toowoomba.

But after the weekend, I have to say it was actually an ideal time of the year with the weather sunny but refreshing and lovely heating inside to escape the minus degrees at night.

Australia's largest inland city has everything you need: art and culture, food and wine plus national attractions like the Australian War Memorial, Parliament House, Questacon, Telstra Tower and more.

It is a prime location if you are after a few day trips to the ski slopes and the National Zoo offers the first Australian zoo accommodation experience.

For us the trip started with a visit to the National Museum for breakfast after our early flight. The Museum Cafe has a gorgeous view of Lake Burley Griffin and an extensive menu.

The current exhibition is the Play School 50-year celebration, which is a fun one for the kids and even adults who once watched the show. The museum shop is also a fabulous place to find local jewellery, candles and artworks.

Next for us was some shopping which involved visits to IKEA and Costco. If you have yet to visit the latter, I highly recommend it even for clothes, electronics and jewellery and the cheapest lunch in history.

Our Saturday was spent on a day trip to Cooma, just over an hour's drive south. There is not much to see until you get to Bredbo which has the coolest Christmas shop you will ever find.

The Christmas Barn is certainly a feast for the eyes and it was fun to see all the different decorations. Bredbo also boasts the Pancake and Crepe Restaurant, which is ideal for a pit stop.

Cooma is the capital of the Snowy Mountains and you can certainly see it is a hub for skiers. The mighty Snowy Mountains Scheme in 1949 changed the character of Cooma dramatically with the influx of workers from post-war Europe.

These influences have made Cooma a town rich in culture. One local shop is Birdsnest for the ladies. It is worth a visit to try on all the clothes, including their exclusive brands.

After you've enjoyed a look around the town head for The Lott Foodstore. It has plenty of local produce and is a great place to unwind. It is trendy and rustic, but backs it up with fantastic food and the local Snowy Mountains Coffee is fantastic.

For dinner we returned to Canberra and dined at the Pialligo Estate for a degustation matched with both local and international wines.

Pialligo Estate features a herb garden, a vineyard, olive groves and a smoke house and is one of the few hatted restaurants in Canberra.

Our six-course menu was delicious and included Pacific Reef cobia with radish, smoked eel and persimmon; Fremantle octopus with fennel, tarragon and shellfish emulsion; Macedon Ranges pheasant with chestnuts and Smokehouse bacon; and Red Deer from Hall with ember-roasted cabbage and white turnips.

For dessert we were spoiled with orchard nashi, macadamia and a very interesting Sichuan pepper ice cream and a celebration of garden figs, extra virgin olive oil cake and smoked almonds.

After a much quieter Sunday, our last day included a visit to the Handmade Market, which will be on again in September.

A return visit to the snow will certainly be next on the cards for me.

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