I was so excited when I found out that this year’s Australian Romance Readers Association Conference is going to be held in my hometown, Canberra. And because I know what it is like to arrive at a conference hotel completely disoriented and not know what’s what, I thought I’d give you all a few hints and tips on what is going on around the venue.
The ARRA conference is at the newly renovated QT Hotel (known to locals as ‘The Lakeside’). It is a short way away from the centre of town, in an area called New Acton. This precinct has been redeveloped in the past few years including winning a tonne of design awards. There are restaurants, bars, a cinema and two other hotels in the area, and it’s a great spot to hold a conference like this.
There is a bar and restaurant inside the QT Hotel so you may not need to leave the hotel. But if you find you want to – this is what you will find within a short walk from the hotel.
Nishi building and the New Acton Pavilion
The Nishi building always gets a ‘Wow’ from one of my kids no matter how often we go past it. It’s the tall one with all the wood and the living walls. Nishi has offices, a cinema and another hotel, the imaginatively named Hotel Hotel. The bar and restaurant at Hotel Hotel, Monster, is a favorite of mine. It is in the hotel lobby and the food is delicious.
Between the QT and Nishi building is the New Acton pavilion, a set of historic art deco buildings with lots of lovely cafes. If you love coffee you won’t be disappointed.
Močan and Green Grout is a very cute ethical café, serving fair trade coffee. The food is great and the kitchen is basically in the middle of the café. The Hipster quotient is very high. Bicicletta is a more traditional Italian restaurant which is open all day.
A Baker is very popular and has great coffee. Hipster quotient – moderately high.
Next to A Baker is another favorite of mine, Parlour Wine Room. If you are all frocked up for the awards dinner and want a pre-dinner drink, Parlour Wine Room is your spot. Fancy food, cocktails and a great ambience (but not cheap).
Finally, and possibly importantly, there is a small supermarket and convenience store spitting distance from back of the QT Hotel, called Twenty One. It is in the building immediately behind the hotel. They are open from 7:30 am until 5:30 pm on weekends (and are attached to another café).
For the walkers, joggers and anyone who just wants some fresh air, the QT hotel is just a footbridge away from Lake Burley Griffin. The lake is a few hundred metres to the south of the hotel (on your right when you walk out the front doors), though there is a freeway (well, in Canberra terms anyway) between the lake and the hotel. At the edge of the car park at the rear of the hotel there is a footbridge that will take you over the road and deliver you to the lake. Several foot and bike paths circle the lake.
Visitors often complain that Canberra isn’t a very intuitive city and that it’s hard to find your way around. If you want to head into the centre of town, it’s about a ten to fifteen minute walk away. And slightly uphill. The bulk of the city’s shops and restaurants are located around Bunda Street, including the Canberra Centre, the shopping mall that has now pretty much engulfed and consumed all the other businesses in its vicinity.
If you feel like venturing even further afield (which would probably require a car or some very energetic legs), there are also a lot of restaurants and bars around Lonsdale Street, in Braddon, which, according to The New York Times, is the ‘hipster underbelly’ of Canberra.
The conference also coincides with the last weekend of the Enlighten festival, a cultural and light festival around the buildings in the Parliamentary Triangle, including Old Parliament House, the National Gallery and the National Library. Enlighten also features concerts, sculpture, cultural events and the Good Food Month Night Noodle Market (similar to the ones in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane). But get in early, the noodle market was very busy the first weekend. It is about a thirty-minute walk from the hotel across the lake to the festival. Enlighten finishes on Saturday 7 March and the noodle market finishes on Sunday 8 March.