Tag Archives: Canberra

Twilight Markets at New Acton

It is not often I venture to the New Acton precinct on the weekend, as I work there during the week. What seems to be evolving in this architecturally designed, trendy urban locale is an eco savvy, fashion conscious and foodie vibe. New Acton is situated close to the Australian National University, the National Museum of Australia and the National Film and Sound Archive, making it a handy place to visit while seeing some of the capitals cultural and educational centres. The Nishi Building also hosts the Palace Cinema, which screens many international and art house  films. All in all, New Acton is a pretty groovy place to hang out.

This weekend two markets were on at New Acton – Forage and Hustle and Scout.

The Forage was held  through the paths and grassy areas of the John Avery Gardens and Kendall Lane. (behind A-Baker and The Parlour Wine Room). Their website states that the goal of the forage is “to create a unique, fun, and community vibe where everyone feels welcome. Aesthetics that reflect a raw and earthy feel with a rustic edge will differentiate the forage from any other food market or event in Canberra.”  This was the first event for the forage and plans will see them popping up at different locations around Canberra.

There were a few stalls with organic baked goods, mainly sweets, some selections of wines and a large group of people were queued for pork belly rolls. We didn’t try any of the fare at forage as our main objective was to check out the fashion and jewellery at Hustle and Scout. Perhaps at the next forage we will focus on the gastronomic goodies.

Hustle and Scout was fun and fabulous with lots of designers, sustainable and eco-fashion, recycled and up-cycled fashion and a broad selection of jewellery. There was also models mingling in the crowd, which made the event seem very accessible. Ordinarily fashion is not really my domain (beyond shoes, handbags and jewellery) , but my love for recycled and up-cycled products is slowly revealing a eco-fashion diva. What was also really nice about this event, was that the fashion and accessories were not just for young people, there was a wealth of options for the not so young fashionistas.

Some of my favourites included:

  • Honey Bee had some stunning jewellery made from etched stainless steel. the designs have been influenced from a range of cultures and retro styles. I particularly loved some of the earrings that incorporated Arabic patterns and design. Also the material is very light so wearing large, dangly earrings won’t weigh heavily on your ear lobes, a nice feature of these pieces.
  • Pure Pod has emerged as one of Australia’s largest ethical fashion brands and is considered to be a pioneer in the ‘Eco & Sustainable’ fashion industry. Pure Pod’s ethos focuses on sustainability, ethics, caring for the environment and humanity. They pride themselves on using talented Australian crafts people and keeping local fashion industry thriving. Even better, their products are 100% ethically Australian Made. I fell in love with the “Wise Old Owl” design and will be talking to Kelli soon about ordering one of these fab frocks made from organic cotton blend.
  • Middlemost had some wonderful quirky items – have a look at the image above. I bought the cutest handmade card with a picture and come cat earrings. They specialise in creating clothing, accessories and cards made using vintage and recycled fabrics, with each piece being a handmade original.
  • The Darling Sisters specialise in gorgeous retro chic – they also have a shop called “Darling Central” in Gold Creek Village, near the George Harcourt Inn and the Cockington Green miniature village. At the markets, they had some lovely books on hair styling and makeup, I nearly bought the hair styling book and then remembered that I am completely lazy when it comes to hairdos.

This is just a small sample of the fabulousness at the Hustle and Scout market. I look forward to seeing what happens next with this wonderful event.


Bushwalking near Canberra

Walk to Yankee Hat Painting
Walk to Yankee Hat Painting

Canberra is surrounded by some very beautiful bushland and mountains, making bushwalking a popular weekend activity for locals and visitors alike. There are lots of walks you can do, particularly around Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and Namadgi National Park south of Canberra, as well as Duea National Park to the east. Some of these walks have views that are nothing short of spectacular, that show off the beauty of this mountainous alpine region of Australia.

There are a couple of favourites that I would like to share, walks that offer fantastic views, are a little challenging and one which has significant cultural value. These walks also only take a couple of hours – perfect for a Saturday or Sunday morning.

Booroomba Rocks
Booroomba Rocks

Booroomba Rocks located in Namadgi National Park has one of the most rewarding views, looking northward towards Canberra. In an earlier blog, I provided this summary:

This is a really enjoyable walk, a bit steep in places, but the view at the top is well worth it, apparently it is ranked  #9 of the 104 attractions in the ACT according to Trip Advisor. The pathway is mostly shaded, with lots of diverse vegetation, including some very large, burnt out gum trees. Most of the way there are stone steps with some timber ones, so it is pretty safe under foot. The granite boulders along the walk are truly spectacular.


Burnt Tree
Burnt Tree

Another quite different walk in Namadgi is the trail that takes you to Yankee Hut Paintings. The rock paintings are the only currently known Aboriginal art sites in the ACT. The Yankee Hat art sites are located in the Gudgenby Valley, nestled in a group of boulders located at the foot of Yankee Hat Mountain. Here are some of my comments from my walk:

The walk is a lovely and relatively easy 3.5 km distance each way from the car park – walking around the valley to the foothills where the paintings are situated. There are many scenic views of the mountains, lots of interesting boulder formations and creeks, not to mention many kangaroos, plus we also saw dingoes chasing rabbits near the paintings.

This is a nice walk if you like walking mainly on the flat, there is not much upwards walking, with the exception of about 15 minutes slight incline to get to the paintings.

Boulders on the way to Yankee Hat Paintings
Boulders on the way to Yankee Hat Paintings

These walks were the inspiration for an art exhibition in 2013, at the Belconnen Arts Centre titled Finding Balance: Mura Gadi. Some of the prints are still available for sale, contact us for enquiries.

Useful resources: You can find my walking tracks recorded on Every Trail.


No, Canberra Doesn’t Suck!

One of the great places to find products that have been handmade by local artists, designers and craftspeople is through Handmade Canberra. They have a shopfront located at City Walk, 20 Allara Street in Civic, which features the work of over 170 local designers. They also run regular markets at the Canberra Convention Centre, 31 Constitution Avenue 4 times a year. The next market is scheduled for June 7 & 8, 10am to 4pm.

Canberra Doesn't Suck
Canberra Doesn’t Suck

I love this lollypop as it says a lot about Canberra’s reputation. There is a stereotyped idea that it is a place of dull monuments and boring public servants, which is simply not true. To the contrary, if people take the time to look around they will find it is a rich, creative and diverse community. Ironically, I also held this belief that public servants were dull, until I joined the APS and worked alongside other people who had identities as artists, musicians, healers, scientists and aid volunteers.

So, no, Canberra doesn’t suck, though it is true that in Winter, the wind can blow.

Canberra Trash and Treasure Market

Trash and Treasure Jamison
Trash and Treasure Jamison

Last weekend, we went to the Trash and Treasure Market at Jamison. It was my first time going to the market, as I am usually not awake early enough. Luckily it was the first day we turned the clock back, after the end of Summer time, so the sun woke me at around 6am.

Trash and Treasure is a Canberra institution and if you want a bargain you have to get there early. We arrived about 8:15am and the car park was packed. The market has all manner of goods – lots of plants, organic fruit and vegetables, second-hand clothes and bric a brad. I was really chuffed to score some organic apples for $2.50 a kilogram – much better than the $18.99 a kilo I paid the other week at Griffith.

Trash and Treasure Jamison
Trash and Treasure Jamison

After checking out the markets, we headed to one of our favourite spots for breakfast, Ricardo’s Cafe. What surprised us is that most of the tables were reserved and it was packed – at 9am! Usually it is busy, but ordinarily we never have problem finding a table, today it was a bit of a challenge.Here is a picture of one of their ‘to die for’ Portuguese Tarts.

Portuguese Tart from Ricardo's
Portuguese Tart from Ricardo’s

The Trash and Treasure Market is operated by the Rotary Club of Belconnen and is held each Sunday from 6am to 1pm at the Jamison Centre car park in Macquarie, except when Christmas Day coincides.

Spa and Sauna Culture in Australia

Australia is one of the hottest, driest countries in the world. For that reason, water sports, swimming and going to the beach are popular activities, especially for the 85% of the population that live near the coast. As mentioned in an earlier post about Weekends in Canberra, not only is Canberra an Inland city, it is the coldest capital city in Australia.

From my travels, particularly to Scandinavia and Turkey, I have now a great love of the bathing cultures that exist in these locales. When I was in Helsinki, every morning I would spend 20 minutes in the sauna before jumping in a cold shower. Similarly, when we have travelled to Turkey, I much enjoyed losing a couple of hours in the Turkish Hamam, especially places that also had a sauna. My preference is for separate men’s and women’s facilities, as I feel like I can truly relax.

Saunas are not that popular in Australia, due to the hot climate  – if you are lucky you will find one at a gym or when you visit a health spa as part of a massage package. Unless you go to a women’s only gym, then it is likely that the facilities will be mixed rather than separate for men and women.

This week we decided to go the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), which has had a sauna and plunge pool for many years. But no more – for health and safety reasons the sauna has been permanently closed. Undeterred, we then went on a quest around the Belconnen region to try to find a sauna. We were told that Kaleen Sports Centre might have one – no luck. Then we called the  Canberra International Sports & Aquatic Centre (CISAC) and they said that they had a sauna. We turned up very hopeful – only to find out it is a steam room. There is a big difference between a sauna and a steam room. Personally I do not like the damp air and smell of a steam room, preferring the dry heat and delicious timber smell of the sauna.

Anyway, we finally found a great place which does have a sauna – foot&thai in Weedon Close in Belconnen. When you have an hour massage treatment, the sauna is complementary, and $5 when you have a half hour treatment. We opted for 1/2hr Foot Reflexology Massage + 1/2hr Head, Shoulders and Back Massage – it was divine. When you arrive you are given an outfit to wear: a loose shirt and trousers like a martial arts outfit. For the foot massage, the chair reclines and you are also given a sarong to cover you and an eye mask, so you can really relax. For the first time, I had the experience of a masseuse walking on my back – which was really good and unravelled all my knots. I have had Balinese, Swedish and Turkish massage, but never the Thai style where you get walked on. It probably is not for everyone, but I really enjoyed it.

As an ardent fan of the sauna, I think it would be fantastic if there were more facilities in Canberra, we certainly have the climate in winter. But I am impatient. After talking about getting a home sauna for years, we are finally going to get one – if the rain holds out, it should be delivered this weekend – I can’t wait!

Canberra Day Trip to Bungendore

Bungendore Village is a popular spot for Canberrans to go on the weekend. It is also well-known as a good place for a cup of tea on the way to Bateman’s Bay on the South Coast. It is a pretty little place with many galleries, antique shops, housewares and cafes. Over the years, Bungendore has grown, offering even more options for shopping, checking out art and coffee.

If you love beautifully crafted wood then you should visit the Bungendore Wood Works Gallery in Malbon Street, where you can see the stunning Hannah Cabinet. This piece of furniture art took six years to complete by master craftsman Goeff Hannah. It was created using 34 different Australian and international timbers, 4 species of shell and 17 varieties of precious stone with extensive marquetry inlays on 18 doors and on, and in, 140 drawers. The cabinet is on permanent display at the gallery.

Hannah Cabinet, photo by Martin Drury
Hannah Cabinet, photo by Martin Drury

At the moment  at the Wood Works Gallery, there is also an exhibition of works as part of the Weereewa festival. The exhibition Interpretations focused on the Lake as inspiration and includes work by David Flanagan, Jeffrey Frith, Anita McIntyre, Natalie McCarthy and Ian Robertson. Anita McIntyre’s work is particularly lovely –  fragile, ceramic works, depicting cartographic imagery, using a range of media including screen printing on to paper that has been coated with clay and fired in the kiln. David Flanagan’s photographs are also stunning, silver gelatin prints on fibre paper that have the appearance of intaglio etchings.

The Weereewa Festival runs in February and March about every two years. The festival focuses on the Lake George region and celebrates arts and environmental activities. Their website says:

Weereewa – a Festival of Lake George was founded in 1999 to celebrate this magnificent ancient landscape in arts and environmental science activities and events.

Some of the activities include nature walks, dance performances and art exhibitions, spanning from Lake George, Bungendore, Canberra and Gouburn. Indigenous knowledge is also a key aspect of the festival. It will be interesting to see how this festival grows over the coming years as it is an excellent theme for a festival – celebrating place and our relationship to it.

Wild Rose Organics stocks a diverse range of goods including hemp products, organic skin care and cosmetics and pride themselves on only selling ethical, quality products with a ‘minimal carbon footprint’.

Gunna Doo pie shop is famous for their sausage rolls, because they are literally sausage wrapped in filo pastry. A cross between a hot dog and a dagwood dog, these tasty treats come in a variety of flavours including satay, cheese, and sweet chilli. You need to get there early though, as they sell out quickly, especially on the weekend.

For years Le Très Bon has tempted me and we plan to have a meal at this authentic French restaurant in the near future. I have heard that the food is fabulous.

There are not a lot of photos of the village and our journey, as for most of the day (and the last week), it has poured rain, which is rare in March but very welcome after a very hot and dry summer.

50th Anniversary of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies

We were not able to attend the 50th Anniversary of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, but thought our readers would appreciate this post. Thanks for posting this article Andrew!


Listening to a speaker Gathering in Reconciliation Place

It’s a cool Canberra evening. The famous tee-pee shape of Parliament House dominates the skyline to the south-west and the Australian War Memorial’s red parade ground expands out to the north-east. Here, in Reconciliation Place, we gather on the grass and sand to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.

As a delegate to the 2014 National Indigenous Studies Conference, I was treated to an evening of high tea consisting of warm scones with jam and cream, kangaroo meat with baby boccaceli, lamb and chutney on a fancy bread thing, cheese and crackers, sandwiches, mini deserts and the most delicious fancy teas I’ve ever tasted.

But the highlight was most certainly the opportunity to share some unique cultural experiences.

We all dance on the same earth We all dance on the same earth

Members of the Yolngu and Bininj lands have traveled from the far north of our country to share with us…

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Idyllic Canberra Sunday

Today was pretty much my idea of a perfect Sunday in Canberra. After sleeping in just a little and catching up on some household chores, we headed off to the Old Bus Depot Markets and Fyshwick Markets. After we stocked up, we then went to my favourite cafe in Belconnen, Ricardo’s Cafe for coffee and Portuguese Tarts. After we dropped off the groceries, we enjoyed a lovely walk up Mt Painter.

EveryTrail Map of Pt Painter walk
EveryTrail Map of Mt Painter walk

Mt Painter Walk at EveryTrail
EveryTrail – Find hiking trails in California and beyond

Organic Markets
One thing I really love about Canberra is the quality of food that is organic and/or locally grown and made. There are a number of markets where you can buy really good organic food. For example, the Fyshwick Markets has the Fyshwick Gourmet Organic butcher who sells free range and organic meats, as well as game meat like venison and kangaroo.  For your organic fruit and veggies, you can usually find a good variety at Wiffins, if you get there early. The prices are also reasonable, last week I paid $18.99 for a kilo for apples at the Organic Energy Foods at Griffith, Wiffins had two varieties for $12.99. I never save money though, as I just seem to buy more apples to make up the difference. In defence of Organic Energy Foods, their shop is beautifully presented the produce is always excellent quality and they home deliver.

Other places you can find organic produce in Canberra, include the Capital Region Farmers Market (7.30am to 11.30am on Saturday mornings at Exhibition Park), the Southside Farmer’s Market  (Sunday afternoons at the Woden CIT Campus) and the new Northside Farmers Market at the University of Canberra Campus (2.30-5.30pm, Kirinari Street, in front of Building 10).  You can also go to Choku Bai Jo at the North Lyneham and Curtin shops. Choko Bai Jo also lists the road miles that produce have travelled, to help customers make informed decisions.

Old Bus Depot Markets
The Old Bus Depot markets are always a treat. Located in a couple of old industrial buildings along the Kingston Foreshore, you can find all sorts of wonderful treasure: antiques and collectibles; art and craft; fine food (especially olives, cheeses and breads); and, usually some live music. The markets are situated next door to the Canberra Glassworks which is also worth a visit, as the artists often have demonstrations of glass blowing. I managed not to spend too much money, though we did indulge and share a delicious chocolate brownie with pecans. However, I was very taken with some bags from Vintage Creation made from recycled leather jackets that can be worn 6 ways, I think I will be putting in an order with the designer as they are just gorgeous and I cannot resist a beautiful and practical bag.

Portuguese tarts at Jammo
After enjoying the markets, we went to our favourite cafe in the Belconnen region – Ricardo’s Cafe at the Jamison Plaza (affectionately known as Jammo). Their coffee is always reliable – I am a self admitted coffee snob so this is very important, the food is good and the service is friendly and prompt. We have been going there for years and we are never left waiting for our coffee or our food. They have also consistently won ACT Restaurant and Catering awards over the years. The highlight for us though is a sticky sweet little treat – the Portuguese Tart, made on the premises and absolutely magnificent washed down with a coffee. We have noticed recently that they are getting very busy, so if you have a group, it might be an idea to book a table in advance.

Mt Painter
After offloading the groceries, it was time to get out for a walk, today we stayed close to home, walking up Mt Painter. The views of the Molonglo Valley and the mountains were magnificent, such a great way to end a busy weekend. I will leave you with this view of Mt Stromlo and surrounding areas.

Mt Painter views, photo by Tracey Benson
Mt Painter views, photo by Tracey Benson

Gunning for an Adventure

Harvest Festival
Harvest Festival

In an earlier post titled Weekends in Canberra, I promised to write some articles about some of the things you can do around the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) and southern highlands region.

Today we made our way to the Harvest Festival at the Canberra Environment Centre, where there was some great live music, eco community groups and many stalls selling local fare, much of which was organic.

One of my favourite things I love to buy at organic markets aside from fruit and vegetables, is honey, and I was not disappointed. The Harvest Festival had two stalls with honey and beekeeping information, with both offering free samples of a range of eucalyptus and wild flower varieties. We bought a litre of new season honey which is slightly candied and a thickish texture. It won’t last long at our house, I am a fiend for good honey!

Old bath at Cork St Cafe, photo by Tracey Benson
Old bath at Cork St Cafe, photo by Tracey Benson

Seeing that it was such a lovely day, Marty suggested that we take a drive to Gunning, located around halfway between Yass and Goulburn. On the way, we stopped in at Gundaroo Village for a delicious lunch at the The Cork Street Cafe. This cafe has a long standing reputation for excellent pizzas and beautiful homemade bread rolls and focaccia. Marty had a focaccia with local prosciutto, semi sun dried tomatoes and bocconcini and I had a small Fungi pizza (mushrooms and parmesan). We shared both of our dishes as neither of us wanted to miss out. Our lunch was washed down with a nice pot of English Breakfast tea, while we enjoyed the lovely day sitting at one of the outside tables, shaded by a big umbrella.

After lunch we headed off to Gunning, which was well worth the drive (about 1 hour from Canberra). It is a quaint little place, with lots of historic buildings and a population of about 500 people. It is a town and region that is rich in terms of creativity as well, with many artists, performers and writers living in the surrounding area.

Max Cullen's special sign, photo by Tracey Benson
Max Cullen’s special sign, photo by Tracey Benson

We checked out the Picture House in the main street, as I was curious about all the old books and film memorabilia. When we headed inside, we were greeted by none other than Max Cullen, an actor who has has featured in many excellent Australian movies and television shows, including Baz Luhrmanns’s The Great Gatsby and one of my favourite ABC shows Rake.

Max very graciously posed for a photograph, giving me his special signature sign. Picture House also has a gallery, with work by local artists and a performance space. I really loved the old ticket window, complete with the mannequin ticket seller. She does look a bit like she was jettisoned from the 1970s, check out the hair.

Picture House Ticket Window
Picture House Ticket Window

The Picture House website says that “Actor/Artist Max Cullen and artist Margarita Georgiadis, have occupied The Coronation Theatre (circa 1937) in Gunning since 2004. Renamed The Picture House, The Coronation Theatre ceased showing movies in the mid 1960’s and was abandoned, nearly derelict before Max and Margarita set to work renovating it into what is now a shining landmark of cultural and artistic enjoyment.”

"Dervish", photo by Tracey Benson
“Dervish”, photo by Tracey Benson

Max encouraged us to go into the performance space, where there was a local contemporary dance performance, which was really interesting – and free to watch. Talk about great timing! One of the dances was titled “Dervish” and we looked at each other excitedly, thinking it would be like the Sufi Whirling Dervish dance/performance we are familiar with from Turkey. But it was quite different to what we expected, though still very engaging. Something else that stuck me as a bit unusual, were the  people dressed in colonial outfits in the audience. We guessed that we must have missed some sort of colonial recreation event, as Gunning was settled quite early in comparative terms. To provide a condensed history, the broader region was originally home to two Australian Aboriginal language groups, the Gundungurra people in the north and the Ngunnawal people in the south.

Colonial Costumes
Colonial Costumes

The region (specifically Gundaroo) was first explored by Europeans in 1820, and settled the next year by Hamilton Hume. In 1824, Hume and William Hovell left Gunning to discover the overland route to Port Phillip Bay where Melbourne is sited. Gunning was originally a coach stop, and service centre for the surrounding farms mainly growing Merino sheep. It had a police station and court house, post office, and school. For many years it was also a major stop on the Hume Highway, the main highway between Sydney and Mebourne. The highway now bypasses Gunning.

Anyway, we had a fantastic day on our outing. Our spontaneous decision to go on a short trip reminded me that there is so much to see around the region, and to make the most of the glorious weather while it lasts.

There are many little towns all around the southern tablelands of NSW, the region which skirts the ACT. Many of these small towns and villages have very interesting histories and characters. I will leave you with this photograph Marty took, which sums up Gunning beautifully.

Gunning mural, photo by Martin Drury
Gunning mural, photo by Martin Drury

Weekends in Canberra

For the last thirteen years, the Australian capital city Canberra has been my home. It surprises a great number of  international travellers to learn it is the national capital, as many people think Sydney is the capital city of Australia as it is the best known and most photographed city.

Boulders on the way to Yankee Hat Paintings
Boulders on the way to Yankee Hat Paintings

There are a number of features that makes Canberra quite unusual when compared to other Australian state and territory  capitals. Firstly, the fact Canberra is an inland city. All the other  capitals are coastal cities, and indeed around 85% of the Australian population cling to the coast. Canberra also has the unenviable reputation of being the coldest capital city in Australia, as it is located about 600 metres above sea level, in the foothills of the alpine region of the country. For this reason alone, Canberra and the surrounding region offers a distinctly different kind of natural beauty and lifestyle. Canberra is popularly known as “the bush capital” as it is surrounded by national parks and even in the suburbs there are large bush reserves, popular for hikers.

It does gets cold in Canberra in winter, not as cold as Canada, but on an Australian scale, it is very chilly. But even winter can be stunning as the valleys will fill with morning mist and the soft light sparkles on the mountain tops surrounding the city. We are particularly fortunate living on the north west fringe of Canberra, where part of our suburb is considered ‘rural’. The daily commute offers fabulous views of the Brindabella mountain ranges and every day, the view changes. Winter is the most beautiful time to look at the mountains: at times they are dusted with snow, shyly peeking out from under the dense morning fog in the valley.

Best time to visit
People in Canberra do not tend to be overly social during the colder months, so in a way the city goes into hibernation. The climate during the ‘in-between’ seasons is the best – Spring and Autumn bring warm days in the low to mid 20s, fresh mornings and cool evenings.

Spring and Autumn are great times to travel to Canberra as there are many festivals during these times. In spring Floriade brings many thousands of visitors to Canberra to enjoy the spectacular floral displays of tulips, daffodils  and other seasonal flowers. March is also a great time to visit as there are some great events including the Balloon Spectacular, Enlighten, Skyfire, Harvest Festival and the Art, Not Apart festival.

Sky Whale: Photo by Martin Drury
Sky Whale: Photo by Martin Drury

If going to festivals is not your idea of fun, then there are many museums and galleries you can visit, most of which offer free entry. Another great way to spend a day in the region, is to put on your walking shoes and head to one of the many bushwalking trails. This is one of our favourite activities and we regularly go off to enjoy the natural beauty of the Namadgi and Deua National Parks. Closer to home there are also some great walks including Mt Ainslie, Black Mountain and Mt Majura.

For wine lovers, there are also lots of local wineries surrounding Canberra, especially around Bungendore and Murrumbateman.

Our plans this weekend include going to the Harvest Festival, a bush walk and maybe going to the Old Bus Depot Markets.

Over the coming months, we will be writing reviews of local events and places of interest, focusing on the best that Canberra has to offer. In the meantime, if you are looking for more information about events in Canberra and surrounding region, check out the Visit Canberra website.