Australia’s capital city was described to me as many things. Exciting wasn’t one of them. Dull, boring, and cold or any combination of those less-than-appealing words were usually the second thing out of any Aussie’s mouth when I told them I was heading that way. “You mean Canboring?” or “Why?” was always the first. With so much negativity around a place I was heading, I felt obligated to prove otherwise.
Is it Canberra or Canboring?
Let’s find out.
Cathal Kelly. Truth be told it was this jerk-head that really made me want to prove Canberra isn’t “Canboring.” This Toronto journalist had just written a hateful article slamming Edmonton, a city I lived in for 10 years, all because it was hosting the women’s World Cup of Soccer opening match and Toronto wasn’t. This article was so offside, whiny, hateful, and downright un-Canadian. I felt sick reading it. Leave the slamming to the outside world. Let us celebrate our own.
Great. Now I’m feeling rage again.
Anyway, Edmonton (or any city in Canada that is not Toronto) has had its share of negativity. It’s been called dull, boring, and cold. “You mean Deadmonton?” or “Why?” are usually the first words out of any Canadian’s mouth that I have told I used to live there.
“Deadmonton,” although not without its faults, is a great city. Surely “Canboring” is too.
So I headed south from Sydney to look into a capital so dull even the country’s Prime Minister refuses to live there. The drive to “Canboring” was anything but. We took a scenic detour along the coast and found quaint towns, great cafés, beautiful beaches, and the Sea Cliff Bridge – one of the worlds finest coastal drives.
Turning inland our drive took a surprising and welcoming twist up a mountain road. Next was Robertson, home of the world’s largest potato… although locals think it looks a little more like something else. You be the judge.
After a detour through Goulburn to see the worlds largest ram (Australia is fascinated with the worlds largest by-the-by) we arrived in Canberra.
Windy. Cold. Canberra.
Visiting Canberra in the middle of a cooler than normal Australian winter wasn’t doing them any favours. The scenery was grey and flat. We took a drive around town and at first look it appeared like what one would expect from a government town (except Wellington as I would later find). Business parks. Boxy government buildings. Super clean. Of course none of these traits make Canberra “Canboring,” just efficient and well kept.
It Pays to Know
Another confession, Canberra would never have been on my Australian tour had I not known a few locals. This, from what I found, makes all the difference. Uy, a friend I met while backpacking Hungary 10 years ago, was a great host and was eager to show off his city. He was quick to acknowledge the unfortunate “Canboring” nickname…then bribed us with Australian candy to keep our mouths shut. Jokes. The candy was just a welcome gift. Point for Canberrans being friendly.
Although Canberra doesn’t have the bright lights and action like Sydney and Melbourne, it does have some insider gems. Being an architect, Uy took us on a tour of some of Canberra’s most impressive buildings. This included The Monster, a unique hotel accented by reclaimed wood. Inside is a hip movie theater, bar, and popular restaurant.
Next on our not-so Canboring tour was Lonsdale Street. This area includes some of the city’s best cafes and restaurants as well The Hamlet – a cool collection of street vendors and pop-up shops. I had a pork belly sandwich from the Spit Shack while listening to the DJ and drinking a super cold beer. It was not “Canboring.”
We finished the night off with a visit to Garema Place, the city’s small entertainment district. There we enjoyed hot cider next to an outdoor skating rink…2 things I never would have imagined seeing in Australia.
And the Rest
Of course being the capital, this city does have some great museums and a massive parliament building. The latter being surrounded by a expansive green space and seemingly unnecessary traffic circle. Uy later explained that Canberra, including the huge Lake Burley Griffin, was built from a competition to become Australia’s capital city. The design and thought that went into Canberra is beyond impressive, and it is continuing to grow.
Don’t be so Quick to Judge
I spent an afternoon walking the endless bike paths and sampled some cafés. I noticed two things – peace and quiet. It was great, but included trying to get a coffee at 4 PM on a Sunday and finding everything shut. I can see how this quiet life could be interpreted as boring but for my short stay I found it the opposite. There was plenty of great sights, restaurants, and bars to keep me entertained. With the help of a local I got to see a side of Canberra that was unique and definitely not “Canboring.” I was also having such a good time that I forgot to take pictures while there.
So to the Torontonians and Sydenanites of the world I say this, keep your city bashing to yourself. Take a look at the crowds, noise, traffic, and smog and think about that the next time you judge a place that is clean, efficient, and quiet…and maybe a little boring.